Been back in Perth nearly a week now and have finally found the time to update my blog. I forewarn of much euphoric happiness in this post because yes, our trip was just that good. Better even than the Victorian Nationals last year (Even better than winning three events and making three finals!).
We left Perth around 4.30pm on a Thursday afternoon and the flight was pretty smooth and uneventful (apart from a guy falling unconscious momentarily and a concern that we might have to divert – no chest pains though so he survived just fine) and we landed in Canberra around ten past ten at night. I had ordered a Ford station wagon from the hire company which apparently translated to a Toyota Kluger 4wd. *Shrugs* No extra charge but not quite as roomy in the back as the station wagon so Spryte’s kennel travelled on a slant which was no problem for her – just annoyed me. But the superior driving experience of a nearly brand new Kluger made up for it. Took us around 45 minutes to follow Glenn and Robyn back to our accommodation which was about 35 minutes out of the Canberra CBD (and therefore in another state! We crossed over into NSW on the way!). The Christmas Cottage was great and is probably one of the best places to stay when you have dogs. Between the 8 of us we had 18 Border Collies and 1 German Pinscher and there was plenty of room for them to run around in.
Friday was a fairly laid back day – we trooped down to EPIC (Exhibition Park Showgrounds Canberra) to watch a bit of the herding, scope out the grounds, put up shade and collect numbers. That was all good and then we (Rosanna, myself and the three dogs) took off for a drive towards the Snowy Mountains and visited a very pretty little town called Cooma. I really wish I had taken my camera and taken pictures but it just got forgotten. Anyway this town was gorgeous and we had lunch there and the dogs got to run around a bit before we checked out a few spots for look outs and had some spectacular views. Stopped in at EPIC on the way back after stopping off at the grocery store to pick up a few items to give the dogs another opportunity to stretch their legs. Spryte was the only one going in the show and I soon realised the Canberra red dust was going to mean her bath on Thursday just wasn’t going to cut it for the whole weekend. Canberra grounds are very dry, red, caked and baked clay and dusty. We came home and had a BBQ with some decent scotch filet steak that I filled up on knowing I had 15 runs ahead of me the next day and knowing that I rarely have the time or the inclination to eat anything at trials.
Next day we were up at 6am in order to get our asses into gear quick enough to get down there for 7.30am given the first showing event was on at 8.30 and that people would be walking the first course in agility then. I also had to give Spryte’s legs a clean up with some spray on water and soap, the soap ended up a lovely caramel colour by the time I’d finished but with a bit of talcum powder she was looking freshly bathed again so all was good! Novice Agility was first and none of us were in that but next up was Excellent Agility and it was a nice flowing course that didn’t look to have too many possible problems. Spryte found one though! Deciding to self release on the a frame because apparently she knew where the course was going next, she cut across the front of my feet and took a spread jump backwards instead of heading to her left and onto the seesaw! Instant DQ but I was happy with her run apart from that. Next up was Open Agility and this was nested with Excellent so it was no time before we were walking this one with the distance being a number of jumps on a pinwheel. They started with the 400 height and so Spryte was up pretty quick and I am pleased to say she did this one perfectly, held her seesaw and handled very nicely to go clear and eventually win the class! This is awesome because Raven won this class back at the first BC National in Sydney 2006. Raven also did the course beautifully but I think the first run of the day and she was feeling a touch punchy and decided to apply her brakes a little late on the seesaw the first time and came off it when it was still in the air! After we redid that though she had no issues with any other contacts all day. Cypher was going very well till about 5 obstacles from the end when he hit the weavers for the first time and didn’t quite cope with how springy they were as they were nowhere near as pegged as we have them here and he kinda bounced off the first two poles more than usual and it literally looked like he got sling shotted out of them and missed a gap! He kept weaving completely oblivious! The dag! Took him back and redid them after realising he needs more of a stride check before entering these poles. Apart from the weavers his run was very smooth.
Masters Agility up next and just Raven and Cypher in this one. Raven handled like a dream even with her handler interrupting her flow a little when she pulled her off the right jump and had to bring her round! Raven was heading straight for the spread and for some reason in my head I had “No no! We pull right hard here Rave!” Well yes Simone you pull hard AFTER the spread you idiot! Anyway we ran clear in that one with her doing everything perfectly and it was good enough to win the Masters Agility class at the 2nd BC National! Onya Rave! And on your 9th birthday too! How cool is that?
Cypher did everything I asked and I couldn’t have wanted anything else from him but I think I must have overcompensated (read: got a little paranoid) about the weavers thing because I ended up getting a refusal at the weavers with my dithering about getting him to stride check more – he just ended up barking in my face as though asking what my problem was and are we doing the weavers or not?? Ooops. Oh well you get that...his run was very nice apart from that little glitch.
From there we started the Masters Gamblers class and in the meantime the judges went for lunch and we could walk it as much as we needed to. Spryte was busy up in the showring by then with Robyn and I am pleased to say that from about 42 Intermediate females in that show class she got cut to the top 11. I was just chuffed she made the shortlist! Then I was back down planning for Raven’s course in Masters Gamblers. I was grateful to see no pissy little weave points – so no 4 poles or 6 or 8 poles....there was just the 12. And they were in the gamble with the dogwalk between you and your dog. The trickiest part was getting them on the right angle going into the gamble so that their momentum would take them out to the weave poles. I actually finished my opening sequence quicker than I thought (I had anticipated Raven tiring fairly quickly as 45 seconds is longer than she spends on any course usually) so getting the angle wasn’t a problem in the end and she completed the Masters Gamblers class clear and with enough points and a fast enough time to win! So that’s her second National Masters Gamblers win after taking out the Victorian ones last year.
Excellent Gamblers next and the gamble nowhere near as hard this time so I tried to make sure we got the weavers in twice and did all the contacts twice, Cypher gave me everything and I was absolutely thrilled with it despite a nail biting moment in the gamble section where he nearly didn’t find the dogwalk due to the less than ideal angle I’d put him onto the gamble with! But I just kept up my verbal cues (read:yelling) and he eventually got the message....luckily fast enough to complete the gamble, make enough points go clear and win it! What an awesome day it was turning out to be! Raven had completed two winning runs so far, Spryte had Open Agility and now Cypher had Excellent Gamblers.
Novice Gamblers was next and the gamble this time was completely different – four simple jumps made much less simple by having them span across the middle of the course virtually! It would be a challenge to make sure that A. The dogs didn’t take more than one of them in a row in the opening and B. To make sure that none of those bars got knocked! I came up with a plan for Spryte that steered most of her opening sequence as far away from those jumps as possible but that still accumulated enough points – I didn’t quite get through all of my opening sequence plan (seems the contacts were not quite what they were at the start of the day funnily enough and we had to redo an aframe) however we garnered enough points to pass and just had a minor hiccup with the last jump of the gamble, she’d thought we’d finished but then realised when I was still frantically running the gamble line and arm signalling the last jump that perhaps she had one more jump to do! The last jump was at a different angle so she just didn’t see it in her path. Thankfully she did it in time and surprisingly for me (since we didn’t get all the points we could have) she won this class too! The last half of the day was dedicated to jumping and we started with Masters Jumping. Brian Hillier designed a fast flowing course with a couple of subtle challenges. Raven and I got on the start line and it turned out to be one of those runs that you just want to bottle. She and I were totally in sync and the run was one of the smoothest, tightest MJ runs we’ve done in a while. I knew when we finished that it was a good time and she was more than ten seconds under the SCT. I was kind of grinning like an idiot by that stage, not quite believing the day could go any better. And then Cypher surprises me...I ran hard, really hard and he was with me the whole time on that course never letting me get to far in front of him, his ground speed will never be as fast as Raven’s but with closer handling his turns can be tighter and as a result he finished that run less than a second and a half behind Raven which for him is something special. Ultimately Raven and Cypher ended up in 1st and 2nd place respectively and really? Can’t do better than that. *Is still beaming*
Open Jumping was next and Spryte was first up in that and she felt a little slow through the weavers so I was wondering if she was feeling tired. Anyway she pointed out a challenge to me that I hadn’t recognised when I was walking it and couldn’t see a jump in a side by side jump tunnel discrimination. So I fixed that with Raven but by then I could see the efforts of the previous four runs had taken their toll and she dropped a bar. We finished that course with the one fault and I had never been more pleased with her than that day – she’d had a ball and had worked really hard to give me everything she had. That bar only came down because of a lack of confidence in my directional cues so for a dog who I have spent vast amounts of time on working on her bar knocking this effort today was just absolutely brilliant. Cypher came the closest to a clear on this one, he was four obstacles from home and shot out of a straight flexi tunnel so fast that I was unable to redirect his trajectory quick enough to avoid a refusal on a jump set slightly offside before the last line of jumps to the finish line. Think I must have been feeling tired by then too. It didn’t bother me in the slightest though I must admit...the day had been brilliant enough!
Last run of the day was about 5pm in the afternoon and they were hurrying to get through the runs before the light went. Spryte was in Excellent Jumping. And given her run in Open Jumping I decided she must be feeling as tired as I was by that stage (I had had little sleep the night before and had even consumed a V energy drink during the day which I normally avoid) and so I had given her a small handful of Advance biccies in some water after Open Jumping, hoping that might pep her up for Excellent Jumping. I don’t know if those helped or if she’d just managed to sneak in a super power nap between OJ and EJ but she was firing! We had about 18 obstacles and we finished that course clean and in 20.23 seconds! I think adrenaline was the only thing powering me by that stage and somehow I managed to keep up and a little ahead (the course design did help that – plus a dog happy to run straight out to a tunnel whilst you got your own ass in a better position) and we finished our last run of the day off with a win! Yes, I’m still beaming.
I was a little shell shocked by our successes that day I must admit. I’ve been playing this sport for nearly 14 years now and never has anything gone quite that well all day for me. I’ve had great days for sure and I can recall them just as vividly but this? This was just amazing...and all on Raven’s 9th birthday. A dog currently in remission from Canine Lymphoma and still receiving chemo. Out of the nine events I had entered that day, between the three of them they managed to carry off the first places from seven of them! I’m so happy I got to take them all. Spryte’s improvement from her first trip east back in August last year to now is really quite noticeable and I have to admit that whilst I know she will never be another Raven (honestly I don’t think there ever could be no matter how fast they were) she is proving to be just as much fun to run in her own right as Raven is. When the time comes for Raven to retire I just know Spryte is going to be just as much of a thrill to run as Raven was.
I managed to get some photos of the dogs - thanks to Lara Sedgeman, one of the National photographers and I post them here. For all her agility photos of the Nationals go here:
waiting for the cue to leave - either that or he's just making
sure we can all see his best side.
jumping style Cypher!
Performing the difficult distance challenge with style!
Note the improved jumping style on this one!
Cy on the Excellent Gamblers course having fun!
Raven's first run of the day - seems her ABS was not quite
up to par!
So we did that one again - and this time did it right!
Having a ball on the Masters Gamblers course.
Open Jumping course.
Two shot sequence of Spryte's winning Open Agility
seesaw! She totally looks like one of those frou frou showdogs here!
So the upshot of this trial is that we came home with a seven brand new Silver Eagle Cool Coats, embroidered with the Nationals logo, a brand new Black Dog trialling gear bag (thanks to Cypher’s 2nd place in MJ) and seven 9kg bags of Purina Pro Plan. No I didn’t bring those back on that plane with me. I managed to sell four thank goodness and bring one bag home (along with a 2kg bag) and only ended up having to give away two of the bags. I’ve sold two of the Cool Coats, I’m keeping three so still have two available for sale if anyone is interested. They retail between $105 and $120 and I’m selling these for $100 each. The National logo on it is quite nice if anyone is interested let me know. Of course I need to show what the coats look like. :-)
Now I’m pretty sure that Spryte has her JDX title but it seems I cannot find her cards for it. The cards I’ve found add up to four passes so far. I am going to have to go back through her results to see if I can find them and see if I can find the cards. Or maybe I’m wrong. Either way she has picked up her fourth pass for ADO so only one more to go on that one and she is now into Excellent Gamblers. She has also one more pass to go for ADX. Cypher has one more pass to go for his SPDM title and one more to go for SDX. Raven is now sitting on one pass left for SPDM, three for GDM still (that seems a lot to me but again I can’t seem to locate any more cards) and four for Masters Snooker. The next trial up is another games trial so that will be good to try and finish off some titles. As soon as Raven has her GDM title though I’ll only enter her at big events for that one – 60 seconds non stop at that level of intensity definitely takes it out of her energy wise (not to mention my obvious need for oxygen at the end of those runs and I’m not even doing any obstacles!) so really unless it’s a National or a Royal or a Classic we won’t be doing the GDM class too often.
Since being back the most I’ve done is take the dogs for a run around the Canine grounds so it will be back to training next week, our next big event being the State Agility trial I guess, Friday and Saturday April 17th and 18th. Spryte will need much more repetition on her contacts and further proofing. There are lots of smaller less used skills that we need to work on too. I was very pleased with her start lines all day Saturday, she was in a rock solid sit on all of them and I should remember not to let up on the reinforcement of that during our training sessions. The next Border Collie National is being hosted by the Tasmanian Border Collie club – hopefully in 2012. I just hope it’s in the latter half of 2012 because I’ll need some financial recovery time after doing a trip of around 5 months at the end of 2011, early 2012 to the US, Canada and Alaska. But I must admit I’ve always wanted to visit Tassie and really – what a perfect reason to do so. I’d definitely make it a two week trip at least I’d think. It would be fantastic if they could organise it in school holiday time but that could be just me.
In non-agility related news caught a horror flick last night at the cinemas – Friday the 13th and have to say, for a person who never does horror films usually, I was entertained.
One might suggest I’m easily entertained these days but I beg to differ, I am pretty sure the older you get the harder it is to be entertained by things whether they be people, books, movies, tv or various other past times. Perhaps it is because the genre is quite new to me, cinematically speaking that is. Anyway as far as horror movies go I can see why it broke opening box office records for the horror genre in the US. It did help that it had one of the Supernatural boys in it I suppose but still....worth the $8 voucher tickets we used.
Probably better than My Bloody Valentine as well (sorry Jensen) because there was a definitely much more on the edge of your seat kind of feel to it.
Another hobby I am currently trying to cram into my somewhat bursting schedule is learning the piano. I came home from Canberra to a Casio piano keyboard (yay for Mr Tim! *mwha*) and I am determined to learn how to play my favourite pieces of music.
It could be a challenge because I am not that keen on the actually learning how to read music part but god bless the internet and Youtube for wonderful How To Play videos that show you where to put your hands and fingers. In the back of my mind I’ve always had the impression that it’s a pretty special talent to be able to play the piano but in just these past few days I have come to be just in awe of those world renowned piano players because who knew how hard it is to have your left and right hand doing totally different things AT THE SAME TIME!!!! Honestly you’d think having the whole Gemini thing going on, split or twin personalities that I’d be able to just flounce on in and start playing but no...it would seem something like playing a beautiful classical piece takes practice and a helluva lot of concentration! Who knew!?!! No matter, I shall persevere and probably drive Tim mad playing the same thing over and over but in the end I and my piano playing skills (once I acquire some) shall prevail!