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  • Writer's picturekier scott

The New Handler

New people don’t have a frame of reference but this sport has gone under a massive transformation in the past 10 years. I could probably go on and on about it but I will limit myself to something specific. The change in who are the dog handlers in this sport. Years ago this sport was reserved for those in agriculture that wanted to show off their farm dogs. Which meant you had a diverse group of rural white men. That has shifted dramatically. Now a lot of the handlers coming in come from dog sporting background and rarely know very much about agriculture. And interestingly, most are women. An increase in women has very little impact on the dog trial community except that we are far more organized then we deserve. The loss of agriculture however can be some what concerning. Not because it lowers our quality (something I’ll talk about in a moment) but it does present the question; why. Why is it that the agriculture community is not showing up for this excellent agricultural event? That’s an answer I don’t necessarily have. There can be an argument for people not valuing stockmanship like they used to but it mostly seems the opposite is true. My guess it is just not worth the time especially considering the money in vs money out. So without our farmers coming does our quality slip? Mostly no. I should say it is my absolute belief that farm work is what makes most great trial dogs. You can’t replace that exposure in training. And those people still exist in the sport. The hobby handler is no threat to that. Those people simply increase the competition by volume if nothing else. Limiting our sport to agriculture has proven not to be sustainable. Even if we did limit to agriculture, our trial entries would be reduced significantly. Then winning would feel very much like running a race in your home town and declaring the winner to be the fastest man alive. Increasing the pool of competitors can only increase the competition. Even if 95% aren’t that good, that extra 5% keeps the old hands on their toes. Besides if the old time handlers believe as I do, that farm dogs have the upper hand, you simply need prove it. Winning is a hard argument to beat. Don’t shun new people if their background is wrong and especially don’t hoard knowledge from them. You may find the next great among them. For me, I welcome new handlers no matter their walk in life. Given they respect our rules and traditions. Everyone is welcome and should be welcomed.

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