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!!!