Interview with the Head Judge

Karen Sykes, Derbyshire, GB
How many dogs do you have, which breed/s and what do you do with them?
I have 3 dogs, 2 Working Sheepdogs and 1 crossbreed.

Kes (After Lady Karen’s Prozac) is 12 years old; she is a farm-bred collie from cattle working lines. In her younger days we competed in Obedience, Agility, Working Trials and sheep herding but our relationship and teamwork really flourished when we took up Heelwork to Music. She has been in the top 10 Freestyle dogs in the UK for many years and has competed at Crufts every year since the Finals began. She is a strong minded dog and has taught me a lot about motivation and team-work! To achieve 6th at Crufts in Freestyle this year was wonderful for a dog of her age - I am so proud of her!

Fly (Iatka Spring Spangle) is 9 years old. Fly couldn’t be more different from Kes, after learning to motivate Kes I had to learn how to keep Fly calm; she is a very fast and intense dog who anticipates everything! Sadly Fly has had problems with skin allergies for years which have been very difficult and expensive to manage but I still wouldn’t swap her for the world. Like Kes, Fly has also competed at Crufts since the very first competition in her speciality of Heelwork to Music. Our proudest moment in HTM was winning Crufts in 2008.

Erin (Our Irish Second Chance) is a 1 year old crossbreed. We don’t know what breeds are mixed into her but she is a great comic with a super personality. Her training is great fun for both of us and she has just started competing. At the time of writing she had competed once in Heelwork to Music and came 4th in a class of 16. I was amazed and thrilled!

Why do you like HTM?
HTM is the only dog sport where you can do exactly what you want to within the rules and let your imagination run free. You can show-case the individuality of your dog and never have to perform a move that the dog doesn’t like. Dogs, dancing and music are a magical combination!

When did you start judging?
I judged my first competition in 2001

Why do you judge?
I judge because I enjoy it and I think that judging can have an influence over the way that the sport evolves. I like it when a competitor asks me to explain to them why I gave them certain marks so that I can help them to make improvements and compliment them on the good points of their performance.

What do you consider to be a HTM judge's greatest responsibility?
Impartiality. No matter who the dog and handler are they deserve to be judged fairly on their performance that day.

Can you tell us about a judging experience that made a great impression on you?
I have been invited to judge abroad on many occasions and it is a great honour to receive recognition for my judging outside of my own country. However, the biggest competition I have judged so far was Crufts 2007. The biggest ring and the biggest audience with the best British and International competitors, it was a wonderful experience!

What do you think it will be like to judge a World Championship?
I have judged in Denmark before and I know that the Danes are great hosts. To combine that with the best dog and handler teams in the world and the best seat in the house is a wonderful prospect. I don’t expect it to be an easy job but I know how lucky I am to be there and it is a fantastic honour!

Any other thoughts you would like to share with the WC handlers?
To represent your country is a huge honour and everyone has done very well just to be at the World Championships. Try to enjoy your time in the ring and remember that no matter what the result, you are taking the best dog home!

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