On June 24 and 25, Mesquite welcomed its first Flyball Tournament at the Rising Star Sports Ranch Resort. 27 teams of competitors from seven western states came together at the Field House at Rising Star to vie for titles and awards at the regional event. More than 160 furry athletes including dog breeds from corgis to poodles, shepherds to terriers, assembled at the arena in one of many spirited competitions the teams train for year-round.
Flyball is a competition in which teams of four dogs race against one another, side-by-side, down a regulation course, jumping over four hurdles to a box where they grab a ball then return down the track over the same jumps. As one dog completes the course, one of his or her teammates takes off to make their own run in a relay-style race. The team with the lowest time wins. There is an electronic judging system including a timer and starter pole to ensure the dogs cross the starting line after the light turns green, as well as human judges on the course to watch that all jumps are made and that the dogs complete each pass correctly for a clean team score.
Whether or not they know they’re competing, the dogs sure seem to enjoy the races and the accomplishments they achieve out there. The human team members are enthusiastic as well and proudly wear team colors and logos while enjoying camaraderie with their competitors. The growing sport seems to have a system and culture akin to drag racing.
“To standardize the rules, keep records of tournaments, and guide the development of flyball racing, the North American Flyball Association, Inc.® (NAFA®) was formed in 1985.” (From flyball.org). It now has over 700 registered clubs with more than 16,000 registered dogs. Teams compete monthly within their regions, and sometimes travel beyond to attend more events. The majority of the clubs participating in the event here in Mesquite were from Region 6 (NV, UT, AZ), but also included racers from California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.
Flying Colors is one of the association’s registered clubs, and was the host of this event, coordinating set up of the track, judging, and everything else that goes into putting on one of these competitions. Karl Ruetz of Flying Colors beamed as he talked about his own dogs and their various levels of participation over the years. I noted all the different breeds involved, having expected it to be more breed specific — I thought I would have seen more border collies, whippets, and the like. He told me while some people choose breeds to be successful at flyball, “most of us just race with our pets. It’s fun to see how it brings out their personalities.” While some people seemed quite competitive, they all appeared to be having fun regardless of the performance of their dogs. There were people there practicing with dogs between races, whether it was to develop a newer racer, or to work with a more seasoned competitor who may be coming off a break.
The teams race multiple times during the all-day events, with Saturday and Sunday being two separate races. The club that won Division 1 on Saturday was Stampede, while Flying Colors pulled out the win on Sunday. Congratulations to all competitors! Flying Colors hopes to bring this event back to Mesquite same time next year, so stay tuned. For more information and for schedules, visit flyball.org.