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Victoria joined the YKC when she was 20 years old. These days she works as a membership communications manager, but still makes time to volunteer at Crufts every year and also judge Large Munsterlander. We chatted to her about her experience volunteering with the YKC.
I have been involved with training for the Young Kennel Club for five years since I became too old (let’s say that quietly) for membership of the YKC. Before that I joined when our family owned a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and was about to get our first Large Munsterlander puppy in 2006. During my time in the YKC I competed in handling as it was always a natural companion to the breed showing I was taking part in with my Munsterlanders. It teaches you how to get the absolute best out of your dog and ultimately become a fantastic partnership. I love handling so much and seeing young people take part in it that I’ve been judging the sport for the past ten years, which was the same time I started judging Large Munsterlanders.
By trade I am a journalist and I have previously edited award-winning magazines and written for dog showing publications. I’m currently a membership communications manager for an organisation that champions British farmers and growers. It has taken me to some amazing places to meet a fantastic array of people, especially those who work around the clock to put the food we eat on our plates. In 2017 I was lucky enough to be crowned Writer of the Year at an industry awards ceremony against some stiff competition! It’s something I’m very proud of.
I studied BA (Hons) Journalism at Staffordshire University, based in Stoke-on-Trent. Throughout our university degree we were responsible for running a local news website which reported on the headlines across Staffordshire. Before getting to university I was home-schooled and unable to take more than four GCSEs so I also took a vocational course in Animal Management and then subsequently a college degree in Media Production. By only being able to take a handful of GCSEs it meant that I had to work extra hard at getting into college and then university. However, it’s proof that hard work and determination can get you places as I graduated with a First Class Honours degree!
I’ve competed at Crufts ever since our first Large Munsterlander, Isla, was eligible in 2008 and I’ve competed in both the breed ring and the handling ring. One of my most favourite memories at Crufts was winning the Reserve CC with Carly, my second Large Munsterlander under Ferelith Somerfield at one of her last judging appointments. Another standout memory from Crufts was winning the 17-24 Shaun McAlpine Award category in 2014 for my columns and journalism for young people in weekly newspapers and canine magazines. In terms of volunteering, I first volunteered for the YKC as part of the Crufts ring party which was a fantastic experience. Not only do you make lifelong friends, but it teaches you vital skills such as timekeeping and organisational skills that you carry forward into your career. I now volunteer as a YKC Commentator across all four days at Crufts, focusing on the handling and stakes classes. I haven’t ever judged at Crufts but it is definitely one of my dreams (and goals!) to judge either in the breed ring or handling ring on that famous green carpet.
As an owner of three gundogs, specifically HPRs, I thoroughly enjoy taking part in gundog training with my youngest Munsterlander, Ginny, who is 18 months old. Seeing a dog do what it was bred to do and using that inbuilt instinct is incredible and it gives me such pleasure. Ginny is an extremely biddable dog and she loves learning new tricks too, although she would never be good as a heelwork to music dog as she barks too much when we’re dancing! In terms of judging, I judge breed showing and I have been approved to award my first set of CCs in 2021. This has been one of my life goals and I am so proud to award tickets in my very own breed at one of the biggest dog shows for the Gundog group.
I am sure most people say this, but for me it has been the lifelong friendships I have forged thanks to my time with the YKC. There are friends that I have made that I am in touch with on a regular basis and when we do get together at YKC events or dog shows, it is as if time hasn’t passed.
I also always love how the YKC pushes you to always go that one step further out of your comfort zone and provides you with a great mentality when it comes to competing.
The YKC has also been one of the many factors that have changed my life for the better. As I said previously I was homeschooled due to being severely bullied in school. I had absolutely no confidence and the only thing I wanted to do was to spend time with my dog. Through finding a common ground (the dogs) and combining it with being part of a club, the YKC really helped my confidence to grow meaning I knew it was going to be fine to step into a ring and show my dog, when previously I couldn’t bear the thought of it. That is something I will always be eternally grateful for.
As well as volunteering as a Crufts commentator across all four days, I have also previously been a team leader at YKC camp (Go Squirrels – YKC Camp Runners Up 2014), trained handlers at both the Newark and Wales YKC weekends and now myself and my fellow YKC handling trainer James Moore are lucky enough to have an annual training class before Crufts.
Give it all you’ve got. You honestly get out what you put in. The Young Kennel Club has so many amazing opportunities that can shape you as a person, contribute vital skills to your future career and build lifelong friendships. However, you have got to jump in head first.
From someone who had absolutely no confidence at the beginning of my YKC journey to now, I can promise you it’s worth it.