The First Draft Test - article reprint from the Spring 1985 Newf Tide
IT IS NEWF HISTORY now; the NCA Draft Test Regulations were proven to be workable, realistic and a fair test of ability of Newfoundlands in hauling. On March 31, the Bear Mountain Newfoundland Club hosted the first approved draft test. The draft test is not a weight-pulling contest. It is non-competitive. Dog and handler teams are judged on a pass/fail basis.
Of the ten entries, eight passed the test and can now be designated Draft Dogs (DD). They are as follows (in catalog order):
Ch. Kilyka's She Shell, UD, WD, DD, owned and handled by Betty McDonnell
Wee Lovett's Maritime Megrez, CD, WRD, DD, owned by Mike and Sandee Lovett and handled by Sandee
Jeannie, CD, TD, DD, owned and handled by Anne Reynolds
Fiord's Haleyon of Irongate, DD, owned by Ronald Sell and Hannah Hayman and handled by Ron
Seaworthy Hallmark, CD, WD, DD, owned and handled by Claire Carr
Ch. Spindrift's Wee Lovett Alcor, CD, WRD, DD, owned by Mike and Sandee Lovett and handled by Mike Ch. Ebunyzar's Water Witch, UD, WRD, DD, owned by Hannah and Laura Hayman and handled by Hannah
Ch. Kilyka's Calypso, UDTX, WRD, DD, owned and handled by Betty McDonnell
Exhibitors and spectators hailed from California, lllinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire. They represented membership in eight regional Newfoundland clubs. Future draft tests can draw upon the experience gained by those witnessing or participating in this event. There were representatives from the AKC at the test, and they were impressed by the high percentage of qualifying dogs. Dog fanciers of other working breeds attended, and we were asked if we would allow our rules and regulations to be used by their breed clubs.
No one at the draft test will ever forget the weather! It was the one-day out of the week of forecasts that the weatherman called right-and "right" was "wrong"! In positive terms, the test day might be considered a Newfie kind of day; but the weatherman was unpardonable for bringing discomfort to exhibitors, judges, stewards, and spectators. Almost everyone was appropriately bundled in warm layers of clothing topped by waterproof slickers. The handlers were further warmed by the "high" of competition.
Harriman State Park was a perfect location for the test. The testing field, the freight haul trail and the parking area could not be improved upon.
The Bear Mountain club is most fortunate to have the use of the park for its summer match show, training sessions, and for draft tests. The park facilities, including lodging and food, were appreciated and enjoyed. There were 21 exhibitors or supporters at the Saturday pre-test dinner at the Bear Mountain Inn. The park administrators bent over backwards to help the committee plan for and set up for the test. They supplied a loudspeaker system and indoor relief from the weather with charcoal fires and kerosene heaters. The hot lunch menu was just what everyone needed for fortification for the after lunch freight haul in the inclement weather.
Exhibitors, judges and stewards had read and reread the approved regulations, so they could anticipate what was expected and handle the unexpected.
Having now been through the experience, I found that rereading the rules after the test was also worthwhile from a new perspective. From personal experience I can fully understand the wisdom of the Working Dog Committee in highly recommending the siwash style harness. It is more efficient and less taxing for the dog to use this type of harness particularly for the stress of a distance freight haul which was 50% uphill pulling.
Exhibitors were most fortunate to be able to draw on the working experience of the Lovetts. Mike and Sandee were most generous in sharing their expertise. Proper harness fit and cart adjustments were explained and made; and we all came home feeling we had learned so much from these experts.
One of the most difficult exercises to train for, according to the exhibitors, is the "back up." Backing up a distance of four feet without manual guidance is unnatural for a dog. Without the benefit of prior experience or instructions we had to work out our own- training methods. Hannah Hayman's Newf needed all that training-plus the mental push of all those watching-to make those final steps back for a passing performance.
Dave Ackerman, who was in charge of grounds, equipment and stewards, had chosen a cat on a leash and a chain saw in action for the "intriguing distractions." Bear Mountain club member Karyn Dudley offered her cat "Molson" as a distraction. Unafraid of dogs, Molson gave a credible performance as an "attack cat," lunging on his long leash after the unplanned distraction of Canadian geese.
Jane and Ron Thibault were on hand with their video camera taping the daylong test. The video will be available for regional club rental through the NCA Audio-Visual Committee. It will probably need editing unless clubs plan marathon meetings. To whet your curiosity ... Watch for Molson the cat and the number 10 entry! Molson probably won't be so eager to volunteer his services next year.
Judges Elaine Lehr and Joyce Hieber were most helpful in interpreting the rules for us all. In addition, Elaine had spent considerable time with the committee helping them in the choice and layout of the test site. The draft test committees and the Bear Mountain Board of Directors are all to be congratulated for contributing to a very fine draft test. Special thanks go to Ruth March, Dave Ackerman, Helen Munday, Chris LaMuraglia, Barbara Bottaro, Sara Updegrave, Ken Sigel, Karyn Dudley, Henry Wermke, Jill Dillon, May Bernhard, Brenda Santiago, and Diane Keyser. The club has already been talking about "the test next year."