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Monday, 21 November 2011

Its all about the Twigster this week.

An incredible week started with a chance meeting, and for Twiggy that was just the start. Whilst training George in a group on Tuesday evening, I couldn't help noticing a little shy looking collie girl, and thinking how much she reminded me of Twiggy when she first arrived with us 18 months ago. Same scared little eyes, and similar twitching, and as I watched her I had a strange feeling I knew her. Fern was also thinking the same thing, and then as the little dog walked across the barn I  noticed she had a short tail and my heart missed a beat. The very first time Twiggys eyes reached out to me from Many Tears web site, her sister & brother were also in the photo, and Wispa as she was then had half a tail. When Fern asked the gentleman handling her if she was a rescue and where had she come from, it was all confirmed. He was thrilled to meet us as he had always wondered where Twiggy had ended up, and Fern and I were gobsmacked and very emotional. Its just a little piece of the jigsaw that makes up Twiggys life, and that means so much to me.
We arranged to meet up on Friday for a walk and to get the girls together for the first time since they parted at the rescue kennels 18 months ago. I was worried that it may remind them both of their horrible past, or that they wouldn't even like each other. They didn't show any real recognition or feelings either way, but my god they were most definitely sisters!! The way they walk, the way they bounced backwards barking waiting for a toy, the way they  pestered the boys as we walked. It was a very emotional and lovely walk and both girls ran and played, with Cove & Dylan through the moors. 
Wispa now called Meg.

Twiggy & Meg. Sisters :-)

Saturday eve, we went out to see a few friends for a drink, even though we really didn't feel up to a night out, and knowing we had to get up at 5.30 the next morning for our last competition of the year. It turned into one of the best evenings we have had for a very long time. Great laughs, and a really good classic rock band live in the pub, we danced and played a lot of air guitar, and didn't leave until 12.30! 
When the alarm went off at 5.30am I swore. I very nearly turned it off and thought we would give the show a miss, but I dragged myself and Rog out of bed, and by 6.30am we were on our way to Dartmoor. The first half hour of the journey was very quiet. Don't think any of us were really awake, and the dogs were all sleeping as even they are not used to such early starts. Once there, we started to come to life and walked the Grade 5-7 agility. It was a weird course, and not very flowing so didn't inspire me or fill me with much confidence, but we then walked the 3-4 jumping and that was a nice course. Quite handly and an odd weave entry and i started to get excited about running Twiggy.
Fern & I queued together with Cove & Twiggy and I went first. As I set her up on the start line she started barking with excitement!! I was so surprised at her confidence, and as I left her in a wait, (albeit a short one she did wait), my confidence was growing too. Halfway round we got to the weaves, our stumbling block in competitions all season, and she went into the first pole and accelerated through all 12, just like she has been doing at home!! I nearly buggered up the tunnel entrance because I was so shocked, but over the last jump and a clear round!!! Twiggy ended up in 8th place. Her first top 10 place and I was close to tears. Cove did a beautiful round after us and won the Grade 4 jumping. 3 weeks in grade 4 and he has two 3rd places and a 1st. Pretty impressive.
Lily & Olli were both nutcases and both got E'd in the agility, but I laughed and as they both did lovely contacts and great weaves I was happy and most of all they both had a ball!
So to the G3/4 agility, and again Twiggy was squeaking and barking at me on the start line. It was a fairly tricky course, and there were hardly any clears, so as we cleared the last obstacle I did jump into the air, and hug my special girl :-) 2 runs and 2 clears. I couldn't believe it but the best was to come. My gorgeous girl was 2nd!! As I went up to collect our trophy I had to swallow hard not to blub a lot but I have probably never felt so much pride. What an amazing way to finish our first season and what an incredible transformation of my nervous little Irish Secret. I am still smiling 24 hrs later.

Cove didn't manage to get round the agility as he was totally freaked out by the people standing watching behind a wall. Silly boy, and although Fern was gutted it was actually funny afterwards. Lily ended the day with a 6th in the Grade 6 jumping, and I was very happy with her run as she stayed very focused and listened. 
So this week is all about my baby girl. Like her Auntie Sharon said, I don't think she is going to be a secret anymore, I think next year everyone will know her as she climbs up the grades. I may even be confident enough now to add getting Twiggy to Olympia next year as one of my goals.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Understanding the mechanics,

As most people who read my  blog will know, I rode horses from a young age, and competed at local shows, and 3 day events until about 10 years ago. During my years as a rider I spent a lot of time schooling my horses, doing basic ground work everyday to keep them balanced, ensuring I worked equally on both reins doing circles & figure of eights to keep the horse supple and well rounded. Its strange that so many people don't think about this and practice similar rules when working an agility dog. 
Sunday, Georgie and I travelled to Bowerlands to have our first full day workshop in jump skills. I was nervous as hell, as I always am in groups, and I really wasn't sure what the day would involve, and just how Georgie would cope with the day. New venue, new dogs and new exercises on different equipment, it was exciting but I was unsure. 
Welcomed with Coffee, tea, biscuits and then an hour in the "classroom" studying dogs jumping, looking at weight balance, power and lots of discussion about what we want out of our dogs and then out to the school to start work. It was a fascinating day, really interesting and most of all Georgie was a total joy to work!! His jump action is actually very good, very natural and he is beautifully balanced. We need to work on short striding grids a bit, to get his compression right, but other than that he was fab. He uses his back end for power, is very neat in front with a lovely low head over the jumps, and very flexible on the turns. He is a young dog, a blank canvass and so far I haven't messed any of it up.

All the power coming from his hind quarters

Beautiful straight jumping and forward focus.

Love the flexibility.
 If I can keep him balanced, and do all the basics we will have a lot of fun and a healthy, fit, athletic dog who will go far. Naarah took hundreds of photos all day and we looked at them after lunch and discussed how each of our dogs had worked, and it was so good to be able to see their action over a jump in a freeze frame, because I had no idea how he jumped. All the circle work I do with George, (which i used to find boring with the others) now makes so much sense, and it showed in his jump work. Basic schooling!!!
Great day, loads to think about and I am once again so thrilled that the little white fluff ball "insisted" on being mine. :-) Fate is a weird and wonderful thing.
On the "mechanics" theme, Fern & I took all the dogs up to the training field on Friday, and we had our new set of weaves, (thanks to Rog), at the new spacing. Interesting how much easier the dogs found them. Cove is a long boy, and had struggled to get a nice stride through narrow weaves, but his action instantly changed and he looked so much more flowing through the new ones! Lily was not quite so good the first time, but soon adjusted and got into her stride, but the most surprising was Dave! I guess I thought that a short arsed terrier would not really notice the difference or particularly benefit from it, but he certainly did! We decided to time them all through the weaves for a bit of fun. The results were surprising. Cove & Dave were almost identical speed, at around 2.8 - 2.9 seconds, Lily was 2.5 - 2.6 seconds and then Twiggy........... swam through like the gorgeous girl she is at 2.3 seconds!!!

 Every time the same, she is stunning in the weaves and has the most natural action of them all. For a fairly square dog with upright shoulders she is incredible. 
I have changed my routine with her and we now have a lot of 1 to 1 time and she is changing. We have a wait, fast contacts and the best weaves, and she is now focusing on me even when the other dogs are working. Soooooo looking forward to next season and getting Twiggy to Olympia.
Its our last show this Sunday, and then every dog apart from George will be off agility until January. George has a few more training sessions booked then in to be castrated before he gets a break. Its the seasoned agility guys that really need to unwind now and we are looking forward to lots of relaxed walks over the next 2 months. 
Meanwhile we are garden clearing, shed emptying, going to the tip and decorating our bedroom at long last!! Spending time with some good friends and getting ready for Christmas. I totally love Christmas!!!! Its Georgies first one too! :-)

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

So, plans for winter then?

Its that time of year again. 2 more small day shows to go to, but the season has really finished now and like everyone else who is addicted to this game, we now have our winter training plans to sort out.
Actually, that's not strictly true, as I have already booked so much winter training, we really need to try and remember to do other things like see our non dog friends, and maybe some Christmas shopping?! 
I have had to prioritise, and George & Twiggy will be coming first for the next few months. Lily & Olli are both experienced dogs and they will be having a well deserved break through December and most of January, but the two youngsters have loads booked! Jump skills workshops for George all through November, then a trip to the vets for him first week in December to part with his 2 furry friends :-). 

Twiggy has another trip to Stretcholt in December, and I have been working with her 1 to 1 over the last 2 weeks to really put everything I have into building our working relationship. The difference is quite surprising. Dare I say, we now have a wait, not perfect yet but a wait non the less! She also hasn't missed 12 weaves for 2 weeks, attacking them from every angle and completing them with a lot more confidence. Jan, Feb & March they are both doing classes with Jo Tristram, Sian Illingworth, Ant Clarke and Dave Munnings. Full on training for sure! I am determined to become a better handler, and produce 2 talented well balanced dogs for next season.

 Lily & Olli will be doing a few workshops in the new year, and I also want to try and get Lily to grade 7 by the end of the season. Olli has a hill to climb, but who knows. I wouldn't count him out either, but it will be all down to me.
Fern will be aiming for the top with Cove, that sort of goes without saying, and she is also hopeful that Dave will start to compete more. She always said it didn't matter how long it took with Dave and she is still working hard on his training, and will run him at the right shows.
So its pretty obvious that we are not going to give up on this mad, wonderful hobby called Agility, and with that thought in mind we bought a very smart new caravan. The main reason is for the fixed double bed!!! No more converting seating areas for us, just jump into the ready made bed and gaze at the stars through the large sunroof. I have no idea if I can tow it, as it was delivered to us last Sunday, so its a complete mad buy, and most of Rogers little pension fund is now sat on our drive, but you only get one chance to live this life so what the hell. (My Gran will be smiling now!)

Not long til Christmas and long walks in the mud or snow or pouring rain with our lovely dogs, and before we know it, the ISS diary will arrive and we will be frantically getting online to book camping for the best shows and start the madness all over again. I have a feeling there may be some good times ahead and maybe a few parties in the new Caravan, and most of all a hell of a lot of FUN!