Our judges embody the true definition of community: Everyone doing their part for the betterment of all. Theirs isn’t an easy job. They spend long hours ensuring the accuracy of their scores, contributing to discussions in the judges’ group, answering exhibitor questions in the Rally Free for All Facebook group, and still find time to train and compete with their own dogs! They commit countless hours to this organization and still freely and generously give more, mostly behind the scenes with little acknowledgement.
I started this “Meet the Judge” series so you could get to know the people that are rooting for you and your pup while scoring your entries and providing those encouraging comments on your scoresheets. Now I’m pleased to introduce Nancy Marston.
“I love judging Newcomer and Entry routines!
I’ve seen some very simple, very well executed routines
that bring a smile to my face and make me happy
for the future of our sport!”
– Nancy Marston, Rally-FrEe and Musical Freestyle Judge
You might say Nancy is part of the fabric of RFE. “I think Zoe may have been the first dog to earn an RFE Novice In Sync title back in 2014,” she says fondly. And that Novice title began a fun-filled journey that included now 16-year-old Border Collie Zoe and Nancy receiving an honor that only five other RFE teams share- the revered Trifecta! This title is awarded to teams who’ve earned Grand Champion titles in all 3 RFE categories: Freestyle, In Sync and Rally-FrEe.
That’s quite the career! Although Zoe is retired from competition now, Nancy says she still enjoys making periodic appearances dancing in the Freestyle Quarantine Style videos where you may have seen her and Nancy’s current competition dog, Bea, putting smiles on all of our faces over the past couple of years.
L to R: Bea, Nancy and Zoe
“Zoe was my first freestyle dog.” Nancy explains, “It was actually her medical issue that led us to this wonderful sport.” Coming from an Obedience and Rally competition background, when Zoe was found to have a vision problem that prevented her from jumping with a dumbbell, Nancy sought an alternative with the same challenge.
“One of my obedience instructors suggested I try Freestyle,” Nancy remembers. “This instructor had hosted a small workshop with Michele Pouliot previously and, although I attended, I hadn’t pursued it.” But on finding out she couldn’t continue doing Obedience with Zoe, she decided to give it a try. “Boy, am I glad I did! Right away I knew I’d found my dog sport!” she exclaims.
Nancy and Zoe started doing Freestyle in 2013, shortly before RFE was launched. But as soon as they heard about the new venue, they jumped right in and have stuck with RFE ever since.
Nancy and Zoe’s Grand Champion magic routine
Because Nancy enjoys competing in both Freestyle and Rally-FrEe, she started judging in 2019 as a way to give back to the RFE community. Although she started as a Rally-FrEe judge, Nancy now enjoys judging both RF and MF.
“I love being able to see all of the different competitors from around the country and the world,” Nancy says. “We’re a fairly small community and I really enjoy seeing what everyone is doing. It makes me feel like I ‘know’ those competitors.”
“I think good observation skills and a thorough understanding of the defined criteria for each of the Rally-FrEe signs are musts for judges,” says Nancy. She also likes to see a strong connection between the handler and the dog. “I look at the behaviors performed and how well the dog responds to cues and what kind of cues are used. For Freestyle, I also look for musical interpretation and how the performance relates to the chosen music.” Nancy particularly loves judging Newcomer and Entry routines! “I have seen some very simple, very well executed routines that bring a smile to my face and make me happy for the future of the sport!” she gushes. “And I love to see beginners doing Rally-FrEe as a stepping stone to Freestyle!”
“I kind of did it backwards with Bea,” Nancy says of her a six-year-old Boxer mix who’s earned a few RFE titles in Musical Freestyle and In Sync and just recently started competing in Rally-FrEe. “But we’re having fun!”
When she’s not busy with RFE or training Zoe and Bea in their newly discovered sport of Nosework, Nancy and her husband can be found walking and hiking with the dogs around their home in Connecticut. Nancy enjoys working in her ever-expanding rock garden, photography and reading. “I have to admit that I also have a guilty pleasure of watching TV and movies,” she confides, “I’ve been known to binge watch more than one entire TV series!”