Heelwork to Music in the UK

Rugby DTC
20th January 2018

ADVANCED HEELWORK QUALIFIER, 20/01/18, Ryton. Head judge, Lesley Brocklehurst.

This was an interesting and varied class of good quality performances. Every competitor should be congratulated on the time and effort put into their training and preparation for this event, enjoyed by all – judges, spectators and fellow competitors.

All teams demonstrated a good and some, an outstanding range of heelwork moves, positions, directions and paces. [Just one negative comment here, I felt some competitors tried to cram in too much resulting in lack of accuracy and flow] Freestyle moves were used effectively by many, to help punctuate and interpret the music. On the whole, the space was used creatively, showing structure and planning and accuracy was good.

Some performances shone for their effortless changes of pace, direction and position, where great thought had been made to ensure the content flowed. There were some exciting and dramatic routines, telling a story or acting out a strong theme, with moves well matched to the choice of music and its nuances. At this level of HTM we should expect a ‘Captivating performance’ and today there were some exceptional ones.

Despite a few hiccups, the dogs responded to cues promptly and appropriately and many handlers elevated their degree of difficulty by subtly integrating signals into their performance in an artistic and appropriate manner for the programme. The ‘image of oneness’ between handler dog and music was outstanding for most teams and many costumes and make up were exceptionally good, adding to the interpretation and presentation of the performances. The icing on the cake.

Congratulations to all who qualified. Marks were close and there were several teams who deserved to grace the arena at Crufts, if only more than ten could qualify for the finals. This year I will be able to sit and watch all the HTM events at Crufts and I know that the finalists from this class today will be ambassadors for our sport on the Friday and not disappoint the audiences.

GOOD LUCK to you all.

Thankyou Rugby DTC for the invitation to judge this class, back at the Sports Connection where HTM started in 1996 and where the first semi final event was held in 2006.

The 10 qualifiers were ;

Michelle Dodson and BC Kinaway Doctor Kildare - 26.63. Performing to Laurence of Arabia.

Lucy Creek and BC Harriot Skiffle King - 26.37. Performing to Grande Valse.

Caroline Garrett and BC Wildsea Phoenix of Fire - 26.23. Performing to Beauty and the Beast.

Lucy Heath and BC Stillmoor Winter Sun - 25.47. Performing to Let It Go.

Irene Walsh and WSD Oltomaine Jack - 25.30. Performing to Paint the Town Green.

Lesley Neville and Bearded Collie Brambledale Blue Dewey - 25.23. Performing to Passionata.

Pamela Sullivan and crossbreed Bandaitch Mack the Knife - 25.13. Performing to Explosion.

Carole Dodson and BC Kinaway Doctor Porter - 24.97. Performing to Incantasia, Cirque du Soleil.

Cathy Bates and WSD Ruskath Lyrical Image - 24.80. Performing to Bad Romance, Lady Gaga.

Louise Ince and NS DTR Decoymans Piper Edward - 24.40. Performing to Shine by Bond.


I was honoured to be invited as one of three judges to judge this prestigious competition, back where heelwork to music demonstrations first started in 1996. The other two judges were Diane Jones and Barbara Whittaker. There were 21 qualifying teams but on the day 16 worked a complete round, from whom the ten teams with the highest average scores across the three judges were the ones who will be going to compete at Crufts in March. As you can imagine it is not an easy task but the judges have to decide which teams are closest to meeting the laid down criteria on that particular day and not just the ones they liked the best, which is probably how a lot of the audience are viewing it.

Cathy Bates and Ruskath Lyrical Image. A beautifully flowing and well-choreographed routine to Bette Midler’s The Rose with Sybil doing a lot of her signature distance work to perfection incorporating criss cross stepping and skipping. A real tear jerker at the end with Cathy scattering rose petals over Sybil while she lays on her back with a rose across her two front paws. Cathy, too, is very expressive with her arm movements which adds to the overall impression.

2nd. Helen Dennis with Comebyanaway Pure Love. Helen dressed as an American policeman this team performed to Gee Officer Krupke by the cast of West Side Story. Very different from the first routine this was full of quick moves with lots of twists, twirls, jumps and arounds. You were almost out of breath watching her!

3rd. Lucy Creek with Harriot Skiffle King. Well this was a routine of surprises choreographed to Cinderella Medley by the Walt Disney Company. Not only a change of costume part way through for Lucy but also a change of props with Skiffle so cleverly moving a piece of scenery around to change it from one room to another and then later on moved it back again. Not quite as accurate as the first two but I am sure Lucy and Skiffle will have this nailed by Crufts!

4th. Kim Lyddon with Canen You Said What. Bricks and a wheelbarrow featured quite a lot in this routine to Whirlwind/Yello/The Stripper. Typical of Kim this was pure comedy which the audience delighted in watching. For me there were more mistakes and missed cues than I would have liked to see at this level but I am sure will go down a storm at Crufts.

5th. Lesley Neville with Brambledale Blue Dewey performing to Norwegian Dance/Arand Valse Brillante. Quite a busy routine with lots of jumps but I would be careful how the axe is placed in the tree stump when he jumps over it.

6th. Kath Hardman with Stillmoor Extra Special. Another one with a surprise in the costume department when one skirt was removed to reveal a multi coloured one underneath to dance to Dance Above the Rainbow by Ronan Hardiman. One or two blips in the accuracy department but lots going on and excellent choreography.

7th. Lucy Heath with Trip Hazard. Such a little whirlwind with everything done at a very fast pace. You daren’t blink or you would miss something. Another handler using a wall as a prop and a huge jewel in a case to the music of Mission Impossible.

8th. Kay Laurence with Genabacab Light Merlot. A very different pace for this team to the music of Paint It Black by Ramin Djawadi. Very slow controlled and accurate moves at the beginning incorporating circles, serpentines and sideways then when as the music changed pace he upped his pace to exactly fit the music as he did his outrun. Kay cleverly incorporating ‘sheep herding’ moves behind.

9th. Cathy Chambers with Ellbriar Can Can. A lovely golden retriever performing a cricket based routine to Soul Limbo and The Ashes Song. A clever story with the dog playing cricket with humorous touches.

10th. Emma Pirrie with Yolanda the Panda. Well having to use borrowed swords did not faze this little dog when they performed to Lost Boys. Your trip from Scotland was so worth it wasn’t it! Still early days for this team who seem to have risen to the top echelons in a very short space of time and will I am sure blossom even more this year.

Well that’s it folks, as they say. Commiserations to the other teams that didn’t get into the top ten. You were all amazingly close and I am really really sorry that you couldn’t all go to Crufts. Better luck next year.

Class 1 – Advanced HTM (NQ)  Kathleen Stubbings (Head Judge)

It was lovely to be given the opportunity to judge at Rugby DTC HTM Semi-Finals show. I’ll start with generalisation about the class first and then give a breakdown of the top four competitors.

For me, what was most apparent was the standard of the Accuracy & Team Performance. It may have been the new flooring, or just the handler’s nerves on the day, or over excitement of the dog, but positions could have been more varied, and more consistent. Also, to remember that a dog doesn’t just move forward, so I personally would have liked more backwards, pivots and sideways movement added into the routines with different directions, for a variety of Content & Flow. For Musical Interpretation try to add more variety of gait (speeds) and use the space more. What was very apparent to me was the short phrases of movement before a transition and change. This works with a dog that has great concentration and accuracy but does not work with an over excited dog or where accuracy was not consistent. In my opinion too short a phrase before change does not allow the dog to settle into the HTM position and show off its gait and character, hence the lack of control and accuracy shown in the routines today.

First Place – Cathy Chambers with Ellbriar Can Can (Golden Retriever). What I liked about this performance was the themed interpretation and the dog’s wiliness to work. Cathy had chosen moves that showed off the dog’s gait and had a variety of moves which kept with the theme of a clockwork dancer and canine partner.

Second Place – Ann DeRizzio with Stillmoor Red Sky At Night (Border Collie). Ann had chosen a variety of gait and speed in this routine and used the space in the ring well. The dog was slightly over excited but held it’s HTM positions well and Ann matched the positions to longer phrases of music which showed the dog off nicely and allowed it to settle.

Third Place – Alison Wilde with Shemella Badgers Moon (Border Collie). What I liked most about this routine was the way Alison used the phrases of the music and transitions were smooth and helped the HTM positions to flow nicely. It was a calm performance with some accuracy issues but they didn’t distract from the flow of the routine and the dog was a willing worker.

Fourth Place – Anne Shuker with Freckle Frenzy (Crossbreed). This was a cracking little dog who was so willing to work that the over excitement of it all ended in some barking issues. Anne had chosen a variety of positions and directions which matched the music nicely. The dog had a great sidestepping action but let itself down on the transitions with his willingness to work. Ann certainly chose the right music for her dog, “Live Out Loud” which suited its character nicely.

Advanced Freestyle (non-qualifiers)

Head Judge David Moxon; Second Judge Kathleen Stubbings;

Thank you to Rugby for the invitation to judge. Hospitality and arrangements were excellent. Thank you to the helpers in keeping the competitors and scores sheets flowing. This was the last class of the day, but we still managed to finish by 6pm. There were 9 entries but only 4 competed so all obtained a rosette, but points were withheld for 4 because this did not reach the magic total of 18. Otherwise not much to separate the other three once judges scores were combined.

These were the non-qualifiers, and this showed in accuracy marks which were the weakest. Where content was low this may have been because the moves hoped for did not come off today. All had themes that could be worked with and that is where the judges may have had differing views on two out of the first three.

1st. Jill Davis with Demelza at Glidersway. WSD, 2 years old. Overall score of 20.80 performing to Medal of Honour by Michael Giacchino. Had the better flow of the routines despite the additional cues and the fumble at the end. This is where second by both judges became the overall winner. Well done.

2nd.Joanne Mayston with Mists of Tawny, WSD, 7 years old. Overall score of 20.75 performing to The Phantom of the Opera by Emmy Rossum & Gerrard Butler. Favoured more by second judge whereas head judge would have liked to have seen stronger use of the full ring and in the earlier part of the routine quicker responses from the dog. This made it appear slow to the interpretation of the music.

3rd. Anne Shuker with Freckle Frenzy a six-year-old crossbreed with a score of 20.20 after a 0.25 deduction for barking. Noise was noticed so something to watch. Favoured more by head judge where musical interpretation was on cue with the story being told.

4th. Pamela Ruscoe with Ychydig Draig, crossbreed, date of birth not known, Performed to Fame, I can do anything better than you can, and going gets tough by a mix of artists. Nothing wrong with the theme and could see how this could work but flow and accuracy not strong today. Score of 16.80.

Finally, thank you to all the competitors.

David Moxon

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