Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Spring at Shuttleworth

Another weekend, another show.  This weekend we were outdoors for the first time this year.  The show was held at Shuttleworth Park, Biggleswade.  The setting is in a very large grounds with lovely old buildings around, not to mention a grass runway airport with a road running across.  We had Shadow running at grade 6, Doople running at grade 3 and Winnie running in anysize over medium jumps.

After our last camping trip over Easter we were hoping for some better weather, or least no frost.  The ground was damp and soft but not undrivable, which meant we could at least park up easily.  The sun shone on Saturday morning but disappeared in the afternoon with rain setting in for the last few runs.  Sun was sunny but a strong wind blowing meant that some small dog agility course removed the dog walk to save the dogs from being blown off as happened to Shadow at a show last year.  The show was very large with 11 rings in total, circa 1500 dogs running over the weekend.  Small dog classes normally have around 50 dogs competing, here we had 150!  So it was a little larger than a normal show we attend, so need to keep an eye on more rings.
Doople and +Susi Cooper on the start line with their wind swept look

We'll start with Shadow.  After our fantastic running over Easter I was looking forward to this weekend, but the results were very different.  We started with grade 1-7 agility, which was a fairly straight forward course for us.  Unfortunately, Shadow had forgotten what to do at the bottom of the dog walk, i.e. touch the bottom.  This was a real shame after not missing a single contact in 3 days over Easter, but it was the first time we'd run outdoors since last year so that could be partly to blame.  She also lost a lot of confidence in the weaves last week so had to build those up again this weekend.  We followed this up with grade 4-7 jumping.  This time it was me who made the mistake on a pull through, I step forward into the gap so she carried on going over the nearest jump.  Grade 4-7 agility was similar to the earlier agility round with a missed contact at the end.  You'll see in the video that I was nice and still at the end of the dog walk but Shadow already had her sights on the finish line.  We finished the day with grade 4-7 jumping in the rain.  This was a slightly untidy round with a near refusal, but we did manage to finish clear.

It was nice to wake up on Sunday and not have icicles hanging from the caravan.  We started the day with grade 4-7 agility with our friend Ray Burke as the judge.  I could tell at first glance which course was Ray's as the start was ... unconventional.  Starting with a tunnel is perfectly legal but very rare to see.  We had no problems with that part of the course, with Shadow did avoid the end of the dog walk contact again.  We had to wait until after lunch for our next run which was 4-7 jumping.  We had a very good round but Shadow missed the last couple of weave poles.  We followed this with grade 4-7 agility.  This was another slightly messy round but the dog walk had been removed due to the wind, so that was one less thing to worry about!  We managed a clear round with some impressive wide turns that I should have controlled better.  We did manage right hand weaves which I am pleased with after training last week.  We ended with a nice simple 1-7 jumping round.  When I start a sentence with 'nice and simple', it usually means I did something wrong, and I did!  I got lazy at the end of the run and basically ran off passed the jump and Shadow followed me, it had been a long day!

Greg and Shadow

Doople had a significantly better weekend than Shadow, but then that wasn't hard.  Doople ran the same 1-7 agility course as Shadow and had a better result finishing with a clear round.  She was running forward well as she has been all winter.  We had a long wait until Doople's other rounds as they were at the end of the day.  In the first grade 1-3 jumping Doople was really going for it.  Susi had some good changes and the turns were tight resulting in 7th place.  Bearing in mind the were over 100 dogs in the classes, any placing is great.  Places are typically 10% of the number of dogs entered.  Doople had a few refusals in the grade 1-3 jumping as +Susi Cooper turned too soon for her, and she got distracted at the last jump.  The grade 1-3 agility was a fairly straight forward serpentine that Susi and Doople ran well and finished with a 4th place, just outside the trophies.

Doople had a lie-in on Sunday as she wasn't running until lunch time.  She started with a fairly simple grade 1-3 agility and ran well picking up a 6th place.  This was followed by another grade 1-3 agility in which Doople ran well again.  There was a wide turn going into the tunnel and the see-saw was a bit slow as Susi crossed behind, but still managed a placing 9th place.  Doople stops a little earlier on the see-saw when Susi crosses behind, so we need to work on driving her forward towards the end more.  Next up was grade 1-3 jumping.  This had a fairly tricky start for grade 1-3 with slalom worked up then down, but it was made easier by having a good startline wait.  Susi started well but got in the wrong place slightly and had to shoo Doople over the jump.  They both made up for it and ended with a clear round.  The final round was the same grade 1-7 jumping that Shadow faltered in, and Susi must have been watching too closely as she proceeded to do exactly the same thing!  Not the best way to end the show but the rest of the running was good.

Susi and Doople

We also had Winnie running at the show.  We ran her in anysize classes over medium height jumps to work on her mental stamina and concentration as well as building up her confidence in the ring.  On both days we had an agility round and a jumping round.  In the first agility Winnie was a little distracted with what was going on, especially when it came to turning but was still clear.  She was concentrating more in the jumping but I ran past a jump and a flat tunnel so she missed them.  In the agility on Sunday she was much better and far more confident.  Again, in the jumping she was looking like she enjoyed herself more.  She did manage more clears than Shadow in the end!

Greg and Winnie

I also ended up running a friend's dog in the last class on Sunday, 1-7 jumping.  This was Gladys Tomb's Benji.  It was good fun to run another dog a Benji was quite happy as he got to run.  I didn't realise his wait wasn't very good though so we were eliminated after two jumps, which I have to do at least once in a show!

It was an enjoyable weekend especially being outside in the nice spring weather.  We were both shattered after the long walk to/from the caravan as we were camped a few minutes from the rings.  Our next show isn't until May at Godmanchester so we have time to practice weaves and contacts.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Bretford DTC Easter Show

Easter is a good time of, especially as it brings a four-day weekend.  It also means the start of outdoor shows for the year, that is under normal Spring weather conditions.  This week we had Doople running at grade 3, Shadow at grade 6, Storm at grade 3 and Winnie at grade 3.

We decided that after spending most weekends last year in a tiny, old caravan that we would treat ourselves to a new caravan this year.  We got a not quite so old 4-berth Bailey Pageant.  We were looking forward to going but then it happened ... snow!  At Easter!  Not what we were expecting in the week leading up to the show.  We found out from the show organisers that the show was still going ahead.  The show had been moved to the indoor riding arena and camping had been moved to the car park.  This made getting in and out with the caravan easy but we did have to sacrifice a garden for the dogs.  Nether-the-less a big thank you to the show organises and Solihull Riding Club for keeping the show going despite the conditions.

Caravans lined up in the camping area/car park

Knowing that the conditions would be cold and miserable we stopped off on the way at +GO Outdoors Official to pick up some essential supplies, i.e. another gas bottle.  This proved inspires as the heating was on for most of the weekend as the temperatures in the morning dropped as low as -4C.

First morning of camping and a nice frost covering
Anyway, enough of me babbling about the weather, we were there for agility so that's what we did.  I'll start with Doople.  +Susi Cooper and Doople continued their good run of form at this show.  Doople's first round was a combing grade 1-3 jumping.  This was a good start to the weekend with Doople running forward very well.  Her next round, graded 1-3 agility, was a not quite as good.  Susi pulled Doople off on a turn and then Doople missed a contact.  I think that's 3 or 4 shows in a row now, tut tut!  Susi realised that she missed so did put her back on the contact.  This proved a good thing to do as the next run, combined grade 1-3 agility, Doople came first!  An excellent result meaning that Doople is now Grade 4.  After Doople's slow running last year in the Summer we weren't sure if Doople would ever win out of grade 3 but she did.  The round was a little messy with Susi being a bit slow on a couple of turns but managed and won the class.

Doople in preparation
Sunday started just as cold as the previous day.  Doople had graded 1-3 jumping first.  Doople was running really well but unfortunately missed the weave entry.  She still managed a second place even with 5 faults.  The combined grade 1-3 agility followed.  Doople had another really good round as she was pushing herself forward and was rewarded with a second place.  They finished the day with combined grade 1-3 jumping.  Doople put in another clear round but this time wasn't fast enough for a placing, but Susi and Doople continued their good running.

Monday carried on where Sunday left off.  Doople had combined grade 1-3 agility first.  Again this was a lovely round, culminating with a dog walk then jump to finish.  The judge spent about 30 seconds deciding whether or not Doople hit the contact.  I'm not sure which part of Doople he thought hit the contact but the round stayed clear and Doople finished second, only 0.1s behind first place.  Next up was the combined grade 1-3 jumping.  Doople managed a good round but missed the weave entry again.  And finally Doople ended with graded 1-3 agility.  By this point all of the dogs were starting to look fatigued.  Doople was still running forward well but when asked to turn right she went left, the jumped off the dog walk contact sideways.  Susi was trying to turn in front of Doople at the end of the contact but this put her off and she leaped off sideways.  A very good weekend for Doople though: 1st x 1, 2nd x 2, UnPlaced Clears (UPC) x 2.  Well done :)

Susi and Doople

Shadow was next up.  As usual in her first round she was fired up but perhaps a little to much so.  It was graded 4-7 agility, she ran off the end of the dog walk, careered across to the next jump but she should have gone the other way into the tunnel.  She made it to the tunnel eventually but to the wrong end.  Next up was combined grade 4-7 jumping.  Shadow ran really well in this round and with a handler than runs the correct course could have finished high up the placings.  I realised a fraction too late that I had gone the wrong way, doh!  That's one mistake for Shadow, one for Greg.  Next was combined grade 4-7 agility.  A good round from Shadow that finished with a fourth place.  This was only our second KC show at grade 6 so I'm quite pleased with any placings.  We finished with combined grade 1-7 steeplechase.  I liked this course as it was quite technical, but it was really a steeplechase course.  Beggars can't be choosers and we ran really well.  Shadow just isn't as fast as a lot of dogs in a straight line so we often don't stand a chance but we went clear.

It's a hard life being Zazu when your bed's too small
Sunday was one of the best days running I've had with Shadow in a long while.  We started with combined grade 4-7 agility.  We had a really good round with only one slightly wide turn and some brilliant running contacts.  We finished third overall which is an improvement on the previous days fourth.  We then had graded 4-7 jumping.  This was great and we finished in first place, our first at grade 6.  Only 3 more wins to go to get to grade 7!  To move up most grade you need to have a 1 agility win or 3 jumping wins.  From grade 6 to 7 you need to have 4 wins with at least 2 in agility rounds.  Our last two rounds of the day were combined grade 4-7 jumping, in which we finished third, and the Easter Egg'ility Challenge, where we also finished third.  Four placings in a day was a very good result.

Monday got off to a good start with combined grade 4-7 agility.  It was a very good round where we finished second, only 0.6 seconds from first.  This was followed by graded 4-7 agility where we went one better to record our second win of the weekend.  We had the combined 1-7 helter-skelter next.  This was another straight course but I had the opportunity to try layer a jump.  This is where you keep a jump between you and dog in order for you to be in a better position (see the video towards the end).  Shadow was a little hesitant whilst layering but she managed it both times so it was good training.  The final round was combined grade 4-7 jumping.  Shadow was starting to lose concentration by this point.  We only missed the weaves and she was still running forward so I can't really complain.

We managed to hit every one of our contacts in 6 agility rounds which is amazing.  Every one was a running contact and about as quick as we can manage.  We ended with a large haul of rosettes: 1st x 2, 2nd x 1, 3rd x 3, 4th x 1, UPC x 2.  Very good week end for Shadow.

Greg and Shadow

With Storm we had a mixed weekend.  There were some really good moments and also some really bad ones, quite a few of them were handler errors so I will own up to those.  The first round was graded 1-3 agility.  This round was really to let off some steam.  Storm was listening but her legs wouldn't stop running.  In the combined grade 1-3 jumping we knocked a pole and came out of the weaves.  I need to stay still on the turns to avoid knocking poles and keep up with Storm in the weaves without pushing her.  Next up was the combined 1-7 steeplechase, the same course run by Shadow.  We put in a very good round albeit a little messy on some of the turns.  I could stay ahead of Storm all the way round without racing her so she knew what was going on.  We didn't manage a placing but were only 2 seconds off the pace.  The final round of the day was the combined grade 1-3 agility.  This was a messy round by me.  I pulled her off a jump by turning too soon, was too close to the jump and moved too soon again whilst trying to cross behind, and kept moving on the final cross behind.

Greg and Storm waiting patiently
Sunday was much the same, but with fewer clear rounds.  We started with the Easter Eggility Challenge, a nice simple agility course, we got eliminated.  Storm decided to turn the wrong way off the A-frame contact, that'll teach me not to stop her on the contact.  Next up was graded 1-3 jumping.  The start of the round shows Storm doesn't curve over the jumps very well, rather flies over then worries about turning.  I need to try to turn her earlier without making her crash the jump.  Then on the slalom I was in her way for the middle jump so she hesitated and took the pole down.  The combined grade 1-3 jumping followed and Storm was running much tighter on the turns.  At the end of the slalom I was moving off from the jump rather than controlling the turn and she took another pole.  Unfortunately I made that mistake quite a few times.  We finished up with combined grade 1-3 agility.  We had some good tight turns, but questionable contacts and failed weaves.

Monday was our final day.  We started with combined 1-7 helter-skelter.  I was pleased with this round as I managed it without moving too far and let Storm do all the work.  We finished clear but outside the placings. The next three rounds were pretty disastrous.  By this point in the weekend Storm was mentally exhausted and wasn't really paying attention any more.  We had a jumping round where she missed the start jump and the weaves, an agility round where she was just a away with the fairies, and the final agility round which was too bad, but we missed contacts and couldn't do the tyre.

Greg and Storm

Last but not least is Winnie.  This was Winnie's first show at full height since her injury last year.  We weren't really sure what to expect but we just wanted her to around and have fun.  The agility round on Saturday was a bit too much to start with but she jump and do the A-frame.  On Sunday we did jumping, she much better in this but we just kept it to straight lines to build her strength and confidence.  Finally on Monday we had another agility round.  This was an improvement again but we need to do more work on the tyre.

Greg and Winnie

All in all is was a good weekend with many placings.  We have a lot to take away and work for the coming shows.  Storm is to be spayed this week so she'll be out of action for a while now.  Heres looking forward to our next show in a couple of weeks, hopefully minus the snow.

All ready and raring to go