08 October 2007

A tale from the gate.

Oh the yelling.

At agility trials, there are no professional gate stewards. At horse shows, these are seasoned pros, who in general remain calm, cool and collected and patiently hold rings, walkie talkie other rings and only sometimes freak out. Most competitors and trainers are trained to not freak out at them because bad things can happen in the future if gate stewards do not like you. No one wants to be on the bad side of a gate steward.

At agility trials, there are no pros. Well, there's Joe the Masters Gate Steward, who almost is-his wife competes, they go to every trial in their motor home and he runs the Master's Ring like no one else can. So he knows all the dogs and he makes sure things stay in order during conflicty runs. I think he comes from the corporate world-they might be retired lawyers? and I would elect him president of the Masters Ring. He devotes most weekends of his life to traveling around to dog shows his wife runs in and runs that ring for 10 straight hours a day.

Then there's the rest of us. Everyone is is just taking their turn volunteering. I work as much as I can, which used to be whenever I wasn't running but is less with the addition of Gustavo and with the conflicts of having Otterpop still in some things in the advanced ring. Even if I have a second, I will just set bars or grab leashes or whatever there is to do. Because an efficient ring ends and all efficient rings end early and then the 2ish hour drive home starts earlier.

Sometimes people mess up. We are talking voluteer workers here who are getting paid in raffle tickets to win things like a dog squeaky toy. Who are probably worried about missing their next run by working. Not a high paid, deadline based job. When you are gate stewarding, there are lots of people who need to be in lots of rings at the same time and the order gets messed up and this screws up the score keepers and there's just no way to do it easy and fast.

Wow did I hear some freakouts yesterday. From people I know even. The worse one was a lady I know who totally burst an ugly gasket over not getting into the ring when she was supposed to. The gate steward screwed up minorly. More of inconvenience than life threatening emergency. But did she get a dressing down. I thought she stomached it just fine and kind of ignored the freaking out lady, who most of the time is a hard core competitor and has a high end professional job when she's not at dog shows. A nice calm man sort of talked her out of the tree and she put her gourd back in and ran but wow scarey.

I try to gate the starters ring when I can and be nice and run it all efficient like and not let the beginners get scared and want to quit. Because I think if I saw ladies freaking out like that on a regular basis I might want to crawl in hole and just weep.


Unknown said...

This made me think about the nature of agility fun. It made me think about last week at the end of Wednesday night class, when we were going over-time, but there was still one last dog in our advanced novice class to run the half-course near the bleacher place and the Masters people and their dogs were waiting perfectly patiently on the outside, their internal impatience discernible only in their eyes, which were voraciously riveted on the course that we were still cluttering up (this may be a projection on my part), and the last person in our class wanted to run, of course, even though it was pretty intimidating (which may be a total projection on my part since, after a beautiful run-before-last, I completely blew our last run when I imagined Masters eyes on us, which was probably not even so, of course); so the last person ran, and his run was a little discombobulated, nowhere nearly as clean as his run before, and chatty me (even though I said I was never going to complain even a little after I made my bitchy complaint about time to Laura weeks ago which still bothers me to remember), I say, "Personally, *I* (the pontificating I of me) think we (meaning the more novice class) should start on this side of the arena so the other (more advanced) class can end under the (perhaps) scrutiny of the Masters patiently waiting for them to get off the course. And Dee says, "Well, this is supposed to be fun." So, I've been thinking about that, and now the yelling at the gate, and I see they are two different things, but might be on a continuum, one side of which is the side not to get on, if fun is wanted to be maintained, but even if someone yells at me at the gate next weekend, it's still going to be fun. So, the fun thing is puzzling. Yesterday, I yelled at my students, "You are supposed to be having fun reading this book!" And I was mad because they weren't having fun. Maybe that's why I like my dog so much. I pretty much know how to make things fun for her (involves balls and running).

team small dog said...

I know when I'm standing outside class waiting with three dogs to get in, I'm mostly thinking about the big one is pulling my arms off and the little ones are tangling up and it would be easier if I could get in there and tie everyone up to the fence. And watching all my ex students and see how much they have improved now that they have graduated to the 7pm class.

It's kind of like when I first started running Hobbes and I was worried people would watch and compare me to Rob. Or when Ruby unravels in the heat or from poles and I feel very judged. Or when Otterpop started trialing and barked at every judge she ran near. You try to tell yourself, "just screw it" but you still feel looked at.

I guess everything's like that though. It's part of learning. When my old trainer used to come out to the ring when we were out riding. When all the professors would come and gang up on you in a review. When the gallery lady walks in your studio. If George Morris walked out while I was schooling a horse or teaching a lesson I'd still break into a cold sweat. And up my game.

At trials the ante is upped and people are trying to get that Q they need for the Nationals or the Bronze ADCh or that stupid Advanced Gamblers Q, whatever it is and the game gets very, very serious.

We are cut throat, competitve animals. We do wars and yell at baseball games. We can take the funnest little thing and make it as mean as our personalities need it to be.

Unknown said...

"We can take the funnest little thing and make it as mean as our personalities need it to be."

So, now all I'm thinking about is, oh god I called us advanced novice class, when I think we really are the advanced beginner class, or maybe the plain novice class, or maybe the almost novice class. How's that for a personality?