We travelled down quite early on the Friday to help Leah set up her courses. Once we'd done that we chilled out with a glass of wine or three. I ran Herbie round Leah's course so that she could make sure it was easy to judge. He is lovely to run, so obedient and responsive. Leah let me bring Zeki into the ring to have a little play. I am very grateful for this because I need to get her in as many different places as possible to try to get on top of her desire to chase. She was really good and didn't try to leave me at all even when Leah was trying out parts of her novice course with Hex. We managed this without any food at all so it gave me confidence that we will get on top of this aspect of Zeki's nature. Quite by accident I found out that Zeki is very happy to jump full height - yikes I couldn't believe my eyes!
It was a weekend of two parts for both Andy and I. Neither of us got our dogs clear around a single course on the Saturday. This sounds really awful but in reality it wasn't quite that bad because we didn't actually have any disastrous rounds; just the odd mistake which spoilt otherwise reasonable performances for me and in Andy's case probably cost him a couple of really good places if not a win. All positive stuff just not quite coming together. It sounds like I'm making excuses but we scribed all day for Leah and there's no doubt it's harder to run your dog well when you just go and grab her from the caravan and charge off to the ring without any preparation. That's not to say we'd have done any better without ring partying but I do think it makes some difference to your attitude let alone to the poor dogs who get left most of the day. We made it up to them with a nice long walk at the end of the day.
Sunday was a glorious day and I have panda marks to prove it. I wore sunglasses all day and forgot to put on any sun cream until lunch time! My first class wasn't on until after the small and medium agility but was running over the same course. Leah said I would love the course and so I went up to the ring to take a look and had a walk round whilst it was set at small height. I absolutely loved it. It had a bit of a European flavour with obstacle discrimination and two fairly tricky weave entries. The finish was a bit scary though. I walked it to cut off the corner but even so that was one long run! With regard to the obstacle discrimination and weave entries, I decided that I would trust Niamh to do as she's been trained and if things didn't work out then we'd go away and just train harder.
Meantime Andy and Kizzy set up on the line. Andy wasn't very optimistic about his chances and I really don't know why because he and Kizzy put in a fantastic round. He left her to find both weave entries and she bombed down the long finish. She did very solid contacts as Andy is trying really hard to be strict about them and even so she finished up in 3rd place a fraction behind her kennel mate - Timmy with Peggy. I think it was possibly the best round I've seen them run together.
Before I knew it it was my turn to run the Naughty Niamh. Sadly I don't have Niamh's run on video as Andy has been helping me with her in the queue. I'm not taking her back until about two dogs to go and it does seem to help as she doesn't get quite as wild. Still pretty bad but at least I'm less stressed!
I really enjoyed running the course. It was cleverly designed so that you had to work the whole way round but there were no horrible angles or twisty bits and no pull throughs for a pleasant change. Niamh did exactly as I'd hoped and picked up the dog walk and both weave entries all by herself. There was only one place where I forgot my job and that was as she powered out of the collapsible and went a little too deep. However when I did call she responded immediately and didn't attempt to take the back of #20 which caught out quite a few. I think I was so amazed that we'd got that far I just stopped thinking for a nano-second and I was very lucky to have such a responsive partner in Niamh. The other thing I was very grateful for was Niamh's finishing ability. Once she knows she's on the home run she leaves me in the dust as she just wants to get to her toy. Boy was I thankful for that on Sunday! You'll see why when you look at the course plan below!!
I couldn't believe it when Andy said we were lying 1st in the grade 6 section. There were a lot of dogs to go and I've been in this position rather a lot so I didn't get too excited. However when the class closed a couple of hours later we were still in first place so at last we have started our progression to Grade 7 and I am just a little bit delighted! What is also pleasing for me is that we would have finished 3rd overall just a fraction of a second behind Mark Douglas and Ruby. I saw their round and it was stunning I never thought I could almost match it. The grade 7 was won by Leah and Herbie with one of the smoothest fastest rounds I've ever seen them do.
This weekend for the first time I felt that Niamh has started to unleash some of her power in the agility ring. To be honest that was why we got eliminated in our rounds on Saturday as I had completely lost my timing on turns and she was taking obstacles I didn't even expect her to look at.
So a brilliant weekend. Not what I'm used to as we are normally a consistent partnership and instead of several placings we had several eliminations but most importantly the longed for 1st place! One down; three to go!
Here is the course designed and judged by Anthony Clarke.
and here is a very tired Naughty Niamh with her rosette and rather nice trophy: