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Selection of Entries at Popular Trials

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From Sheepdog-L this evening, posted by Donald McCaig:


"Dear Fellow Handlers,

As we all know, there are too few slots available at some popular

trials for those who wish to enter. While a simple lottery of entry

forms is fair to individual handlers it may not be in the best

interest of our sport. Imagine, for instance: a handler who has won

the National Finals, hosted one of our important north american

trials, served as an HA and ABC Director as well as being an officer

in the regional club/ Perhaps this person has worked on the popular

trial, perhaps hosted fundraisers or benefits. Yet she - or he -has

the exact same chance in a lottery as a wannabe who has chosen this

event to run her/his first open dog.


It's fair but it isn't right.


I owe this suggestion to Beverly Lambert. All the specifics - and the

argument itself - are mine.


I suggest that the HA assign values (seeding) for various

achievements and that these can be attached to the entry form and

that the trial host, when accepting entries by a certain date could

use these numerical figures to decide between handlers.


These suggested handler (not dog) points seem reasonable to me. The

HA is entirely able to improve them.


Any handler who has won the National Finals in the past 2 years: 5 points

Any handler who has won the popular trial in the last two years 4 points

Reserve champion popular trial or two 20 Finals (2 years) 3 points

Handler with a dog in the top 150 qualifying dogs this year 2 points

Hosted a trial within a year 2 points

Served as HA or ABCA Director in past five years 2 points

Worked at popular trial 2 points

Officer or director of state or regional sanctioning club 1 point


I look forward to the debate.

Donald McCaig"


Any thoughts?

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I'd love to comment, but my first thought is that you may be in violation of... something (the law? a rule?) by copying a post from a members-only group to a public forum without the author's permission. If you got his permission, or if no such rule exisits, I'll creep away in shame now... but I seem to remember this happening once before, and IIRC the author's permission is required.


I could be wrong, and it wouldn't be the first time.


(The proposal? I'm agin it. Probably because it's been eight or so years since I last ran a dog in Open, and under this system I might never get the chance again :rolleyes: )

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Sheepdog-L has no rule against cross-posting. Realistically, I think when you post anything in a public forum you should expect that it may go anywhere, but technically the poster retains copyright in the post. So I wrote Donald to ask if he had any objection to the cross-posting and discussion here, and he is okay with it. I thought he would be, since when you put a proposal out for discussion, you generally want it to get maximum exposure.


But wait . . . what's that movement over there? No Luisa, don't creep away! Nooo! We appreciate you looking out for us.

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Here's what I sent in to Sheepdog-L hours ago, which hasn't been put up yet (and who knows if it ever will, since posts bearing later times have already been put up):


Manipulating who can run in a trial manipulates who can earn points at that trial. As long as qualifying for the finals is done by a point system, any ranking system used to determine who gets into a trial has the effect of making it easier for those in the favored categories to accumulate points (and therefore qualify) and harder for those in the disadvantaged categories to accumulate points. This "rich get richer" system would tend to lock in the current elite and freeze out newcomers. Whether or not that's the intention, that would be the effect, and I question whether that's a result that would really benefit us or our dogs. I don't even think it would best achieve Susan's #1 (to identify the best working dog out there), because in hallowed theory (and even sometimes in practice) the best working dog can belong to someone who's up and coming rather than someone who's already there.


Of course, there's no fairness problem with someone choosing to put on an elite trial where the best of the best are guaranteed entry, such as Soldier Hollow, so long as that trial is not used for awarding/accumulating points for the finals. But if such a trial does award points toward the finals, the result is a major bloc of points virtually reserved for a privileged class, which heavily weights the scales against newcomers, who still have to compete against the elite for the remaining points at the smaller local trials. Seems to me this is contrary to the traditional ideal of the Open trial, where everyone has an equal chance.


--Eileen (a mediocre handler, who nevertheless would have the advantage of 4 points if the system Donald proposes had been used for this year's Bluegrass)


I certainly appreciate the magnitude of the problem this suggestion is trying to address, but I don't think this is the answer. Probably the worst thing about it is that you could never come up with a "favoritism schedule" that everyone would agree with. Each little point-getting criterion would be a sore spot to be picked at. (Why should people who once were Directors get points? Why should it be five years, and not ten years or one year or currently-serving? Why should they get as many points as a top-150 handler? How does that make trials better crowd-pleasers and sponsorship attractors? And so on.) It would give rise to a tremendous, incurable perception of unfairness and favoritism, which we don't need.


I wouldn't be surprised if in the future we see more Soldier Hollows -- invitational trials that attract big handlers with big purses, but aren't sanctioned and therefore can't award points toward the finals. Maybe that's the answer. I think there's enough support for big open-entry trials like the Bluegrass so that they would continue on too as sanctioned trials, with Big Hats wanting to enter because of the quality of the trial, and accepting the reality that they might not get in. I don't believe the gate at the Bluegrass is affected a bit by the names on the running order.

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Excellent post Eileen!


How about if the hosts offered a sort of "free pass" to the handler that won the "prestigious trial" the previous year? I don't think that there should be a percentage of gimmies, but to one person would not be unfair.

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I know when I first joined the PRCA (pro. rodeo cowboys assoc.) I had to fill a permit first. That meant I had to win $2500 to be able to gain full membership and enter better rodeo's.


The way the PRCA takes entries at the bigger rodeo's is somthing like this.


1. world champions


2. NFR qualifiers


3.top 50 in standings


4.circut money (region money won)


5.permits (if any)


They take a certin percent of all of the above with the top contestants assured entry in the rodeo.This seems pretty fair,you get your top contestants plus a few of the lower ranked cowboys. With the sheep dog world in need of a bigger fan base to grow the sport, we need our top handlers running, not getting maxed out of a entry at a top trial.I see nothing wrong with letting a few (not trying to offend) of the lower end of the open handlers have a small percent of the entries.But to grow our sport I think we need all the top handlers at the top trials.It should be a earned entry,not a lotto entry.

(just a very novice opinion)

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I am in complete support of Eileen's excellent post. I was thinking along those lines and she said it much better than I could.


(Edited to add: 7 points) :rolleyes:

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I think Eileen summed things up very well. I, too, read this on Sheepdog-L and it bothered me. I don't ever anticipate being an Open handler - as it is, I'm a poor excuse for a Novice handler, so I have no personal interest in this topic.


The concept of "favoritism" bothers me. Sheepdog trials have a strong foundation of fairness and "luck of the draw" inherent in the current system of entry order based on postmark date and of running order based on random draw.


What would be the next step - to put the elite handler in a "choice" running slot or give him/her a "better quality" packet of sheep? How about running slots for the elite at a time of day that would result in more spectators seeing the "better" handlers or specially selected sheep so that the "best" runs were at spectator-heavy times of day?


The current system is fair, and that is its strong point, in my very Novice opinion. Handlers of all levels should be able to submit their entries in a timely manner and accept that they might not make it into every event they would like to enter.

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ooooh you should hear the disagreement about this issue going on in my house! All the Big Hat's will be in favor of this (and so would I if I was a big hat- or maybe I should say that I wouldn't care what happened)all the little hats, with a few exceptions will feel that this is a system that excludes them. In my house, it would mean that my husband and I would be going to separate trials. He would get in the Bluegrass and get big points if he did well there. I can't afford to be sitting in the stands and supporting him. I'll have to be at lesser trials trying to earn my own points so I don't have to be a spectator at the finals too. I must say I am quite offended by this proposal.


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Thank you, Eileen! Excellent post. I believe the term is "micro management" for all of those people who agree with the proposal. While trial hosts use the USBCHA rules as a guideline, it should be up to trial management to handle receipt of entries, running orders, running to a standard & yes, lotteries for those trials to fill up on the first day.


For all those people on the Open Bluegrass running order, please keep in mind that we could easily be on the waiting list! Be thankful!!


p.s. Don't know how many points I would have & don't care!

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"For all those people on the Open Bluegrass running order, please keep in mind that we could easily be on the waiting list! Be thankful!!"


Yes you could! And don't let me catch anyone at a rest stop on the way there - you may mysteriously get a couple of flats so you can't get there to run. :rolleyes:



Second on the waiting list right now.....

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Great post Eileen.


Mike, the USBCHA is a long way from the PRCA. I'm not sure the handlers would want to split the sport into amateur and professional classes. Even if they did, the association would have to build an infrastructure to handle it, i.e. an organized system of local or amateur organizations feeding into it, a paid staff, sponsorship and spectator money, etc.


Kind of off topic, but over time on Sheepdog-L and elsewhere I've seen several messages implying that some top handlers are are somehow making huge profits trialing, training and breeding stock dogs. I would think that it's difficult to make a living much less get rich. We should remember these handlers show us the limit of what the dogs are capable of before begrudging what money is available.

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I like a suggestion that Maria (Amodi- I think) put on sheepdog-l. Roughly she said that in the big trials 10% of the entries can be invited by the host- Big Hats, Helpers, ect... BUT no points would be given to anyone in that category. In the lottery group, if you beat the 10%, you would get the amount of points deserved for beating that many dogs. Her point was that most of the Big Hats don't need the points for the finals anyway. If they didn't get in in the lottery system in the trial they could be invited but get no points. I think that is a good idea.

Jenny (who has 2 points and her husband has 14)

PS I sure am glad we hosted that trial last weekend so I don't look like a slacker!

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Jenny, I thought that Maria's proposal was too complicated to work well. Also, I had trouble with this:




If the person who won would not have been there under an equal draw, then why would the 2nd place person get points for 2nd place rather than 1st place?


I do agree that it's a major problem that trials are so often oversubscribed these days, but I guess I just don't see why the way the Bluegrass dealt with it is such a problem.

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I don't have a problem with the way the Bluegrass delt with the problem either, but then I am not a Big Hat which is who this proposal benifits. HOWEVER, I do know that the Bluegrass almost messed up by doing the draw too soon. (I suspect another trial did do it wrong) As I understand, you don't take in just the entries until you fill. Meaning, if you go to the postoffice on day one and you get enough entries to fill on that day, you don't declare the trial closed. You have to wait until all the entries that are postmarked for the first opening day are in. If you don't wait for all the day one postmarked entries to get in then only those who live close to the trial would get in. Our entries from Western Canada don't get to many trials for almost two weeks. Our Bluegrass entry, although postmarked for the first day of opening almost didn't get in the draw because they did the draw too early. Fortunately, they went to the post office that afternoon, before they posted the draw and got the entry. They had to redraw then. They didn't even wait 2 full weeks before they did the draw. It wasn't on purpose, they just didn't realzie that it can take that long for all the entries to arrive. I suspect another major trial did the same thing but I have no proof on that one.

In my opinion, that is the only thing that needs fixing with the current method.


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I agree with Eileen regarding Maria's proposal--I was sitting here this morning wondering who would keep track of who was eligible for points at each trial and then make sure that an invitee wasn't accidentally awarded points and vice versa. That could be a recordkeeping nightmare.


I guess I just don't see the system as broken. I do think it makes sense for trial hosts to wait a sufficient amount of time before drawing names to insure that all entries sent within the advertised time frame are included.



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