Interview with Sporting Group Judge Betsy Horn Humer
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a judge?
My parents, Dr. Daniel Horn and Janet P. Horn, originally lived on Staten Island, and I went to training classes and showed in Children’s Handling. I titled my first Chesapeake Bay Retriever in Conformation and Obedience in the early 1960s. From Staten Island, we moved to New Jersey where I lived during high school and college, and then married. In New Jersey, I belonged to the Bayshore Companion Dog Club (Lifetime Member), and also to the, now defunct, Monmouth County Kennel Club. I currently belong to Salisbury Maryland KC and to my parent club, the American Chesapeake Club (Lifetime Achievement Award) where I have served as AKC Delegate, Board Member, Specialty Show Chair, and am currently the Judges Education Coordinator and Chair of the Judges Breeder Education Committee.
We retired to the Eastern Shore of Virginia 22 years ago. We are on a tidal creek that goes directly to the Chesapeake Bay, nestled between the Bay and the Atlantic Ocean on 21 acres. I like to say that we brought our dogs “back to their roots.”
What is my original breed? What is/was my kennel name?
I was raised with Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. Our first dog was named Gloriana II CD, owned and trained by my parents. When she was bred, they established Eastern Waters’ Kennels in 1948 and their first champion, CH Tempest of Eastern Waters’ CD, was born. The Eastern Waters’ name has been carried on and used by myself and also by Nathaniel Horn, Margi Horn Palmer, and Roger Horn. I continue to breed an occasional litter, and if I keep a puppy, show in the Bred-By-Exhibitor Class and follow up with a Grand Champion title.
Can I list a few of the notable dogs I’ve bred? Any performance or field titles?
I titled my first Obedience dog and Breed champion when I was in high school. After college, getting married and establishing my own household with my husband, Rupe, we were given a puppy named “Oak.” He went on to become a two-time National Specialty Winner, and also earned his CD, TD, and Working Dog titles. His “official” name was CH Eastern Waters’ Oak CD TD WD and he went on to sire 27 champions. At that time, before the advent of chilled semen, this was a lot of champions! We began to breed, and produced some of the following: CH Eastern Waters’ Crystal Coast CDX TD WD Can. CD, Best in Sweepstakes NSS 1987, produced six champions; CH Eastern Waters’ Ocracoke, Am./Can. CD, Best Opposite in Sweepstakes NSS 1987, produced 10 champions and a CH/OTCH; CH Eastern Waters’ Tiderunner UDT JH WD Can. CDX (my first UDT—a personal goal I achieved!); CH Eastern Waters’ Sea Gem CD NA, Best of Opposite Sex NSS 1996, Group-Placer; CH Eastern Waters’ Chasin’ A Dream CD RN, Award of Merit NSS 2006/2007, Group-Placer, produced a Master Hunter and a dog with a MACH; GCH Eastern Waters’ Top Of The Mark CDX JH RE NAJ NJP WD, sired Master Hunter and eight champions; GCHB Eastern Waters’ Pink Power O’ MesaRidge BN RI, Award of Merit NSS 2021, Group-Placer, produced five champions to date and Senior and Junior Hunt titles.
Dogs that we’ve bred, but were owned by others, that have been “notable” and have excelled in Agility are: CT Mach2 Eastern Waters’ Sea Zephyr VCD4 RAE MXC MJC XF T2B, owned and trained by Doreen and Gary Palmer (1st Chesapeake to earn VCD4), and GCH MACH PACH Eastern Waters’ Nuka Bay Kachemak VCD1 PCD BN RM5 RAE5 MXS MJB MXPB MJPB MJB3 MJPB PAX XF T2B CA DJA DNA TKI, owned and trained by Lynda Barber-Wiltse.
How important are Performance and Companion titles in a Sporting Dog?
Eastern Waters’ dog are known for titles “on both ends.” Many have earned Junior and Senior Hunt Test titles, advanced Obedience titles, and MACHs. The titles offered through Companion Events and the Performance titles (field work) are very important in Sporting Dogs. Originally, they were bred and developed for hunting and field work, and the AKC has offered other venues for them to participate in. Training Sporting Dogs that work with and for their owners in these venues promotes bonding. The temperament is such that they want to please us. It is not surprising that several of the Top Ten dogs in registrations are Sporting dogs.
Have I judged any Sporting Breed Specialties?
I have been judging Chesapeake Bay Retrievers since 1988 (33 years) and from there added the Sporting Group, Herding Group, three Non-Sporting Breeds, all Obedience (29 years), and Rally Classes.
One of the highlights of a judging career is to judge a National Specialty Show and Regional Specialties. I have judged Nationals for Chesapeakes, Goldens, Curly-Coated and Flat-Coated Retrievers, and Irish Water Spaniels. I have also judged Regional Specialties before or after a National in Gordon Setters, Field Spaniels, Spinones, and Wirehaired Pointing Griffons. I have judged local Specialty Shows in Brittanys, Pointers, Irish and English Setters, Cocker Spaniels, English Springers, Vizslas, and Weimaraners. Of course, as an Obedience Judge, I have also judged Obedience for National Specialty Shows in Chesapeakes, Goldens, Flat-Coats, Field Spaniels, Vizslas, and at the American Spaniel Club Specialty Shows.
Do I find that size, proportion, and substance are correct in most Sporting breeds? I think these factors are correct in many of today’s breeds being exhibited in the Sporting Group. There are several breeds that I feel are having some “issues” concerning size and type. In general, some breeds will go through growing pains at one time or another; when, sometimes due to a popular stud dog, what is produced is “bigger” or “smaller” than the ideal OR lacks substance. Usually, these problems are “fixed” by breeders in the next several years. Lack of substance, rather than too much substance, is more apt to be a problem,.
There are currently 32 breeds in the Sporting Group. When you are judging the Sporting Group you are hopefully seeing the best that was shown that day. You (or another judge) have already eliminated the dogs that do not represent their breed standard.
Is breed-specific expression important to me as a judge? Can I offer some examples?
Expression is very important in Sporting breeds. You do not want a harsh, mean “look,” particularly when looking at a dog’s eyes, as it detracts from the entire picture of the head. Many breed standards mention expression as a separate entity, while others specify that the “eyes” convey expression and then list descriptive words to be looked for. In many of the Spaniels, the words soft, appealing, kind, trusting, and gentle are used to describe expression. The Sussex Spaniel, however, is “somber and serious,” and the Field Spaniel is “grave” along with being gentle and intelligent. In Golden and Labrador Retrievers, kind, friendly, and intelligent eyes are requested to produce the required expression. In Chesapeakes and Flat-Coated Retrievers, the key word is “intelligent.” Curly-Coated and Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers look for intelligence and add the word “alert.” The Brittany standard refers to the “soft expression of a bird dog.” “Intelligent” and “soft” are keywords for many of the other breeds in the Sporting Group.
What are my thoughts on the current grooming practices among the coated breeds?
I feel that some of the more coated breeds are over-groomed, by having either too much coat removed or too much product added to the coat and blown-out, making it difficult to see how the dog is put together. Judges have hands and we use them to find the structure under the coat. If a dog’s stripping and coat presentation is incorrect for the breed, it can be considered a fault. It is up to the judge to determine if the coat texture is correct—especially if products have been used to enhance a coat.
Are the Sporting breeds in good shape overall? Any concerns?
At this time, I think that the majority of Sporting breeds ARE in good shape. At the “Group” level, it is an extremely competitive Group at most shows. By that time, the mediocre entries have been eliminated. However, I think the quality of the Class entries, in general, is not as good as it used to be, even though the Sporting entry is quite often the largest. The major fault in many breeds is a poor front. “Form and Function” should be the watchwords for many breeds, but especially for Sporting Dogs. Take a look at the video Dogsteps (Rachel Page Elliott), and you will see a phenomenal Golden Retriever and a Vizsla used to depict movement. Watch some of the AKC Breed Videos that were made in the late 1980s and early 1990s to see examples of very good dogs depicted. At that time, some were received with much criticism, but looking back at them now, I wish that more breeds today were in as good shape as those represented in the videos. Granted, some of the best were used for the videos mentioned. However, we just don’t see as many good dogs as we used to.
I have been judging the Sporting Group since 2005, but have been watching Group judging ever since I decided to apply for my first breed in 1987. Judging a large class entry of good quality is most rewarding. One of the best things about judging is having a young class entry come into your ring that makes you gasp—or makes the hair stand up on your arms! You know right away that this is your Winners Dog or Winners Bitch. Then you find out, after the awards are given out, that the dog or bitch was just awarded Winners at their National Specialty.
In my opinion, how do today’s exhibits compare with the Sporting Dogs of the past?
I attended the first Morris & Essex “re-do” held at Giralda Farms in 2000. The sunny morning became a very cold, damp October afternoon. I watched Jane Forsyth judge two of the top Irish Setters in the Country: CH Castlebar’s Ruxton Olympia, handled by Greg Strong, and CH Avon Farm Mr. Debonair, handled by Phil Booth. The breed was won by the latter dog, but both Irish were excellent examples of the breed, and both were at the top of their form on that cool October day.
Why do I think the Sporting breeds make up a large portion of the typical show’s entries?
Sporting breeds are “people” dogs. They were bred and developed for hunting. It didn’t matter if hunting was recreational or an economic necessity to shoot game (fur or feather) in order to put meat on the table or to provide a living. They work with and for the hunter. Years ago, dogs did not live in the house and sleep on the furniture the way they do now. They were kept outdoors, either in kennels or in the barn. As the years have passed, many dogs have become pets and companions, and do not have “a job.”
Sporting Dogs have the ability to participate in a variety of venues, especially some of the newer AKC activities such as Scent Work, Dock Diving, and even FastCAT. The “original” Obedience and Tracking are perfect for Sporting Dogs, since they are dedicated to working for their owners. Field Trials and Hunt Tests were developed specifically for Sporting breeds. I don’t have any statistics to back up this statement, but I do think that many Sporting breeds are owner-handled in the regular classes at dog shows, particularly in the smaller entry breeds.
Just for laughs, do I have a funny story I can share about judging the Sporting Group?
About four years ago, I was judging at the Maryland Sporting Dog show on Sunday with a huge entry of 660 dogs. It is probably the largest Sporting Dog show in the country. (The Saturday show had over 700 entries.) There were 29 breeds represented. Judging had started at 8:00 a.m. that morning and now it was after 5 o’clock. It was the second day of showing for most of the exhibitors. After I’d made a cut, and each of the entries was going around again one at a time, the last dog in line was a Sussex Spaniel. Instead of having him go directly to the end of the line of dogs that had “made the cut,” I called him over to the center of the ring and pointed at #1. This dog, known as “Bean,” took his place and sat up on his haunches as he received his blue ribbon and lots of applause.
To Summarize: Dogs have always been a part of my life. When I was in elementary school, we went to dog shows on the weekend. My friends went camping or went for a “Sunday Drive.” No one else even knew what a dog show was. I remember attending dog shows in most of the National Guard Armories in New Jersey. Monmouth County KC was held on the grounds of the Rumson Country Club. Ox Ridge KC was also on the grounds of a country club in Darien, Connecticut. Dog shows were small then, with 300-450 dogs average. Today, armories can no longer hold the numbers or provide enough parking for the exhibitors. I went to Bronx County KC when it was in one of the largest armories in the Bronx—and also the “dirtiest.” The black soot was on the dog’s feet, and it went everywhere. Entries were mailed to the Foley Dog Show Organization at 2009 Ranstead Street in Philadelphia. There was no Internet or event services to put your entries in. Entry fees were $5.00-$6.00.
The dogs were part of our family. One year, when my parents went to The Garden with one or two entries, I had the job of walking home from school at lunchtime to feed puppies and change the newspapers. (Each of us kids had our “own” dog growing up.) As a result, the impact of being a “second generation dog person” meant that my husband and I raised our puppies and three children together. We’ve continued in the same mode and now have seven grandchildren who have enjoyed visiting, especially when we have puppies for them to play with.