Ok time to do my report on the Adventure of Raven and Cypher in Sydney for the very first Australian Border Collie National…I’ve been back a couple of days now and it has taken this long for it all to sink in. This event was absolutely awesome and I will cherish the memories of it for a long time to come. We arrived on the Saturday (22nd April) at around 6.30am Sydney time after an uneventful flight which took around three and a half hours. After going through the rigmarole of picking up hire van (which ran on diesel, had no ventilation in the back and had the keys helpfully locked inside once we got there!) getting the dogs off the plane and figuring out where we had to go we made it to the trial grounds by about 8.30am. To be honest I wasn’t expecting anything much from the dogs – I knew they would be tired, a bit bewildered by the new grounds and equipment and maybe a little stressed out by all the travel. All I wanted them to do was to have a good time and get used to the wings jumps and new appearance of equipment. The first thing that struck me about the grounds was A)Very very dry B) Very very dusty and C) Very very hard!!! Sometimes not even a hammer would get things into the ground!
Anyway the judging was good, the courses were nice (except the Novice Agility course was particularly tricky I thought) and we got underway not too late. First up was Cypher in Novice Jumping – a little distracted, and giving the odd looking tyre a suspicious stare, we still managed a smooth clear round and came away with his JD title and 2nd Place. Next up was Raven in Open Agility, I was a little concerned about the seesaw – it was a lot heavier and higher than the ones we do, so I hung back to ensure she treated it with a skerrick of caution – this put me a little behind for the next sequence, thus my front cross was a bit misplaced to start the distance challenge with. She still managed the distance challenge well but she just slightly brushed a bar – which I didn’t hear drop till she was over the next jump! Other than that a nice first round. Next up was Master Agility. This is where Raven felt a bit jet lagged I think – she missed an “out” command getting a refusal fairly early on and then on a fairly basic weaver entry for her she missed it and went in the 2nd pole…I knew she wasn’t herself when she did a complete face and head plant into the ground (and she discovered how hard these grounds were) after her seesaw – she decided she couldn’t wait on such a slow dropping seesaw and she leapt and regretted the decision immediately when she came up with a mouthful or dry red dusty dirt and skin removed from top of nose where the leather starts. She actually managed to dislodge a very heavy plank from the niches they sat in! I have to say she learnt from that experience because her further 4 runs in Agility that weekend had the best seesaw waits I have ever seen on her – she didn’t dare leap till I said “ok” LOL!! She does tend to learn things the hard way sometimes…So that was Master Agility over and done with. Next up was Cypher in Open Agility and somehow – not quite sure how we managed to go clear for our 1st leg – in fact he gained a leg in Open Agility BEFORE he gained a leg in Novice Agility….quite bizarre really. Contact on A Frame was a bit dodgy but I was expecting that since I haven’t really settled on a behaviour yet for that one. So then we had a break and the Open Jumping ring was set, as well as the Masters Jumping. I was feeling a bit tired by then so wasn’t sure how any of us would go. Open Jumping I made the same mistake twice (what is the definition of stupid again?) – with Cypher I was worried on the jumps home that he was pointing right at the path of an off course jump. So at the end of the weavers I had to call him around me in a full circle and we got called a refusal – I thought we were far enough away from the jump but obviously not in the judges eyes. Then I try and go do the same thing with Raven and she was no where near as forgiving for my clumsy attempt and her speed just took her straight past the jump. I put it down to being up for 24 hours solid. I really should of tried fitting some shut-eye in there. Next up was Masters Jumping – Raven lapsed back into the “If-you-try running-flat-out-somewhere-I’m-gonna-beat-you” attitude and thus had the third jump down. I stopped dead, she kept going straight into the tunnel, came bolting out looking for me, saw the bar on the ground and went straight into the “Oh crap there’s a bar down” skulking look, she lay down, I replaced the bar and we left the ring. And that was it for her day…last run was Cypher in Novice Agility. It was a tough course, I believe he was the only clear round. I was very happy with his run although again I felt he was a bit distracted but no way was I going to hold that against him. Just getting round a course after such a trip and disruption to his usual routine I was absolutely stoked with how he went. We did what we set out to do and more – get them used to the equipment and used to the ground.
We finally got away from the Werriwa Trial with some time to check in to our digs for the next few days. Then at around 6ish we headed off to Erskine Park to try and catch some of the BC National Opening Ceremony and to set up cabanas for the next two days. We got there and discovered how bitterly cold Erskine Park was in the evenings. Mental note to self (pack extremely warm gear for June Agility Nationals). Next day after a very early start we headed off to the Deerbush trial. It started on the dot at 8.30 which was a good idea since they had over 550 runs to get through that day and ONLY TWO RINGS to do it in! First up was Cypher in Novice Jumping. I was feeling very positive about our run, he was focused and ready to go – he went straight into the collapsible tunnel and the chute ripped away from the drum! He came out the end that had come away from the drum and didn’t seem too upset about it all – but of course our momentum and adrenaline was wasted as we had to wait around while it was fixed so he could have a rerun. That seemed to take ages to get fixed but soon we were underway again. This time there was no equipment failure but definite communication failure! LOL!! There was a u shaped tunnel after a broad jump – pretty much straight on I ran with him up to the tunnel pointing clearly (well I thought it was clear!) at the entry but he must have had his eyes fixed on the wrong entry and that was where he was going – he literally bounced off my leg circled round me and went in the right entry after all! I knew straight away that he should have been called for contact on handler but instead we got called a refusal for the circle round me after he hit my leg. That was our only error and I was really happy with the way he ran. Next up was Raven – in the RQH course – this is a regionally Qualifying Heat, in NSW there are 12 rounds of these in Agility and Jumping. You don’t get any pass cards but you accumulate points based on your performance in them and if you get enough you get invited for the Dog of the Year Competition. I used this round again as a getting used to equipment round. Seems Raven was very used to it because she did a really fast clear round with a prolonged hold on the seesaw mind you (it took me a bit by surprise that she was actually waiting for my verbal release this time!). She ended up clear and in 4th place out of 114 dogs. 1st place was Ashley Roach’s little poodleX Jamie who is loving the new heights, 2nd place was David Paul’s Taylatee also loving the 400 height and 3rd place was Greg Leek’s Zak, also enjoying the new 600 height. Raven was 36.01 and 1st place was 34.95 – yay for electronic timing! Cypher, who was very distracted going up to the ring, is withdrawn after the first three obstacles as he is too focused on other things. I’ve made a decision not to let him have a play at agility if he’s not going to be focused on me and what we are doing.
Next run of the day was Masters Agililty and this was going extremely well until she misplaced her paws on the seesaw and came off the side of it. She simply leaned to her left towards me too much and came off the side of it before it hit the ground – I think she misjudged it as she tried very hard to stay on it. We also messed up a front cross and caused a refusal – I was far too tentative with my cross and she came past the jump not quite sure what I was signalling. Other than those two points a nice run. The next run of the day was Masters Jumping, and this was a tricky course. Not so much for the dogs as for the handlers who had two intersecting pinwheels that were not easily visible in amongst other jumps, remembering the course was a challenge in itself. I did an insane attempt at gaining an advantage through distance – I actually got so far in front of her on the course that she lost me!!! And idiot handler here didn’t have the smarts to even verbally let her know where I was heading – she literally came out the tunnel and had no idea where I was! This caused her to get a refusal on a jump….so kicking myself internally I carried on and we managed most of the course nicely – our last turn to the home straight caused a bar to drop so we stopped, reset the bar and left the ring. Next up was Cypher in Novice Agility – again it was a nice run however I didn’t want the clear round so I stepped up to the table and patted him on the head. If we had gained that leg and got another leg the next day that would have been his title and I want him to have a go in at least one Novice class at the Nationals. He was clear apart from my little touch on his head – though he did a weird thing with his contact on his dog walk he’s never done before. He dropped and placed his chin on the plank in the colour instead of going to the ground and doing it. I waited until he did it right and then we continued on our way. Last run of the day Open Jumping – Raven did a blitzer of a run, kept all bars up but just missed the weaver entry – most unlike her and I’m rather at a loss to try and explain why it happened – perhaps it is just “one of those things” that happen from time to time. Cypher was towards the end of the class and was the last run of the day for me. They have rather unusual starting procedures over there in NSW. I’d seen people razzing their dogs up getting them revved by touching them and patting them (after the lead has been taken off) and the judge has simply said “Go when you’re ready” Now I assume once a judge says that you can’t touch your dog (that’s how it is in WA anyway) but I’ve seen plenty of people touching their dog after the judge has said “Go When you’re ready”. So there’s me with Cy at the start line of Open Jumping, I’ve placed Cy in a sit and he’s dropped with his nose in what looks like a suspicious looking damp patch on the red dusty earth. (Someone told me afterwards that a bitch had squatted and peed right there but neither the owner or the steward had noticed – and this was right on the start line!). I’m not going while he’s like that so I try calling him off or waiting him out because I didn’t think I could touch him. Eventually after what feels like ages I look at the judge who shrugs his shoulders and I ask “Am I allowed to touch him?” Judge smiles and nods “Whatever you gotta do”. So eventually I get his attention (think by then he had sniffed to his hearts content) and line him up in a sit to start – and start we do, beautifully hitting the weave entry Raven had missed. The mild elation I feel at him getting his not so easy weave entry quickly turns to alarm when I see him doing weavers in a way I’ve not seen him do before. He’s getting bouncier and more upright the further we go and then “Pop!” out he goes missing the last 2 weaves! I’m just stunned by this but we carry on anyway – he handles the course well apart from a mixup at the distance challenge and I step over the line to help him out. At the end of the run I’m more concerned about his weaves. I figure tomorrow at the Border Collie National they’ll have some stuff up for us interstaters to practice on, as long as I get to put him through some weaves we’ll be right.
So we take off before presentations wondering how the girls have gone at the show that day…and crossing our fingers that the dogs are saving their best till last! The Monday dawns cold and clear, with not a cloud in the sky, promising a warmer day later on. We get there nice and early. Cypher is in the show ring to start in a 21 dog Intermediate class where he is the youngest boy by several weeks! We do the show dog thing with him being his usual noisy self and I have to admit it was with relief that we didn’t make the first cut! He needs show training badly and a few more maturity brain cells about him before he starts showing his true potential in the ring. So off with the show clothes and into the agility gear YAY!!! First up was Masters Agility – it was a lovely smooth flowing and extremely fast course – I knew Raven and I would love it. Raven sure did love it! She loved it too much!! She just missed her down contact on the dog walk by about paw’s width and that was our only fault. 29.5 seconds on a 57 second course….she was still that fastest dog even when you added her 5 second penalty on! Bugger! But I still had a grin when I finished – she looked to be enjoying herself so much. Next run Novice Agility – and there was absolutely NO warm up or practice equipment – so no weaves to run Cypher through. I would wait and see what he did with his weavers today and yep he popped them again – I put him back in them and made him finish them and we carried on. It was a shame but to be honest I was already happy with how he had gone so far this weekend – he already had three clears and a 1st and a 2nd place. I didn’t hold out much hope for our Open classes with him, since both had weavers in. I decided to give Open Agility a whirl and if he didn’t pull his weavers off then I would scratch him from Open Jumping – and again that’s what he did. He handled the distance challenge at the start really well though so we gained a benefit there. So I scratched him from Open Jumping. Raven again had a beautiful run in Open Agility – did an absolutely awesome running contact and just ran the course like a star. She edged out the Queensland dog from 1st place to win in 24 seconds. When we finished that course I was elated – it didn’t matter what else we did that day we had just run one of the best runs of our career and I was thrilled we had taken out a first place. Masters Jumping took place after lunch and again it was a very nice course – we blitzed it as well winning 1st place again! The day couldn’t get much better for us! Cypher was up next in Novice Jumping and we did a very smooth round and a fairly quick time – 21.69 seconds was enough to gain us 2nd place (just a fraction behind first place in 21.09) I was most proud of my just 18 month old boy who had to deal with so many distractions and new equipment. Raven’s last run of the day and I walked the Open Jumping with my friend Judy Roger from NSW whom I had the pleasure of meeting in October last year at the Nationals in Perth. We walked the course and I gave her an outline of what I was planning to do. Judy goes out there with the amazing Grace (I love that dog and steal her in a heart beat!) and goes clear with a lovely round. I on the other hand – probably still on cloud nine, forget that a shoulder pull is needed and Raven goes into the off course tunnel. No matter she does the rest of the course clean and fast I was wrapt with her. So at the end of the 1st Border Collie Nationals in Australia, Raven wins the Masters Jumping title and the Open Agility Title. I was absolutely over the moon with her and the way we ran – we truly felt in sync that day and it was good feeling to be so in tune with each other.
So now here I am back in Perth, our next trial is tomorrow morning (Sunday 30th April) and I am raring to go. We then have a break for a couple of weeks then two lots of weekend trials on the trot. Hopefully in the next few days I’ll have some pics up of the event so stay tuned for future happenings!