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Description of herding trial classes

Trisha Eifert

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Hello, I've been searching the internet for a description of the ISDS trials. I found a list of rules on http://www.usbcha.com/, but can't actually find a description of the different classes. For example, the difference between what is required in the novice class as opposed to the open class.


Is there a description of the different classes on the web?

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Guest PrairieFire

Trisha -


Only the Open and the Nursery class are the concern of the USBCHA - nothing else is sanctioned and the HA leaves it up to the local association or trial host to do whatever they want...


Each association has some minor differences - but perhaps the most complete is on



Remember, however, that the specifics will only apply to trials run under the auspices of the TSDA...

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Guest totallyterry2003

I see that you are from Michigan.


If you look at the Texas web site it may confuse you.


In the midwest, southeast and east.......class levels in order of difficulty are:


novice/novice...generally a 100 to 150 yard outrun and pen.


pro/novice......generally a 150 or more yard outrun, one legged drive thru the drive panel and then pen.


ranch......open course without the shed


nursery (only class that limits the age of the dog) ......open class without the shed


Open.......outrun varies from 250 to 700 ft., drive through first panel, cross drive, thru second panel and then pen/shed. Can also be a shed first and then pen. Judge's descretion.


In Texas area the ranch class is a lower difficulty class.


That is a quick synopsis. Length of outruns and drives will vary greatly from trial to trial.


Bill is right. Nursery and Open are the only classes sanctioned by USBCHA.


If you want to see these classes first hand, there is a Benefit fun trial in Michigan in May in Williamston.

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Guest totallyterry2003

Hey Charlie,


I'm glad that one of us has his/her glasses in place.


I've got to start proofing a LOT better.


Just amended another post for the same reason.




It only took me 3 rereads to understand what you meant and then I burst out laughing.

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Guest totallyterry2003



The big trial with the double lift is the 4th of July weekend. There are more day light hours in July than in October which is one of the reasons that the date was changed.

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Guest PrairieFire

"pro/novice......generally a 150 or more yard outrun, one legged drive thru the drive panel and then pen.


ranch......open course without the shed"


As Terry said, that's the way it is in Michigan and parts of the midwest - but any trial in Minnesota or Wisconsin or the Dakotas (or some trials in) Missouri are likely to not have a ranch class and for ProNovice to fit the description of ranch as she has written it above...and ranch, if there is one, is likely to be the "one leg of the drive" as described by ProNovice above.


I'd suggest using the descriptions as general guidelines, but contacting the host for confirmation on any class other than Nursery and Open...and even then, the "old" tradition in the Dakotas and some western states is to not allow a dog to compete in two classes (say Nursery and Open) even if qualified.


There is not a great deal of conformity on unsanctioned classes around the States and Canada - the lower classes being, essentially, "training wheels" for Open...


Rant disclaimer: Don't read this if you don't want to.


Some of the best of the "been around for awhile" trials have the fewest classes - no novice, only one run of Pronovice, and focus on providing the best quality sanctioned classes they can - the Ettrick Kennel Trial is a good example, in my mind...


On a personal level, I think the class thing creates more problems than it solves, and prefer fewer classes...I think it fits more the "tradition" of sheepdog trialing...more classes smacks of title searching to me...


Quiet rant for a monday morning.

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Bill said...


"On a personal level, I think the class thing creates more problems than it solves, and prefer fewer classes...I think it fits more the "tradition" of sheepdog trialing...more classes smacks of title searching to me..."


"The class thing" probably does go against the tradition and in some cases it does result in "title searching", but IMHO having the clases creates the opportunity for city doofi (is that the proper plural of doofus?)like me to learn and advance at a pace that is comfortable for the human and safer for the animals.


I'll never forget an early lesson with Kent when he told me "Colin, you have to learn to read the sheep!" My response was "What d'ya mean, there's nothing written on them!!!!"


I'm still having trouble deciphering, but, with the help of a few good dogs, I'm a bit better at this. But, I'm still running dogs in all eligible classes. One may never move beyond P/N, primarily because of me, but I enjoy his attitude so much I don't care. Another is laid back enough that he'll probably make up for my incopmetence in the open. My open dog has carried me on her shoulders for eight years now, I moved her up so she could retire an open dog, and typical of her, we're doing OK, even if I don't have a clue how to shed.


I've seen dozens of newcomers blow by me, very few of them title hunters. The TH'ers soon see that there's very little gain in having the top NN dog year after year. They either get the working dog religion or drift off to the xyz where intials after the dog's name have some significance.


But heck, their presence fattened the payback for a lot of Open winners!



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Guest PrairieFire

Oh, Colin, I understand what you are saying - and I've seen it play out your way as well - but I think a lot depends on the part of country you're in, and how much a local association will "stick to it's guns".


I live in an area of the country where "novice" handlers have competed in that class for over 10 years - because nobody wanted to be the bad guy and stand up to them.


I also have BEEN the bad guy when I've refused "novice" handlers a chance to run in novice with a fully trained, imported Open level dog.


And, while I don't like to see any more rules in this game, I applaud the Canadian association (or maybe it was just the Alberta association) for not allowing someone to run "novice" if they have ever recieved money for lessons or training...the amount of bcsa/asca "trainers and clinicians" that run as "novices" in local trials is pretty amazing...


In fact, I was burned at my novice class last year by an akc/asca trainer running novice with the dog she uses to give lessons - I didn't know her and let her run right in there with the real beginners.


My opinion may be swayed by the first novice trial I ran in, when, as I stepped from the post to work with my dog - the distinguished English Handler sitting in the judge's chair, leaned out and said to me, "Train your dog at home, lad, not at the trials"...


One of the reasons I'm having what I call "training" trials this year - people can run whatever the heck they want, including an Open handler running new/young dogs - all the trappings of trials except no payback...I'm sure they'll be "competition", but it won't be for belt buckles, dog food, ribbons, or checks...


So I have my opinion, and I reckon you have yours - one of the reasons the HA doesn't bother with unsanctioned classes...

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Gee it sure does pay to be dumb..


Our PN courses always have a crossdrive. Didn't think anything of it until last trial when someone chewed my ear off for 30 minutes about it not being fair. That this was a ranch class not PN. Seemed fair to me everyone had to run it..


Our novice also always has a drive that you can wear if you like..Novice judges pay closs attention to lines..Also deemed not fair by this person.


Also know of people that were in novice long before I got there and are still there. Some because they like to win, some because they are just too chicken to take the plunge.


My thoughts are that if you don't get wet you will never learn to swim. Can't tell you the big name handlers that have given me advice and helped me.


I've learned far more from being a little fish in a big pond then a big fish in a little pond. Had lots more fun too. It's called paying your dues..

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Well, I've no doubt said this here before, but why would that stop me from saying it again? I approach trialling pragmatically: those who want to move ahead will; those who don't won't. And you can lose a lot of sleep and raise your blood pressure worrying about it and about how to enforce the rules or you can get on with life and trialling. Around here everyone knows the people who will never make it out of the novice ranks (I hope I'm not one). In fact, I'd venture to say that most VBCA folks know of one trial in particular where perpetual novices show up year after year with the same dog (year after year) and usually they win the prize. And maybe they even get some sort of satisfaction out of that, but they certainly don't gain anyone's respect. I choose to believe that there are a lot more people who are like me, working as hard as we can to make it to open. To me, a payback at a single trial, or a belt buckle or dog food or whatever for a year-end award is way less important than seeing my name on the list for national finals. Heck, I'll even aspire to the top 20 (I'll keep my really greedy glorious finals winning fantasies to myself!)!


Oh, and like Colin, I am grateful for several levels to work my way through--mainly because I started with dogs who would probably never make it to open, which means my career might have ended at N/N before it really got started. With several ranks to work through, I can at least be learning and getting the best that I can out of what I've got to work with while I wait for my young dog (my great hope) to be old enough to get out there!



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Bill wrote "refused "novice" handlers a chance to run in novice with a fully trained, imported Open level dog"


Bill I am a novice handler (had never trialed) and bought a bitch a year ago that was supposed to be fully trained including the shed, she had been run in a few nursery trials overseas before I got her. When I got her she would not drive or shed, it took about 9 months of working with her to get her to drive, she is just beginning to shed. I ran her in N/N last year, couldn't even go to P/N because she wouldn't drive. I know alot of people feel the same way you do when someone imports a dog, but some dogs don't change handlers well and it takes a long time to get things back to where they were with the previous owner and to rebuild the dogs confidence. I happen to like this dog and she tries really hard. This year I will be running her in Ranch, don't think we will do well or place, but I think it will be good experience for both of us.

Being able to run her in N/N gave me experience in how to handle a dog at a trial etc, things you don't really learn at home, no matter how many times you practice them on the home field. I can't imagine people running in the Novice classes for the "money" etc, it's just not that much if any at all. I am happy to be able to go out and run my dog and get the experience, in the hopes that I will have a dog that I can run in Open someday, and I don't think it will be this one.

I am glad of the different levels available.

I thought I had read somewhere that the Nursery trials overseas are not based on age as they are over here, but based on whether the dog has run in an Open trial. Does anyone know if this is correct?

Nancy O

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Guest PrairieFire

Nancy - if your dog ran only in the nurseries, and not in the Open - it wouldn't matter if it was called "fully trained" or not - it HAD NOT been run in Open, so it wasn't an Open dog.


The distinction that was a "gentleman's and gentlewoman's" agreement for many years was that an Open dog could only be dropped one class - not two or three - Nursery stands outside of the system...some associations rules still reflect this, obviously old fashioned and newly unpopular rule.


And as I mentioned, ya'll can run any number of classes you may want to...and stay in them as long as you like...but an Open dog ain't running in novice at my trials, and nobody who's taken money for training will be either...kinda defeats the purpose of "novice" doesn't it?


Several years ago, the HA had printed guidelines that "suggested" that handlers move a dog up when it had received 16 points (4 for a first, 3 for a second, etc.)and that also was part of a gentleman's and gentlewoman's agreement - that I am still in full agreement with...and think should never have been removed from the guidelines.


One can justify not moving up for a variety of reasons - some may be considered appropriate by many, some may be considered inappropriate...but at some point, one needs to ask WHY they are participating in trialing - and why trialing exists in the first place...


For many people the answer may be "it's just something I can do with my dog", for others "it's just another dog sport", traditionally, it has been a way to showcase dogs and handlers in a variety of venues - in an attempt to determine the best of both...


So, once again, anybody putting on a trial can run whatever unsanctioned classes they want to and for whatever reasons they may want to...

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You can find descriptions of the classes in the Northeast at http://www.nebca.net


I used to get very annoyed with people who are perpetually in the novice/novice class, but now I guess I just think it's great that there's a place they can continue to have fun with their dogs without having to go over to the AKC or ASCA and ABHA or other joke-type trialing venues.


NEBCA does set limits on how long a dog can stay in the novice class (as well as pro-novice and ranch) and has a rule against dropping a dog more than one class when it changes owners. And once you have run in Open (not placed or won, but just walked up to the post and sent your dog) you are no longer eligible for the novice-novice class. You must start your dogs in the pro-novice class.


On the whole, I think it works pretty well. There will always be whiners and people who think that trial classes should be the same across the whole country, but I disagree. The regional flavors are what makes in interesting and challenging to travel around the country. With e-mail, you can always find out what's to be expected of you before you enter.

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