Monday, November 18, 2013

Meanwhile at the races ...

The same day that Gil, Pi, and Pesh went coursing, my sister was busy running our club's sprint races. This year, we were approached by members of the American Basenji Club (ABC) about having a conformation fun match alongside the race meet. The ABC is an up-and-coming UKC club and they needed to host a fun show in order to become fully licensed by UKC. We gladly agreed to let them host the event with our races, and, not surprisingly, the sighthound group had the largest entry of all.

Luna in the ring
Photo by ABC photographer

Both Luna and Dude were entered in the show as well as the race meet; Luna ran some match races with Sophie the lurcher and Dude ran in the singles stake (more on that later).

Dude the speed demon!
Photo by Dave Mills

Dude has not been entered in a show since he was a puppy due to an odd phobia he developed. Since this show was being held for fun, Kyle and Rita decided to enter him to see how he would handle it. They kept everything very casual and low-stress, and he did very well considering how bad his phobia has been in the past. Hopefully with more careful exposure and positive reinforcement we can get him to improve even more. Luna ended up winning Best of Breed despite losing her head over having the race track so close by. Unfortunately she didn't place in group, but there was quite a bit of competition and with her not being on her best show behavior, we weren't surprised.

Dude running in the singles stake, 4/6/13
Photo by Gary Claggett

As mentioned previously, Dude ran in the singles racing division, which is something our club started this year for dogs who are either disqualified from regular competition, or who want to run schooling races with some level of informal competition. Dogs running in singles run alone, but they get timed with a stopwatch, which is what determines the final placements of the day. Unfortunately, Dude likes to play with his race-mates when he runs in regular competition, so the singles stake has been perfect for him. He has competed in the singles stake since it's inception, and he is usually one of the fastest dogs entered. On this particular day he had the fastest time out of at least a half dozen dogs -- 200 yards in 11.63 seconds!

Dude, fastest singles racer at 11.63 seconds!
Photo by Kyle Yates

On Sunday, Gil, Pi, and Pesh returned for some racing so Luna didn't have to be all alone. After such a disappointing coursing meet the day before, they were very excited to get to chase the fake bunny! Pi was so excited he just couldn't wait his turn, and managed to break out of his expen TWICE to get to the lure *que the face-palm.*

In the first program, Luna came in a strong first place, followed by Gil, Pi, and Pesh. In the second program, Pi came in first, followed by Gil, Luna, and then Pesh. Then in the third program, Gil came in first, followed by Pi, Luna, and Pesh. After all those mixed results, Gil ended up with the highest score, but only one point ahead of Pi. Unfortunately we didn't get any pictures from Sunday :(

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Season's Greetings (no, the other kind)

Gil with his bunny radar up and running
Photo by Alicia Kittrell 

The 2013/14 coursing season has begun, and three of the Stouthearted Agars attended the California Rarebreed Association's first meeting of the year on Saturday, November 9th. The event was memorable in that we had one of the largest entries in recent history, including a complete stake of five Pharaoh Hounds! Unfortunately, it will also go down in my memory as one of the most disappointing coursing events I have ever attended.

Hot hounds and handlers
Photo by Alicia Kittrell

The weather forecast indicated that temperatures would hover around the low 70's, but with little to no breeze the entire day and no clouds to cover the sun, the ambient temperature felt closer to 80-some degrees. That, combined with swarms of mosquitoes and heavy/prickly cover made for an uncomfortable atmosphere, and short courses with little opportunity for the dogs to actually work the hares.

Photo by Alicia Kittrell

The Agars, Gil, Pi, and Peshamba, were drawn into a mixed rare breed stake alongside three Silken Windhounds and one Deerhound. As luck would have it, the mixed rare breed stake was drawn last, and with three other stakes ahead of us it was going to be a long day of walking before our dogs had a chance to run.

Pi and Pesh patiently waiting their turn
Photo by Alicia Kittrell

Since we had quite a large gallery, we worked the field using a double-ender to make sure there were no wasted hares. We managed to find five hares within a couple of hours, but with the cover being so heavy most of the courses were short tail-chases into a bush or scrub. In order to ensure that we finished before dark, we ended up combining the last two braces of rare breeds so that we would only have two prelims to run. So, in the first prelim we had Pi running with Falkor the Silken and Nacho the Deerhound, and in the second prelim were Gil, Pesh, Gita and Helios (both Silkens).

Pi's hare broke about ten feet ahead of us out of a pile of cut willows. Pi sighted right away and took off in a flash, followed closely by the Deerhound. The hare veered left with the dogs in pursuit, but quickly found cover in some nearby star thistle. Barely winded at all, Pi frantically searched around hoping to find his long-awaited rabbit, but to no avail.

Gil and Pesh's hare also broke about ten or fifteen feed ahead out of a tight cluster of star thistle. Helios the Silken got the best slip and led the first part of the run up until Gil caught up and did a go-by on him. Almost as soon as Gil passed Helios, the hare disappeared, leaving a bunch of confused dogs in its wake.

Gil, ever eager to find his hares
Photo by Alicia Kittrell

At the end of the day, the judge placed Gil first, Pi third, and Pesh fifth. He reasoned that given the short nature of the courses he had to find very small differences to determine the placements, and it was Gil's go-by that won him the top placement that day. As disappointing as the day was overall, I was glad that Gil was able to pull out a first place win the way he did. Just goes to show me that the "old man" still has the speed to lead in a run-up!

Monday, November 11, 2013

NAMAA Nationals: LGRA Racing

Pi on the move
Photo by Steve Tradewell

After the conformation show on Sunday, the dogs were more than ready for the final event of the weekend: sprint racing. We had six dogs entered; Gil, Gator, Pi, Luna, Peshamba, and Fecni. As I mentioned in my previous post, I decided to pull Gil from finals in the lure coursing trial, and I saved Pi completely for the race meet in hopes that it would improve their performance.

Unfortunately we didn't have starting boxes that are big enough to accommodate the Agars, so all had to be hand-slipped. Hand-slipping is a much less accurate way to get an even start on all the dogs, which can skew the results if all the dogs are evenly matched.

In the first program, Pi and Fecni were placed in the low point race, leaving the others to run in the high point. I knew Pi was faster than that, but his WAVE wasn't high enough at that time for him to draw higher. So, poor Fecni had to race against her much younger son. She ran about a third of the way down before she decided it wasn't worth the effort and trotted back to the start line. I had not intended to run her in all three programs anyway, so it wasn't a big deal.

Pesh taking up the rear
Photo by Steve Tradewell

In the high point race, Gil and Gator were running neck and neck almost the entire way down, but Gil managed to win by a nose, with Luna and then Pesh taking up the rear. It's unusual for anyone to beat Gator in a race, so I didn't know whether Gil's first program win had to do with him getting an earlier slip or if Gator was just a bit fatigued from the lure coursing trial the day before.

Luna in full stride
Photo by Steve Tradewell

In the second program, with Fecni scratched, the two remaining girls were drawn in the low point and all the boys were drawn in the high point race. I was certain that Gil's win in the previous program had just been lucky, but he surprised me again by taking a clear lead and coming in first, followed by Gator and then Pi who were not too far apart from each other. 

Pi, Gil, and Gator running neck and neck
Photo by Steve Tradewell

Pi and Gil racing to the finish
Photo by Steve Tradewell

Having won the first two programs, Gil pretty much had the meet in the bag, but even so both Tom and I were absolutely certain that Gator would turn on his after burners and win the final program. From my perspective at the finish line it looked like all three boys got an even slip, and were running head to head almost the entire way down. The last five or so yards of the race was quite a nail-biter; Gil and Gator were running evenly, when Gil made a small surge ahead, managing to squeak ahead by what looked like mere inches. It was so close that I wasn't sure if his little burst of speed came too late or not. In any case, even if Gil came in second place in the final program that would still be enough for him to win the meet. I was so surprised I just couldn't believe it.

Gil, Photo by Steve Tradewell

After walking all the dogs out and examining them for injuries, I made my way over to the scoreboard to get the final results and was pleasantly surprised to see that the judges recorded him as having won the third program! It should be mentioned that Gil is six years old, two years older than Gator, and he was the oldest dog competing that finished all three programs. He has not won a race meet of this size in several years, and even if the win was influenced by Gator's participation in the lure coursing trial the day before, it was still a very special win for him and for me. 

Gil, High Score in Meet
Photo by Steve Tradewell

Just to keep everything in the family, Gil's daughter Pesh proudly took home the Turtle Award, given to the lowest scoring dog who finishes all three programs. Pesh may not be the fastest Agar around, but she certainly is not lacking in drive or enthusiasm! I think she's going to be more of an endurance runner than a speed demon.

Peshamba the Turtle
Photo by Steve Tradewell

Thursday, November 7, 2013

NAMAA Nationals: Conformation Day 2

Sunday's conformation show was judged by Mr. George Bell. For those who don't know George, he is an avid hare courser, and breeder of some very accomplished coursing Greyhounds and Salukis. While George and his late wife started out with Salukis, he is now focused almost exclusively on Greyhounds, particularly the "half and half" variety. A "half and half" as they are affectionately called is a Greyhound that has both NGA and AKC bloodlines in its pedigree. Needless to say, George is more than qualified to judge working sighthounds, and I was excited at the prospect of having him judge our Agars.

I decided to keep things simple and leave all the dogs in the same classes they had previously been entered in. Unfortunately for us, the race track for the LGRA specialties was being setup in plain view of the show ring, and all of our dogs were well aware of what was going on, which made showing them a bit of a challenge to say the least.

Pi being very uncooperative
Photo by Ed Sakai

Pi went into the ring first and was about as cooperative as a bucking bronco. I don't know if that had anything to do with George's choices, but it certainly didn't help.

Gator, Photo by Ed Sakai

Next up were Gil and Gator in Open. The two older gentleman were slightly more composed than Pi, but not much. Between the two, George picked Gil. In addition to coursing his dogs, George enjoys taking them into the show ring on occasion, and he tends to like dogs that are "pretty" as opposed to more rugged types. So, I wasn't surprised that he preferred Gil over Gator, as Gil is definitely more slight of build. Between Gil and his son, George predictably went with Gil.

Peshamba showing off her lovely side gait
Photo by Jairi Rai

Next in the ring was Peshamba. Knowing George's preferences in dogs, I had hopes that he would like her, despite her post-season condition. I was definitely not wrong. Even though Pesh was pretty uncooperative in the ring, he remarked to her owner/handler that he liked her, which gave me hope for at least a Winner's Bitch award.

Luna on the go-around
Photo by Ed Sakai

In Open Bitches, Luna was quite beside herself with the race track being so close by and did not show as well as she has before. Nevertheless, I had a feeling George would prefer Patti over Luna, and I was right. Patti's show performance was greatly improved over what it had been the day before; she was much more relaxed with minimal help from her handler, and when she went around the ring I saw her move like I had never seen her move before. She reminded me a lot of both her mother and father; a seamless blend of both, and I was very proud :-)

Patti getting ready to go around the ring
Photo by Ed Sakai

That pitted the two sisters against each other for Winner's Bitch. As their breeder and "second mother" I would have been happy and proud for either of them to win, but as I had hoped George picked Pesh for Winners Bitch!

Winners Bitch Peshamba
Photo by Ed Sakai

And, last but not least were the Veteran girls, Belle and Fecni. Again, George's choice was pretty predictable, and he went with the prettier Belle over the more rugged Fecni.

Belle, Photo by Ed Sakai

Mama Fecni, Photo by Ed Sakai

That put Gil, Peshamba, and Belle in the ring for Best of Breed. I was so tired by that time not just from going around the ring several times, but also having to handle several uncooperative and strong dogs. In the end, George picked Gil for Best of Breed, which did not surprise me. What I was really waiting for was to see who he would pick for Best Opposite. I felt that both girls stood a good chance of winning, but I was thrilled when he handed the ribbon to Peshamba.

Gil, Best of Breed under George Bell
Photo by Steve Tradewell

Peshamba, Best of Opposite Sex under George Bell
Photo by Steve Tradewell

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

NAMAA Nationals: Lure Coursing

Photo by Gary Claggett

So as I said in the previous post, the specialty consists of two days; each day has a morning conformation show and a performance event in the afternoon.

View of the field in the afternoon

The performance event scheduled for Saturday was an ASFA specialty lure coursing trial. We only had four dogs entered in the trial; Gil, Gator, Luna, and Peshamba. Unfortunately, Patti had sustained a toe injury at our last race meet, so she was unable to participate. I could have run Pi in the Singles stake since he isn't certified to run in the regular stakes yet, but I decided not to do that so he would be totally fresh for the sprint racing meet the following day.

The draw for prelims had two braces: first course was Gator and Peshamba, second course was Gil and Luna. The course plan was approximately 700 yards, and shaped kind of like an hour glass. Being a short course in a relatively small space, I wasn't sure which dogs it would favor. Gator and Luna tend to be sprinters while Gil and Peshamba tend to fair better over longer distances, so it was exciting to have one of each in both courses.

Photo by Gary Claggett

In the first prelim, Gator led the run-up (as I expected), but continued to hold onto the lead position
throughout most of the course. With Peshamba not being in top form it's hard to say if the outcome would have been different, but in the end Gator got the nod from both judges.

Photo by Gary Claggett

In the second prelim, Gil had quite a bit of a late slip, but he still managed to pass Luna and lead the run-up as well as most of the rest of the course. He stumbled a bit about halfway through, but didn't slow down at all. Even though he ended up with a prelim score only two points below Gator, I decided to scratch him from the finals so that he would have some energy left for racing the next day.

Photo by Gary Claggett

That left three dogs for the one finals course of the day. All three dogs got a pretty even slip, and to my surprise Peshamba managed to stay pretty close behind Gator, and at some times was also ahead of Luna. Both Gator and Luna got slowed down about halfway through the course when they overshot one of the turns, giving Pesh a chance to catch up and takeover for a few seconds before Gator caught back up to her. She tried hard to stay in the lead for the final leg of the course, but Gator pulled ahead at the last minute. Even so, she finished well and I was eager to see the final scores.

Photo by Gary Claggett

To be perfectly honest, I was surprised that Peshamba didn't score higher in the finals, but to be fair my vantage point was completely different than that of the judges. Gator took Best of Breed honors by a landslide, with Luna in second and Pesh in third.

Score Sheet

All in all it was a nice trial even with only four entries. The footing was great, the weather was cool, and all of the dogs came back sound!

From left, Judge Mary Crume, Tom and Gator, and Judge Al Crume

Monday, November 4, 2013

NAMAA Nationals: Conformation Day 1

Before I get into the details of the first day's events, I thought I'd give a little bit of background on how this event came to be. I have a lot of good friends in the Silken Windhound community (if you don't know what that is you can Google it), and every year the local breed club hosts a regional specialty around Halloween time, which they appropriately dubbed "Boofest". Boofest started out as just a gathering of Silken pet owners and fanciers, and it eventually grew into one of the largest specialties for the breed in the United States. The specialty takes place over two days; each day there is a conformation show in the morning, and in the afternoon there is a performance event (lure coursing on Saturday and sprint racing on Sunday). Our Magyar Agar breed club (NAMAA) doesn't have much of a treasury, so the prospect of putting on our own specialty event was simply out of our budget. It was through the generosity of the Silken Windhound club that we were invited to host our Inaugural NAMAA National Specialty alongside the Silken regional specialty.

The setting for our specialty was the beautiful Kirigin Cellars winery in Gilroy, CA. The lawn is always kept in pristine condition, with short cut grass and excellent soft footing; perfect for showing and field events.

Saturday's conformation show was judged by Lorraine Marchant, a Borzoi breeder who has recently switched over to Silkens, and who had at one time worked in a racing Greyhound kennel in England. I heard through the grapevine that Ms. Marchant was looking forward to judging our Agars, so I wanted to make sure we put our best feet forward for her. We had eight Agars entered in the conformation show; Pi in the Bred by Exhibitor class, Gil and Gator in Open Dogs, Peshamba in American Bred Bitches, Luna and Patti in Open Bitches, and Belle and Fecni in Veteran Bitches. Ms. Marchant was extremely thorough in her examination of each dog, and she even had a little tape recorder that she would make comments into about each entry.

Photo by Ed Sakai

Pi was the first dog to enter the ring, and I could tell that she really liked him from the beginning. I didn't catch all of her audio comments, but I did hear her say that he had all the correct body proportions called for in the standard and that he moved very well.

Photo by Ed Sakai

Next up were Gil and Gator in Open. Gator hasn't been shown much, but he took to it like a pro and Ms. Marchant was very impressed with his overall body condition. In the end she picked Gil. Between Gil and Pi, Ms. Marchant picked Pi without hesitation for Winners Dog.

Photo by Ed Sakai

Peshamba was next in American Bred, which normally isn't a class that gets a lot of attention, but given that there has only been one recorded MA litter born in the USA I think it's particularly appropriate to have at least one dog entered in that class. Unfortunately, Pesh was fresh out of season, so she wasn't in good weight and her muscles were squishy. Nevertheless, she showed herself well.

Photo by Ed Sakai

Patti and Luna were entered in the Open Bitch class. Patti still needs some work on her show training, which made her no match for Princess Luna who's always ready for her moment in the spotlight. Between Luna and Peshamba, the judge went with Luna for Winners Bitch.

Photo by Ed Sakai

And last, but certainly not least, we had Belle and Fecni entered as Veterans. Usually veterans are not considered for Winners, but they can be considered for Best of Breed. Ms. Marchant seemed quite captivated by Belle, remarking that she was "sound as a pound" after watching her on the move. Mama Fecni has put on some excess weight in her old age, but she still moves very well for an old lady. Between the two of them, the judge went with Belle for Best Veteran.

Photo by Ed Sakai

That left us with three dogs in the Best of Breed ring; Winners Dog, Winners Bitch, and the Veteran Bitch. The judge had been quite pleased with each of the three dogs, so I wasn't sure who she was going to pick for the top honors. She had us move around the ring one more time, and on that final go-around I decided to showcase Pi and let him free stack himself while I baited him with cheese. He looked great, and in the end Ms. Marchant remarked, "He has so much presence. You're going to be my Best of Breed." I was thrilled to say the least! All the judge had to do now was pick a winner for Best Opposite Sex. She said that she really liked both, but that there was something about Luna that caught her eye, so she was awarded Best Opposite.

Photo by Iola Stetson

Photo by Iola Stetson

Stay tuned for Part II of Day 1!