Updated: Mar 12, 2019
Lure Coursing in Ocala heats up the cool winter weekend in Florida.
Winter in Florida is a mild affair. Cooler temperatures and overcast days give the "Sunshine State" landscape a drab color and generally less energy.
So the contrast at the February ASFA Lure Coursing trials in Ocala was an exciting, colorful two days of fast dogs and warm friendships.
We have visited the Greater Ocala and Gainesville Lure Coursing Association (GOGLCA) before. The sport is kept vibrant and increasingly accessible to all Sighthound owners in Florida through the very welcoming atmosphere as the GOGLCA eagerly welcomes and tutors’ new comers and their hounds.
This immediate welcome is helping this ancient sport evolve and remain open to a new generation.
Lure Coursing, An American Creation.
Though coursing is documented to go back to Ancient Egypt. With various coursing in Europe mostly pursuing the tradition of live rabbits and a series of experiments with mechanical devises towing the poor creatures resulting in injuries.
Our modern Lure Coursing is an American invention with of O.P. Smith in Oklahoma creating the lure line and motor he patented around 1924.
The American Sighthound Field Association (ASFA) came into being around 1972 and established standards the rules for Lure Coursing in American. Then the American Kennel Club (AKC) added the lure coursing to their sports in 1991 and over time have adopted standards very similar to the ASFA. Both organizations restrict the traditional Lure Coursing events to specific breeds, but have extended sports for others, including mixed breeds.
They come from all corners. City Offices to ranches and globe-trotters.
Though Bad Azz Dogz has covered large events of all kinds, there are some that stand apart as having a more casual grass roots flavor. The GOGLCA’s event was one of those gems. An easy feel of friends or family at ease with one another and open to newcomers is always a great day to experience. Many travel across the region for hundreds of miles to let their dogs play, but also to join in the community they come to have close bonds with.
The invite to all
Judge Janet Preiss is from Canada and originally with Canadian Sighthound Field Assoc. (CSFA) and been an ASFA Judge since 1985. She has had her favorite breed of Saluki since 1972 and seen much in the sport in her time. We spoke to her about the changes and her main concern was in the stagnation in the sports growth.
We need to cater to ‘Joe Public”
A combination of a more urban pet ownership has led many to be unaware of the games specifically tailored to the breeds of dogs many own. Janet pointed out that this sport in particular requires the dogs natural skills to track, chase and “run clean” (not to interfere with other dogs), but took great encouragement with seeing the welcome, tutoring and encouragement offered at the event to newcomers.
Her own dogs compete in lure coursing, but also in conformation, barn hunt and somewhat less successfully in obedience she said with a smile. Like most owners, it wasn’t the trophies, but the happiness of the dogs that matters.
After seeing a Lure Coursing motor fail at an event, Jim decided to make one better. The beast he built from scratch ran without a bump for both days and smoothly pulled lure after lure for the many teams. Jim believes you must have patience, practice and "want to" to be a Lure Operator.
"Getting a puppy started is my favorite thing. I love it when they love going after the 'Bunny' (Lure)" - Jim Gibbs
First back doesn't mean first place
As mentioned, in Lure Coursing, the first across the line may not win the race. When you consider that the final match ups for many events include all the best in breed winners, you may have the long legged and fastest of all Greyhound racing against the short but tenacious Besenji.
One of the weekends Judges, Thomas, explained the various breeds are Judged by experienced observers who have passed a series of education and qualifications. They are looking for breed characteristics. Their pursuit, gait, instincts and more are closely assessed. Thomas described that though the Whippet is fast and closely follows the lure, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a pack hunter and uses a team geometry to close and kill its prey. These scores are part of the calculation to determine each winner and act as a balance between the very different hounds matched up.
“You need to judge each and every breed upon their breed stock” – Thomas
We asked Thomas what the priority for a judge was?
As with every Lure Coursing official, it was the same. Safety of the dog.
Both the ASFA and AKC (and other leagues) have a series and direction on qualifying your own dog to run in the open events and possibly the championships! However, the first step is attending a local event or contacting your local lure coursing club. Many (most) events include “Practice Runs” that welcome most any dog, but be aware, aggressive dogs are not allowed to run and many fields are not fenced, so be ready for that.
Accepted Breeds for ASFA
First time and hooked
Lori and Tom Gency are a local couple who had never been to a lure coursing event before. Today they brought their 19-month-old Afghan Hound “Jewels” after an invite from Lynda “Liu” Kitzinger who competes with her well-loved and well-known black Afghan “Storm”.
After their first go around I asked them what they thought?
“The people are nice, it’s a good sport and the dogs love it”
Lori, Tom and Jewels made it very clear they are very eager to get to the next event and beyond after such a positive welcome and the fun Jewels had.
On her first run, Jewels trotted forward with some direction lure coursing veteran and judge, veteran Rita Figg. She seemed to think “Okay, I’ll go for a stroll”, then she saw the lure twitch, her eyes grew wide and haunches stretched, and she was off to run her first lure coursing course while smiling all the way.
"Jewels" first Lure Coursing
The sport of Lure Coursing is one of the many dog sports with wide misconception and images of poor bunnies being pursued by near rabid dogs.
American Lure Coursing is both focused on safety and a widely enjoyable sport but is very welcoming of newcomers. It is the hobby for all Sighthound owners.
From retired pro racers to family pet and adopted friend, all come and all have the day of days for a dog bred for speed. The Greater Ocala and Gainesville Lure Coursing Association has a burdensome name, but beyond that, one of the easiest nature and welcoming groups waiting for you and your sighthound to come a tally-ho!
An overcast weekend in Ocala heated up on the fiends of the Florida Horse Park. Words alone can not illustrate the excitement. Come see for yourself why Lure Coursing is the game your sighthound may not even know they need!
GOGLCA Lure Coursing, Ocala, Florida
Saturday-Sunday February 2nd-3rd 2019
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Greater Ocala & Gainsville Lure Coursing Association (GOGLCA) https://www.goglca.com/
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