Description
Heelwork to Music in the UK

Crufts 2020 Freestyle competition
Judges
Kath Hardman, Pamela Ruscoe and Dawn Hill


Crufts Heelwork To Music and Freestyle competitions 2020

Kath Hardman (Head Judge) report.


















This was my third judging appointment at Crufts for the Heelwork to Music Competition, having judged in 2006, 2012 and now in 2020 and what a privilege and honour it is to be announced, seated and looked after actually inside the Main Arena Ring. A fabulous view of all the competitors with no distractions help to keep the judges all focussed on the task in hand. My fellow judges this year were Pamela Ruscoe from Scotland and Dawn Hill from Belgium.

















After discussions on our Messenger Group, I felt we had a good team and all questions which had been raised over the past three months or more, in preparation of the event, had been fully answered. I had decided I would raise the level of standard expected for the three days competition, as all these handler and dog teams were obviously the top ten in each division as decided by the results from the Semi Finals held in January. From the 24 Freestyle and 25 routines which had qualified to be there, and the top ten to compete at Crufts had already been decided from those results.





THURSDAY Freestyle The Final














We arrived backstage of the Arena in time to have a few words of encouragement with the competitors who were getting ready for their big performance. Warming up dogs, checking costumes secure, props in order of performance, makeup and hair done – all looking very good and reasonably calm although there really isn’t anything like a few nerves to add adrenaline to the day! The Ring Party – Gina Pink their leader – were preparing the handlers, the props and making sure the next couple of hours ran to clockwork. No over run of time can be catered for as this event is live streamed and needs to be seamless in the presentation. At this time Richard Curtis would be in a studio ready to give his live commentary on all routines in this event which I understand was very knowledgeable and interesting to listen to. There were ten competitors in the Freestyle final, those who had been placed in the Top Ten at the Semi Final held way back in January 2020, so this would be their final performances at Crufts of those very special routines.




















Lesley Neville had the unenviable task of being drawn first in the running order but, with having two dogs to work in this final, this was not to be unexpected. She entered the ring with her partner Tedi looking fully confident, smiling and waving as she was introduced by Dave Ray. Lesley and Brambledale Brown Tedi performed to “The night They Invented Champagne” by the Cast of Gigi. Tedi, a bearded Collie, had been groomed so immaculately for this centre stage performance that his fur waved and rippled as they went through the very energetic routine with superb jumps and fast movement to this ideal piece of music for interpretation and audience appreciation. 


















Jenny Witt followed with Lavender Lillipop – a super Chihuahua and this was there first time to compete in Freestyle in the Main Arena. Performing to “Little People” from Les Miserables, this little dog, Sophie along with Jenny held the audience captivated with some wonderful, innovative moves for small dogs, which interpreted the music very well.

















Next to perform was Anne Shuker – another handler with two dogs in this final! The first to work was Splish Splash a Working Sheepdog, which I’m led to believe was to be her retirement performance. Anne and Splash performed to Jekyll and Hyde – with props of a cape, poison and a Chemistry lab – Anne soon changed from the kind Dr Jekyll into the dark and mysterious Mr Hyde! With good distance work and a very obvious changing of character of Anne, Splash put on a great performance.














Helen Dennis with Comebyanaway Pure Love, Border Collie, was the next competitor. Performing to “The Cover Is Not The Book” from Mary Poppins Returns, the immaculately costumed “Mary” aka Helen with Kara had a fabulous prop of a huge book (Designed and painted by Helen) which took centre stage with Kara seated in front of it, cleverly working by verbal direction of Helen who stayed behind the book for the first part of the routine. Fast and furious this was a very entertaining routine, with very innovative moves matching the music and a routine which created great audience appreciation. Congratulations on your well deserved 3 place.














Lucy Heath, with Trip, was next into the ring. Trip is a micro dog, a terrific little crossbreed and he filled the entire arena with his personality as they performed to “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast. Another fabulous costume (a French Waiter) and a huge three tired cake as a prop – the routine was fully descriptive of this enchanting music. This was a great crowd pleaser with Trip finishing the routine – inside the cake – with just his head popping out of the top which proved to be a real audience pleasing finale to the routine.
















Next to compete was Carole Dodson with her Border Collie, Kinaway Doctor Porter a previous Crufts’ Winner. Carole looked very scary throughout this routine to “Dead Silence 27 years Later” with a dead pan face, well made up to enact the part and dressed as a doll, she and Brooklyn performed to this story about a ventriloquist which was quite macabre! And with Brooklyn taking his very quiet verbal cues from her, they definitely made this a routine to remember.



















Lesley Neville returned to the ring with Brambledale Blue Dewy – her second performance in the class of ten! Again, another beautifully groomed Bearded Collie, whose fur enhanced all the movements throughout this routine which they performed to the music ”Tradition” from The Fiddler on the Roof. Starting slowly and building up in speed, this team worked the ring well with an array of jumps, twists and turns.


















Nicci Hindson with Combyanaway Wildest Dream, Border Collie, took to the stage next with a huge Lamppost – which housed a flickering light. Nicci and Elsa performed well as a team together to “Trip A Little Light Fantastic” from Mary Poppins Returns. I think the audience was gasping for breath by the end as the break neck speed at which Elsa works is like lightening! The routine was also full of good moves reflecting the music and extremely accurate. A brilliant performance by both Nicci and Elsa who worked so well together – a joy to watch! And today’s Winning Team!















Anne Shuker and Freckle Frenzie were next to work. Anne, in a full Monster Outfit and her crossbreed, Freckle worked to “Monsters Inc.” This routine was very polished with Freckle working incredibly well and precise at a distance from Anne who was certainly an added distraction for Freckle! This was another routine with good musical Interpretation, varied use of the ring and great content and accuracy. Certainly an audience pleaser and a routine easy to judge! This team worked well and came away in second place!


















Cathy Chambers was drawn at the very end of the running orders so she and Ellbriar Can Can had a long wait for the previous nine routines to be presented and marked. But the waiting didn’t lessen the enthusiasm of Amber the Golden Retriever who bounced happily into the ring and played the part as they performed to Come Follow The Band. There was great use of the trumpet prop which Amber approached from a distance and seemingly “played” keeping her lips to the mouthpiece so well and perfectly matched to the music. This was a super routine to end the class. 

RESULTS Nicci Hindson with Comebyanaway Wildest Dream (Elsa) 26.62 

Anne Shuker with Freckle Frenzie (Freckle) 26.23 

Helen Dennis with Comebyanaway Pure Love (Kara) 25.23

Fabulous day for judging – great contrast of Freestyle routines.
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Photographs courtesy of Richard Moss
Furtography
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