Monday, 19 November 2012

The Last Show of 2012

I always have mixed feelings about Dartmoor. It is nearly always my last show of the year, so it is great to see everybody one last time, it's well organised and the venue if fab... but it is usually cold, wet and despite being an indoor show the dogs always get muddy so it serves as a reminder of why we save our agility for the Summer (what Summer? I hear you say).

I had attended the North Petherton Carnival the night prior to the show and so the drive to Okehampton was a long one and I found myself walking Hex's course over and over with not much sinking in and handling decisions not being made, just noted as options for when I get there. Needless to say that this meant that I actually only just about managed to bodge my way around the course, Hex doing a majority of the work and just having one pole down - whoops!

By the late morning/early afternoon I had, had something to eat, a can of Rio (my favorite!) and was ready to rock it with Stitch. I have spent the Summer building a bond with Stitch and have been trying to maintain a calm focus whilst queuing; often resulting in me sitting on the floor with Stitch to show him how calm and not bothered I am (yeah right!) but with Dartmoor being indoors, not only did we not have anywhere we could sit but the atmosphere was extremely intense and I was worried about how this would affect Stitch's waits and contacts. Nothing to worry about - lovely clear, straight into the lead.

Hex had just 5 faults in her jumping (another pole), but it felt messy and like I wasn't as confident on the course as I could have been, Stitch however aced the very similar medium course and won the class by over 2 seconds. I have watched the video back in slow motion and I am so pleased with how he is reading me and responding to me and the trust he has now put in me. In April when I started running him there was mixture of timing and trust issues along with a certain defiance but we have worked through this to form a great partnership and as a result, finished the season with 2 out of 2 wins. Video Below:

Part of Dartmoor Show is the 2 minute silence we hold each year as part of Remembrance Sunday. All rings come to a stop as our thoughts turn to those who have served and/or continue to serve for and defend our Country. This is always something to behold at Dartmoor because not only do all the humans stop to reflect but all the dogs silence too! Debbie informs me that there were 591 dogs entered at Dartmoor show and yet at 11am the soundtrack of excited noisy dogs which you come to expect at a show turns to utter silence, instantly. And as quickly as it stops, it starts again when the 2 minutes are up. Our dogs may not understand why we stop their show, but I think it is lovely that in their own way they put their lives and excitement on hold. Many animals serve and are lost at war, we must never forget how lucky we are to have such special creatures in our lives and that man is capable of building such a bond with these animals that both parts of the partnership would entrust their life to the other.

Stitch - 1st, 4-7 Agility
Stitch - 1st, 4-7 Jumping
Gill & Mollyanna - Clear, 4-7 Agility
Gill & Kassey - Clear, 4-7 Jumping

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

UKA - Still not for me

Every couple of years I go back to a UKA Show to see if I like them any better than the last time I went.

I must say that the SWWS UKA Show I went to a couple of weeks ago was the best one I have been to, but it still just can't compare to a KC Show. These are the pros and cons as I see them:

UKA Pros:
- Training in the ring. Whether it's taking a toy in the ring in a competition environment for specific-instant-reward,or re-working contacts and re-working waits
- Nursery Classes enabling 16mth old dogs to have a go in a competition on 'young dog friendly' courses and equipment.
- 4 runs a day
- Lovely rosettes
- Measuring at every show
- Normally at least one ring indoors
- Cash prizes when you get to the big Finals!

UKA Cons:
- Unable to work out when your run is due to entries being taken on the day. 20 dogs somehow took over an hour to run in one ring! That ring ran on so late that they had to bring the last classes indoors as they lost the light outdoors!
- No formal presentations, just names read out - come and get it off this pile of rosettes on the table. No chance to shake anybody's hand or thank the judge in person. One of the best things about judging is giving out the prizes so I don't like this from a competitor or judges point of view.
- 4 Jump heights. Rather controversially, I don't believe a 4th jump height is required for UKA or KC. When I started Agility our dogs used to jump 2ft 6", we had a collie who would have measured Medium/Midi under the new regulations and she used to jump 2ft 6" - did this slow her down, yes, obviously because she was not built for the sport but she enjoyed what she did and did it to the best of her ability. My point is that if a  person wants to take up 100m hurdles and they have short legs, they are never going to make the Olympics; they can still train and set their personal goals and strive for their personal best, but nobody is going to lower the hurdles for them  and cater the sport so that they can do better and go further in it.
Stitch has been measured twice as under 430mm at KC and therefore is Medium by their standards, at the UKA show this week he measured 434mm and therefore out of Midi and into the Standard height (I'm not sure how that is, but I know a number of KC Medium dogs who have had the same problem), I will not jump him at standard height because he has hip dysplasia and I think the extra 4inches he'd have to jump for the sake of 4mm in height is an unnecessary strain for him. If he had measured Large at KC he would also not be competing, but I will not be demanding a 5th jump height to cater to him at UKA or would I agree with a 4th height at KC. Hex actually measures 'Standard' in UKA, but I jump her at the next height up 'Maxi' because that is what she jumps at KC. Yes, jumping her at Standard would give her a competitive edge (and would mean I wouldn't be trumped in each of my runs by Pat '4 wins' Conibere. teehee) but she can jump Maxi comfortably and regularly does, so why change that?
4 Jump heights also means more 'faffing' as they change the jump heights and some classes go with no dogs being placed because with the smaller class sizes there is more of a chance of everybody being eliminated - this happened in at least 2 classes at the SWWS Show.
- Smaller classes actually mean larger queues in some cases. If there are only 20 dogs in the class, everybody thinks it is okay to turn up at once regardless of their running order.
- With the amount of classes, rings and height variations and surprise entries there is an element of 'organised chaos' which puts me on edge. Maybe this is how people feel when they first start KC Shows, maybe it's because I have more than one dog to run (or did have until Stitch was measured), maybe it's just me?
- Confusing website and annoying entry process.

Looking at those lists, the pros do outweigh the cons, particularly if you have a young dog, but for me the madness and rush just isn't worth the hassle of having my name read out and my rosette chucked on the table  for me to pick up and I know Agility is about the dogs and the fun they have, but they're not having a good time when I'm rushing to get them warmed up and to a ring and they get stressed in the long queues. Hex actually ended up being knee'd in the head by somebody as they ran through our queue to get to the ring next door in a panic that they had missed their run, I was relatively near the front of our long queue and she was stupidly running through the queue and in front of it to get to her ring where there were no dogs.

I have entered Hex in the January SWWS Show as it is just 6miles from our house. But I won't be running her, Matt will. As I don't do UKA's my dogs are in Novice, which means Matt should be able to walk ad handle the easier courses which he can't do in G6-7 KC Classes.

UKA Shows just aren't for me... until maybe Voodoo needs some ring experience and then maybe, just maybe, I'll give them another chance.

Hex - 3rd, Novice Jumping
Hex - Clear, Steeplechase 1 (even with a huge loop which I would have marked as a 5r)
Stitch - 3 out of 4 Clears but 'NFC' (Not For Competition) as I ran him at Midi height.