Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Rain, rain…go away...

Well, the rain is back and back with a vengeance…seems to be set in for the week…wah!!…I knew this good weather was too good to be true!

Am kicking myself for not taking lots of pics over the weekend and making the most of the brief spell of sunshine!

Monday, 29 September 2008

Finally...a Weekend Off!

Well finally we had a weekend off, when I say 'off' I mean no flyball tournament and no breed show...a whole weekend at home!

Saturday morning we were up relatively early to get the van packed with all the flyball equipment for our first session at our new training venue, we've managed to find a good sized patch of unused ground, well fenced and not too close to any houses that we have permission to use whenever we like and better still...it's right next to a pub! (well done Paul for organising that one!). It was a glorious morning, beautiful blue skies and sunshine...perfect training weather! Gemma was away and Trish was well...just away with the fairies (lol) so there was just Paul, Alison and I which was all we needed to do the things we wanted to do. Rather than use training sessions to simply run the teams up and down we decided to use the time to tackle particular problems or areas of improvement with individual dogs and to get the youngsters going too. This includes using various different 'props' to encourage faster 'four-footed' turns off the box for dogs that need tightening up and working on individual problems like Dylan's sporadic ball dropping and Ethan's eratic turns and lack of focus on the run back etc. I was very pleased with the work we did during the session. None of these things are 'instant fixes' and will need consistent and patient training but we're heading in the right direction and I'm confident we'll end up with a good result at the end. We finished up the session with a drink and lunch sat outside the pub enjoying the sunshine which was very nice too!

Sunday morning I went to agility with Faith, everyone was taking the piss about the 'new member' because I haven't been for so long!! lol They are a lovely bunch of people though and it's all very relaxed, it was a beautiful morning so we trained for a few hours with occasional 'tea breaks' just sitting out in the sun and having a natter. Fi was brilliant considering she's done nothing for weeks! I was so pleased with her, she did some lovely work over some quite 'handly' sections and wasn't phased at all by the cross behinds and reverse turns etc provided I've committed her to each obstacle beforehand. She's very tuned into me and my positioning so I have to be very careful I don't move too early or I can easily pull her off an obstacle before she's committed to it so I have to try and get my timing right all the time (gulp). She got all her contacts and was working on ahead really nicely which I was pleased about. Now I just need her to do it all over full height!! We also spent a bit of time working on her weaves, I decided it was about time I started to teach her the uprights so I ran her through the channels a few times, getting tighter and tighter 'til they were almost completely closed then walked her up through them just holding her collar to keep her in but not 'steering' her in anyway and she did it, we did that a few times then I slowly walked up the side with her without holding her collar, then I started to send her on into them without me going with her, the first couple of times she came out, still a bit unsure of what she was doing but I just kept giving her lots of verbal encouragement and she did it..all by herself!! yay!! lol She's working so nicely on the channels independantly of me I don't want her to start needing me with her on the uprights so I think I'll just do bits at a time to build her confidence. If only I put some more work in with her I think she'd be really good!! lol

Radley came for a visit in the afternoon (she is bonkers!!)...she and Squirrel spent a good half hour just chasing each other round the lounge and wrestling! She is a lovely little dog, I'm very pleased with how she's turned out...she's almost the spitting image of Drake but the size of Teal and although she's bonkers like her dad she's also a big soft 'cuddlebum' like her mum too, she's a really nice mixture of the two of them.

That was about it for the weekend really, a relatively quiet one, I had intended to get some photos of Orlaith and Viggo who both turned 6 months old this past week but never actually got round to it (oops) so here's one of Orlaith's brother 'Sol' aka Bryning Rockstar instead (thanks Greg and Christine!)

Monday, 22 September 2008

What a fiasco

Well, we had a funny weekend, Tania was due to arrive from Belgium some time this week, bringing her bitch Mouse to be mated to Spark but after a trip to the vets for a pre-mate test on Thurs said she had to be mated on Saturday it was a mad panic to get packed and get a ferry booked to come over earlier so Tania and Mouse arrived late on Friday evening. We tried for the mating on Saturday but no joy, the bitch just wasn't ready (so much for the blood test!) so instead we pottered about the house and popped into town and didn't do a great deal else to be honest, Nick and Ruth came over from the Isle of Man to collect 'Stan' so that was one puppy gone and just two left to go! We got the van packed for Sunday's flyball, having all 3 teams running on one day is quite a novelty!

An early start on Monday to get to Sutton Fields for the flyball, we were bottom seeds in div 2 and 4 with the Racers and Pawz but top seed in div 1 with the Demonz. Joanna came over to pick up her pup Tarn (so that's 2 down and just one to go!), he's gone to the same team as his blue merle sister Misty so it will be lovely to see them growing up and hopefully running together in future. I finally made my mind up and Squirrel had her rabies vaccine, we will get her passported and she will come to Belgium with us next year too.

Noah, who would just not sit still for the camera!

Squirrel, showing off her new collar (yes, another one! lol)

Back to the flyball...what a terrible days racing we had...by far our worst ever! lol The most frutrating thing about the whole day was the Live Wires lights and timing system which, as far as I could tell, were completely up the spout! This turned what was already going to be a long days racing into a long drawn out and tedious day of racing with numerous intermittent delays of inactivity while they tried to sort the lights out...again!! Very very frustrating for both dogs and handlers. On top of all that our teams really weren't on form. The morning just turned into a non event, Pip seems to be carrying a muscle injury and was not her normal self at all, I found it very hard to get my passing right behind her with Drake because her striding was so erratic and she was way off her normal pace. Drake was running really well (the confidence building training seems to be paying off!) and Dottie and Eth were on good form too but we really did suffer from having an 'out of form' Pip and our times were right off. These things happen sometimes in flyball but we have positives to take from it too so that's the main thing. At least she has a good break now before we run again at Rotherham. The Racers did actually run ok although our times were a little off, not sure why because all 4 dogs felt in good form and seemed to be running well but all the hanging around certainly didn't help. The Demonz was just a nightmare, with all the time delays they didn't start running 'til after 1pm by which point it had got very hot, the dogs were already hot and bothered before they even got in the ring and Dylan was losing concentration and letting go of his ball before the line, we swapped him to last dog to help him focus which helped but always knocks his times down. It was 6pm before the second half of this division started, in was much cooler by this point which we hoped would help, we went in the ring againt the Molten Magnetics for the 2nd race in the afternoon's racing, swapped Dylan back to start dog and what happened?? Yep, you guessed it...the lights broke again!! They kept us hanging around in the ring while they fiddled with wires and swapped laptops and did this and that, THEN...someone started to let fireworks off close by...well, that was it, two of the Moltens dogs and Bailey were heading straight back to the cars terrified. We managed to get them back in the ring and got them wound up to race to distract them and keep them happy but...no chance of starting racing, the lights STILL weren't working, we were kept waiting in the ring for 25 minutes, both teams having requested to just get on with it and run on manual timing and lights. By the time we did re-start the 3 dogs that had reacted to the fireworks were totally stressed out, Bailey ran but his times dropped by around a second (so I got a light running Lexie in behind him) we had to swap him to run last, the poor Moltens couldn't get their dogs to complete, not what flyball racing should be about at all. We took the dogs onto the field and threw a ball and played with them to try and keep them all happy but when we walked back over to the ring for the last race of the day Bailey just legged it, right back past the ring to the cars and wouldn't come out...Gemma ran after him and I shouted her to leave him, no point stressing him any further so we just ran the 3 other dogs...by this time it was after 7pm and starting to go dark, what a complete farce! It was nearly 9pm by the time we got home (and we're only an hour away, some teams had 2-3 hours or more to travel!). I have to say, Live Wires tournaments are usually very well organised and we've had some fantastic shows this summer which is what made Sunday all the more dissapointing. It's days like this that make team captains think twice when deciding which shows they're going to enter in future.

Trish enjoying a.....'nice cup of tea'

Pip...in the car waiting to race.

On a good note, we did get Spark and Mouse mated when we got home, Tania will stay for a couple more days so hopefully we'll get a couple more matings before they head home to Belgium.

Meet Sea!!

As well as bringing Mouse over, Tania also brought Sea (Pol JCH Lux JCH Pol CH Slo CH Alderaan Seabiscuit), Sea will be staying here for a while where he will be standing at stud and hopefully attending a few shows, we'll see how he takes to flyball training too. He's a really lovely boy, very cuddly with a super laid back temperament but with lots of drive and 'bounce', he's already settling in really well and I'm really looking forward to spending some time with him and also seeing what he produces with my girls. I'm very grateful to Tania and Francine for allowing us to have him stay.

A couple of pics of him taken at the flyball yesterday...

...gorgeous boy!!

Making Progress...

We're not actually doing any team training at the moment, just Trish and I getting together to do some work with the youngsters once a week. Haze, Squirrel and Kitten are doing some really nice chute work...we now have the chute up to a 45 deg angle with the ball on the lower station and all 3 are still doing a nice clean '4 footed' turn (although 'heffalump haze' does take a bit of persuasion...she's SO like her mother!! lol). We'll 'proof' this stage more and then the next step will be to move outdoors and add a hurdle to drive them off the chute faster and get them chasing away. There's no hurry with any of these dogs so it's just small bits at a time, just keeping it fun and always leaving them wanting to do more. I must confess I haven't really done much with either of the boys yet though (don't know why!?).

We've also been doing some chute work with the cockers, Drake already has a nice turn but he seems to have lost some of his enthusiasm for flyball since he first started training, I think it's a combination of a few things that happened to him in his first few months of competing (...being kicked in the face on a training day by a particularly clumsy individual...being 'gone at' by other dogs at training and in competition, other dogs on the same team fighting with each other and having a really bad day running in the slippery mud at Mottram back in May) that have slowly chipped away at his confidence so it's all about building that back up. Since we formed the new team he is only running with dogs he knows very well and there's no animosity between any of them. For all his bounce and madness he's actually quite a sensitive little soul (bless) but the instances where he would just lose the plot and refuse to run have thankfully stopped, he seems much happier and is back running consistently. The chute training for him is all about it being fast and fun and no pressure to help him regain his manic drive and enthusiasm he had when he first started out, it seems to be working so fingers crossed we'll have him back up to full speed again soon! Teal is a funny one (this is something I'm starting to learn about these cockers!), when she first started training (must be 18 months or so ago) she wouldn't touch the box, she really wasn't sure about it at all, so I trained her on the chute at home to get her confident enough to trigger the box and it didn't take too long before she did but the recent chute training we've been doing with her has revealed that she is still not very confident on the box. Her technique and speed between the chute and the box is vastly different (the chute is MUCH better) so it's now a case of proofing her chute technique over winter to try and get her to transfer that to the box by the start of next season. Teal is already proving to be a valuable asset to the team being a relatively quick but small height dog but hasn't yet really fulfilled her potential, if we can get her running at her optimum who knows what she'll do next season?!

As the season is winding down and we're doing much less competing, we are going to have to find a decent outdoor training venue to keep our competition dogs fit and be ready to move the youngsters onto the next stage of training.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

The show must go on!

Well, a late night getting dogs prepped (thankfully only 4 entered) and an early start for Alison and I to get over to Newby Hall in North Yorkshire in good time for the start of judging and what did we find?? An absolute mudbath!! (see the pic on Vicki’s Post although I'm not sure it quite capture's the full scale of it!). My van got stuck getting IN and a very kind lady that was at the show stewarding on a ring pulled us out with her little Citreon Berlingo (one reason why I ALWAYS carry a tow rope! lol); there was no way the trolley was going to move on that ground so we carried all our gear in then went back and carried all the dogs in (I hadn't spent all that time bathing and blowdrying to get them plastered in mud before they even got to their benches!) but my arms were absolutely killing me after all that! lol We carried them to the ring and sat them on a picnic blanket waiting to go in but their feet got muddy as soon as they hit the floor in the ring, at least everyone was in the same boat! The ground was treacherous for running on with people and dogs slipping all over the place and an awful lot of dogs 'flying tails' just to maintain their balance! The sun did come out in the afternoon and dry the ground a little but not much!

Anyway, Spark won his class (junior dog) so was really pleased with that, especially as this judge doesn't particularly like merles, she spoke a lovely glowing critique into her dictaphone about him and I had lots of nice comments about him when we left the ring too (he is a lovely, lovely boy!)...Dylan didn't get placed in the next class and was a bit giddy (the mud and spongy ground seemed to have that affect on some dogs). I had Eabha in minor puppy bitch, she was just 6 months and 2 days old and is still a real baby but no hiding she is beautifully constructed, well muscled and well balanced already so can move exactly how a BC should. Sue giggled at her, very much the baby in the line up, and said 'shall we move the tiddler to the back before we move them?' but she moved beautifully, stood beautifully to be gone over and came 2nd! Behind the puppy that went on to win Best Puppy. I was SO pleased with her, she's a natural . Kitten came 3rd in Junior bitch which qualifies her for Crufts too (finally!), she's had nothing but reserves and VHC's in the puppy classes and I was thinking there wouldn't be much point putting her in junior (her being so diddy still) but this was her first junior class and she got her qualifier. She may be small but she is well proportioned and she moves like you wouldn't believe (but especially when she's not trying to pull me across the ring...bad Kitten!). Faith then came 4th (reserve) in a good strong Yearling class despite the fact she's blowing her coat (we had VERY strong words about her tail beforehand after her brother's earlier performance! lol) so we came away with a 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th...in that order! And 2 more Crufts qualifiers (Spark and Fi are already qualified) so I was glad we made the effort and braved the mud! Three Cheers for the judge (Sue Large - Wizaland) too for doing such a great job under such very difficult conditions!

We stayed 'til the end of judging, some lovely well deserved winners and a good day for BC's in the group judging as the Best Veteran (Angela's Gillespie's Detania Jillian) went on to take Veteran Group 4. We ended up helping several people get their vans off the field before we finally left. Fortunately, with a little push to get going, I managed to reverse mine straight off the field onto the roadway. We came home along the A59 and stopped to take the dogs for a run up Pendle Hill. It was a lovely warm, sunny evening...for a change! The dogs actually came off the hill cleaner than they'd come off the showground!! lol I also managed to get the camera out for the first time that day (only AFTER we'd put the dogs away, doh!)...

Pendle Hill approaching sunset...

Views from the Hill...

Friday, 12 September 2008

A fairly uneventful week

Not much to report this week to be honest, have been busy at work and it's been raining LOADS (again!!) so activities with the dogs have been limited. Trish and I did a little training with the youngsters on Weds evening despite the fact that the 3 young pups (11 weeks old and due to leave over the next few weeks) had decided to pull the rubber off the training chute...little monkies!! (serve me right for leaving it in the kitchen! lol) I actually think it's the velcro they like, they seem to be obsessed with it...weird! This is the second time the rubber has had to be replaced and the umpteenth time I've had to replace the velcro! Not sure it's worth going to too much trouble refurbishing it again since we should be getting the new one soon. This is however, definitely not the weather to be accomodating the very playful, and sometimes destructive, nature of three 11 week old pups! lol

Was really nice to see Lucy and Jeff last night as they came over with Oz, someone had brought a bitch up to him (Oz has quite a busy schedule over the next few weeks, not that he's complaining lol) so we're keeping every crossed that all goes well with that. We had a good old natter about everything and anything, once Lucy and I get going no-one else gets a word in (oops) but it was great just to catch up. So no Thurs night agility training for Fi again. Next Thurs is the last evening session before training switches back to Sunday mornings which will be loads better for me (except when we're away competing or showing of course!)

Alison and I are heading over to Darlington Champ show tomorrow so a mammoth bathing and grooming session this evening although I only have 4 entered, none of which have much coat atm so not 'too' bad. I also need to give the van a bit of a clean out as at the moment it just smells very strongly of very damp dog (hmmm, I wonder why?? lol)

Thought I'd leave you with these pics of Faith's brother Bryn (Bryning Truly Special) that his owner Brenda kindly sent me earlier in the week. I know I'm biased but I just think he's totally lush! lol

Thursday, 11 September 2008

The puppy formerly known as 'Bryn'...

This litte man was returned to me this week as his new owners just felt that their elderly dog was not coping with having a new pup around. He's a very confident and outgoing little chap...inquisitive, noisy, bouncy and playful...just as an 11 week old pup should be! lol

His registered name is Bryning Goshawk so I've been calling him 'Hawkeye' ;)

I guess these things happen, it's just a shame he's had to settle somewhere else and then come back (not that he seems in the least bit bothered! lol) so he's now here waiting for the perfect new home to come along. Somewhere he can be loved and adored and have lots of time spent with him learning new things and playing games. Hopefully he won't be waiting too long.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Wash Out Weekend

Well, the rains came down and the floods came up and the flyball tournament at Penny Farm was cancelled (boo hoo hoo!)

This is absolutely typical, the one tournament on home turf, less than 10 mins away and it gets called off! I have to say, a weekend at home to tidy up and have a bit of a break is quite welcome at the end of what has been a very busy summer.

Saturday was busy since Tom and Kate had been planning to run a PET passport clinic at Penny Farm for all the people wanting to take teams to the European Champs in Belgium next year. Since most of the teams were from this area they came over here on Saturday morning and we held the ‘clinic’ in our kitchen! I think we rabies vaccinated 29 dogs in total, 18 of which were ours! lol Blood draw will be in a few weeks time then we just have to wait for the titre test results.

We had originally been planning to have a team night out after racing so the whole team (and my mum) went to the local pub for lunch instead which was very nice.

Since it was too wet to do any team training in the afternoon we decided to make the most of the time off and introduce some of the youngsters to the training chute. The training chute is an adjustable device used to teach the dogs to get all four feet on the box and push off for a faster, safer ‘swimmers’ turn. It’s something we really don’t utilise enough but the one we have here was made by a friend a few years ago and although perfectly effective is a large, heavy cumbersome device that takes up a lot of room to store, is a nightmare to transport and is a pain to put up and take down. Mike is currently in the process of building us a much smaller, light weight version that will be much more useful for us (thanks Mike!)

The chute is adjustable to 4 different angles, we started them all on the second setting so it’s on an angle of approx 30°, we will gradually make this steeper as the training progresses.

With the bigger dogs (i.e. the collies) the first stage is teaching them to get on and off the chute using all 4 feet so it’s the movement you’re teaching more than anything. Here’s Trish with Haze and Gemma with Kitten, just teaching them the movement we’re looking for initially. As their training progresses we will work on tightening up the turn.

Trish with Haze…

Gemma with Kitten…

Both of these dogs are quick learners once they know what you want from them, Haze is already very ball motivated but Kitten is much more food orientated, we’re going to have to work on the play drive over the next few months.

With the smaller dogs (ie, Squirrel!), there’s no need to teach them to get all four feet on the box because they have to simply to reach the ball. Here’s me with Squirrel…

…she seems to be picking it up quite quickly so I’m keeping my fingers crossed this continues!

I took a couple of pics of Squirrel and Haze too...

It's been a bit drier here today so let's hope the rain holds off for the next couple of weeks!

Monday, 1 September 2008

getting all grown up...

A few pics we managed to snap yesterday...

Orlaith and Eabha...


Ryecroft Farm

Well, what a FANTASTIC weekend we had at Ryecroft Farm. It's only an hour from home and all our teams were running on Sunday but we decided to take the caravans down Saturday afternoon and have a bit of time to chill out which was very nice. We had only booked 2 camping spaces so I stayed with Trish (thanks Trish!). The weather was as good as it's been in ages so it was all very civilised, sitting out enjoying the late afternoon sunshine with a glass of wine. After several more bottles of wine, on account of the fact it was Bridget's birthday (Happy Birthday B!), Gemma finally joined us about 12.30am (she had been working the late shift) and we stayed up and chatted into the early hours and eventually fell into bed...knowing we were running in Div 1 at 8.30 in the morning!!

The alarm went of at 7.00 as usual but it was 7.30 before we woke up properly and then jumped out of bed and dashed around getting dogs walked and fed before racing started. Most tournament organisers run the fastest divisions on the Sunday as they were doing this weekend; the thinking being that they'll get through the racing quicker and have an earlier finish for people having a long way to travel home. However, most tournaments run the days' divisions in reverse order...starting with the lowest and finishing with the highest. I don't know why but this weekend they did it the other way round starting with Div 1 and going down to Div 5 . I actually think this is a good idea, it often happens that Div 1 is the last division to go into the ring after a whole weekends racing and you end up running on the worst ground, especially if it's been wet and the runs and box areas start to get cut up, this sort of churned up/slippy ground obviously affects the faster dogs more.

Anyway, our schedule for the day was...Div 1 with the Speed Demonz (Dylan, Bailey, Lexie, Mist)...Div 2 with the Demon Racers (Mac, Frost, Faith, Teal)...Div 3 ring party, Div 4 off and finishing in Div 5 with the Demon Pawz (Pip, Drake, Dottie, Ethan, Spud) so quite a busy one!

We were all suprisingly spritely considering the late night and the teams all ran brilliantly, better than we could have hoped for with all 3 teams achieving new fastest times!! The Speed Demonz WON divsion 1 (woo hoo!!) and did it with some style, unbeaten all day and a fastest time of 17.48...we finally broke the 17.50 barrier!! This was also the fastest time of the weekend. The Demon Racers came 4th in Division 2, their first time up in Div 2 and they ran a fastest time of 19.01 (oh so close to the sub 19.00 I'm sure they're capable of!! lol)...not bad for a team fielding the mad midget cocker!! I was most pleased with Tealey this weekend because she actually ran for Gemma in the afternoon as I took over running Mac start dog (for some reason Gemma seemed to be asleep on the start this weekend!! lol). Although I did commit the cardinal start dog sin with Mac (getting two consecutive false starts)....TWICE!!! (oh the shame!). This is however, the first time Teal has run for someone else and she ran brilliantly all day (clever cocker!!). The Demon Pawz were top seed in Div 5 and didn't disappoint as they also won the division (yay!!) totally smashing their seed time by running 19.82!! This now gives us 3 sub 20.00 sec teams...fantastic!! I must also mention the help that we had from Steve and Bridget on the line for us, first class assistance as usual, and also Manda who was quickly volunteered to run Dottie in the afternoon, when Gemma had to leave for work, and did a brilliant job with a dog that isn't the easiest in the world to run that's for sure!!

The day was made complete by the phone call I received from Joy in the afternoon to say that Teal had won combined Grade 6/7 agility down at Trent Park so had got her last agilty win needed to go Grade 7 (Advanced)...absolutely chuffed to bits for Joy, Becca and Tealey...grade 7 before she's 3 years old...now that's not bad going is it? Well done girls!

It was a long and busy day but a very enjoyable one and we all left for home tired but very very happy and looking forward to next weekend with great anticipation. Keeping fingers crossed for a few dry days so that the Penny farm venue will be able to dry out in time for next weekend's tournament.