Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Nottingham DTC Championship Show

This weekend we were off to Nottingham for a championship show.  Championship shows bring together some of the best handlers in the country with twice as many grade 6-7 dogs than at a normal show.  We had Shadow running at grade 6, Doople at grade 4 and Winnie at grade 3.

The weekend got off to a bad start when our 2 hour journey took 3 hours thanks to bank holiday traffic on the M1 bringing it to a standstill, twice.  Also a road closure on the A46 for a while after a car flipped over the central reservation.  Trying to find out where your camping spot is in the dark is always fun.

All the courses over the weekend were very challenging, but not beyond our abilities so they were very enjoyable  There were a few things that we haven't seen before but most of which we managed.

Starting with Shadow, we had some very tricky courses as there were many experienced dogs and handlers.  We started with grade 6-7 agility Crufts qualifier.  There was a common theme in the grade 6-7 courses over the weekend, interesting weave entries.  The first entry was from the opposite direction, the second set was immediately after and in the opposite direction again.  We managed the first set but I pushed her too far round the second set as I was also trying to avoid a jump that was in the way.  I tried a second time and managed so was pleased.  The second run was graded 6-7 jumping.  This was fairly straight forward, I felt Shadow didn't have as much drive as before, perhaps as we lost a bit of confidence in the previous round.  We still managed a clear round so that always helps rebuild the confidence.  The final round of the day was grade 6-7 agility.  This started with the back of a wall whilst avoiding the dog walk contact, which unfortunately was just too tempting for Shadow.  We carried on and she was running well, not always listening but running forward nicely.  She back jumped the long jump after turning the wrong way which was a bit odd.
It's a hard life being a dog
On to Sunday.  The courses were of a similar calibre so we had some good challenges.  The first run was combined 6-7 jumping.  The weave entry let us down again but I needed to straighten her up a bit more before sending her in.  Next was grade 6 agility.  Shadow didn't have much drive for this one to start with, again we had two sets of weaves but straightforward entries.  We had a back of jump after the see-saw but I ended up pulling Shadow right round the other side so we missed it.  She had a good running dogwalk contact which didn't help as I wanted her to come in and go in a different direction.  She came in eventually.  We finished with graded 6-7 jumping.  This was a very fast flowing course but also tricky.  We got off to a good start, picked up the tricky weave entry, almost got a refusal, then missed a jump entirely on a long run round.  Doh!  She was running well so I can't complain.  We finished the weekend with only one clear round but with some positives to take away as well.

On to Doople.  Doople first run was graded 4-5 agility.  This was an interesting course, very long.  9 weaves caught a lot of dogs out, especially large dogs.  Two parallel tunnels on a turn, lots of large circles.  Out of all heights, about 160 dogs, there was one clear round within the course time!  Doople put in a good run was really going for it.  She finished with 5 time faults, i.e. 5 seconds over the course time.  Originally the course time was 10 seconds shorter, but the judge reconsidered, just not very accurately!  Doople was still the fastest small dog, so she actually won the class!  The good thing about winning with faults is that you don't move up to the next grade.  We need some more practice at grade 4 before moving up.  In the graded 1-5 jumping, Doople was going well but missed an in on the slalom, Susi needed to turn her shoulders more to get her attention.  She was a bit steady after having gone wrong but picked up towards the end.  Her last run was combined grade 3-5 agility.  Doople had regained some of her lost confidence and managed a 6th place.

On Sunday, Doople had a long wait until her first run which was in the afternoon.  She started with graded 1-5 jumping.  It was a fairly straightforward course, but Susi did get a little lost!  She went over a few jumps, then had a mind blank.  Doople just wandered around for a bit not knowing where to go.  They carried on and in the end managed a clear round!  Next up was graded 1-5 agility.  Susi didn't feel up for running this so took the baton.  Doople ran well and had all her confidence back.  She was listening well but unfortunately I pulled her off a jump.  Even with this she was still over a second faster than the rest.  But the 5 faults for a refusal meant that we didn't win.  She finished with combined grade 4-5 jumping run with me.  Doople carried on her form, running and responding well.  We managed a clear round but just weren't fast enough at the end of a hot day.

Last but not least we have Winnie.  She has come on a long way in training, really driving over the jumps and starting to turn after.  At the moment, she doesn't have anywhere near that much drive in the ring.  The first jumping run she was going well, turning nice and tight and listening.  She got a bit distracted towards the end so missed a jump.  The agility round later was not as good, she didn't have any drive.  She did the obstacles in front of her and I just made it a simple course.  She did jump the wall nicely.  She started Sunday as she finished Saturday, again a made the course nice and straight.  When we got going in a straight line she started to perk up and run.  We finished with the agility, she started well with a couple of turns, into a tyre then round the outside.  She still seems to fatigue mentally throughout the weekend.

It was a good weekend with challenging courses.  We have a lot to take away and practice so it was definitely worthwhile.  Watching the top handlers shows that we have a way to go, but it's not out of reach.  The weather was gorgeous, which does help you relax over the weekend.  Next week we're off to PADS near Birmingham, hopefully the roads will better and the M6 won't be closed due to a bomb scare!

Monday, 20 May 2013

BATS Agility Show

We had an interesting start to the show weekend, it was the Bedford All Breeds Training Society in Luton.  We were notified on Saturday that the 'Travellers' had moved onto the show ground.  Note that that is not the term I would use for them, but If I start ranting about that then I won't end up talking about agility!  Anyway, +Susi Cooper had a sore foot so couldn't run which meant I was running Doople at grade 4, Shadow at grade 6 and Winnie at grade 3.

The venue we moved to was very nice in the end.  It was only a single day show but was very enjoyable.  We spent a lot of the day helping out on a ring run by our training club, Watford ATC.  It was good to spend a day with friends, it definitely helps when the weather's nice.

Doople after finishing 2nd in 4-5 agility

First up was me and Shadow running in the combined grade 6-7 jumping.  We had a good start to the round but I only managed 5 jumps before I fell over!  The grass was long(ish) and I was wearing walking boots (perhaps not clever).  But I think I was the only person to fall over in the day so perhaps it was just me.  We did still manage a clear round though with right-hand weaves, much better than last week.  Next up was combined grade 1-7 agility which was an Olympia qualifier.  I was running both Shadow and Doople in this class.  Shadow ran well and was very close on some of the contacts but clear none-the-less.  She ended up with 17th place, which is better than it sounds as there were ~180 dogs in the class!  We were only a few seconds off the pace which I am actually quite pleased with, considering how fast the top dogs are.  We finish with combined grade 6-7 agility.  This again was a really good round by Shadow.  Unfortunately I got a little confused on a turn and subsequently moved when I shouldn't have, Shadow was none-the-wiser so we carried on anyway.  At the end of the round, I did fall over again though!  Falling over in 2 out of 3 rounds is a little silly!

I was running Doople today which meant more work for me, but I do enjoy it.  Doople is running well at the moment so it isn't very different from running Shadow.  Doople's first round was the combined grade 1-7 agility, the Olympia qualifier.  Doople was really up for it, she did a nice back of jump from a little distance which I'm pleased with.  She's picking that up nicely which is good considering we haven't trained it very much.  Next up was the combined grade 4-5 agility.  I over looked the entry into the weaves so Doople ran towards the number.  The entry was on a gentle arch past a jump and a tunnel, looking back I'm not sure she could actually see the weaves before she got to them.  Later in the course was a trick part, out of the tunnel and then between two jumps into another tunnel.  Doople listen brilliantly, went through the gap and into the next tunnel.  Not many people managed it.  Last up was combined grade 4-5 agility.  This had a bit of a tricky start that perhaps could have been quicker if I'd layered the jump between 3 and 4.  We had some tight turns and a pull through slalom to finish 2nd.  I almost pulled Doople  off a couple of jumps whilst trying to get tight turns, but she understood and kept going over the jumps.

Lastly we have Winnie.  She still doesn't have much confidence in the ring so all we try to do with her is run around and have fun, the confidence will come with time.  Both agility and jumping rounds were steady but I made the same mistake in both: I left her a bit too far behind when she got to a jump so she missed it.  My mistake as she doesn't have the confidence to take the jumps from a distance in the ring.  Training is a different matter, but such is life.

It was an enjoyable day that culminated in more clear rounds than eliminations, which is always a bonus.  Shadow getting placed out of 180 dogs and Doople getting a 2nd place in agility are clear highlights.  On to Nottingham for next week, just hope there are no pesky travellers!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Godmanchester DTC Show

This weekend were competing at the Godmanchester DTC show in Ely, Cambridgeshire.  We were hoping for nicer weather than the previous camping shows but alas 'twas not to be.  We had Doople running her first show at grade 4, Shadow running at grade 6 and Winnie running a couple of runs at grade 3.

It was a nice showground at an equestrian cross-country centre in Ely.  The grounds were lovely to walk around with some massive cross-country jumps.  I'll stick to dogs I think, closer to the ground!  It was an average size show and we weren't camped too far away which makes the weekend so much easier.

Photosphere taken from the middle of the rings
First up was Shadow in her combined grade 6-7 jumping.  This was a very easy course to start with which is good to get your confidence up with.  It was basically a helter-skelter but useful as a warm up.  We got a clear round but no where near the placings.  Next up was the combined grade 4-7 agility.  Shadow was running forward well but lost a lot of confidence doing right hand weaves, she looked like she had never seen them before.  I went back to do them on the left and she shot straight through, a little bizarre as we train both sides equally.  Next we had combined grade 4-7 helter-skelter, another good blast but Shadow was running a little slower as it was raining but we still managed a clear round outside the placings.  After a rather heavy 20 minute down pour spent inside the scorers tent, we had the team event, I'll more about that at the end.  We finished the day with graded 6-7 agility.  Shadow was a little steady again as it had been raining earlier but a good round.  Very steady through the right hand weaves again but we managed to complete them leaving us only 0.1s out of the placings!

In terms of results, Sunday was the opposite of Saturday for Shadow.  We started with the pairs running with +Susi Cooper and Doople.  It was another interesting start to the course and again it was our friend Ray Burke's course!  It started with a jump and two parallel side-by-side tunnels, in one then the other then back between the two and into the weaves.  Needless to say there were a lot of dogs, mainly spaniels, going through the tunnels a few too many times.  We both managed that but Shadow again lost her confidence in the weaves so we ended up with faults.  We followed this with graded 6-7 agility.  It was a very tricky course with open spaces.  We managed it well with only a couple of wide turns but unfortunately Shadow missed the A-frame completely!  I was running passed after a long gap and stopped working the equipment, so she followed me around it.  If that wasn't bad enough, I basically did the same thing in the combined grade 4-7 agility as well!  This time I tried to cross in front of the A-frame but wasn't quick enough so I pulled her around with me.  Apart from that she was really going for it.  Our last run was graded 6-7 jumping.  This was a fairly tricky course with a tight start followed by large open spaces.  We finally managed a placing picking up a third.

Doople started the day with combined grade 4-5 jumping after a nice leisurely morning for her.  For once it wasn't me getting eliminated after the first couple of jumps, this week Susi takes that title, and on the first run too!  Susi didn't turn enough on a pull through so Doople back jumped.  It was good afterwards though.  Next up was combined grade 4-7 agility, the same course Shadow ran in and managed a better round than Shadow too finishing with a clear round.  Finally, after me standing in the queue in the rain while Susi and Doople wait inside the scorers tent, the heavens opened and dumped what felt like a years worth of rain.  As the judge was now running for cover I abandoned my place in queue, along with the rest of the queue.  20 minutes later we were back out and, sort of, ready to go.  We weren't sure how Doople would run as she doesn't like the rain, but it had stopped and Doople ran quite well despite the slippery surface.  As half of the class had already run in dry there wasn't much hope for a place but a clear round none-the-less.

Sunday started in much the same way as Saturday.  Doople had one early-ish run in the pairs.  I won't repeat  myself, but Doople ran a good round and was let down by her pairs partner (yes I am talking about myself). This was followed by combined grade 4-7 agility.  For some reason, despite my poor efforts with Shadow in this class, I ended up running Doople as well.  I didn't make the same mistake twice though!  Doople ran well for me although I did get too far in front for the weaves so we ended up with faults.  The final round of the weekend was graded 4-5 agility.  This was a good course and there were a lot of people making silly mistakes.  Doople ended up with a third place which was brilliant.

Last but not least was Winnie.  Winnie is still lacking a lot of confidence in the ring.  At training she is running well and is really enjoying it, but at shows she doesn't have the same drive.  That will come with experience which is why we only run her a couple of times over the weekend. She was running forwards and jumping well, albeit slowly.  She is cantering the dog walk now in the ring which is great, a lot of time can be lost if dog is slow as it is 36 feet long.  I got caught out in the rain again before the ABC (anything but collie) jumping.  Susi took Winnie to stand in the secretary's tent while I went in queue in the what felt like hail.  It passed after a few minutes though.  On Sunday Winnie was even slower than normal.  We're not sure if she was stiff from a cold night's sleep, or whether she was still mentally fatigued from the previous day.  She is physically very fit but mentally she gets tired quite quickly.  Susi ran her for the final day, by which time we were making up our own course to keep it straight and simple.

As I said earlier, Shadow ran in the team event, the Dog Vegas Chase the Ace qualifier.  We ran with Juliet, Maureen and Heather from the Poodle Club so it was good to have a full team of small poodles.   Susi and Doople have already qualified in a different team so couldn't join ours.  Team classes consist of 4 dogs and handlers and is a batten relay race, only the batten is held by the next person to run rather than running around the course with it.  The faults for each dog accumulate to give the overall team score with the timer running continuously from the first dog starting to the last dog finishing.  The team with the fewest faults and fastest time wins.  We were all a little steady as we were caught out in the 20 min downpour.  We all ran very well with all of us going clear.  You could feel the tension as Heather ran last after the three of us had gone clear.  Getting four clear rounds in a team event is quite rare, out of 25 teams only two teams managed a full set of clear rounds.  That left us in 2nd place and qualifying for the final!

It was a good alround weekend with some good runs from all dogs.  The good thing about the weekend for Shadow was that we didn't miss a single contact, not counting missing the equipment!  Improvements are still needed though, particularly with the weaves.  Doople was still running well, we now need to work on more complicated turns as she is moving up the grades, especially teaching her to go round the back of the jump.  Winnie just generally needs to work on her confidence in the ring, as long as things don't go drastically wrong she'll get better.

Next weekend we have a one day show in Luton, at least it's just around the corner.