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Insights from Meghen Riese-Bassel – 2023 WKC Dog Show Breed Judge

Meghen Riese-Bassel - 2023 WKC Dog Show Breed Judge


Interview with Meghen Riese-Bassel – 2023 WKC Dog Show Breed Judge

What does it mean to be invited to judge at this year’s historic Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show?

Meghen Riese-Bassel: There are a handful of shows in the world that every judge dreams of being part of. Westminster tops that list. It is a thrill to receive a win at Westminster, but I can honestly say that it is equally thrilling to be in the middle of the ring. Thank you to Westminster Kennel Club for the invitation to judge a very successful 2023 show!


Can you share your thoughts on your various Breed assignments? Please be specific.

Meghen Riese-Bassel: I was quite pleased with my BOB winners for all the Spaniel breeds. Congratulations to three of them for making the final cut (the Irish Water Spaniel, Field Spaniel, and the Black Cocker Spaniel) and to the Irish Water Spaniel for a strong second in the Sporting Group.

I would like to express how impressed I was with two breeds that are often overlooked. The Sussex Spaniel and Boykin Spaniel entries were top-notch. Not only was there a large entry of Sussex Spaniels (many people are unaware of the reproductive struggles the breeders face to simply produce a litter), but all of the Sussex on this day had breed type. I have a bit of experience with the breed, and I remember the days when they were either leggy or too low to the ground. The breeders are to be commended for their work. I had exceptional examples of the breed, with golden liver coloring, substance, and beautiful outlines. Most also possessed coordinated, deliberate movement with the classic “metronome” tail action. My BOB and BOS battled it out. Ultimately, the bitch, though not carrying as much coat as the dog, won the day on her expression.

Continuing on to the Boykin Spaniel. I remember when the breed was on the brink of AKC approval. I would see many at hunting tests of various sizes and shapes—all different from the next. I wondered to myself how long it would be before the breed would gain a more uniform appearance. Well, my question has been answered. I was thrilled with the overall quality of the Boykin Spaniel entry. The breeders and exhibitors brought me a ring full of animals of correct size and effortless movement. Well done to the breeders for working together to get to this point—I am excited to see what the future holds for this breed. My winner on the day excelled in balance and straight forelegs.

In my own breed, the Welsh Springer Spaniel, while not a large entry, the quality was certainly there. My BOB winner was coordinated going around the ring, with no rolling or wasted motion. She carried her topline correctly, held her rectangular outline well, and was oh so confident.

My Field Spaniel BOB winner was in the very best condition. It can be difficult to get good coat texture in the breed, but this dog had a lovely tight jacket with correct texture. His outline was classic, and even from across the building one could see he screamed to the world that he is a Field Spaniel.

The Clumber Spaniel winner had very good bone and depth of body, which is so important in the breed.

I chuckled to myself a bit at my Cocker Spaniel winners, as they were three different styles. Each possessed something that I felt the breed needs. My Black variety winner has a beautiful headpiece. The backskull, eye placement, and length of muzzle he has is something the breed is losing. Aside from this, he has exceptional shoulder placement and coat texture. What I really like about this dog is the fact that he looks the same stacked as he does standing on his own. My ASCOB winner is so athletic with no wasted motion. His carriage and foot timing won him the variety.

Unfortunately, the English Cocker Spaniel National Specialty was on the opposite side of the country the day after WKC. I was worried this would impact the entry, and rightly so. What I did not anticipate was that, though the entry was small, I had two very nice males who would be competitive in even the largest entries. My winner was a young red boy with lovely bone. His head was so very nice with balance, an excellent shape of backskull, and a melting expression. He has very good rib spring for his age with a short loin. He was most impressive on the move, powering his way around the ring. My Select Dog is also noteworthy, as he gave the BOB winner a run for his money.

Perhaps the most exciting moment of the day was judging English Springer Spaniels. For anyone who has followed this breed, you will know that there are many styles internationally. People often have a strong opinion on which is best. I feel I am one of the few people who appreciates all of those styles. Ultimately, I am drawn to English Springers that are “free from exaggeration, nicely balanced in every part” no matter the style or where they were born. I was blessed to have two incredible bitches in the ring to nitpick between.

These two encompass so much of what I look for in the breed. They both are slightly longer than tall, are upstanding, have excellent shoulder placement with ground-covering movement, and are completely free from exaggeration. Both are “spanielly,” without having an incorrect barrel shape to their ribbing that I now see so often in the breed. Their heads are balanced—both having a lovely brow that is essential in an English Springer. Their bone shape is absolutely correct and is in no way cloddy. Pigment on these two, especially since they are both liver in color, was beautiful. These two are a credit to their breeders and were brought in tip-top condition. In the end, the younger bitch won the day on her expression and carriage on the move. This bitch just so happened to be undocked which, as I understand it now, made breed history.


Now that it’s over, what are your thoughts on the 2023 show year? Any thoughts on the year ahead?

Meghen Riese-Bassel: I feel that the 2023 WKC show was an absolute success. Hats off to all who worked to make it happen. The venue was perfect, and I feel both the dogs and exhibitors enjoyed having spacious rings with an adjacent grooming tent. I saw smiles all around and only heard wonderful comments on the facility. We were blessed with ideal weather, which I am sure helped to make the event even more memorable. In the evening, the Groups had that special feel we all look forward to—a comment I heard echoed throughout by the attendees.