So here I sit finally with some time up my sleeve to get this blog updated. It has been on my TO DO list for some time now but today is the first chance I’ve had to do it some justice and write it up properly. Anyway where does one start with such a huge event as this one? At the beginning I suppose…we arrived late Thursday night and had Vicki Priestley kindly offer to pick us up (this is a very kind and generous offer when you consider what the Sydney traffic is like on a Thursday night!) and she took us to Erskine Park where our caravan was waiting for us. We were situated fairly close to the grounds where the rings were set up and were on the whole quite pleased with how smoothly everything went. It was great to see we were camped next to some South Australians and some Queenslanders who had attended last year’s Nationals and remembered me well (not sure if that is a good thing or not *g*). So Friday was settling in and getting some practice in on the equipment set up in the practice ring, taking the dogs on long strolls around the grounds, sussing out where to set up our much needed and greatly appreciated cabana (thanks Ronnie!!) and getting hold of our numbers.
Thursday night was cold but Friday dawned quite mild and was not too cold most of the day despite patches of drizzly rain throughout the day.
We attended the BBQ Friday night with Danni and her mum Margaret from SA and also Lisa Kaddatz and the crew from Queensland – Annette and Sue. So after a good feed we hit the sack around 10ish in the vain hope of getting a decent nights sleep in. Now I don’t know about anyone else but I got about 4 hours sleep Friday night – I awoke at 12 and just could not get back to sleep till about 3am! So much for a good nights rest! Anyway we were up at 6am and organising the dogs, toileting them properly and then getting their crates set up at the grounds and being ready to go and walk the first teams agility course by 7.20am. Bill Almond from NSW was the judge and he was very nice and with a lovely open flowing course. There were a lot of clear rounds in and NSW started us off with 5 nice runs (3 of them clear 1 with 1 fault). WA was up next and our first dog up Bailey had a couple of bars and then unfortunately a refusal as a dog ran at him from the sidelines which caused him to go around a jump. Kriszty and Jess had a DQ when Jess did the wrong side of the tunnel and then it was Sue and Nifty’s turn. They had a fault at the seesaw but other than that a very smooth run. I was next with Raven and she took a bar and got called on the seesaw. Brodie and Di ran last with 1 fault on the A Frame, so no clear rounds for WA, unfortunate but we knew with some of our dogs that we would be struggling with control issues at 8am on a very cold morning especially since for many of the dogs the last trials were well over a month ago for them. The event saw WA in 6th place with VIC in 7th. ACT was leading by 0.19 of a second over NSW, TAS was in 3rd spot, followed by SA and then QLD and then us. Next it was onto the courses for the day.
First up I was in the ring in Novice Agility with Cypher. He did a really smooth clear round without me pushing him and he ended up in 5th spot overall out of 120 dogs and a berth in the final. It was a great course for the WA dogs actually – Kriszty’s Terra and Andrea’s Smudge took 1st and 2nd respectively and Nic Ford’s Sheltie Jasper also got in the top 10. Next up was Open Agility for Raven and Cypher – I ran Cypher first and we did really well up until the distance challenge there was just a few too many obstacles for him to look at and his momentum wasn’t forward enough to make the challenge. I ran across the line to help him out. Raven was doing a blitzing run until she popped the last weaver (her bad!) and then I worked her contacts for the rest of the course – she flew around to finish the course very nicely. Next up Raven was in a very tough Masters Agility course – I thought it was do-able and it was in the end cleared by quite a few dogs, we got through around half the course when I just reacted a fraction too slow and she took an off course jump – her time was blitzing and her contacts were awesome it was a real shame that my handling just let her down – not that she cared!! We then went and had a go at the Open Jumping course – Raven did a nice round on this one and went clear despite a few wobbles on the course when I found myself giving her really crap angles onto jumps. There was no final for this one (which is a real shame but next year it will be offered in Adelaide which is GREAT!). Cypher was going great guns on this one easily managing the distance challenge and then for some reason had a completely novice boy dog moment where he just went straight past the tunnel entry to run behind the tunnel – it was completely bizarre and unexpected thing – but you know it was a total 20 month old boy dog thing as well! It was a shame because the rest of the course was lovely.
Next up was the games – first up I went in the Gamblers with Raven and we quallied over there whilst working our contacts and our weaves many times…she took a while to do the gamble because she headed off to do a tunnel instead of the gamble which wasted time but never the less we gained our first pass card for our GD title. Along with 130 other dogs as well apparently – so Novice Gamblers is not so hard! Then I went over to the Snooker ring – which I didn’t even walk I just had Amanda with Marty tell me my best course of action to get a card and so we duly followed her instructions and there we go – first card of Snooker Dog our SD title!
Then Sue and I had a go at Strategic Pairs – initially Sue was not going to do it as Nifty had been pushing her a bit on his contacts and she didn’t want him anymore excited and “up” than he was but when she saw the course and saw how spread out we were she decided to give it a go. Me, I found it extremely calm and excellent for reminding Raven about her careful jumping and solid contacts. We got through with a pass card each even though Raven had to go and do a jump Sue had forgotten to do with Nifty. It wasn’t hard at all and good fun to achieve something in partnership with someone. They’re both such fun dogs to run too that any chance we get to run them is great!
Then the jumping courses were up soon after, I still had Cypher to run in his first ever Excellent Jumping and Raven to run in Masters Jumping and Cypher and Nicola’s Sage still had to go into Strategic Pairs together. Plus Cy still had to go into Gamblers. To cut a long story short Cy got a quallie in both Gamblers and in Strategic Pairs with Sage and in Excellent Jumping I really pushed him as I saw a lot of clear rounds going up on the board and I knew that if we were to make top 10 I’d need to get all the speed I could out of his inexperienced little body. So in pushing him I just did one rear cross a bit too sharply on him and out of 31 trials runs so far he took his FIRST EVER bar down. I didn’t hear it till we were over the next bar and it was a real shame as it turned out he would have made top ten. And looking at the calibre of dogs competing I was absolutely thrilled with my young boy’s efforts at his first ever Ex Jumping trial. By the time Raven was in Masters Jumping they had the one set of generator lights running on the ring. I was not sure what to do with the lead out and the handling from jump three to four which had a very inviting u shaped tunnel in between. I of course botched up by saying “Go” instead of “Come” thus she went straight into the tunnel. My fault so we kept going and then she took an off course jump – not only did she do it without my cue or signal but then she took it down! So we stopped and I replaced the bar and left the ring. It worked because she didn’t drop another single bar that weekend – not bad for a girl with chronic bar issues – 2 bars in 10 runs. So at the end of the day we had 4 quallie cards for Raven out of 7 runs and 3 quallie cards for Cypher out of 6 runs. (I didn’t do Snooker with Cy as I was feeling cheap and didn’t think that I’d be doing it too well and I don’t want to be slowing down anywhere on course to stop and think about stuff with him).
We went to the Official Dinner that night and it was a very nice meal and listened to a lovely speech by Henk Plancke one of the foremost promoters of Agility in Australia when it first started to be played here in the mid to late 80s. By 9.30pm my head was on the pillow and I didn’t awake again until 5.30am the next morning – I must have been exhausted! But it was up early again this time for the Teams Jumping event and lordy that Jumping course Judge Lisa from QLD put up was a tough one! I think there was only one team that didn’t have any DQs in their top 4 score and that was Victoria! The thing was I felt it was a very doable course and I had a beautiful plan, and it was being executed really well I might add up until the last 4 or 5 jumps! Raven was absolutely flying as usual, keeping all her bars up listening really well, me I just found myself running to the end of a tunnel that I shouldn’t of and she ended up taking about 3 or 4 wrong jumps to receive the max score of 200. I was kicking myself about it because I just *knew* we could do that course if I’d kept my head together! Other people did come up to me afterwards and commented that her speed did not give me time to blink let alone think in situations like that one on a twisty tight course. I had walked it so well though I thought that I had imprinted it firmly into my muscle memory so I didn’t have to think I could just “do”. So much for that plan!!! I will set this one up at training though as I really want to do it successfully – it was a small consolation that hardly any Raven type speed dogs got through it without a DQ. Ash Poli and our veteran Bailey were the only ones on the WA team NOT to DQ.
Anyway onto the 2nd chance at qualifying for a final! Cypher was first up again in Novice Agility and we ran a blitzing course with only microseconds held on the contacts for a 3rd place and clear out of 120 dogs – he was a good boy! Then next up was Raven in Masters Jumping which again looked like a challenging course but was certainly getting a number of fast clear rounds on it so no time for wobbles or you wouldn’t make top ten. Raven and I ran it smoothly and without a fuss and came in with clear round 2nd place. I was absolutely over the moon with her (and pretty chuffed that I’d handled it exactly the way I wanted to handle it) and was very proud of my little girl to beat out nearly 160 other dogs. She was in a final YAY!!! Then we had Cypher in Excellent Jumping – again this was a nice challenging smooth flowing course and unfortunately Cypher had another novice 20 month old boy moment when I said “Out” clearly indicating with my right hand (which was near his head I have to say!) and he decided out meant cut across the front of Mum’s path and do the jump on the other side – Doofus!!! Apart from that little “Out” glitch we did a lovely course I thought *g*!
Masters Agility with Raven and she was like the second last dog to run out of 160 again. I had plenty of time to memorise my plan and run it like clockwork and I did. This is the first time however her running contact stride took her paw’s width over the colour on the dogwalk….D’oh!!!! Dammit! So I put her back on the contact and then we carried on to finish what would have been a super fast run….it was such a shame but I was happy anyway I had made the Masters Jumping final (a final we didn’t make last years Nats). Although I will always consider Jumping Raven’s lesser event (since her bars are an issue and her contacts are usually the quickest).
A brief lunch break and then it was onto the finals – first up Novice Agility finals. I warmed Cy up reinforcing his contacts and doing three sets of super fast 12 weaves in the practice ring. As I watched the first few dogs go through I saw dog after dog after dog pop out the weavers ARGH!!!! When both Terra and Smudge popped them with both handlers on the right I decided I’d do them left just to be sure. I knew at the startline though – I didn’t have “Cy the focused ball of energy ready to blast onto the course and do everything really well and really fast” – I had the “baby dog Cy wowed by all the people round the ring and completely not focused on what he should be doing” – oh well our time was now and we had to go – so go we did. He nearly veered off after the broad jump the 2nd obstacle and I knew right then that this was gonna be hard work! Did the a frame, released him with an ok into the tyre and then oh my god how long was he taking to get into that tunnel – he seriously looked like he was checking the audience out! I heard myself yell “C’mon get your butt in this tunnel!!” and then it was out and into the weavers – he got the entry (thankfully) and then I just kept my same firm encouraging tone “Weave Weave Weave Weave Weave” about the 4th weaver from the end he just simply stepped out and headed towards the table ARGH!!!!! So that was it – I called him back and we did the whole set again (just fine I might add) and we finished the course, not altogether smoothly I might add! I did a front cross that he did very badly I have to say!!! We shall be working on those!
My next final and the last final to run was Masters Jumping. I again walked and walked this course till I had it firmly imprinted on my muscle memory. Unfortunately I walked it wrong. Not wrong as in the wrong course but wrong as in I placed myself in the wrong spot for the first challenge (a straight line call off from a tunnel). I thought if I led past the entry to the tunnel and off to the side that I would be able to pull her to me, off the tunnel and over the jumps where she had to go. Instead I saw on the playback that she virtually had her eyes transfixed on that tunnel as she did the first obstacle – I think I could have stood on my head or blown an airhorn and she would have still taken that off course tunnel *sigh*. Oh well – I certainly learnt a lesson it’s just a pity I had to learn it on a finals course! She blitzed everything else on that course and we ran like we owned the course and she kept every bar up – she was a good girl and I was still as proud of her as I’ve ever been. I set that course up in training led up to the tunnel entry and did a strong RFP which pulled her off the tunnel no problem. That’s agility for you….it’s those sweet runs you do with just the one tiny mistake that keep you wanting to do more and to do better each time. Then there’s those runs (like the MJ run we did in the morning) that just make you feel a complete satisfaction that you’re working as a true team with your canine partner. Those runs also keep you coming back for more!
So that’s it – the Raven and the Cypher’s Sydney Agility Nationals – it was great experience and awesome fun. The best parts were meeting up with people I met last year and meeting new people. Seeing some awesome runs from some awesome dogs – I really like Shanna Brough’s Catch and Sophie, Greg Collin’s Kellie, Vickie’s Trim, Allan Schmidt’s Jack was just completely in the zone most of the weekend – he is an excellent dog to watch. On the same note though I have to say WA did pretty damn good for such a small population – we had dogs in every final and Kriszty’s Jess was a star gaining a 2nd place in Masters Agility final. Our Novice dogs did really well and our excellent level dogs like Domino and Sage did really well both of them coming home with placings. Overall I think we have a lot to look forward to and I am already counting the days till next year’s Nationals in Adelaide!
Yay! The pics are up from the BC Nationals held back in April. There were a few there of Raven which were pretty cool. This pics are on order for me and come from Sue Town’s website http://www.pinnicle.com.au There was a lone picture of Cypher but he was being a dweeb at the time and the photo is not the most flattering one of him! Thus I have not ordered that one!
Today is the first day since May 19th the dogs have had some training. Being a lovely Sunday morning here I took them over to a fortunate friend’s place (I say fortunate because the lucky person has her own agility equipment – full set and training ground) and trained until the dogs were slightly tired (ie still wanted to do more and more) and I was knackered. Cypher worked on his A Frame contacts and his weaving – which he was a star at by the end even with me throwing his favourite frisbee along side the weave poles as he was doing them. We still need to work him going forward to a high value reward (his frisbee on the ground at the end of the poles) and reminding him that he cannot pop out the last two poles. His A Frame is coming along nicely now that I have settled for placing his target one body length away from the bottom of the frame. He runs straight down through the colour to get his chin touching the target. He was still doing it consistently after I covered the target up so that was good although it will need alot more repetitions. And I am happy with his speed and the fact that he is not folding his front legs under him anymore – I wonder if when we first did this he wasn’t quite as controlled over his body as he is now – either that or my placing the target in that spot has helped.
Raven was a wild child to start with – barking all over the place and knocking the one bar in an 18 obstacle course that was set up. However after a couple of time outs with me training Cypher instead she soon resumed some self control and was heavily rewarded for her bars up. I also went back to her contact work basics as well – target on the ground kind of stuff, lots of repetitive rewarding for the “touch” position. We did some single bar work which she has completely under control now as we did about 20 on a double oxer and 20 on a single and she didn’t touch the bar once. That’s alot of sausage treats! To finish the session I went to the three bar chute work Jon showed me and it didn’t seem to make any difference to her no matter what distances I gave her for the bars apart or the varied heights I did, she kept them all up! This was kind of making it hard for me to teach her (because if she doesn’t drop a single bar then she doesn’t see the difference in the lack of rewards). So instead of leading out to just past the third bar I stood near the first bar, released her and took off running. This brought bars down a couple of times so that worked well for her to realise that there was no reward coming for the knocked bars. She quickly figured that out though and on the third try put a huge effort into going as fast as she could and still kept the bars up. We finished there with a jackpot and called it a day. I will do some more tomorrow morning (hooray for public holiday Mondays!) and then again Tuesday afternoon after work. I won’t have time to do any Wednesday as I will get home from work quite late and the dirty state these two are in they will take me all Wednesday night to bath. Then we leave Thursday around 10.30am. After today’s session I am starting to look forward to seeing everyone over there and to have some fun with the dogs – given our inauspicious preparation I am not expecting anything great but I do plan on having a really good time. It’s going to be a laugh in the Strategic Pairs over there – Sue and I had big plans on practicing with Nifty and Raven as did Nicola and I for Sage and Cypher – we have not had a single practice together!! We shall be going into the Strat Pairs comp over there complete and utter Novices. Definitely a recipe for much laughter and chaos and mayhem on course!