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Long Live Veterans

Judging veteran classes is about the hardest yet most enjoyable job a judge has, don’t you think?

As breeders, our goal is to breed superb specimens that are still sound at age 10 or more. What bliss it is to show off our cherished veterans at a specialty.

When exhibitors bring their sound veterans to shows, it is assumed the veterans will be presented in the right weight, good muscle tone, and well groomed, even if the coat is not as painstakingly tended as that of a young special. Quite often, the dogs absolutely adore being back in the ring.

The more veterans at a specialty, the better. Having them there illustrates type, helps breeders understand their pedigrees, illuminates the younger generations that flow from the veterans, and brings back extraordinary memories.

At a regional or national specialty, the veteran classes may contain several great dogs that have won big in regional, national, and international venues as well as some great dogs who retired the day they finished their championship. Some of these great dogs will manifest some of the marks of time.

In English Setters, all of the following are normal signs of aging that should be pretty much ignored by the judge: gray hair, a few small lumps and bumps on the body, worn down yellowed teeth, cloudy eyes, small hollows above the eyes. Most English Setters’ furnishings get wavier as they age.

In English Setters, the following qualities constitute good structure in any exhibit of any age: shoulders well laid back, smooth transition of neck into shoulders, an almost square outline, balanced angulation, tail straight off the back. These traits may be present in greater abundance in the veteran classes than anywhere else in the show.

In English Setters, these factors do NOT constitute good structure, no matter what the age of the exhibit: chronic limping, faulty gait, saggy topline, dropped tailset. If you see a veteran that has these traits, time simply exaggerated what was always there. A veteran English Setter should be judged on the day, not on his or her past show record, no matter how spectacular that record was.

Thoughtful ring procedure can facilitate the showcasing of veterans.

In a veteran sweepstakes, a club might schedule the classes in reverse chronological order, giving the oldest class winners time to rest before Best in Sweeps.

With the oldest veterans in mind, a judge may decide to evaluate mainly on the stack and move the exhibits just enough to check whether they are sound and still use themselves well.

Some veterans may have a few aches and pains, so a considerate judge will use a very light touch.

In a nonregular class containing veterans of all ages, the judge may, and probably should, ask the steward the birth date of each exhibit. Knowing the dog’s age is important to a complete understanding of its merits.

As a mark of respect to all the veterans, a judge might avoid making cuts.

You might see veterans shown by folks who haven’t been in the ring much. When such a pair walked into the ring of the late, great Anne Rogers Clark, she stacked the dog for the owner and said “do it THAT way.” What a difference.

Long live the veterans!

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