We have at long last joined UKA after being told good things about it by several different friends.
Off we went on Saturday morning to Walton-on-Thames and the UKA Waverunners show. It was very windy and cold with April-type weather rather than March. One minute it was dry and the next it was raining in short sharp bursts. We were very lucky that we didn't actually do any of our runs in the rain. This was pretty amazing as we had five runs with each dog. I understand that normally each dog can enter four classes but this club put on an extra steeplechase class making the number up to five.
We went back again on Sunday and it was a much better day weather wise. Andy actually enjoyed himself whereas on Saturday he wasn't that keen. I was going to go back by myself on the Sunday but he decided to come along and I think he was glad he did. We also made sure to wear warmer clothes and take along our foot and hand warmers. To be honest we hadn't expected it to be so cold on the Saturday and hadn't really dressed appropriately. God, you'd think we'd have been prepared - how long have we been playing this game!
Anyway, back to the show. I absolutely loved it. It was so wonderful to go to a show and spend time with my dogs. I missed out at Mid Downs as I was judging but even that wouldn't have been as good; competing at indoor shows just doesn't compare with being outside, not to me anyway. The non-competing dogs didn't have such a good time Saturday as it was so cold we just kept them wrapped up in their coats and mainly in the car but on Sunday they all had a wonderful time. Andy took Becky and Murphy for a lovely walk and Murf found a football (his favourite thing in the world) and Becky found a little pink ball. They came back exhausted. Poppy had at least three outings and spent the whole lunch break irritating everyone with her little purple ball. Kizzy and Niamh were kept very busy needless to say.
On the Saturday Niamh actually had six runs as they re-started the senior agility due to a slippery dog walk. I had already decided not to put her over the dog walk as I'd seen a dog slip and fall twice. Instead I elected to do a training round and missed out the dog walk. The look on Niamh's face when she did a perfect A-Frame and was rewarded by her ball. She was a very happy girl. Shortly after the decision was made to re-start the class so we got another go. Niamh worked really well on Saturday but had one pole down in three of her classes. This is very unusual for her but I do believe she has speeded up and it took a while for her to get used to this herself. In her snooker class she was brilliant. We did all the hard stuff and then I made a handling error and got her E'd on the very jump that had we managed to take the right way would have given us a qualifying round. Stupid person. In her last run of the day (senior steeple chase) we finally got it right and came 2nd.
On Sunday we really got into our stride and had four qualifying rounds out of five. I let her down with bad handling in the one class we got wrong. Once again wrong end of tunnel was my undoing. I really need to think this through and start training it better. She was faster than I am used to which didn't help but I was still a plank. Her other rounds were great and we ended up with one clear steeplechase run; first place in senior agility; first place senior steeplechase and 2nd place in gamblers. Although I chose to compete in all my rounds (apart from the one I mentioned) I did try to get something extra from each run. I tried to improve my startline (with varying degrees of success!); I tested out different starting positions for myself in terms of Niamh focusing on her line rather than my position; I tried hard to put in front crosses where I would naturally choose to rear cross and other things like that. Overall I was a happy bunny and Niamh was a very tired little girl. I so love working her, she is just the best dog in the world - apart from Poppy of course!
My little Zeki had a great day on Sunday with lots of little training sessions around the rings. I took Bernadette's advice and had either a play session or a food session and didn't mix the two together. I was very happy that Zeki was doing tricks and tugging around the rings. We also did some corrective training when she lunged and screamed at dogs working in the ring and I think she is starting to understand that it really isn't acceptable to do this. I am sure it will always be a managed approach but I can live with that!
Kizzy had a pretty good weekend with lots of rosettes. She won a couple of steeple chase classes, came 2nd and 3rd in two others all with qualifying rounds. She was placed in lots of her performance classes but sadly not with qualifying rounds (i.e. she had faults). Andy has work to do in a couple of key areas: one is Kizzy's weaves; she seems to have regressed a little in this task but more worryingly she has learned to flick away from Andy in places he actually wants her to come towards him. We haven't quite figured how he has managed to train this but we need him to untrain it rapidly! That said I think sometimes we need to stop and take stock that their partnership is still a very young one. She has won a lot and sometimes that can be more of a hindrance to onward development (well IMO anyway!)
I had a very similar experience with Poppy. She was a very quick little dog in her day and we won up to the top level at a rapid rate. Then we ran into problems because our partnership hadn't cemented properly within the competition environment. It took a couple of seasons to really come together after winning into advanced level. That's what I like about my partnership with Niamh. We have developed quite slowly, certainly compared with my previous partnerships, but our confidence in each other has had time to mature and is very strong.
I'm not knocking in any way the dogs that get to the top early in their careers, just really musing that I rather like the slower route for myself. I am sure Andy and Kizzy will get it back together; they are very much a partnership in progress.
We had great company the whole weekend with Leah, Jay, Bernadette, Dennis, Dan, Karen and Becca. We had some good chats, good laughs and a lot of fun. I also got to meet Vicki and Simon for the first time after exchanging blog conversations! Nice to meet you!
I know a lot of people knock UKA (um, I think I might have been one of those people in another life) but it is a lovely atmosphere, a bit like agility was when I first started. It doesn't matter that the classes are small. You still have to perform with your dog and I still get huge satisfaction from doing my best round whatever the environment. I still love the KC shows (well most of them) but I think for pure enjoyment for me and my dog the UKA show rates as one of my best experiences!
Guess what ...... I loved it and I can't wait to go back to another one!