Olympia has been and gone again for another year. We had the most fantastic time. However many times you get to go to Olympia the thrill never diminishes. My Naughty little Niamh wasn't naughty at all, she was fantastic. She coped well with the atmosphere at Olympia and when in the arena focused on her job just as well as any of my other dogs. I truly did not expect to get through to the final and had focused my sights on getting a place in the afternoon pairs event.
We set off from home at 6.00 am when Leah and Jay picked us up. We met Leah's friend Wizz for the first time. She was great and proved to be a real support throughout the day. I guess she understands exactly what people need in these situations as she competes in dressage and so understands all about nerves, hopes, failures and successes etc. We arrived at our pre-paid car park just outside the Olympia hall by about 7.20 am, we were the first people there but others soon started to arrive.
We took ourselves into Olympia, literally and two minute walk from our car park and got the important things out of the way: a visit to the ladies; coffee and wrist bands (in that order!) Then it was the usual waiting around for things to begin. At last the ring party and judge arrived and we were given our copies of the course plan. My heart sunk a little as it was obvious that the course was pretty quick. We studied it long and hard and made sure we knew the pattern really well before going into the arena. Naturally you can't be sure of the spacing and angles but the course plan at least means you know where you're going and is very helpful, especially for the events which are held in front of the crowd when you get a very short space of time to walk the course.
The event began and we were allowed into the arena to walk the course. It was a pretty accurate reflection of the plan but one or two sequences that had looked trappy on paper were in fact a bit easier in reality as there was more space between the obstacles.
My running order was 26/36 so I left Niamh with Andy until about 15 people had run before I went and got her. As usual she was a bit of a handful as she gets very excited watching other dogs run. I thought she might behave a bit differently at Olympia but she was exactly the same as always. I made sure to warm us both up for the rather long run ahead.
The course ran fast as expected but as always there were mistakes occuring. Some of these mistakes were undoubtedly due to nerves and if there's one thing I can control it's my nerves at events like this. I have been to rather a few of them and have learned how to turn negative feelings into positives. That said I was very nervous in the build up but once I was in the arena with Niamh I worked on being confident and positive to help her as much as myself!
A large proportion of dogs took the first jump down and in chatting with Toni she mentioned the same thing happened with Minx (and others) in the medium final on Thursday even though it was a different course set up. My own feeling is that people were trying to get as far as possible up the course and the fact that it was a collapsible tunnnel following the first jump meant, perhaps, that dogs were focusing on the tunnel mouth more than the jump. I also felt that a few people turned their shoulder to run before their dog had committed to that first fence. I resolved to stand in my recall position until I saw Niamh clear that first jump.
I ran after David and the wonderful Dobbie. What an act to follow. I didn't actually see all of his round as I was prepping myself and NN for our run. I surely knew it was a fantastic round by the applause!
Niamh sat like a little rock as I left her for a fairly lengthly startline recall. I actually managed to hold onto my resolve and dear little Niamh easily cleared the first jump and then we just had to go for it. I'm not sure I actually handled my dog very much, I just tried to move as fast as I could. In my head I could hear Andy and Leah saying "RUN, MOVE" so I tried to take that advice! I could also hear Bernadette saying "BELIEVE" so I did my best on that front and trusted Niamh to do her job - she did so absolutely brilliantly.
We ran clear and I was shocked to be told I was in 7th place at time of running. That we ended up in 8th place overall is just amazing and as well as qualifying me for the final gave me a huge confidence boost in my slow little dog! She was up there with some of the best dogs in the country and we hadn't let ourselves down!
The only downer for me was that Leah & Herbie didn't make it through to the final. They looked to be having a superb run but had a glitch in the final corner before turning for home. Although Herbie was clear this cost them too much time. The good news is that they qualified for the afternoon pairs and did a stupendous run with their partner Ian Dobbison and won!
Here is the Naughty Niamh having a little rest in the cafe after her run and before I took her for a nice walk in the park!
At last after much waiting and chatting about lots of nonsense, the final arrived. I was second to run as I'd ended up eighth in the morning's competition. Right up until I went on the line I was undecided about which side to go down the dog walk. I made the wrong choice and pushed Niamh off the side. But do you know what, I have no regrets as I really tried hard and my dog was a super star.
I felt really happy to be part of a great final with a worthy winner in David and Dobbie. Their round was just faultless and lovely to watch. Toni and Kite came in 3rd, that is some achievement for a dog who is almost ten years of age. They are still a team to be reckoned with for sure.
We had loads of support from our friends at Olympia including Karen, Mand, Elspeth, Sara, Pete, Val, Heidi and others by text. Bernadette and Johanna were with me in spirit and I could feel their encouragement inside my head. It was really lovely. Andy was, as usual a brilliant groom. He knows when I need to be quiet by myself and when I want to talk. Jay was a brilliant chauffeur. Leah was amazing. Despite her own disappointment she was totally supportive of me and the Naughty One and gave us loads of support and encouragement. Thank you to all my friends for helping to make this such a fantastic day for me and the Gorgeous Naughty Niamh! I am so pleased that Natalie, Niamh's breeder was able to see the final on Euro Sport!
Here she is doing her stuff!