Saturday, 23 April 2011

Happy Birthday Becky

Happy Birthday to our Becky, eleven years old today. Bless her little heart.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Catch up time Pt III - European Open Tryouts 2011

Zeki qualified for the EO Tryouts this year. She got some good places in the qualifiers during 2010 and I think we qualified well up the table which was pleasing in itself.

I could not decide whether to accept the invitation to enter the tryouts as it came at quite a tough time. I had just lost my mum and had the pressure of Crufts looming. I was 'persuaded' by my friends that I should enter and so I did. Well actually Bernadette did so on my behalf as I was too stressed to even complete the entry form.

The tryouts were held at the Lincoln show ground alongside Lincoln's own agility show. A really lovely venue even though a rather lengthy 3+ hours drive. Bernadette and I travelled up together and stayed at a B&B which was only 15 minutes from the venue. You can read all about that on the Obay blog!

The judge for the tryouts was Yvonne Croxford and I was really hoping she would be setting some testing courses. Yvonne did not disappoint. The courses were complex and tricky. To be honest, although Zeki and I have practised lots of hard combinations at training we have rarely come across difficult courses during out competitive time together. Most of the medium courses we have run tend to be based on a grid. I like courses with shape, challenges and hard weave entries. Boy we got that at these tryouts! We ran our best and I am very proud of our attempt. We only got one clear but that resulted in a 2nd place and was enough to put us into the final round. Although we were eliminated on the other courses they were not what I call 'disastrous' eliminations but purely as a result of a poor handling technique or a fractionally late call in just one spot of the course.

I was very pleased to get into the fourth and final round and we tried our best and did some great bits and one not so great bit at the weave entry.

At the end of the day I reflected that I had really enjoyed the courses; that I had some great sequences to go away and train; that I had a new confidence running Zeki prior to our first championship class in May and that I had had a thoroughly enjoyable day with some lovely people.

I was chatting away to someone when I heard Leah shouting my name. Everyone had gathered for the selection announcement and I was ringside waiting to clap those who had been picked, whilst talking at the same time. I can multi-task you see.

I ignored her but she kept calling me, in the end she called very loudly and I think I turned and said "what?" Bit rude but couldn't she see I was busy! Everyone started to laugh and Leah shouted to me that I'd been picked for the team and to get my ass over there. I was so shocked I couldn't speak. Then I was tearful, I just couldn't believe it. We had been picked to represent Team GB at the EO's in Austria. Oh my god!

Here is a picture that Bernadette took on her iPhone (hopefully a couple more to come from Candice when she has time to download them.)

Medium Team GB - Europen Opens Austria 2011

I am so proud of my special little dog. She was a star. Here are her videos from the day:

Catch Up time Pt II : Crufts 2011

I accepted the invitation to judge Crufts four years ago and before I knew it the time had arrived. I found the whole experience quite daunting but ended up really enjoying it thanks to the support of my friends, Andy and the fantastic team of people at Crufts itself.

I wrote a report for the various magazines which outlined my experience so here it is for posterity published on my blog as it does sum up the event as I remember.

I received the invitation to judge at Crufts 2011 in July 2007 and was delighted to accept; it seemed so far in the future that there wasn’t anything to worry about, but boy those four years flew by!

In 2010 I was at Crufts to support Andy when he judged the championship finals. I watched him up on the big screen looking very smart and I watched Natasha looking beautiful and slim and then I had a melt-down. Next year that would be me up on the big screen and you know what they say about television adding 10lbs to you. That triggered a big change in my eating habits and I have Crufts to thank for losing a good deal of weight. Let’s hope I can maintain that!

Before I knew it 2011 had arrived and in January I received an e-mail from Dave Jolly letting me know which classes I would be judging – I had twelve courses to design. Shock horror, it takes me ages to design one course! I had a deadline to work to and as always I went to the wire (why do I do that?) I had several bouts of histrionics but eventually the courses were designed and I felt a huge sense of relief as I sent them off to Dave. Thanks to Andy for his support, how he put up with me during that time is a miracle!

I am very lucky that I am able to set up courses to try things out at home, with friends and on training days. That said I didn’t have a lot of time to do this but I did manage to work on my international agility final and some elements of other courses. I guess it should go without saying, (but I’d better say it anyway) naturally I didn’t share the courses with anyone who was competing at Crufts and in most instances people were oblivious to what I was trying out as I didn’t tell them! Thank you to all my friends, some knowingly and others unknowingly, for indulging me in this.

I travelled to Birmingham on the Wednesday for rehearsal day and it was well worth the effort as I had the chance to set up five of my courses. The ring party provided dogs and handlers to run the courses and it was a great confidence-booster for me knowing that the courses ran as I had hoped with just a few minor tweaks. That said they could still end up a little different on the day as the courses aren’t marked out in advance; they still have to go down from the plan but in the main they all got set up pretty darn well thanks to a great ring manager and ring party.

Several people said to me to make sure I enjoyed it because it would all be over before I knew it and those words proved very true. I kind of did enjoy it despite my anxiety. I am a very nervous judge and fret terribly about getting the courses right for the level and not letting down the competitors. Having competed at Crufts many times over the years I am very aware of how important it is to everyone and how nervous people get. Funnily enough I wasn’t nervous about judging in front of lots of people or the television cameras, it’s getting it right for the dogs and handlers that makes me worry and that’s the same wherever and whenever I judge. It is also quite stressful getting the courses set up within very limited time frames.

I found I enjoyed each class retrospectively rather than at the time. I got lots of comments from friends asking me to SMILE more but to be honest it’s not something I could think about as I was concentrating so hard. Smiling just wasn’t on my agenda!

Overall I was happy with the way my courses ran and wouldn’t change very much at all so I guess that kind of says I achieved what I set out to.

The support team at Crufts is phenomenal and I was looked after really well both in and outside the arena. Nothing was too much trouble and every single one of them helped to make my experience one which I will always remember with pride. The amount of work these people take on is quite incredible and I for one will never ever take what they do for granted even if I have been guilty of doing so in the past.

I think I could go down as the first and probably last judge to dance in the main arena at Crufts. There was a gap before the finals in the circular knockout partly to allow the competitors to recover and partly because the event was running ahead of schedule. So, on came the popular Scissor Sisters track; what was I supposed to do, stand there like a lemon or dance around like an idiot. Naturally I opted for the latter. Another bonus was meeting Ant and Dec; lovely guys even though I don’t watch their show and didn’t have a clue what it was all about!

I think my last word should be about the competitors. This report isn’t about results as I was asked to write about the experience rather than report on who did what. However, I would like to say that all the competitors were fantastic and I got to see some awesome runs on all my courses. I have to mention by name Dawn Weaver and her exceptional dogs; they gave me nothing to judge, just amazing displays of near-perfect agility; the awesome Zen and Bernadette Bay who ran clear in all of their seven classes; Will Rolfe who won the Crufts singles when I truly thought it was in the bag for Dawn and lastly all of the international competitors who attacked the courses with such energy and enthusiasm. You all inspire me to train better and harder! Good luck for 2011.

Below are some pictures, thanks to Maria for the photos of me with the lovely Declan. I met Ant as well but didn't get a photo with him. They are both lovely but Dec is the nicest (IMO!)

I look a bit shocked in this photo, Declan is signing my niece's book for her. He was so lovely.

Looking a little perplexed. Perhaps I couldn't remember the course pattern!

Obviously I got one clear round along the way, although I think I clapped everyone!

Thanks to Lian for catching me in judging mode, it's nice to have pictures to go with my memories of this amazing experience!

Here are my course plans from Crufts 2011:

Catch up time Pt I : Olympia; End of 2010 Agility Season & the Garden

At last I feel like posting on my blog; I really miss keeping it up to date but I just haven't had the heart for it lately. However at the weekend my special little sheltie made me very happy and I want to record that emotion on the blog so here we go with part I of a megga update completing with very good news (well for me and Zeki anyway!)

End of 2010 Agility Season

Both my girls were brilliant last year with Niamh getting into four champ finals and Zeki winning into G7. We are really looking forward to our first champ class in 2011!

Here they are with there 2010 hauls.

Olympia 2010

I was proud to have Naughty Niamh at Olympia for the second time. We had a great time despite the worry about getting home through the snow. As it happens we were fine especially as we were travelling in Jay's super duper 4x4. We ran clear in the morning event but were just out of the top ten times. There are a couple of places I could have saved precious time but hindsight is a wonderful thing! I was thrilled that Niamh was so close to the qualifying times. We got to run in the pairs and she ran clear again; our partner had a lovely run also but picked up 5 faults.

Here are Niamh's videos and some pictures. I so love Olympia. Whenever I watch back video of Niamh it makes me proud and quite emotional as her honesty always shines through to me. She is such a wonderful dog and I am so lucky to have her. I know, I am biased but that's how I feel about her.

Me and Naughty Niamh at Olympia 2011

The little snowman Dan and Mac built in my front yard for when we returned home!

Niamh with her Olympia rosettes at home


I had written on the blog back in the Autumn about the work we were doing on our long border. I am excited about this as we have put lots of new plants in and it's lovely to see them start growing.

Right now we are just finishing the lovely display of spring bulbs and we have to wait and see what else will happen this year. Obviously it's going to take time for it to mature but it's still so much better than the mess it used to be. Andy has cleared a couple of areas and put down grass seed. The downside of this wonderful sunny April is that the new grass isn't growing very fast as the ground is too dry.

At last my bird house/table has been fixed. Andy made this years ago and we had it at the old house but the post had rotted and it has laid under the shrubbery here for nearly four years. Whilst I was at Shuttleworth show the other weekend he mended it and it's lovely to have it back. You can see it in one of the pictures below.

Here are some pictures of the garden.

During March when not much happening

Above and below the height of the daffodils and tulips, really gorgeous

A few tulips left but now bluebells starting

It seems to be a really good year for pansies. Ours are looking gorgeous and some of them we planted before all the snow last winter and they have survived. Julie who helps us in the garden gave us a tip to feed them once a week with tomato feed. It seems to be working!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Happy Birthday Poppy - fourteen today!

Happy birthday to darling Poppy my beautiful little girl, fourteen years young today. Here she is on her birthday which is an absolutely glorious April day. We are going out to the garden centre and there is a nice pet department so Poppy (and of course Princess Kizzle) will be coming along for an outing.