Monday, 21 September 2009

The easy put up and down tent

I must get one of these, they are brilliant for day shows and as you can see from the photos so easy to put away at the end of a long, hot, tiring day when you want to make a quick get away.


Stour Valley 2009 and our little house guest

We've never been to Stour Valley as we're normally away on holiday during this time. I was a little uncertain as I'd heard one or two reports that the ground wasn't brilliant. I'm so glad that I went as it's without doubt one of the nicest shows I've been to. The land is owned by a couple from the agility world and it's very well kept and provided a lovely venue. There were six rings and it was extremely well organised and relaxing. The day parking was brilliant as we were right in front of the rings so not too much walking!

On Saturday I went by myself and took my three girls plus Zaz who has been staying with us whilst Bernadette was in Austria at the FCI World Championships.

I loved all of Zeki's courses as they were full of interest and no up and down straight lines. In fact a couple of them were actually quite tough considering they were for graded from 1-4. We didn't achieve any clear rounds but all of the runs were really promising. The best one was a tricky little jumping course where, for some reason, Zeki went under the first jump and then had a good look at the timing cable running underneath. No idea why she did that but I did take her back and re-set her. She then completed a faultless round which I was very happy with.

Her confidence level had risen massively since Burnham just a week ago. I had worked on her drive away from me on straight lines/finish line and it really showed. She had definitely improved on this front and is now actively driving over the finish looking for her lead. This I am very happy about! She also had more commitment to jumps and demonstrated this by staying out on corners by herself. That said she did a lovely round in another jumping class and I pulled her off the corner but that was really my handling and not her lack of commitment. Silly person. In all some lovely runs with just the odd mistake.

I also made a change to her start line routine in that I got shot of it. She wasn't focusing and was not really enjoying the set up. So we went back to our original start line which is just to get her to sit although I am making sure to take off her lead before I position her so it is an improvement on mine and Niamh's routine!

Niamh ran well and I was back in tune with her (phew!) We had a couple of nearly runs and one clear in which I trained her contacts as it was one of those border collie-only classes which I'm not keen on but at least it had contacts!

We had a lovely day and I made sure that Poppy and Zaz had time out around the rings. On one occasion they were out for over an hour and both were exhausted when I took them back to the car. Here they are ringside whilst I was walking a course.

Zaz and Poppy waiting for me while I walk a course

The day was absolutely glorious, in fact it was too hot at times but our little crowd (Liza, Leah, Karen, Sian and myself) had a great time with lots of laughs.

Here is a picture of Zaz with Liza and Bernard (Leah's current foster puppy). He is too cute and a real character. On Friday at UKA he found my soup cup under my chair and cleaned it up. It got stuck on his nose and he ended up with a big orange circle round his mouth. Same as I do when I've had tomato soup and nobody bothers to tell me!

Bernard, Liza and Zaz

On Sunday the weather didn't look so good. In fact we drove through pouring rain. It continued raining at the venue until about 9.30 am when it stopped and luckily stayed dry. It was still a nice day but much more overcast. Probably the best day for Andy and Kizzy to come along as she really isn't too keen on the very hot weather. Kizzy did really well and won the G7 agility and came 3rd in G7 jumping. Naughty Niamh and I were back in tune and got all three of our rounds clear getting 2nd in G6 agility (just pipped at the end of the class); 6th in G6 jumping and 10th in the border collie helter skelter class.

Zeki was amazing and we gained two clear rounds: one in the team (in which there was a slight misunderstanding between Andy and myself during the baton change) and in her graded 1-4 jumping which she won! She won the class by quite a margin and was actually the quickest dog overall. It was quite a straight forward course with a couple of handling points and a horribly offset jump in the corner before the blue tunnel which I honestly didn't think we would achieve! Her other rounds were agility and I think she probably would have won the second of these. However, her dog walk in the first agility round was not good as she targeted far too soon on the down plank (my fault, not hers) so I decided in the second agility round to go a little silly and wind her up just so she came off the dog walk happy. This she did but we missed the contact, oh well! In the first agility found she worked beautifully but ran past the weaves, I think I should have checked her in so it was really my fault. I am uncertain when Sian's commentary on the video was directed at me or Zeki! It made me laugh anyway!

Zeki proudly showing off her trophies and rosettes from UKA and Stour Valley

I had loads of support from all my friends at the weekend which is really lovely. Thank you!

Here is a video of my little Zeki doing her stuff. Please excuse the dog walks, this will be our autumn/winter project.

Lastly here are some pictures of Zaz during her stay with us. She has been a good little girl and fitted in very easily with our doglets.

Chilling out on the decking

Posing with her new best friend

Asleep after her busy weekend at UKA and Stour Valley

Making herself at home

Zaz with Zeki and Kizzy her two sisters - all three from different litters

Below are some pictures of Andy doing some "jump into my arms" training with Zaz

UKA at Apps Court Farm, Walton on Thames

I decided to go to UKA on Friday, mainly because I wanted to do a bit of training on the dog walk. I'm really glad I went as it was a nice day and I took the dogs for a lovely walk around the big exercise field.

My mind was very much on Zeki and this meant that I was hopeless with poor Niamh. I didn't get her clear round any of her courses and felt quite depressed on this front. I really hoped this wouldn't become the norm!

Zeki was great. Her confidence had grown immensely and we managed 2nd in our first novice steeplechase (she won out of the beginners steeplechase at the UKA week show) and we also achieved 2nd place in the Beginners Jumping. I opted to train her agility run and Leah helped me with her target. It was all going well until she took a horrible tumble off the dog walk but was unhurt and so we tried again and luckily she bounced back with no problems.

I took Zaz along with me for the day out and she had lots of outings round the rings as well as joining my three on their walk. Needless to day I had Zaz on a harness and about six leads (only joking!) She was very cross that she was on an extender lead as she wanted to chase Zeki.

All in all a lovely day, I really do enjoy the UKA shows.

Zaz looking cute in the top deck with Zeki on the lower deck!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Burnham 2009

Once we had found the venue (our sat nav took us the scenic route which was a bit scary as some of it was down single track lanes!) we got settled in. The venue is lovely, it's so nice to be camped somewhere without road noise! The exercise area was OK but had previously been used by stock so the ground was very rutted and also full of cow pats for the dogs to munch on! The ground was very dry and in the camping area you had to be careful as there were big cracks that could easily cause damage if you put your foot down or indeed a dog did the same. Luckily the area where the rings were set up was much better.

We really enjoyed the show, it was very relaxed but well organised and the courses were all great. One of Zeki's courses had quite an angle to the A-Frame and a combination after but she coped really well.

I was so pleased with Zeki at the show. She took everything in her stride although she was a little less confident than normal. I noticed this immediately as she didn't bark on set up and sat on the start line almost as if she couldn't believe she was actually going to be allowed to do agility! Possibly that's because I've done a lot of queuing with her (for Andy and Kizzy) and she has got used to this but then it hasn't come to anything.

Most of the things that went wrong were my fault in that my timing was poor. I didn't allow for the fact that she wasn't quite as confident as in training and I kept pulling her past jumps that were set slightly on a corner. In training she takes these in her stride but here she was pretty determined to stick with me (ah, that's so sweet!) In one round she ran under a jump which is very unusual for her but when we looked at the line we realised that she was focused on me as I did a very long lead out and the jump pole from her sight line was merged into the long jump. In another she popped out of the weaves but I just kept going as I want her to have fun and build speed.

My biggest disappointment is of course the dog walk which I kind of knew would be the case. It's not Zeki at all, it's my training. I have messed about with it so much that the poor dog hasn't really got much clue what I want. For now we'll just have to keep going with what we've got as I want her to have as much ring experience as possible. However it is my priority to get this right in training.

I also need to practise snakes and keeping my shoulders straight. You'll see in one of the little video clips how I pull her straight across the first jump of a snake sequence. Bad handler!

All of the above said I absolutely loved running her and had the best time. She was fab. I was so pleased with our pairs result. I think I tried much harder in that as we were part of a pairs team and I didn't want to let Kizzy (or Andy) down. Sadly I forgot to ask anyone to film that round so our one successful round remains only in my mind!

I was pleased that I managed to run Niamh well even though my mind was focused mainly on Zeki. We got a 2nd and a 5th place on the Saturday. I was really pleased with the 2nd as it was in agility and I made sure we had solid contacts as I've been pushing them so much lately to get that final win into Grade 7. On Sunday she had two lovely rounds with a spectacular layer that was so good we actually completely missed out a jump that I forgot we should take and a really good round with a winning time but the last but one jump down. So all in all more than happy with the NN's performance.

Kizzy worked brilliantly on the Sunday and got 6th in a jumping class. She flew round her agility class but just missed her dog walk. Andy has much work to do over the winter with her contacts. Right now he isn't doing any correcting at all as he just wants to build her speed and confidence. She was much happier on the Sunday when it was cooler, Saturday was really hot and although she ran well she definitely prefers the cooler air as we saw by her performance on Sunday.

Here is my video of Zeki's first KC show and also a couple of NN's runs.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Zeki's first show - Burnham 2009

Just a quick posting (will do a more detailed one later with some video!). We've had our first show and it was just brilliant. We managed one clear round which was in the pairs with Andy and Kizzy and we actually won the class! Here are our two girls with Zeki proudly displaying her first KC rosette. Lots of mistakes but loads of positive stuff and a whole long list of things I need to work on!

Lovely show, great weekend, more later!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

It's almost time!

Well, the time is almost here - Zeki's first KC show and I cannot wait. I am so looking forward to our first competition and I don't care what happens as we're going to have fun!

I just can't believe where the time has gone since I collected this little bundle of joy (and noise!)


and now:

Bring it on!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Letchworth & Pedigree Pairs Final - Naughty Niamh is Grade 7

Well, off we trecked to Letchworth. We had a nice camping spot, again courtesy of Jan. We drove up separately as I was off to the pairs final on Sunday and so it made sense for me to have my own vehicle.

I like Letchworth show as there are lots of nice trade stands, the atmosphere is good and there is a huge exercise area where you can give your dogs a really good run. I love venues that have a good exercise area, too often there just isn't any space for a decent walk. I like my non-competing dogs to have a good time and also I think it's important for my competing dogs to wind down with a nice walk. The downside is that there is quite a bit of walking to and from the rings but do you know what I don't care because on the Friday we actually won a jumping class. This made our fourth win and at last we're into Grade 7. I can't tell you how happy I am!

My previous three collies (Bess, Abbey and Poppy) all competed at advanced/grade 7 and so it's a matter of great personal pride to get Niamh to this level also. I had competed in the championship classes since they first came into being and have missed being a part of this competition during the last two years since I retired Poppy. I am really looking forward to Scunthorpe which will be Niamh's debut in this class. I don't care what happens, I'm just so delighted that she has made the grade.

It was my goal to get Niamh into grade 7 this year and hopefully before Zeki started her KC competitions. I just made it as Zeki's debut is fast approaching this weekend at Burnham show. More about that in a future posting.

I don't much like blogs that are just boast boxes but Niamh was such a little star this weekend that I am going to do just that! On Friday she got 1st in G6 jumping and 4th in G6-7 agility and on Saturday 5th in G6 agility; 6th in G6 jumping and best of all 2nd in G6-7 agility coming second behind Dave and the lovely Rusty (one of my favourite partnerships).

On Sunday I headed off to Stoneleigh with my three girls. I arrived in time to have a look round the trade stands and bought myself a new jacket and a new bed for Zeki. Oh and a pink fluffy turtle for Niamh (her present for winning into Grade 7!) I will post a picture of Zeki's new bed in due course. It's wonderful!

We had a warm up jumping round first and I decided to take it fairly steady in this round in order to keep the poles up and not wear myself out! I didn't do any fancy front crosses or the like, just worked her from behind and she put in a good clear round a second or so off the winning time.

The pairs final was more or less a reverse of the warm up run and a very quick course with my dreaded wrong end of tunnel. This time I knew I would have to get into position much quicker by using front crosses and work hard on the wrong end of tunnel which I am so bad at. Leah and I were running #9 and we followed two stunningly quick pairs (one of which went on to win the competition.) We looked at each other and concluded we would do our best but hey, we'd have fun. We truly didn't believe we could come anywhere near the times of either of the two rounds we'd just watched.

Well, we did. We beat those two runs and I am so proud of Niamh and Herbie. Niamh worked the course like a dream and her line to wrong end of tunnel was the best we've ever achieved! Sadly our pairing gained five faults with a knocked pole but I still cannot believe how we performed. I had mentioned in my commentary card that it was sixteen years to the day that I had won the event with my beautiful Bess and my partner Pete Bishop with his lovely dog Tom. I truly didn't believe that all those years later I could still put in such a good performance. Our time was beaten only by Mr Derrett and his partner. Greg's young dog is very fast and their partnership had 10 faults in a slightly quicker time.

This is a rather boasty blog entry but it doesn't happen often and I just want to get across how very proud I am of my beautiful, gorgeous girl - the Naughty Niamh.

The Naughty Niamh with that very special red rosette

On the journey home from Stoneleigh I reflected how many times I have made this journey for all the different events over the years but more so how very lucky I have been with my wonderful dogs. Even my very first little dog Lizzie got to the team and pairs finals. Thank you Lizzie, Bess, Abbey, Poppy and now Naughty Niamh for giving me so much fun and joy.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Dordale summer show

Hurrah, once this post is complete I am up to date with the blog!

I love Dordale's two shows. There is one in the spring and then the late summer one. I was very happy when it was announced that they were changing the venue to Top Barn Farm as I love it there. There are beautiful panoramic views from the site.

Jan had saved us a lovely camping spot right on the fence and just one row from the rings. It was very windy when we arrived so we decided not to attempt putting up the Fiamma awning and instead just had a little windbreak garden. It was very nice. We took the t.v. along so that we could watch X-Factor on Saturday evening. I know I said I wouldn't watch it but I am hooked (and so is Andy but don't tell anyone!) It's because Strictly hasn't started yet so I had nothing to watch on a Saturday evening, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

On the agility front we both had a fantastic time. Kizzy won all three of her classes on the Saturday: two agility classes and a jumping class. What a good little sheltie she was. She was feeling rather tired on Sunday and only managed a 3rd place but I don't think Andy was too worried!

Naughty Niamh won her third grade 6 agility so just one more to go. We almost did it on the Sunday with a rather scrappy jumping round but were rightly pipped at last knockings by a better round. It was quite a tricky course and I didn't think I had a hope of getting round it. I made several mistakes but each time managed to recover, thanks to my wonderful dog, and ended up with a clear which went into first place. We weren't beaten by much so of course I wished I had worked harder and gone in with more belief. I have big problems getting focused for jumping classes which is very silly as Niamh's last win can be anything as her three wins are all agility. We also achieved 3rd place in a fast circular jumping class which was very unexpected. This year we have had nine second places and three wins so I am now starting to believe we can get to G7! Must keep focused!

This weekend we're off to Letchworth and on Sunday on to the pairs final at Stoneleigh where we'll be running with Leah and Herbie.

A lovely walk at the Witterings

I have heard of the Witterings as my friends often walk there. Bernadette suggested we go for a walk there during the week after the KC Festival. So on the Thursday off we went for our first taste of this lovely place. It was very windy so that meant the beach was almost deserted.

I took Murphy, Poppy and Zeki and Bernadette brought just Itzy. I can't take Becky to the seaside because she drinks the sea water and makes herself really ill. I wasn't sure how busy it would be so decided against taking Naughty Niamh as she can be a bit of a handful and Kizzy was just too tired!

We had a lovely time and Poppy was in her element as she loves the water. Here are some pictures from our time at the seaside:

Ears Utd

Almost up to date!

Well, I'm almost up to date with the blog. This next installment is really just about the KC Festival. Not much to report really as we had rather a lean time with our girls agility-wise. Andy and Kizzy were not really in tune and made silly errors but did manage a couple of clears with one 10th place. Niamh was great but my head wasn't in the right place and we just didn't quite get it together. We had a few placings but nothing spectacular.

We weren't in any of the finals in the main ring this year which was disappointing but it did mean we got to watch our friends taking part and the best bit was that both Todd and Zen qualified for Olympia. It was an exciting semi-final and a clever course which caught out a lot of handlers.

We loved the new venue at Kelmarsh Hall but there was still a lot of walking to do. Our camping spot was nice but it couldn't have been further from the ring where I judged on Saturday. By the end of the event my legs and feet were worn out!

Typical, my ring was last to finish on the Saturday. I judged one part of G6 agility (large) and G7 agility all three heights. A lot of dogs to get through. Our ring change was fast because I only tweaked the course and had already marked out the second course with paint the night before. We took just under an hour for lunch but were still last to finish. It's too much in one day, certainly for me.

I was disappointed that I had to take out the dog walk for the small and medium dogs but there was no choice because the wind was very gusty and about five large dogs were blown off the dog walk. I replaced it with a jump and the collapsible tunnel and so it didn't change the way the pattern ran too much.

I was happy with the way the courses ran. I think some people thought the G7 was a bit of a blast but it was actually quite difficult and lots of people came unstuck. The people who got it right made my day as their rounds were stunning. Here are my courses including the altered version for G7 medium and small dogs.

Grade 6 agility

Grade 7 agility (large)

Grade 7 agility (small and medium)

We stayed on at the KC Festival on the Sunday night and went home on Monday. We decided not to do Dogs in Need this year as we have done so many other things and something had to give. I was very disappointed on the Monday that we weren't going but by Tuesday I was glad we had chosen to have the time at home catching up with the garden and work. It was only the third time we've missed DIN since it started but sometimes I think you need a break and I am looking forward to going back next year.