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Field Trial Judges

by Donald "Doc" Skinner

          I didn't agree with all of Glenn G. Black's ideas, but I think his idea of what a judge should be is just as appropriate today as it was in 1949 when his book American Beagling was published. To that end I am quoting his analysis. "A good judge must, first of all, be a man with very well-balanced judgement, not overly influenced by momentary flashes of brilliance or slight errors that do not materially affect the ultimate result. This judgement must enable him to completely disregard all personal influences in connection with the hounds he judges. Whether a hound is handled by or belongs to Tom, Dick or Harry, by his friend or enemy of long standing, by a casual acquaintance, or by a complete stranger is a matter which has not the slightest bearing upon his judgement of the work he sees the hound do, or fail to do. He must be able to cast out of his mind anything, good or bad, he might previously have seen done by a hound that is again going down under his judgement."

          With the judicial qualifications and with the required thorough knowledge of hound work, to be a capable and successful judge he must have a personality that avoids misunderstandings with owners, handlers, club officials, and co-judges; that enables him to exercise authority in a way that creates little opportunity for criticism; and that renders him not only willing but glad to answer any question asked him by competing owners and handlers. This he must do not as a grudging discharge or a technical or official obligation, but as a privilege enjoyed only by a judge in an effort to promote a clearer understanding among those who run their hounds under him as to his standards of perfection and his explanation of his own understanding of the way in which perfect hound work should be executed. Whenever he finds himself either unwilling or unable to explain exactly why he placed, or did not place, any particular hound in any particular place and to explain this in a gentlemanly manner to the satisfaction of any reasonable competitor, then he ceases to be a qualified judge.

          Obviously nothing can better qualify him for this important part of his judicial task than an excellent memory and a few hastily recorded notes which will, at some later time, recall the entire race to his mind. Let us note here, however, that he is very definitely under no obligation to engage in bickering words with any unreasonable owner or handler who may have become unduly aroused over something that has happened (or failed to happen) to his hound in competition. He is under obligation to explain to no one, or to waste time in conversation with anyone, who approaches him from any angle except that of a gentleman and a sportsman.

          Still another indispensable attribute is that he must have a thorough knowledge of hound work. This is where the time element is now keeping the development of capable judges behind the development of clubs holding field trials. Such knowledge is attainable only in the field behind hounds-years in the field behind hounds- all kinds of hounds, good, bad, and indifferent. His honesty must be 100%. By this it is not meant that his decisions must suit, or strive to suit, every competitor. To do this is humanly impossible and either doing it or failing to do it has no bearing on his honesty. Honesty in a field-trial judge is not necessarily indicated by an absence of criticism. Some people are slow to criticize or, in some cases, entirely free from any desire to criticize under any circumstances, while others seem ever ready to criticize never hesitate to criticize even honest decisions. Honesty in a field-trial judge means merely that he insists under all circumstances and regardless of consequences, in satisfying himself that every decision that he makes is, in his own honest opinion, right and just." I might add that "Old Kikapoo's" use of the masculine pronoun in his treatise was not a macho move but, was supported by a genuine lack of female judges during the 1940's.

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