Friday, 17 February 2012

Best Moments of 2011

2011 was certainly one of my best ever for agility. Scandal far surpassed my hopes and dreams as a raw two year old. We had our blips, the flat tunnel phobia in April, the ‘go round’ everything in May, the ‘flat, post-season blues’, the ‘ahhhhh, I’m going to be attacked’ after she was attacked by two dogs in the Spring. But shining through all that was the confident, keen to please little girl just finding her feet and learning to love competition.

Scandal has a strong eye and so spent much of her intitial set up routines in 2010 scanning what was happening in the rings around us, especially if they happened to go over/through anything that made her favourite sound (aframe/dogwalk/tunnel). We made huge amounts of progress through the 2011 season and the vast majority of runs that I did with her she did not flick her gaze away from me at all. I changed several things I did including not queuing. This made such a big difference in that Scandal got on to the line excited but focused, and me in a much better mood not having been exasperated by her poor-ASBO-like queuing antics.

I think in the space of a month Scandal went from immature, slightly awkward looking and not too sure of herself to driven, balanced and confident. This was May. We did one show where I walked her out of a couple of runs in frustration, us on different wavelengths, Scandal mystified and me not getting her. By the end of the month she was on fire and had one of my most memorable weekends – this was SWAT + Packington. She was awesome! I love watching these runs on video. She understands me, and I understand her. We begin to look like a team.

So, our first grade 6 was to be at the end of June. With the words of ‘you’ll struggle in grade 6 [to start with]’ ringing in my ears I had more determination than I can ever remember having, that I was under NO circumstances, going to struggle in grade 6. I had wanted to hold Scandal back in grade 5 until I felt she was ready to handle the tougher 6-7 courses. June, she was ready. I was so excited at the thought of running in G6.

A friend and I went to Mark Laker’s mid June for a lesson in Sports Pyschology. Poor Mark. With me ranging from ‘dunno, I’ve got no goals’ to giggling ridiculously at trying to say my dream out loud, I have no idea how he had the patience. But he did, and I think it’s made a huge difference to how I work. Thanks Mark :)

Lansdown – our first grade 6 run – jumping. She went clear. She won it. Oh, and she beat the person’s time in G7 who said we’d struggle ;-) satisfying, oui.
The next month was a blur of a hen weekend, Jess and Lee’s wedding, me running at Diamond show whilst drunk (winning one class and falling over in the other two), and of course, Scandal going grade 7. In four shows. Caerphilly, we needed one more win – an agility. I ran like something possessed, it is one of my favourite runs ever, Scandal won by about two seconds. Damn that my video camera battery ran out on the run before.

She followed it a week later at Agility Club by winning G6 jumping and the 6-7 Olympia qualifier (by 1.5 seconds). She was flying. Honey was flying too – winning the Crufts Singles, giving her enough points for Crufts 2012, and coming 2nd in the Small Olympia, qualifying her for the semis. Honey’s two 2011 goals… tick.

KC Festival – down with a bump. Scandal was mental. So crazy. I’d walked her out of four runs by the end of the second day. But she was so much fun, a total wild child. Honey was fab, and qualified for the British Open Semi and Nations Cup. Serious amount of fun.

I’d already decided I wasn’t going to do DIN. I was a bit agility’d out, and needed a few days at home, to chill. In the end, we went down to Cornwall, for Scandal to try being a sheepdog. She was amazing, Roy loved her and we had such a fab time. She was such a natural, and would’ve worked until she dropped. We are going again in April. So excited. In fact, more excited about that than the agility show I’m meant to be doing whilst we are down there!

So, September, semis and Scandal’s first champ. Honey delighted me on the Friday by qualifying for the Olympia finals – a lifelong dream of mine. The dream continued when I got to run in Scandal’s first champ – aim was to try and get a clear round (in the agility or jumping). She did better than that, she got 2 clears, and then a clear in the final, AND to top it all off, the reserve CC, I think 0.2 off getting the ticket. That was magic. The following day my dream weekend was complete when I managed to hold my nerve and get Scandal round clear in the 6-7 Olympia Semi, getting a 4th out of 20+ clear rounds, taking us to Olympia.

I’m not sure whether this comes under the ‘best moments’ or not, but in October, we got dog number 5. Yes, we didn’t need dog number 5. And we certainly didn’t need a rescue… or a Malinois. But we got all three in one dog, and this was ‘Jed’ (some of you may know him as Bandit, Milo, Dexter or Zak from Many Tears). Fate has a funny way in how things work out. Jed certainly contributed to a lot of the worst moments of 2011, but some of the best too. I will write more on him when I get a chance… that will probably be next year, lol.

And finally… Olympia. It’s weird. I can’t write about Olympia. I have only watched the video a couple of times. I will just summarise. The most electrifying agility competition that I have ever been to, so much pressure, so much atmosphere, and something that everyone wants to win. Honey was awesome. Bless that little spaniel. 2nd in the pairs and 2nd in the Final. I couldn’t ask for any more from her. Scandal just did a couple of baby mistakes, but ran the course superbly and I SO want to go back!

So that sums up my ‘Agility Highlights of 2011’. 2012 and Rix has just turned 13, and last weekend did two 10 mile walks with us. Scandal and Honey had 6 weeks of no agility, just lots of walks to keep fit (ohhh, plus running off for Honey, so she is now back on lead for most of her walks). Hopefully I will have as much fun this year running the two ginger dogs as I did last year… very exciting that the show season starts back in just a couple of months!