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    Showing rats at a NERS show

    NERS rat shows aim to provide a meeting place for rat lovers from around the region whether or not they wish to exhibit their rats. For many people, entering their rats into the show adds an extra dimension to the day, but unless you are familiar with the proceedings it can all seem a little overwhelming the first time. In reality, showing is very straightforward with most of the effort being put in between shows (only excellent diet and care will keep a rat in tip-top condition). This article should help you to understand the process so that - hopefully - you will feel able to have a go.

    You can see photos from previous NERS shows here.

    The structure of the show
    Most NERS shows are split into three separate sections; the Variety section (Varieties), the Pet section (Pets), and the Agility section (this used to comprise of agility and curiosity under the umbrella term Activities; in the latter half of 2012, curiosity was moved to Fun Events).

    The variety section is for people to exhibit rats who are a good example of their variety and of good overall general conformation. Rats are judged on type (conformation), the variety standard (colour, marking, shading, rexing or dumbo ear shape) and condition. Some rats, for example an agouti rex dumbo, will be judged on their adherence to multiple standards (in this case the agouti standard, the rex standard and the dumbo standard). A copy of the variety standards can be found here.

    Each variety class is split into adult and kitten, so that all the adults are compared initially and then all of the kittens. The the best adult in each variety is compared to the best kitten, giving the best rat of that variety (for example best agouti). This is the rat who is awarded the rosette for that variety, therefore, is it possible to win a first place in a variety class but not win the rosette for that variety. You would still be awarded a first place prize card. Some rats end up in a class of one with no apparent competition. Unless these rats cannot be judged to the variety standard they will still be awarded the variety rosette. At NERS shows, prize cards are awarded for 1st to 4th place in each variety class.

    Once all of the individual classes have been judged, the challenges begin. Every rat is effectively in competition with every other rat who has been entered (except for the New Varieties class) and done well in their variety class, and this is where rats who were on their own in the class get a second chance to shine in competition. There are 5 challenge competitions:

    • The adult challenge - all first placed (and excellent lower placed) adults are compared.
    • The kitten challenge - all first placed (and excellent lower placed) kittens are compared.
    • The supreme challenge - the best adults are judged against the best kittens.
    • The stud buck challenge - the bucks in the competition are compared to see which would make the best studs.

    Prize cards are awarded for 1st to 4th in all challenges. A rosette is awarded to the best rat in each class. Rosettes are also awarded for 1st to 4th place in the supreme challenge, and to the best stud buck and best junior exhibitor.

    The pet classes are organised by the gender and age of the rat. There are 4 age classes for each gender:

    • 8 weeks to 6 months
    • 6 to 12 months
    • 12 to 18 months
    • Over 18 months

    Pet entries are judged on tractibility, health, condition, preparation and temperament. The NERS use an informal weightings system as a guide to try to achieve a consistent standard of judging for the pet classes.

    Tractability 15%
    Health 10%
    Condition 25%
    Preparation 10%
    Temperament 40%
    Total 100%

    This weighting allows a conclusion for each rat that is based on the rat's attitude and temperament and their overall condition and presentation. The points are a framework for the judge who still has the final say.

    All of the individual rats in each class are judged against each other and 1st to 4th place is decided in each class. Then the pet challenges are judged. There are three pet challenges:

    • The buck challenge (the best bucks are compared)
    • The doe challenge (the best does are compared)
    • The supreme pet challenge (the best bucks and does are compared)
    Prize cards are awarded 1st to 4th in all of the classes and challenges. A rosette is awarded to the best rat in each class. Rosettes are also awarded for 1st to 4th place in the supreme challenge, and to the best rescue and best junior exhibitor. Special pet award rosettes/prize cards are also awarded at the discretion of the judge to reward specific traits or physical attributes (for example, best condition, best prepared, most engaging rat).

    How to enter a show
    Before taking any rats out to a show (including shoulder rats) you do need to ensure that you apply some basic health and quarantine guidelines. This helps to keep our shows a safe place for all of our rats.

    You need to start thinking about which rats you will exhibit, perhaps a week in advance of the show. It is not helpful to make entries any earlier than this, as a week is a long time in a rat's life and you may need to withdraw or change your entries which will increase the workload for the show secretary. About a week before the show, take a close look at your rats by giving them a health check and considering their overall condition. Rats that you select to enter into the show should be fit and healthy, and in good overall condition. Any rat that is not in tip-top shape should not be put through the rigors of a day's travelling and showing.

    Once you have decided which rats you plan to show you can use the online show entry form on the 'next show' page to make your entries. You will need to provide your name, membership status and type, number of rats entered and the following details for each rat:

    • Name (including prefix if from a registered breeder)
    • Age (kitten is under 13 weeks and adult is 13 weeks and over)
    • Gender
    • Variety
    • Class entered
    • Breeder or origin
    You will also need to say whether or not you need to hire show tanks. Two kittens who look different can share a show tank, but adults need to have their own tank. Tanks are sometimes available to buy at our shows by prior arrangement. If you are relying on this for your entries please contact the trading officer in advance of the show.

    Show preparation is discussed in detail here.

    On the day of the show
    Before setting off with your rats, do a final health check to be sure that they are fit for the day ahead. Place them in your carrier with some moist fruit or vegetable (cucumber or melon are ideal) and make your journey to the venue. Plan to arrive at least half an hour before judging starts. This will give you time to collect your tank stickers, sort out your show tanks and get the rats settled in before placing them onto the show bench. Ideally all rats should be on the bench 15 minutes before judging commences. This allows the steward to organise the tanks correctly. If you are going to be late (or cannot come at the last minute), please try to let the show secretary know via email or post on the NERS facebook group.

    You may find it useful to bring the following items to the show:

    • Show tanks - can be hired or sometimes bought at the show, or purchased in advance
    • Substrate for the tanks - cardboard or hemp is recommended (wood shavings is permitted), in addition shredded paper can be used for kittens
    • Moisture source such as cucumber or melon - one chunk per tank (you may wish to give kittens a little dry food too)
    • Water bottles - these are not allowed during the show but are useful for hydration on arrival and before the journey home (do not leave bottles attached while travelling as they tend to leak)
    • High energy wet food snack for after the show is over - pasta, sweetcorn etc is often appreciated
    • Non-perfumed baby wipes - useful for any last minute cleaning up of ears and tail

    When you arrive, you should visit the show secretary to pick up your tank labels. You will also need to pay for your entries, although this is usually best done once judging has commenced as the show secretary will have a little more time then. If you are hiring tanks please ensure that your tank labels are stuck onto the plastic marker on the tank for easy removal. At the end of the show you will be expected to clean out your tank prior to return.

    Each rat should be placed into a tank (on a suitable substrate) with the correct tank label and a piece of fruit or vegetable as a moisture source. They can then be placed onto the show bench. There will be two separate judging areas for Varieties and Pets. If you are unsure, please just ask. Once placed, the rats should not be removed until the end of judging. If you need to extract a rat to do Agility, please ask the steward first. Exhibitors are not allowed to identify rats as their own during the judging process. The steward will let you know when judging is over and you are free to remove your rats from the bench. If for any reason you are worried about any rat during the show, please speak to the show secretary.

    When judging has finished please remove your rats and settle them back into their travel carriers with access to food and drink. There will then be a short wait while the show secretary gets the final prize cards and rosettes organised for the presentation. The judges will then present the class and challenge rosettes. Prize cards for rats who did not win rosettes can be collected from the table at the end of the presentation.

    Help at shows (with everything from making tea, to sweeping up, to stewarding for the judge) is always appreciated. It is also a very good way of getting to know people! Please do volunteer if you wish to help out with any duties. Alternatively contact the show secretary in advance of the show or on the day.

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