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Group Spotlight

Virginia Ruff Riders, one of the Showcase's long-time organizers, is first in our Spotlight. 

Each spring, several groups from the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. pool their resources to put on one of the best trials in the area: the Mid-Atlantic Showcase. The event was originally created by MADco, Mid-Atlantic Madness and Virginia Ruff Riders to fill a void in the region left by the discontinuation of the Spring Festival of Dog Agility, which USDAA held for a number of years in Kentucky each spring. The Showcase continues to grow in popularity and to evolve, as has its co-hosts. 

This year, the Virginia Ruff Riders, Keystone Agility Club and Mid-Atlantic MADness are working tirelessly to provide three rings of competition over three days, offering not only USDAA tournament qualifiers, but the Showcase's unique Triathlon event. What makes the Triathlon special is the cumulative scoring from the USDAA Team and Performance Versatility Pairs Jumpers and Standard classes to determine who will get to run for $4,000 in prize money in a special individual class offered to form the Triathlon.

This month, USDAA features the Virginia Ruff Riders, one of the Showcase's long-time organizers. In addition to being one of the driving forces behind the Showcase, they've been a staple in USDAA agility in northern Virginia for many years. A small-but-mighty group, Ruff Riders is known for putting on fabulous, well-run trials and for taking good care of both their volunteers and judges at every show. They typically host two or three trials a year, in addition to co-hosting the Mid-Atlantic Agility Showcase. They pride themselves on handling the many challenges that come with hosting trials. For example, a few years ago, they lost their show site just three weeks before a trial. Through their resourcefulness, they were able to find a better site to host that trial and to use for future trials.

Anyone who holds numerous trials a year knows that doing so is no small undertaking. What is even more impressive about the Virginia Ruff Riders is that their group consists of just three hard working club members who make everything happen: Melissa Bishop, a professional musician with the U.S. Navy; Averill Ring, operator of Mountain View Dog Training in Amissville, Virginia; and Erica Vandover, who can be found enjoying riding her 2012 Harley Davidson Nightster in her free time. 

The trio have many dedicated friends and volunteers that help put on all these trials, but you'll find these three ladies taking the lead and doing whatever it takes to get the job done.

Melissa, Averill and Erica bundled up at a Virginia Ruff Riders trial.

To show their appreciation to their devoted workers, Melissa, Averill and Erica keep their volunteers well-fed, especially during their traditional Thanksgiving weekend trial. Workers are often treated to homemade, hot soups each day during this trial. (Erica makes a killer Thai soup, by the way.) They also treat their judges well. They've been known to take judges sight-seeing in Washington, DC, either before or after a trial, especially if it's their first time visiting the area.

Erica, Averill and Melissa working hard at the score table.

Whether you're in the area or from out of town, make it a point to enter one of the Ruff Riders' upcoming trials.  Watch for the Mid-Atlantic Showcase coming this April.

If you like to see your group in the spotlight, contact Annie DeChance at

Photos courtesy of Melissa Bishop.


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