About us.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

What am I going to do for 5 months???

Strange but true, after what seems like 5 minutes our agility season is over for another year. Doesn't seem a week ago we were so excited packing up Walter for our first camping trip, wondering how the year was going to pan out, and I was counting the days until Georgie was ready to compete.
In some ways its been a disastrous year. The weather put the dampers on a lot of shows. A few we were concerned about the journey as there were strong winds in June, 3 we had to be towed off of due to the mud, and a few were cancelled, yet through it all we laughed and had fun with the dogs and our friends.
Did I achieve my goals? I achieved 2 out of 4 so not a bad year.
Goal 1. I was hoping Lily would gain another win in Grade 6, but although she managed numerous top ten places, and finished in 2nd on a few occasions, I failed on that one. Perhaps I should have had more determination, and not hoped but been more positive she would.
Goal 2. I wanted Twiggy to win a Grade 4 class and move up to Grade 5. Well Twiggy has been incredibly consistent, being placed top 5 nearly all season, and yes she managed 2 wins, however they were jumping classes, so although part of the goal achieved, she remains in Grade 4. 3 2nds in Agility, so frustrating!!
Goal 3. I wanted George to go to his first show and go clear. Nailed that one! George came out with confidence, and although he has some growing up to do (no hurry for that) he was placed 11th and 10th at his first show Prestbury Park.
Goal 4. I had a secret goal of getting George into Grade 4 before the end of the season. He had 5 shows to do it in as he started in September, and he left it until the last one but did it in style!! Won the jumping and Agility at Dartmoor to go Grade 4 with his last run of 2012.
George has been placed top ten in all 5 shows since he came out, and increasingly higher places with each run. I love him so much. His honesty, enthusiasm and genuine character make him a total pleasure to live with and train. He gives everything 100% and is a very clever dog, working out what it is he is doing wrong and correcting it quite quickly through all our training. He just wants to please and he is a total joy.
Twiggy is also so consistent, so clever and talented, and every day with her is a joy too. All our dogs, in so many different ways are constantly surprising me, making me smile and laugh regularly when things are getting me down. I am very lucky.
It has been a sad year, as a few of our friends have had sudden losses. Dogs that were far too young to be taken, have gone to the agility field in the sky. Tragic losses, which make me appreciate what I have even more. Without the love of our dogs, where would we be?
So now for a few months our dogs are going to have a well earned break from agility. No training after the end of November until 1st February 2013. They will be running around, chasing rabbits, getting filthy no doubt in the lovely mud around the farm, running on beaches, trekking through woodlands and unwinding. I don't know how other people do things that's just the way I like to do things. I don't know if there is a wrong way or a right way, but for me it feels right to let them have a complete break from it all. Its hard for me as I have become more obsessed with training and working with my dogs over the years, and its so rewarding to see them develop, but its also very relaxing to watch them just be dogs. I am going to continue with my new positive approach to life. No more negativity, no more moaning minnies in my life, just happy people and fun times, and living my life how I want to. I have an amazing family, beautiful dogs and lovely friends and that's all I need.
Now to start counting down to the first show of 2013!!!!!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Leaves have started to fall.

Sat in our cosy cottage, aromas of a spicy  chicken dish wafting through, 7 dogs all relaxing or casually chewing a toy, or another dogs leg, the heating is on and outside the wind and rain are battering the windows, and for the first time we have leaves blowing around the garden. This time last year it was 30 degrees and we all got sun burnt at Chippenham show!!! At this precise moment I am not even certain that the show will go ahead but if it does we will be there for our last weekend in Walter before we shut him down for the winter. Where did the year go??
At our last show 2 weeks ago, Twiggy had 2 3rd place trophies and a 5th, Cove had a 2nd and a 4th, and Georgie a 5th and a 3rd!!! Twiggy is the boss in our house, and the cheekiest, noisiest of the lot. Georgie has suddenly become a young man and all his skills are starting to come together, and Cove is now 3 years old and a regular consistent performer. Life passes by scarily quickly. 
We all spend so much of our lives working hard, trying to earn enough money to keep a roof over our heads, and food in the cupboards. In our family, there is no chance of any early retirement.............or even retirement full stop! Business is good, but we will never be rich.............but we are lucky to be rich in love, and lucky to share our lives with our wonderful dogs, and for that I am always grateful.
Recently friends have lost dogs, either to old age, or in freak accidents losing them way too young. I also have a close friend whose son has been diagnosed with cancer and has started chemotherapy this last week. He is our Ferns age. Where is the justice?
I wish I had a magic wand, or some super powers to make everyone happy but I dont. I am just grateful for what I have, and sometimes I just sit and look at Rog & Fern and smile :-) I look at Lily, who has never been an easy dog, but such a star in my eyes and I smile. I look at Olli, and his tongue sticking out the side of his mouth, Dave with his perfect smart sit and "rattle snake" tail, Stan with his whitening eyes, grey muzzle and wonky legs and I smile, Cove with his goofy look and his grin, George with his always happy enquiring face, and his wonderful "talking" and I smile, and most of all (and I know you shouldnt have favourites) I look at Twiggy, she looks at me and I feel like she is looking into my soul, and I wish I could look into hers and know what the first part of her life was like, then she nuzzles me making her unique little grunting sounds as she does and I smile. 
The world can be a horrid place, but appreciate what you have and your own little world can be special.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Another show nearer Christmas

It was quite odd last weekend, not camping so not towing Walter off to somewhere nice Friday morning, but instead as it was a fairly local show, we got up quite early and drove to Blackdown show both days. I always forget something when travelling to a day show, as when we are away in Walter, he carries everything you could possibly need! Rex is normally just carrying us, the dogs, and their toys and leads, so we arrived at 7.30am and yes I had forgotten my wellies (for walking courses in dewy grass) but that seemed to be all. 
It was a lovely venue, and the weather was perfect so I was looking forward to my 3rd show with Georgie, and also trying to aim for that 3rd win with Twiggy to move her to grade 5. The courses were all nice, the grade 6 courses challenging but flowing, and we had a great day. Lily Fudge Cake had 2 runs and she went clear in both! 100% for my best girl, and although unplaced in the jumping she was 7th in the agility. I got totally disorientated in the agility run, and spent a few seconds with her spinning in front of me while I remembered the course, so 7th was a shock!! If only I had a brain!
Olli also went clear in the jumping, and also unplaced but a lovely run from my nutty Spanner. :-) Fern and Cove had a few near misses but a lovely agility run and a 4th place. Coves sister Chilli won and took herself to grade 7, which she deserves, and although Fern was chuffed for Chilli, she was kicking the ground, shoulders sagged, wondering what she can do to speed Cove up. I think its just the difference between girls and boys to be honest. Cove is careful, sweet and almost too polite to go mad in the ring, but he has so much talent and is still young so it will come. Twiggy was a star as usual and flew round the jumping, smiling and happy and finished with 3rd place and yet another trophy. She also had a lovely run in the Agility, and finished 5th so still not moving to grade 5 just yet.

Georgie has yet to have a clear in jumping. He is so focused and intense on contacts that it gives me a minute to catch up and him a second to tune in, but in jumping he just runs and I am behind so no success yet. Saturday was the same again. 5 faults in the jumping for going wide and not catching my signals, but 2 agility runs later and he was clear in both!! Another 10th (becoming a habit) and then a 9th! Moving in the right direction :-) I was thrilled because it was the first time George had come across painted contacts, not rubber, so he was a bit slow on his first dogwalk, a bit unsure of his footing but by his second run he had it sussed.
Sunday and off we went again, and yes this time I forgot all the chicken carcasses I had promised to 2 people at the show!! God my brain is getting old, but thankfully they had other food for their dogs, or I would have driven home to get them!
Lily and Olli were not quite so on form Sunday, so no clears for them but they had fun, we laughed and I didnt let them know they had gone wrong. They are my bestest dogs, and whatever they do they enjoy it. I saw one person in particular over the weekend, shout and swear at their dog in the ring when it went wrong, and it really upsets me. Crap handling, late signals what do you expect! Never the dogs fault always us handlers :-(
In the words of one of my lovely friends from Wales "Dont complain, TRAIN!"
Cove had another foot perfect agility run, and this time a 6th place. Consistently patient and honest, and still not quite in 6th gear. Twiggy had a very naughty agility run, just getting away with her contact on the A frame, and my fault 3 seconds later for trying too hard and pulled her off a tunnel so 5 faults. Eliminated in the other one, so just one last chance in the jumping to get that win, but she wasnt quite fast enough. 5th place though out of 200 dogs, so I am not complaining!!
Georgie started the day with a lovely clear in agility, much more confident on the wooden contacts, and finished 6th!!!! Then in his other agility run, a flyer and 7th place!! He has changed already from his first show 3 weeks ago, where he took off like a rocket and left me behind in his dust! This weekend he was more aware that we are working as a team, so not slow but more thoughtful and steady and I felt like I was almost with him. The jumping was Grade3-4 combined, and a tricky course really. Pull throughs and missing a jump out, both things we had not come across before, so I thought we would still be waiting for that jumping clear round. I was wrong! Georgie went clear, and he finished 10th in the same class as Twiggys 5th. I was so proud going up twice, 2 dogs in the top ten, but most of all Georgie had 3 out of 3 top ten places!! 100% strike rate for my baby boy! Now that is a buzz :-)
He has had 3 shows, and is not yet 19 months old and he has been placed 10th or above at all of them. Thats a pretty good record, and I am so proud of him. He will be a winner soon I have no doubt, but there is no rush. He has a lot of growing up to do, and we have such a long happy future ahead :-)

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Sad endings and new beginnings,

I still managed to miss a week of blogging, even though I had good intentions to get back to my weekly update! Not enough hours in the day.
So, 2 weeks ago we travelled to Prestbury Champ show a day early, so we could leave there at 6.30am on the Friday to whip across to Stoneleigh and the Olympia semi finals. Fern and Cove were as ready as they could be and the excitement built. Unfortunately the day before we had left a tragic accident cut short the life of a gorgeous young talented dog that Fern loved like her own. No matter how she tried, she couldnt shake off her grief and just wasnt able to get in the right frame of mind to compete, so inevitabley they were unsucessful in their goal of Olympia. It was a very sad day, and Fern was gutted that she felt she had let Cove down, but the fact is he is so tuned into her, so totally connected with her, that he knew she wasnt right and he just didnt run as we know he can. Proof of a true partnership. So back to Prestbury with heavy hearts we went.
The new venue at Frampton on Severn was lovely and we took the dogs to the lake for a swim in the afternoon. What a laugh watching Cove trying to swim! Not a natural at all bless him, where as Lily Olli & Dave were like otters. Twiggy just loves swimming and even George seemed to love his first real experience in the water.

Saturday and it was Georgies first time in the ring. My nerves were shot!! I just couldnt believe how much I was shaking as I set him on the start line but I improved with each run. 3 runs and no clears but mainly because George went up a gear and I was being left behind!! Rubbish handling, bad timing but what a good boy he was. Sunday I felt a lot more relaxed, and in the 3-5 agility he did it!! Clear and although he nearly fell off the dogwalk as the judge ran alongside (something he will learn to get used to) it was a lovely run. Then in the Grade 3 agility he did it again, and was placed 10th!! I was so thrilled with him at his first show.
Cove and Fern got it back together and had 3 good places, inc a 3rd place in agility and Twiggy was a star getting 5 top 10 places and starting to look as confident and fast as she does at home. :-) Finished the weekend with 3rd in the Jumping, and a lovely run it was too.
Lily & Olli are still trying hard, and doing a mix of great things and not so great things LOL! Olli is just hilarious, and on a good day beats Lily in grade 6 jumping, but on another day he doesnt even get round the course without me walking out laughing as he gobs off. Lily still looks great just not so well trained as our youngsters, and I am a bit concerned at how un fit she is. She is just that type, that hardly needs any food to keep weight on, and not very highly strung so as she is chilled most of the time she just doesnt keep fit and as she is now nearly 7 yrs old its getting harder.  I will be taking them all to be checked out in a months time, and see what exercises and fitness regimes we can start after their winter break.
This weekend we were away at Gillingham Champ show, and the weather was amazing. I always like this show, and was looking forward to running Georgie again, and trying to handle him a bit better. He just went faster again and left me looking like a fool as I tried to get my timing right! He was so lovely though and managed a clear on Saturday in Agility, and finished 11th out of 190 dogs! When we get it together the future is going to be very interesting! Twiggy was a star again and finished 4th in Agility and 5th in Jumping. Cove was also successful in Agility and finished 3rd in one and 5th in the other.
Sunday has to go down as one of the best days ever for me. First run was Georgie in the agility, and although he was eliminated for putting his head in the wrong end of the tunnel (my timing again) he flew round the rest of the course, looking even more focused and determined than before, and his dog walk was so fast and confident I was thrilled. His jumping I messed up the middle section, but the last line of 4 jumps he bounced every one! Stunning to see. Last run was a fairly hard 3-5 jumping, and although I nearly crashed into a jump, we were clear!! He finished 10th and I was chuffed to bits :-) Twiggy then ran her jumping and flew round like a pro, squealing again as she was enjoying herself so much! She then went clear in the agility, with a slightly naughty A frame, but lovely dogwalk to make up for it, and followed that by another super fast run in G3-5 jumping, around a tricky course, clear again! 3 out of 3 clears and I was nearly in tears when she was presented with 1st in the jumping, 2nd in the 3-5 and 4th in the agility!!! 5 top 5 places over the 2 days, and not a worry in sight. Even spent some time barking at dogs in the ring while we queued, and whilst with some of my dogs that would be naughty and annoying, with Twiggy is was a total break through. 
Lily had a stunning run in the agility but just a pole cost her a place. She looked happy and fast though, and I really enjoyed the run. Olli just forgot what contacts were again so no rounds finished for him :-)
Cove had 11th in the Crufts 6/7 Agility, and beat some really good dogs in that with a very tight confident run. All too soon another weekend has gone, and our calendar is starting to look bear.
It is weird how hard it is to run different dogs even when they are trained exactly the same. Running 4 now is proving quite hard and Fern will run Olli and Lily now and then to give me a break, as I am not as young as she is :-) The one dog at the moment who I feel 100% in tune with is Twiggy. I know exactly how far I can push her, when I can leave her to do it alone, and its a thrill. I know she will win again soon and she really does feel like a dog who will go to the top. Georgie and me have a partnership to build, and I am sure it will come, but its harder than I thought. He is very genuine and tries to please me in every run, but I do need to get my brain in gear a bit more. In training we are fine but as his excitement levels go up in competition I am struggling a bit.
Off to a 2 day show near to us this weekend, so no camping just 2 early mornings to cope with. I love this sport and just love my dogs so much. Life is good.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

12 days and 718 miles.

Excitement brewing, the day had arrived
the dogs all waited on the lawn
Even old Stan was wagging his tail
We shut the back door, key in the Yale
and drove out just after dawn.

Motorways quiet, we made good time
and arrived at Rockingham Park
The sun was shining, a gentle breeze blew
The caravans glistened with mid morning dew
and Olli started to bark!

Soon sat in our garden with flag flying high
The cider flowed from the can
We chatted and laughed with Lolly & Claire
Rog chilled in the sun while I dyed Ferns hair
and Karen slept in her van.

Courses walked all very early runs
The sun shone and the temperature rose
Back to old fashioned contacts, painted wood
No rubber or plastic was surely not good
Will it ever be sorted? who knows!

Bright colours and all different languages heard
The international crew were so cool!
Dogs of all shapes and sizes around
enthusiastic cheers, a team spirit sound
And the "Ketchup" turns seemed to rule!

All of our dogs they worked really well
Cove and Twiggy were probably best
but Olli went clear where all others failed
and surprised me when into the places he sailed
so thrilled at KC Fest!

Monday we left and travelled the route
to Trinity Park in the sun.
Camping in Orange right next to the showers
set up and settled in just a few hours
We just knew we were going to have fun!

Points were gathered all through the week
for ABC, senior & Novice
Twiggy missed her "final" chance but did have a win
Olli surprised me with his runs, and he got in!
Cove too, well he wont miss!

We played Bingo, and went to the Caberet night
But none of us won any money
The Olympics the theme
Formation swimmers a scream!
And the whole time it stayed hot and sunny.

Lots of wins in our camp while we were away
Up a grade went FlynnFlam and Wren
Twiggy shed all her hang ups and fears
Won her jumping then with Cove the Godly pairs
and I just want to do it all again.

Sunday we left for the long journey home
A bit subdued in the van.
We had shared our hols with amazing friends
and none of us wanted it all to end
Not even dear old man Stan.

So the season is drawing too quickly to a close
nights are drawing in all too fast
But a new dawn approaches with young Georgie Pants
Its scary not knowing how he will advance
but I know we will have such a blast!

Next weekend is his debut and also Coves semis
The boys will have to go some!
Fern & Cove will do the very best they can
and I am sure they will do it, if all goes to plan
then Olympia look out, here they come!

So thats it, we have 6 more shows til we finish
and Christmas will quickly be here
But the new ISS diary will come through so soon
and this time the entries include George the Loon
And so we will start next year.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

No excuses, just no time.

I can not believe its been 6 weeks since I found time to write! .......Actually yes I can. Our agility business is busy, Rogers "real" work is even busier, the weather has been pretty rubbish and hindered lots of things, and I dont seem to find any spare time at all. 

So in the last 6 weeks a lot has happened.
We spent a week at our first training camp and it was a blast! Training with top handlers, chilling with good friends, and lots of quality time with the dogs. Would recommend it to everyone as agility obsessed as us :-)

Cove has had a win already in Grade 6, and 2 second places too, Twiggy is still improving in confidence and having real fun around the courses now, with consistent clear rounds, but over the last few weeks had more eliminations, which has actually excited me. She is getting faster and cocky, and has caught me out, so I am thrilled. Now I am going to really start working her properly, and the clears when they come will be winning runs :-)
George is not far from starting out on the scene, which seems bizarre! No more puppy, now a very talented, handsome young man who is showing signs of being a natural agility dog, and I can not wait to start competing him :-)
Olli has had a rest, seen a chiropractor who straightened him out a bit, and suddenly he is jumping more fluently and back looking like a grade 6 spanner. Sometimes you have to take a good look at your dogs to see what is staring you in the face. Still, only a minor injury and thankfully we do spend so much time with our guys that I knew when he wasnt right. 

Lily has been left a bit in the background. Not on purpose, but I admit I thought she was not in need of regular training, and i was concentrating on the 2 young ones when I had a spare 5 minutes, so I am rectifying that now. Its a fact that every dog you have, will probably be trained a bit better than the last. New ideas and gained knowledge will dictate this, unless you are someone who refuses to move with the times or accept change. Lily didnt have the same training, nor did she start from a puppy, being a year old before I took her to her first agility foundation group, so the younger dogs do have a better understanding,but she is still my gorgeous girl, and has done me proud, so we are back on track and going to try and get back to winning ways. Last weekend at Agility Club she had a near perfect run in the Crufts qualifier, just a pole as she stretched to far to catch me up. My fault totally, but it was a reminder of how clever she can be :-)

Cove won the starters cup, and had a second in Grade 6 jumping, 11th in Crufts qualifier, and is looking like a mature boy now......most of the time! It was a fab weekend, with glorious sunshine and great friends to share it with and although it is a 5 hour drive it is definitely one of my favourite shows and we will be back next year.

This weekend we are home, and its our local Folk Festival so we are looking forward to a catch up with non agility friends, before setting off on Thursday next week to the International KC Festival followed by Dogs in Need. The hi light of our year, but also signals the beginning of the end of the season for us. 
Counting down then to Coves Olympia semi final and Georgies d├ębut at Prestbury Park. Not sure which is going to be the more nerve racking for me!!
Will try and get back to weekly blogs now,...............

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Sometimes I think too much

Never seem to have time to do anything these days. Life is flashing past, we spend 90% of it working and already we are on the longest day of the year yet not even seen much of a summer. Fern has celebrated her 21st Birthday, qualified for Olympia Novice semis, and the following week at one of the biggest Champ shows of the year, won into Grade 6 with Cove. Seems incredible. Rog & I celebrated our 21st Wedding Anniversary last weekend too................(.yep you do the maths) and I do really love the relationship we have. Its not all romance and flowers, but a working, best friend, soul mate kind of thing and we are very lucky. All the dogs are amazing, with their faults and idiosyncrasies making them so unique and very much part of our family, and I have to admit they are my life and without them my life would be incomplete. 
Watching people recently, whether in the ring at a competition or just strangers walking their dogs, cars passing by with a dog hanging out the window, lips & ears flapping got me thinking, (and maybe thats not always a good thing!) but I have become slightly obsessed, ...... or am I?
I have learnt so much over the years of owning dogs, and especially this last 2 to 3 years. Like us all I guess. Every dog that comes along is probably going to be slightly better trained, better behaved, more socialised, better fed, ......... Our first couple of dogs, 20 years ago, had a great life, did a bit of the old school obedience training, tried a bit of agility and were fed on cheap tinned dog food, or the first types of complete dried food that were around then that we could afford. We struggled to feed ourselves in those days, so the dogs had what they had. We were young and went out partying most weekends, and left the dogs at home, sometimes all night, and I never worried. We were quite hard on them sometimes too. I admit to a rolled up newspaper (those things we all had before the internet and smart phones) being swiped across a backside for bad behaviour, jumping up, stealing food off the table but thats all we knew. I look back sometimes and feel  so guilty, yet both those original 2 collies lived to the age of 16 yrs and I still miss them to this day.
Now our dogs get fed meat, fish, veg, herbs, eggs and all the additives they need, all natural, and eat better than we do. They are all insured, go to see chiropractors, even hydrotherapy sessions, and have the best shampoos, snuggliest beds, best caged fully lined insulated and ventilated van to travel in and I would not dream of going out all night partying, unless we can get one of my very best friends, Lolly Scott :-) to come and sit with them!! I cringe when I see a car go past with a dog hanging out the window, I look away when I see people walking dogs on check chains, or off lead on a busy street, and I laugh at the adverts for certain tinned dog meats, with "tasty gravy" or "real meaty chunks"  and I wonder if I have turned into a dog snob? We are still not very well off, but these days, if necessary, its us that eat cheap food so the dogs can still eat well!!! LOL!
Well thats it for serious stuff, and now for my usual rubbish.
Cove is amazing, thanks to Fern who is also amazing, and credit has to also go to Lauren, as 4 out of 5 pups from 1 litter she bred, all went grade 6 in the last 2 weeks, and 3 of them also qualified for Olympia. The 5th is also going to be amazing, already looking stunning, he just needed more time to mature :-) (Oooh that was a lot of amazings!!)
Twiggy is really starting to make her presence known, gaining top 10 places every weekend, and loving her life, and I cant guarantee she will ever get further than Grade 4 but I can guarantee she will always be the first on the bed for tea & biscuits every morning :-)
Olli is not looking too shabby in Grade 6, and still makes me laugh every day, and is the most loyal dog I have ever had the pleasure of, and I would still love to get him to the ABC qualifier but if not I know my socks will always be safe while he is around to collect them.
Lily is knocking on the door of grade 7, but it really doesnt matter if she makes it any further or not, she is still the best cat stalker in the world. If she didnt put the cats in their place every day, who knows what anarchy would prevail?!!!
Dave is almost a normal dog now, playing and loving, and so bloody talented, if Fern ever gets him to compete regularly he will win every time. Meanwhile its good to have a "wee brown dog" to suddenly snarl and see off the imaginary intruders that arrive in his sleep. :-)
Georgie is the funniest, most talkative, cheeky white faced, ugly, gangly, skinny ..............ok, the most gorgeous handsome lovely dog, and my first baby and I have no idea how my nerves will cope with his debut on the agility world, but whether he succeeds or fails at that, he will always succeed in making us laugh, and thats priceless.
And of course we still have Stanley. Wall licking, plaster eating, cat chasing, chicken killing, house messing terrier. ...............well that was a long time ago. He is now a real dude. Been there done it got the T shirt, and been through so much yet still here and still funny. Half blind, and selective hearing but can sniff out food from half a mile away!
Research & Development. Thankfully if we are willing to learn and try new ideas, and understand these phenomenal animals who we are so privileged to share our lives with, then we will all be nicer people, and hopefully have very happy healthy dogs. 
If only they could talk.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The weather, disasters and celebrations.

Cant believe its been nearly 6 weeks since I blogged! I have no idea where the time goes, but here I will try to summarise the wonderful Month of May in our lives, and a little bit into June :-)
Depressing start as the great British weather decided to make up for the drought by chucking more rain at us than we really needed. Right up until the last possible minute, we were determined to go to WSBDS as we had not done the show before, and Olli had an ABC qualifier. Not just rain, but strong winds finally decided me to stay home. It just wasnt going to be safe or sensible to travel 125 miles with the caravan, Fern and all my precious dogs, so we stayed home. Fern & I were pretty fed up, but as the weekend progressed we realised we had made the right decision. The second day of the show was cancelled as the ground was flooded, and it wasnt safe for the dogs to continue, so a brave but wise decision made by the show. We were happy at home after all and had a chilled weekend with the dogs. 
The following weekend we had booked to go to Vyne for the day, Bank Holiday Monday, and it would be Twiggy & Coves first show at their new grades, so even though the forecast wasnt good, we travelled to Newbury, leaving at 5am and at least the journey was ok. The day was wet. Miserable and cold but we caught up with a few friends, and the dogs were happy to be competing. Fern ran Cove first in the Grade 5 jumping, and although a very testing course, he made it look easy and only one dog did it faster, so at their first Grade 5 show, 2nd place in jumping! Twiggy was also her usual consistent self and managed a nice clear in Grade 4 jumping, but an even better run in the agility and was 6th!! Fern then ran Lily in the Grade 6 agility and did a stunning run coming 7th overall. Lily still came looking for me at the end, but it was so nice to watch her run for a change, and Fern handled her well. Olli didnt quite get it all together in any course, so although some good bits, he was starting to get frustrated with me and it made me think about what to do for the rest of the season. Poor genuine funny Olli has hit a bit of a brick wall, competing in Grade 6 without basic foundation training, and its starting to show. I made the decision to do some re training with him and take him out of the G6/7 classes for the rest of this season. Its not fair on him when I havent trained him properly.
The following weekend was meant to be a one day local show for us, and yes you guessed it, rain meant the show was cancelled. I have decided at this point not to look at just how much I have lost in entry money. The weather is depressing enough without adding financial losses to the mood! I also feel for the show organisers, who put so much in to staging a competition and if it cant go on it must be soul destroying. So another weekend at home, working on building eqpt and just fun training with the dogs.
We did however go to Silverstone on the Friday for Roger to drive an Aston Martin around the track, an experience day I had bought him for Christmas. It was good fun, and believe it or not it stayed bright & dry!!

The weekend after that (20th/21st May) was Devon County Show, and we were part of the display group for Devon Dogs. Georges first chance to do agility in a ring with crowds watching, and all the noise that goes with a huge Agricultural show. He did really well, and managed to focus on me and the task. The weather was.....damp but had a few clear spells.
It was also Ferns 21st Birthday and we had a big party on the Saturday. Friends from all areas and all circles came, and all in fancy dress. Brilliant night, BBQ, drinks, music and we were still dancing at 4am in the kitchen. Rain managed to stay off until about 11pm so not too bad.

The last weekend in May we had nothing booked anyway, so another weekend at home with the dogs, drinks with friends and more work on eqpt and starting to build with excitement for the first weekend in June and away to Hinckley for a 3 day show....................
Well, the journey to Hinckley was very good, and we set up camp with all our friends, and had a group dinner of Chilli & Spag Bol, thanks to Claire, and including Sharon & Chris from ooop North. Twiggy was as always totally beside herself with excitement meeting her foster family again, and we had a great evening. Saturday morning we awoke to a fairly cloudy dull day, but at least it was dry. Lily & I were in tune and she had 2 lovely clears on some great testing courses. Twiggy was great fun and also had some great runs, and Cove was looking very good. All had ribbons by the end of the day and we settled for another evening with our group, enjoying a gorgeous curry and all the trimmings thanks to Jill :-) 
Surprise surprise it started to rain as the evening drew to a close, so we snuggled up fairly early to bed, and looking forward to the Olympia qualifiers on the Sunday. At 6am all three of us nearly jumped out of our skins as a loud crash woke us. The rain had continued all night and a huge pool had gathered in the roof of our awning. It had finally crashed under the strain, smashing a chair that was under it and crashing a pole into the side of the caravan. Disaster! 2 dents in our wonderful pride and joy Walter, and a wrecked unusable awning. It took us an hour to re arrange our fencing, van etc as we packed the awning away, and I was close to tears as we walked up with Fern & Cove to run in the qualifier. Gutted then wasnt the word, as we stopped to discuss our damage with some friends, Fern carried on to the ring and as no dogs were on the line she went straight in. We missed her run and I was ready to give up and cry myself into a ball, but she was clear, and Cove did everything right and by lunchtime it was confirmed. 3rd place out of 240ish dogs and Fern was off to the semis with Cove in September!!! So glad I had packed that bottle of bubbly :-) 

All the rubbish of the morning paled into insignificance as the dogs continued to amaze us. Sunday it rained all day and was horrible, but Lily managed 20th in the large Olympia Qualifier where there were only 8 clears, and if I had not been out of position she would have been the 9th and maybe qualified herself. All of our friends had great results too, and the weekend actually finished with some sunshine!! You know, that big orange ball in the sky that makes you feel all warm and dry??
658 miles added.
So thats it, all up to date now and just 3 more days until we leave for Thames Champ show and yet more qualifiers...............and the forecast is rain. Oh and I apologise, but thats about as short a summary of the last 6 weeks as I can do, and I have cut it down twice!!

Sunday, 29 April 2012

100% consistency is rare.

Its been a funny few weeks. Last weekend we had our first trip to Newbury show ground this year. The lovely Wallingford show, which is always so friendly and a nice size show too.
Twiggy & Cove are both in that limbo stage between grades, so Fern was going to work all her contacts and really focus on handling, and I wanted to just keep giving Twiggy the boost of confidence she needs to keep on having fun. Unfortunately due to a slight injury, Claires Wren was having a week off, so we were without Lolly & Claire, but camped with Jill and the Cookes & Peacheys and looked forward to a good weekend. Wren was meant to be doing pairs with Cove so Twiggy stepped in as a reserve.
Saturday morning was the Pairs Knockout, and it was mental! Couldnt go anywhere else as we kept winning our rounds, so nearly missed Twiggys jumping, (but I ran her over there and did it, and she was clear) and suddenly we found ourselves in the final. 7 rounds, 7 clears and Twiggy was having a blast!! We came runners up by just 2 tenths of a second, and qualified for the final in August. Both dogs were so consistent and we were so chuffed! :-)
Turned out Twiggy was also 7th in the jumping, and we then ran our agility and got 5th. Cove was clear with very well held contacts in agility, and 6th in jumping. Lily and Olli also had clears in their classes with Lily getting 5th in G6/7 Agility. A Great day had by all.
Sunday Twiggy had yet another 100% day and was 8th in the jumping, because I forgot to give her a small clue as to the direction we were meant to be going!!!, and then a beautiful run in agility gained her a 2nd place trophy! Mrs honest, consistent girl and such a lovely dog to be with. Cove also 100% with 5th in agility and a 5th in jumping, so both youngsters going consistently clear. Olli had a brill clear with Fern and Lily had a jumping clear with me, and our season has certainly started well. Couldn't be more proud of my gang.

I also took Georgie out while we were at Wallingford, and pushed him to see how focused he could be around the rings whilst I asked for different behaviours. There are plenty of taps on posts, lamp post, cones etc around the showground, so off lead I did some wing wraps around anything I could find. Figures of eight, front crosses, shoulder turns and then we did some waits and circle work right next to the ring and he was gorgeous. Really focused on me and the job, so we are definitely getting ready for show time with Georgie pants!!
252 miles down.

This weekend we were ready to go back to Newbury for the WBSDS show but as the week went on so the forecast looked ominous. Thursday morning I was all set to go and risk the bit of wind & rain they spoke of, but by Thurs eve I was wobbling and finally decided to call it off. Fern & I were disappointed, and especially as Olli had an ABC qualifier to go to, but it seemed silly to risk the journey, let alone running dogs in rough conditions. It turns out to be the right decision as Saturday was an awful day and a lot of people gave up and went home, and today the show was cancelled. Too dangerous for dogs on contacts, and boggy ground so they called the show off. A brave decision but the right one I think. Another local show did go on, and although a lot of people stayed away, some did brave the elements. Apparently not quite so bad there. 
Such a shame when the season seems so short, that we have missed a weekend but the dogs don't know any different. They have had lovely walks, even if we all got soaked, and been munching bones and chilling out with us. 5 weeks now though until our next camping and that seems forever!!! 
Oh well, next week we have a 1 day show (weather permitting) and it will be the terrible twins first show at their new grades. I wonder what Twiggy will do?? ;-)

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Highs & lows of spending your life with dogs.

Bit of a short blog this week. Had a fantastic weekend at Kernow Easter show. Spent it with such good friends, made some new ones and caught up with old ones. It was a sociable, happy weekend, and the dogs were amazing. Lily & Olli managed some nice clears, Olli actually 8th in 6/7 combined jumping, which was a real result. Cove managed to come home with 2 trophies, and won into Grade 5, and Twiggy had 6 places over the weekend, including just being pushed into 4th in the Olympia qualifier, and then ended the weekend with a 1st in Agility, so moving up to grade 4. :-)) 
212 miles added.

A very successful weekend, our first one with the new caravan "Walter" and it would have been perfect apart from 1 small thing. 
Becki my old sweet spaniel. 
She trotted out to the van when we left Thursday, very happy to be coming away with us, but by Saturday she changed and I knew it would be her last holiday. Sunday was bitter sweet, as although our young dogs were on amazing form, Becki was closing down. We drove home in mixed moods.
Monday morning at 8.30 I gave her some very nice pills with some sausage, and she settled down in front of the Rayburn and started to drift into fairy land. At 9.30 our wonderful kind young Vet, carried out his final act of kindness and Becki was chasing pheasants at Rainbow Bridge, no longer in pain, no more aching joints or lumps to get in her way. She was in my arms as she peacefully left.
It never gets any easier, but it is the least we can do to give our old dogs some dignity and help them slip peacefully and gently across the bridge. 4 of our girls up there now and every time a little piece of my heart goes with them. 

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The first show done & dusted!

Our first show was Carn Brea on Sunday. It would have been my Nans 94th Birthday, and I just had a feeling it was going to be a good day. Twiggy was in my thoughts as being the one to watch, and she even had running orders that were my favourite numbers, or numbers of meaning. All that superstitious rubbish out the way, I actually had a different attitude. Thanks to some brilliant and thought provoking training over the last few months, I was more positive for the first time in a long time, and I was going to attack the courses and not worry who was watching, or bitching and just put all my training into practice. 
It was also going to be a special day as Sharon & Chris, Twiggys original fosterers, were going to be there, all the way from Yorkshire. I just knew Twigs would be pleased to see them, and we were too as they have become true friends and take such an interest in how she is coming on.

We left at stupid O'colock, collected Claire, Wren Kai & JC from Exeter, and off we went. Very excited.
My first run was the G3 Jumping and time to see if Twiggy would be scanning the ground, looking for an escape route and fearful of the people, dogs, children surrounding the ring. Not a sign of it. The only slight sign of her being back out of her comfort zone was that she didn't quite reach 5th gear, but she sailed round almost on remote control and went clear. Really thrilled and although just out of the placings, she looked happy.
Next was the Steeplechase, and a good chance to just run around, build her confidence without worrying about any weaves or contacts. Well over 100 dogs in the class, and this time Twiggy was a bit quicker, and once again clear! Ended up with a 10th place. 2 out of 2 and I was buzzing. Finally the agility, and it was a nice course, a few handly bits, obstacle discrimination, and A frame to weaves into nowhere, so time to see what she could really do. She listened, she turned tight, she didn't falter until just before the dog walk she saw Fern and just for a split second she hesitated and I saw the worried Twiggy, but instantly she was back in the zone, finished the course clear, and would you believe ended up 6th!!!! 3 clear runs out of 3, and 2 top 10 places at her first show.
It couldn't have been a better start to the season, and thanks mainly to Lauren, Jo Tristram & Mark Laker my handling and most of all my confidence and psychological state is probably better than ever. :-)
Lily and me were also right back in sync and she ran a stunning agility round, finishing 5th in 6/7 combined, and the best bit was she only had one wide turn, and I knew why instantly. It was my fault but I knew that and as she was half a second only behind the winner, I know she is capable of those wins and Grade 7, and for the first time I feel I am ready for grade 7 too. Olli was hilarious, but although we had to "E"s he was flying, and if I can just control his mad spaniel brain he could still do very well. He looked amazing in his jump style, and his drive was incredible, but curbing or channelling his enthusiasm is going to be a challenge!
So finally to Fern & Cove. Coves first run of the day was 4-7 steeplechase, and he did a beautiful controlled and clean run. fern handled it well, Cove did everything right and they ended up 3rd. First show of the year and he has a trophy. Yay more dusting! The 2 dogs that beat him were both grade 6 dogs, and Fern was very chuffed. However in his jumping and Agility, Fern just wasn't quite right and Cove is so tuned into her they made silly mistakes and didn't manage a clear. I don't know if Fern was a bit stressed because Dave was entered and she had it on her mind, or if she had gone in with the wrong attitude, but it wasn't the normal slick partnership we are used to. 
All in all, a good day, the sun shone, the company was great and it was so nice to just have fun with good friends, and our wonderful dogs. 
254 miles The journey begins.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

2 days and counting!

Its has been a mad couple of weeks as usual in this household! Very busy building equipment, loads of training workshops with the gang, and getting the caravan and everything ready for our first weekend away at Easter! 
Lily is looking really good, and finally getting fit. She always takes longer than the others as she is such a chill out girl. Lives on fresh air, and always having to watch her weight, but she is in good shape now and she is still a joy to run, always giving 100%, so will see what the season brings.
Olli is still as nutty as ever, makes me laugh out loud a lot and also infuriates me constantly with his "never quite paying 100% attention" and then blasts round a sequence with ease, and speed and catches me out!! He will always be the fun factor :-)
Twiggy has changed a lot over the winter, and is such a talented little girl! She is so quick to learn, and tries her hardest to please, although there is a naughty streak there now, which is in some way helping in her new attitude. I can not wait to see how the season starts with her. 
George is 13 months old now and still a dream to own. He is a loving, full of character intelligent boy, and has so much to give. He is also mental, a complete psycho when it comes to Dave & Lily. He has to herd and is obsessed!! He also screams and bounces off the wall of the van whenever he gets left in there while someone else trains, so the mad merle is there. I love his attitude though. As soon as I want to do something with him he switches on, and he now works well, regardless of whats going on around him, so the future is looking interesting. He learnt his weaves within 2 weeks of 10 min sessions, and continues to impress me with his understanding. 
Dave has managed a few workshops over the winter, in groups, and has shown that he has grown up. His focus on Fern is pretty much 99% and his ability has never really been in question. He will be competing a few more times this year, and it will be interesting to see what happens!
Cove is just a star. Out of all the dogs, he is probably the most "turn on and offable" 1 minute he is screaming and bouncing on his lead, fixed on the agility and off his head, the next he is crashed out on your bed, waiting for a biscuit and tea. Often found snoring stretched out on the sofa, or out on the lawn in the sun, an absolute joy to own. His training has progressed over the winter and I have no doubt Fern will be bringing home a lot more trophies this season, and Coves future will be a bright one :-)
Our first show is this Sunday, and all 5 dogs are entered and ready to go :-)
Stan & Becki are still with us, but I know very soon I will have to make the hardest decision  any of us dog lovers have to make with regards to Becki. 

She is starting to have more bad days than good days, and if her quality of life becomes any less then it will be a decision I will have to make. The sweetest most loyal, most easy dog in the world who retired from shooting 3 years ago, and very soon adapted to agility camping life, guarding the gate, telling off any young gobby collies that went past, and always very well respected by all of the rest of our gang. Her tail never stops wagging, and even now as her light starts to dwindle, her tail still wags. Always by my side, and always will be and at 15 yrs old has had a wonderful life and taught me so much so the least I can do is give her some final dignity......... just as soon as she lets me know she has had enough.
Stan will live forever :-)

Thursday, 8 March 2012

In memory of Polly 11/7/01 - 03/03/12 RIP lovely girl, and this is Ollis Blog especially for you. :-(

5 years ago next month, a litter of 8 gorgeous puppies were born on the farm where we live. Springer Spaniels with a good background of working gun dog breeding, and I had pick of the litter. I watched them grow and develop over the weeks, and started to have my favourites. Some beautifully marked pups, black flecked, black & white, liver & white, liver flecked, but it was soon to be that I had no choice at all, because the cheeky chubby black & white boy chose me. (I was looking for a bitch!)

The rest is history as they say. Olli came into our lives and was a joy from day one. Funny, happy loving dog, who soon started to show a natural ability for retrieving, and started his training with me to become a gun dog. At around 7 months old he started working on our local shoot, and soon became a very able retriever of pheasants, pigeons and anything else that needed picking up. I had also started agility with Lily so thought I would see if Olli could learn to do that too, just so we had 2 dogs competing and make the weekends away at shows more worthwhile. He took to it so well, he is currently 1 of just a few Springers in the large category that have made it to Grade 6. He also got to the ABC semi finals last year at his first attempt, and was just an A frame contact away from getting to Olympia. I decided a year ago to retire him from shooting and concentrate on his agility career.
He is always my "fun" dog. I cant help it, I just never take him really seriously because he is such a character! Barks like no other dog, on every breath he is noisy, his tail never stops wagging, and he makes me laugh on every course we ever run. He has achieved so much just having a blast, and without real training as I always concentrated on Lily, never thinking that Olli would ever go this far. So over this winter we have been training a bit more seriously. 

His contacts are vastly improved, and pretty much 100% although he still likes to look round to see if I am coming, and wait for me to catch up so still not totally independent. His weaves are amazing, noisy and fast but he will never be brilliant on a left hand entry. We also now have a wait! ....... well we have an Olli style wait, but its improved on last year. :-) So we have a lot of ABC qualifiers to go for this summer, and he will of course compete with Lily in the Large Agility qualifiers too, and who knows we may get to Olympia, and with the right course on the right day, we may even get a win towards grade 7, but whatever happens, I will be smiling and Olli will be barking.
So this is dedicated to Polly. Ollis Mum, who was 1 of my favourite spaniels and 1 of the best workers, and nicest dogs I have had the pleasure to share my office with. So loyal to her owners, (my close friends and landlords) a brilliant steady worker in the field, a strong willed bitch who didn't take any nonsense from the other dogs around our farm, or on the shoot, but didn't have a nasty bone in her body. She also gave me one of the best spaniels in the world, and my soul mate. She passed away last Saturday, with her oldest friend Megan, Ollis Auntie by her side. Just a few months ago she was working and playing like a pup, but a sudden onset of a heart condition meant she spent her last few weeks sleeping in front of our office fire, munching on bones and giving me the odd cuddle, with the little affectionate nibble of my nose just as she always had, and just like her pups continue to do. 
Keep watching over your boy Polly, he may just make you very proud.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Dave & Twiggy

Ok so its been too long, and I keep changing my mind as to who to write about, sticking to my "1 blog per dog" theme, and have now failed!
Last blog was meant to be about Twiggy, but Lily was so awesome she had to take centre stage. This one is meant to be Twiggys, and please don't get me wrong, she is my princess and has changed such a lot recently I could bore you all with her antics every day, but she has to share this with Dave. 

2 weeks ago we had booked on a training day with Sian Illingworth, and for the first time ever, Fern had decided to run Dave in the 3-4 group.We were both nervous on just how he would cope in a group, especially as due to the wintry British weather it was indoors in the barn, and he really doesn't like being enclosed. Fern warned Sian that he was unpredictable and we really didn't know how it would go, and I gave everyone there, our permission to use whatever means necessary to protect their dogs if he went off...............(God he sounds like a fire bomb!!!!) In between working him, Fern put him in a crate at the side of the barn so he could acclimatise to the sounds in there, see what everyone was doing but felt safe.
Ferns first go, and some people chose to move just outside the barn door, in fact I think a couple actually moved out of the County! but Dave sat on the start line, focused. GO! He shot off around the sequence like the pocket rocket he is and was amazing! As the 2 hours ensued, he worked like a demon, beautiful, fast and so focused on Fern I was thrilled. He had one slight "off focus" moment so Fern picked him up and put him straight back in his crate for time out. If he isn't 100% you don't work him. Then as he ran 1 course, he spotted a dog in his line and took a few strides towards her and made the best decision of his life so far. He paused, thought, and turned back to Fern and completed the course! He chose agility and working with his Mum over confrontation. It was a moment I will never forget, and if he continues to think like that he really does have a future. Bless the little Ginger swine, he is finally growing up, and 3 years of hard work and determination have paid off for Fern :-)

In the afternoon we had G5-7  group with Twiggy & Cove. Twiggy was a so much fun. Off lead for the whole 2 hours, bouncing at my side, playing tuggy furiously and even laying down and chilling at one point, while dogs around her barked and worked! So much more relaxed. Every exercise she tackled full on. Enthusiastic and happy, she and Cove were the only 2 dogs to go clear first time on the last sequence of the day, with a tricky tunnel entry and independent dogwalk, she was great! She is a very responsive dog, and my timing will be tried to its limits, as she will pull off anything in a heartbeat, which has both advantages and disadvantages, but I love running her. The best thing is she loves working with me, and no longer worries what is going on around her. She is 1 in a million and I am so glad she came to live with us. :-)
So who will be next I have no idea, but maybe George :-) I have had my lovely toe operation, and spent a few days with my feet up, bored to tears but very well looked after by Rog & Fern, and am now fighting fit and training every weekend with one or all of my crew. Dave has his next group coming up with Anthony Clarke, so onwards and upwards for our little man.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Contemplating Grade 7?

I did say that I would do a blog a week and before the show season really starts, a blog per dog, and on my last blog I said the next one would be for Twiggy. Well its for Lily instead.
Twiggys will come, but last weekend I had a whole day training booked with Jo Tristram, and it was all about building partnerships with your dogs, basic handling and exercises to strengthen both your own and your dogs understanding of different manoeuvres in agility. 

Fern was on it with Cove & I took all 4 of mine, as there would be plenty of chances to change dog, and maybe use a dog on a specific exercise that I knew would benefit that individual.
Jo is a very inspiring trainer, and also straight talking, so you know what's good and what's rubbish! I really enjoy her style of teaching and always come away feeling like I have learnt something.
The first exercise was understanding start lines, and getting yourself in the best possible position as far on the course as you could, with your dog still understanding to take the obstacles before driving into you. From where we were leading out to, there was a risk of the dog taking a jump behind you, and it also needed tightness to wings so I took Lily in. It was her first group training workshop for 2 months and she was fizzing over with excitement! She has always been a genuine wonderful dog, and has done me proud as my first agility dog, but naughty habits and her wide turns had left me thinking that we would stick in Grade 6. I also stand by my comments of last year, that she owes me nothing at all as she got me to Olympia and got me to grade 6, and surpassed all my expectations, so I am happy having fun with her without any pressure. However she worked incredibly well over the first half hour, and started to tighten her turns, and her speed and drive was awesome! She had a new freshness about her. I then swapped her for Olli, who was mad and hilarious but worked really well and most of all didn't knock any poles. Then I gave George a go on a simple jump to tunnel exercise, just to give him another experience of a new environment, new training, and he was fab! Then brought Twiggy in for the half hour before lunch, and she too worked brilliantly showing no signs of the nervous girl of last season, so I have high hopes for her. 
After lunch it was trickier work, the weaves and contacts were brought in and it was course work. I decided to bring Lily back in, and push her round the turns, try new things and utilise what we had learnt in the morning. She was stunning! I made a few errors as usual,(until I had a word with myself,) but Lily was on fire. Her weaves were amazing and independent and her contacts were brilliant and rock solid. She has obviously benefited from her 6 weeks off over Christmas and was back with a vengeance, and reminding me just what a trier she is. I was on a high all afternoon and although she was not the tightest dog there, if I trust her and her knowledge more, and leave her to do things whilst I leg it to get in position, her speed in-between makes up for her slightly wide turns. The feeling of working a dog who you know is giving their absolute all for you, and loving every minute of it, is like no feeling in the world. Me & my girl had a blast, and it made me think that perhaps Grade 7 is not such a mountain to climb after all. Last year I didn't feel ready in myself as a handler for Grade 7 and Champ classes, but as this year is starting to pan out I am feeling a lot more confident and I am handling a lot better. Lily may not have started as a pup, but she is a bright dog and lets face it, if I give her the right signals at the right time, and continue to improve she is more than capable of reaching that goal. She is a dog in a million to me :-)
Its actually quite interesting watching dogs move, whether in agility or just on a run around the fields at home. Lily is very muscular and solid, and although she exudes power she is not overly flexible. She is 100% fit, and was seen by a chiropractor when she had a slight shoulder injury, who said how level and in line she was, but when you watch her she doesn't have a lot of lateral flexibility. Its just her make up, and it obviously has something to do with her struggling with tight turns. Some people can touch their toes easily, others don't come close. Watching Cove & George move, they are elastic! Bendy, flowing dogs who can turn on a sixpence with ease, and Twiggy is a light framed girl, who is not quite so flowing as the boys, but is very agile. Lily is just built differently and I will be doing a lot more warm up exercises now with her, flexing her neck & back gently, just to keep her as supple as possible. After all, she is an athlete :-)