Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Reality Comes to the Rally

The 2005 Monetpelier border terrier rally. This is a repost from 2005.

I have done the Border Terrier Rally at Montpelier every year for the last 21 years (one of only two organized events I attend) and in recent years they have put me to work as a rat rangler since I do not show, and Trooper has been banned from racing (after he did it only once and ripped through the welded mesh at the front of the racing box, grabbed the fox tail, and would not let go).

This time I decided to do a little education of the show ring set and I very quietly brought along a hard 6-inch tube about 5-feet long. I set up the "Rally Ratting" event so that at one of the eight stations the dog would have to go at least 18-inches or more down a heavy-duty 6-inch tube (staked hard to the ground and totally immoveable) in order to get at the rats which where in another 4-inch PVC tube drilled with air holes.

Not a dog could do it!

After a dog proved that it could not do it, and before the owner started to explain or complain too much, I pulled out the pictures (below) of a December fox.

First I showed them this picture. Many "oooohs and ahhhs" about how big the fox looked (actually it's a pretty small vixen)

Then I showed them this picture and noted that the woman spanning the fox has completely overlapped her thumbs. Since I dig with this woman quite a lot (I dug this fox with her) I know she is no giant (maybe 5' 6"). This fox was 40 inches from tip of nose to tip of tail, but was only 11.5 inches in the chest.

Then, to put a little icing on the cake, I noted that Camilla Moon (the organizer of the rally) and I had bolted a fine red vixen out of a hole that was no bigger than this pipe just six days earlier.

Almost any vixen in the world can get through a 6-inch pipe if pressed by a dog, but almost no border terrier in America today can negotiate that pipe. People got this lesson one-on-one in a little patch of woods, and I tried to be very relaxed about it and noted (prior to getting to the pipe) that most dogs failed this part of the test. If a dog was anywhere close to being able to get into the pipe (even half its chest!) I said very nice things about it.

Nonetheless, the point was made, and it was a hard landing for some folks who had been on an extended flight of fancy about how they had "working" border terriers even though their dog has never even seen a fox. Some of these folks think a 9" square go-to-ground tunnel is what a fox den looks like!

Was bringing reality to these people a bastardly thing to do? Probably, but if you love the dogs (and I really do love border terriers) someone has to give an occasional lecture in REAL working terrier conformation and a brutal beating about chest size is more than called for at this point.

The fellow in the show ring judging the show dogs, by the way, was a "leading professional handler." Say no more!

I do not breed dogs, but if I did I think my program would depend on two 10-foot sections of 6 inch pipe. The bitch would have to go down the tube to get her food every day. When it came time for breeding, an adult dog (two years of age or over) would have to go down the tube to get to the bitch in order to do the job. No young stud dogs!

I'm absolutely serious about the pipe thing -- it's a tough test but anything too subjective and these breeders will gimmick it to death (as they have).

I am convinced that the human has to be take out of the test, and the fox put back in it. The 6-inch pipe does that job if a fox is not readily about (and how convenient for most breeder that it is not!).

The pipe used at the Border Terrier rally. This is my 12" Jack Russell and she is red-lining for size. I prefer a dog that is a little smaller, as chests tend to spring out and get a little harder in old age. This dog can still get down the pipe at age three and a half, but it is tougher than it used to be.

Same dog pushing through
in a shallow field pipe loaded with roots. The real world is tougher than a smooth pipe, though I had once nice lady trying to tell me otherwise!

Same dog exiting a sette. Fox settes can be quite large or quite small -- sometimes in the same sette! A small dog can get anywhere, while a larger dog is limited to only the largest settes or else has to be dug to at the tight turns. Since prime fox season is only eight weeks long, and there is unlikely to be more than one occupied fox sette in any given 500 acres area, you want to be able to work every fox sette you can find. The goal is to get the dog up to the fox and have the dog have enough room or maneuver. If the dog is getting knackered, it may be because it cannot maneuver!

1 comment:

seeker said...

This is why I enjoy endurance and trail riding. I'll never win a race because I do it for pleasure. I do (have done) limited distance competitions. That's a 25 mile race with at least two vet checks on the horse. Why? Because like you with your dogs I enjoy using my horses for what they were created to do. A horse is a traveling machine just like a terrier is a hunting machine. If a well trained and conditioned horse cannot do 25 miles then it is a sad state of affairs and poor conformation. A horse should not be bred to prance around in circles, jump ridiculous fences or stand pretty for a judge. It is a joy to experience the long swinging trot and the easy traveling canter, to come to the top of a hill and see what's on the other side. Just like you 'get it' with a terrier that has developed his talent and skill I get it with a horse that wants to continue over and through the difficulties of the trail.
I don't hunt my dogs but I understand the joy of seeing your animal experience what the Creator and the bloodlines have given them. The saddest thing is an animal that is bred wrong for its destiny. One of the proudest moments was when I pulled my old Bridget out from under a neighbors shed with a possum in her mouth. Another one was when I finished 25 miles in 4 hours and 20 mins on my self trained mare. Both of them knew what they could and should do. I was just along for the ride.

Debi, the Jack/Rat pack and one old retired horse that enjoyed her life.