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Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The start to the season.

Finally after what seemed like forever, it was time to set off for our first weekend show of 2011. The excitement had been building so much, its about all I talked about for the last week, and yet we still found ourselves cleaning & fixing and packing the caravan last minute!!! 6 months Nellie had been stored in the barn, right next to our cottage, and could have been re built in that time, but no we leave it all to the last minute! Dogs were loaded and all very vocal, tails wagging enthusiastically and we actually pulled out of the drive at 11.05am, just 5 mins later than my promised departure time, so pretty good going.
This weekend was a UKA show, and it was a perfect way to start the dogs off on their 2011 campaign. Lily is fighting fit and been working beautifully since her op in January, and this will be her first year really competing at Grade 6 as she only went into the grade near the end of last year. Olli has been retired from Gundog duties to concentrate on his agility now, and at 3 yrs old and Grade 5 spanner, I am seriously thinking he may qualify for a big event this year, but we will see.
Then obviously we have the 2 youngsters, Cove & Twiggy starting out on their journey. 18 months old now and this weekend was their first proper outdoor show, so we were nervous and excited about how they would do.
My first run with Lily was the Masters Tournament. Couldnt believe that we were kicking off the year in the "deep end" but Lily ran beautifully. She has matured into a real pro now, and its a real joy to work with such a genuine girl. 1 mistake through a quick lack of communication and we were faulted, and then in the agility after a stunning weave entry by Lily blew my concentration for a second, I found myself on the wrong side of a jump and got us eliminated. Stupid me, but I was enjoying watching my girl too much! Our 3rd run was the Champ Agility, and we nailed it. Beautiful run, felt like clockwork and we were 3rd. I was more than happy with that. We had other 5 fault rounds over the weekend but so many great bits, and my plan this season is to pick difficult parts of each course, and trust Lily to do her job, while I make sure I handle it properly without thinking about clear rounds yet. It worked a treat this weekend and I came away with my favourite run being the Champ jumping on Sunday, where we actually got 10 faults on the last 2 jumps, but what we did before I was thrilled with. Weaves twice, both needing a good rear cross, and lots of missing obstacles in between made for an interesting course. Only 4 or 5 clears out of 25 dogs.

Olli started well with 2 4th places this weekend. Enthusiastic as ever, lovely weaves and perfect contacts. His Novice agility run was poetry in motion, and if that first pole hadnt dropped he would have won it by 4 seconds. I am not one of those to make excuses by the way, "if he hadnt missed the jump" and "If he had got that contact" he would have won etc etc, but just found it encouraging that out of 68 predominantly Collies he was by far the fastest. Loved the run though, especially a very tight turn over long jump, to come back into the weaves. His 2 4ths were in Steeplechase and Jumping, on quite straight forward blasting courses, where the flat out Collies will beat him, but the more tight tricky courses we come across the better he will shine through.

So then the youngsters. I was nervous with Twiggy as I really wasnt sure how she would cope at a show with so many rings, and all the hustle & bustle so my main aim was for her to have fun in the ring and be happy with me. If I could get her to jump a few small sequences and play happily with me and not panic or worry about what was going on around her I would be a very happy mum. I set her up on the start line of a beginners steeplechase course, and left her in a wait. She focused and off we went. It was a nice typical circular type course with tunnels in the middle, so no real stops and starts. We were at obstacle 7 and Twiggy was smiling and bouncy and still going. She entered the tunnel for the 3rd time, and with just 3 jumps to go for home I couldnt breathe. She went clear!!!!! I screamed then cried, Fern cried and even Rog had tears in his eyes as he ran over to us. I would never have expected that in a million years. Twiggy was bouncing in my arms saying "Hey mum, why you crying? we had a blast didnt we? Did I do good?" I thought afterwards how I must have looked very over the top, leaping around crying and hugging Twiggy after a relatively simple beginners course, but believe me that was the toughest course I have ever done. Bless my Twiggy. I was still buzzing as we realised her other course was  nearing the end, so I went over and set her up again. Smiling and without a care in the world we went, and 18 obstacles later, 22 seconds we were over the finish clear again!!!!!!! To say my Gob was Smacked, my Flabber was Gasted are understatements. 10 months since she arrived a quivering little heap. Look out world Twiggy is about to conquer!!!!

Cove was a really different kettle of fish. At home and in training he is way ahead of Twiggy, working with enthusiasm and totally focused on fern all the time. If we are out and I call him, it takes 2 calls for him to leave Fern, and he rushes back to her. He is fast and amazingly agile, although maybe still a bit babyish in his jumping style. However I expected him to get a few clears first time out as he always does in training. We were pretty surprised with the difference in him at the show. Poor Fern tried her hardest but he was on a different planet, and surprisingly not over the top hyper as we expected but almost looked like he couldnt be bothered! He screams and goes very excited as soon as we head to the rings, and watches every dog go round like a wild thing, so after a few incomplete rounds where he just couldn't focus Fern was a bit disheartened to say the least. We decided that taking him around the rings was now something we shouldn't be doing. He was exhausted. Its silly how sometimes you find yourself doing something with 1 dog that you realise you never do with the others! Obviously as a pup it was a good exercise to walk him round the shows and get him used to the atmosphere, but he doesnt need it now. I never take any of mine to the rings unless we are about to run,  and we just hadn't realised how wrong we were with Cove. On Sunday with a completely new approach, and me queueing for Fern, Cove was a different dog, did some lovely contacts and weaves training in his agility and got a clear round in the steeplechase. We were thrilled. Fern has more work to do with him, but I have no doubt the future is looking good.
All in all a brilliant weekend, and a very positive start to our season. Socially great fun too, camping with all our friends, getting together with people we hadn't seen since the 2010 season ended, and even ordering a Chinese takeaway for a dozen people and getting it delivered Saturday night! Perfect, and as Newbury is a regular venue, that takeaway menu is pinned on the caravan wall now! Everyone in our group came home with top 5 places and trophies.
251 miles down, a few thousand more to go!!!

Monday, 21 March 2011

Countdown to a season of hopes :-)

Spring seems to have sprung, Nellie the caravan is outside in the sun, shiny and sweet smelling ready to go, new dog leads ready to be packed, clothes packed, and dogs all working really well. Our first competition of the season looms, with Lily in the Masters class first run of the day, Olli raring to go, and Cove & Twiggy looking like they are ready for their start in the agility world.
I am counting the hours. So many new beginnings upon us, so many challenges and all to be shared with the best family in the world, and the best friends too. Who knows, even Dave may finally be fully released on the agility world too :-)
My catchphrase has always been "Never say Never" Last year I got Lily to grade 6 and Olympia. What will this year bring???
I know one thing for sure, my dogs will be the best they can be, and have more fun than you could imagine, and I will love every single second of being with them.
Team Ferodas Fantastic Five :-)
Cove looking good 

Happy boy

My Irish girl looking great and happy.

My superstar Lily, fit & ready for the Grade 6  challenge.

Olli as enthusiastic as ever.

Dave flying and more than able.

Great action Dave.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

What difference a few days and a stiff talking to makes!!

Been a bit slack with the blog recently, as had a few down moments and also fairly busy so a few things to catch up on. ISO Quality audit at work which is always such a drag, stewarding at our local Point to Point meet last Saturday and in between times trying to fit in training my gang.
My last post was me feeling deflated and miserable that I had been so useless handling Lily at a training workshop. Well quite a lot of my good friends gave me a bit of a talking to, and reminded me that we all have off days, and the best time to have one was probably at a workshop rather than on a show day, so I picked myself up and decided to start training my 3 every day in the evening, now the nights are drawing out and concentrate on my handling more. 
Lily is incredible, and with me actually back on track with my timing she is working like a true Grade 6 dog, more than capable of being in the top places this season. Her weaves are incredible, her honesty is incredible and we are right back in tune again. She is also completely fit and well as I left her 5 weeks after her operation before starting to train her, but had spent weeks lead walking her twice a day. Don't think she has ever looked so well :-) I cant wait to get into some tough courses with her this season, and just beat the course.
Olli is doing some amazing contacts, after nearly a whole season of being removed from the ring every time he missed one!! He is enthusiastic as ever, and very capable but needs some basic work on his left hand weave entries, and maybe a gag too as he doesn't shut up!! I am doing some 2 x 2 and channels now to sharpen up his entries, as that is all that lets him down, and will stop him moving to Grade 6.
Twiggy is going from strength to strength. Her confidence is really shining through and I love how much she gives me in the way of effort and love. Fern and I went to a new training field belonging to a good friend of mine last week. My friend Fiona, had her 2 adult collies out and her new puppy, and Twiggy said hello, but just turned to me and I had 100% attention. Off the lead the whole time we were there, and she just played tuggy or sat by my side while Fern worked Cove. I decided to try her round a whole course for the first time, and apart from the weaves, (which are still a work in progress, so I left them out) she did a clear round!! Lovely 2 on 2 off contacts, beautiful turns, speed and effortless grace, and her tail never stopped wagging. I was gobsmacked. Every single time I work her she shows improvement, just little things but huge things for her. For example, after 2 weeks of trying to train her weaves, last week she looked straight at the poles as soon as I set her up! That moment of "I know where you want me to go mum" focus had champagne corks popping for me. The way she suddenly grabbed the tuggy I was holding as Fern set off with Cove around the course, was an "Oscar" winning moment. She is so rewarding to train, and although she is not quite ready yet for real competition, I am so looking forward to when she is :-) What is, and will always be a mystery to me, is how really simple tiny things can freak her out and turn her into a nervous wreck in an instant. Things obviously from her past. The simple clicks of a collar, the buzzing of a fly, me raising my voice at Stanley, almost deaf terrier. On the other hand a seesaw, which some dogs take a while to get used to, done in the first attempt, fell off and got back on. Cloth tunnel, through it just twice with me raising the cloth and then blasted through it 3rd time, job done. She is as hard as nails, and the happiest dog in the world.
A few good friends have lost dogs to illness or just old age recently, and it always makes me give mine that extra cuddle, I can not imagine life without any of mine, it will tear me apart when the time comes. As I write this I am sending healing thoughts to my bosses spaniel, Ollis Auntie Megan. Aged 9 she has suddenly and mysteriously been struck down with something, and awaiting results from tests. She was perfectly normal mad spaniel in the morning, practically paralysed by the afternoon. These dogs are so much part of our lives, and deserve our unconditional love, and commitment, which sometimes means making the hardest decision in the world.
Big hugs going to Gemma, Megan and Snuffles. Our first three girls who have been running riot at Rainbow Bridge for many years.