Lesley Neville – one of the Judges Conference Lecturers

Have you competed in other dog sports than HTM?
I started working a dog in Obedience. I was walking our family dog, Border Collie X Golden Retriever, past a house where a lady was working her dog on the lawn doing what I now know was a recall exercise.  I was fascinated and asked her if I could learn to do that? She put me in touch with the local Obedience Club and I was lucky that my dog seemed willing to learn this sport. Ten years later I was still in the sport of Obedience doing well with my 2nd, 3rd and 4th dogs, a black Labrador, collie X Labrador and X Breed. One day a lady came to the club where we trained and showed us a little about Working Trials.  My dogs thoroughly enjoyed the searching and tracking exercises so I decided to give that sport a try just to give a little more variation to them. Obedience was OK but I liked the idea of the dog having to think for itself a lot more. We trialed for a couple of years with the two X breeds, the Lab now being retired, and then I bought my first Working Beardie, Robbie ( Highlander Red Robbie) who very quickly rose through the classes gaining his TD Ex within two years.  Robbie was the kind of dog who would work all day so when a friend told me about “Dog Dancing” and persuaded me to have a go at it Robbie soon excelled in that sport too, becoming one of the first dogs in Britain to be Advanced in  both HTM and Freestyle.

Lesley and Angus at the OEC 2011 in Denmark.

Please let us ‘meet’ your dogs…
At the moment I have three dogs, all Working Beardies. Angus (Choxxstart Dream Angus HTMA Ex, FSA Ex) a Red and White Beardie who is 11 years old. At Crufts in 2007 Angus won the Freestyle Competition then went on to represent England in the International Competition and won that as well.  Last year he was one of the Team GB who won the HTM Open European Championship in Denmark. Hamish (Red Hot Hamish At Choxxstart HTMI Ex) my coffee and white Beardie who is 5 years old. Hamish and I have had a long struggle on the road to competing as at the age of 18 months he suddenly became very afraid of the world, did not want to be touched and just barked at everything! At two years old his feet started to bleed on a regular basis and it became clear that he was suffering from some kind of Allergy or Allergies. His skin hurt him so even though he was a friendly dog who wanted cuddles, the cuddles were going to hurt so he was a very confused little soul. It has taken just over two years to find out exactly what he is allergic to (Tree Pollen, Fungi, Storage Mite) plus Melanesia (an over production of yeast in the body) but is now on Immune Therapy injections which seem to be working well. Training was so hard, not only the off and on aspect due to his feet being sore so often, but he still insisted on backing away and barking most of the time. This year has been a real breakthrough and he is much happier in his Heelwork, and has moved up the classes from Novice to Advanced. So never give up!  Mind you he is still noisy in his Freestyle – ah well – in another five years………! Dewy (Brambledale Blue Dewy) Blue Merle Beardie, just six months old at the time of writing. Dewy is from a different line from all my other Beardies, and a different colour, and is a bundle of fun at the moment, but very bright and learning fast!

Can you tell us a little about your life with dogs and HTM/Freestyle?
A quite full description of my life with my dogs is best found on the Top Lodge Dancing Dogs Website www.dancingdogs.co.uk But I can say that because of my life with my dogs and HTM/Freestyle I have done things and been to places that I would never have dreamed possible. I have met some wonderful people, and my life is so full and totally revolves around my dogs and my sport.  I cannot imagine life without dogs, music and dancing.

Which of your achievements in HTM/Freestyle are the most important to you?
So many and so varied.  Obviously winning in competition is important, whether it be Crufts, OEC, or any of the shows throughout the year, yes that gives me a buzz, but on another level, I feel a huge sense of achievement when I see Hamish happy in the ring, as I mentioned earlier it has taken five years to get him to be happy and confident enough to do this, The work I do as a Committee Member of Canine Freestyle GB is important to me, and again I think it is quite an achievement to have done this for ten years now and still enjoy it! (Perhaps the good company of the rest of the Committee is a factor here too!) Likewise the last ten years of taking the sport around the country as one of Top Lodge Dancing Dogs and demonstrating it to the public at Galas, Fetes and shows is important.  When a member of the public comes up to you in tears of joy at what they have just witnessed, the bond between the handler and the dog, the joy of dancing – that is important. Teaching the sport in other countries. And, perhaps a huge achievement, being invited to speak at this Conference!

What is your best dog dancing experience?
Up to now I would have to say being a member of the winning Team GB last October. Hearing the National Anthem played in your honour is a feeling I shall never forget.

Can you tell us a little about your judges experience?
I have judged in Obedience and Working Trials but I assume you mean in HTM? My first judging appointment in HTM was in 2001 for the “Heelwork To Music Freestyle Association” (no longer in existence). I still have the catalogue, there were just three Judges – none of us actually named in the catalogue-and together we judged 105 routines! Things have changed a bit since then. I Judged at Crufts in 2008 and The Nordic Championship in 2011 and I Judge regularly at shows in Great Britain.

Any thoughts about judging that you would like to share?
Lots, but I will wait for the conference to air them! However; I would like to see a return to three Judges, each Judge judging just one section, so in Britain one Judge would judge just the Content, another just the Accuracy and the third just the Musical Interpretation.

Any thoughts about use of music/musical interpretation that you would like to share already now?
Oh no, why spoil the surprise? 🙂


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