AKC has a little of something for everyone in their herding program. It pertains to all of the 37 something herding breeds. It has instinct testing and a couple of beginning test levels. It has a started, intermediate, and advanced classes in the arena and in the field. Stock used can be ducks,sheep, and/or cattle. It has an A course (arena) work, a B course (field) work, and a C course (tending work).
The herding seminar concentrated on the judges being HARDER on the exhibitors. I LIKE that. How is the trialer going to learn if the judge overlooks bad work? Started dogs need to work, to be engaged, not off contact with the sheep just following the handler around the course. It is a disservice to be too light with your pencil in scoring. Yes, you may get more judging assignments, but it is frowned upon for many reasons.
Now, I have only judged the tests. I give the handlers lots of encouragement. On one particular pre-test (top level of the tests) I removed a handler and dog. The dog made progress, but he continued to circle and try to grip his sheep. I gave this person a warning and he almost finished the course, before I said, "Thank-you, get your dog, and please leave the arena." The handler was pissed. "He wasn't hurting the sheep." Well, if he is pulling wool and not listening to you in a Pre-Test, how do you think he will be when he steps up to trialing....
That particular person was at the judge's seminar. The judge's seminar is open to anyone, not just judges. Maybe a new exhibitor would like to learn the rules better. This is a good place to listen and ask questions.
The neat thing that happened is that the person I removed (excused) from the test class (quite some time ago)sought me out at the seminar and wanted me to hear what he had to say. He said, "I want to THANK-YOU for removing me and my dog off the course. I wasn't happy with you at that very moment. But, it made me step up to the plate and made me a better trainer/handler." Do wonders ever cease :0)
For those of you who don't trial in USBCHA, then I will tell for the most part they hate AKC, the EVIL empire. They hate them for the "breed" ring....for breeding "conformation" dogs firstly and having very little to do with breeding for working ability. I understand where they are coming from. I HATE that, too. I will not patronize the breed ring. I breed strictly for working ability and soundness.
With that said, I'm glad there is an AKC herding program. Trials are far and few for me here. The herding TITLE program means absolutely nothing to me. But, their trials offer me another place to work my dogs.
The A course in the arena offers many PRESSURES. I hear many people say, I'm not trialing my dog in an arena. Most likely they don't do well in the arena because of the pressures. :0) The field offers something like a novice USBCHA outrun with short drives,a pen, and a shed. This gives me the chance to spiff up on our sheds. Farm flocks aren't easy.
Speaking of sheds, AKC is finally going to make the shed a shed. In the past, judges would except a single, a split, and some judges required no hold. You only lost a point or two. Now, they are stepping up to the plate and asking for two on the head with the dog holding them away from the other sheep. About time. :0)
There are quite a few things I would add or change to the AKC herding program, but all in all, they have done a fine job with the large community they serve.
They also have an exhibition only class. The exhibitor can sign up the day of the trial as long as the program (trial club) offers this class. This means I could trial Jet in advanced as exhibition only and be judged. I would not win anything. I can still trial Jet in advanced and on occasion still do as a non-exhibition dog. There is nothing in the rules that say I can't. But, exhibitors tend to mumble under their breath about it. :0) The other nice thing about 'exhibition only' is that Wayne can trial Jet in any of the classes as exhibition only. He can put Jet in started and trial if he so desires. But, there is no way he would pay a $45 dollar entry fee to do that. I would have to pay it. LOL