Friday, 17 September 2010

Lochaber Open Show

So this weekend saw my first breed judging appointment up at Lochaber and District Open Show in Fort William, I don’t need much of an excuse to visit that part of the world, I am totally in love with the Scottish Highlands but this was a perfectly good one anyway, I just wish I’d been able to spend a bit more time up there to enjoy the beautiful landscape. It was a bit like a mystery tour since I decided to just follow the SatNav and discover which route it was going to take me as we went along. I would normally travel up via Glasgow and the A82 up past Loch Lomond and through the Trossachs and Glencoe which is a stunning drive. Instead the SatNav decided to take me up to Perth then West along the A9 to Dalwhinnie before dropping back down to Lochaber via Laggan, more beautiful scenery to make a long drive much more enjoyable...

Ardverikie - on the banks of Loch Laggan, was used as the ficticious Glenbogle house in the TV drama Monarch of the Glen

Laggan Dam on the River Spean, to the south west of Loch Laggan

I didn’t arrive ‘til about 8pm having stopped at Strathmashie Forest on the way and taken the 7 dogs I had with me for a run up the forest to blow away the cobwebs after that 5 hour drive! We had another lovely forest walk early Sunday morning before the show too so I didn’t feel so bad about having taken them all that way.

I was sharing the judging with Stuart Platt (Caldonbeck) so just had 4 bitch classes - puppy, yearling, post grad and open and was pleased to receive a respectable entry of 23 and some really lovely quality bitches , I ended up having to really nit pick for the places but I was pleased as punch when the bitch winner went best of breed (under the referee) and then Pastoral Group 3 and my puppy went best pup in breed and reserve best pup in show. Both beautiful girls I would have happily taken home (think someone might have noticed though lol)

Full results were…
Lochaber and District Canine Society Open Show – 12th September 2010
Puppy Dog (1)

1 - McCallum's Borderbrook The Dauphin

Yearling Dog (3,1)

1 - MacDonald's Locheil Once in a Blue Moon
2 - Kempton's Borderbrook Show Me

Post Graduate Dog (3)

1 - Jones' Sianworth Firecracker
2 - Heggie's Dalond Blaze of Glory
3 - MacDonald's Bordertime Hot Chocolate

Open Dog (8,3)

1 - Turner and Alexander's Kaeleon Showstopper at Locheil - BD
2 - Gray's Locheil Joint Venture
3 - Kempton's Locheil Manhatten at Borderbrook (AI)
4 - Gray's Rosara Dream Boat

Puppy Bitch (4,2)

1 - MacDonald's Locheil Just Cruisin – BP RBPIS
2 - Kempton's Borderbrook I'm The Diva

Yearling Bitch (5,1)

1 - Donald's Locheil Violets are Blue
2 - Jones' Starside Gold Dust Over Sianworth
3 - Kempton's Borderbrook I'm The Diva
4 - Downie's Dalond Blue Bayou

Post Graduate Bitch (7,3)

1 - Hagan's Tribboch Thistle Do Me
2 - McCallum's Tribboch Truly Scrumptious
3 - Conacher's Locheil Chic Flick
4 - Downie's Dalond Blue Bayou

Open Bitch (7,2)

1 - Turner and Alexander's Locheil Funny Face - BB BOB PG3
2 - Jones' Sianworth Mystic Dream JW
3 - Kempton's Borderbrook Atomic Kitten
4 - Donald's Locheil Luck of the Irish

The hospitality was excellent and after the judging we sat and had a good old natter with some of the other judges and stewards over lunch before I embarked on the long drive home around 2.30pm I stopped and took my dogs for another run up Strathmashie Forest at Laggan on the way home so they had a good stretch of their legs first and happened across an impromptu hitchhiker at Dalwhinnie, some poor chap who had missed his train and since he was headed back to Oxenholme (just outside Lancaster) I agreed to drop him at Penrith train station so he could catch a train there instead so he got home at a decent time and I had some company for a few hours of the journey at least. I stopped at Sizergh (near Kendal) on the way home to pop in for a cup of tea and a natter with my mum and gran who were there in the caravan for the week (seemed rude not to since I was passing!) so we were pretty late home but young Rachel had done a great job minding all the dogs at home and they were all pleased to see us back. I was very glad to have Monday off work, despite it being a pretty hectic one but I’ll post more about that later.

Dogs enjoying one of their forest runs…

Esther, who appears to be rather enjoying her holiday in the caravan...

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Catching up with some training

So, we’ve had a couple of weekends off from flyball competition and it’s been quite nice to do other things for a change. Admittedly we did train twice last week (we managed to find sufficient breaks in the awful weather we’ve been having!) but that in itself made quite a refreshing change! I’m pleased with the progress the youngsters are making. We probably made the most progress with Travis and Maisie, both of whom are already running well in starters but had areas we needed to work on so we did lots of chute training and made some real improvements in their respective box turns as well as running them both over higher hurdles (11” which I think will be Travis’s height once he’s measured…I expect Maisie will be 12”) and without any training wings and both did really great…so proud of them :o) Perhaps the biggest achievment with these two is that we managed to get them passing tightly with each other, this has been quite a challenge as you might expect with two playful, similarly aged pups that have been brought up and live in the same household together! I think this gives in insight into the change in mentality over the last few weeks, they are taking the whole game much more seriously and are much more focused. All being well Maisie will make her open debut next month and Travis in the new year.

Tarka is now 12 months old and is set to make her starters debut at Redcar in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately I can’t run her this weekend at Norfolk Park as starters is on Saturday only and I’m over at Darlington Champ show that day so she and Maisie will miss out competing :o( Travis will hopefully run in someone else’s starter team with Megan. I did nothing with her on our Sunday training session as she had total ‘spanner’ head on and wouldn’t concentrate at all so on Thursday evening I got her out before anyone else arrived and got her focused on fetching her ball and then did a few runbacks with her. By the time everyone else arrived she was fine and knew exactly what she was doing so we ran her onto the training chute for the first time and she was really good, taking the ball nicely and hurdling well in both directions…good girlie. She’s going very high up the chute at the moment but I think she’ll learn to adjust herself the more she does, we’ll see! The plan at the moment is to run an all cocker team at the starters event at Newark next month, the three littermates…Tarka, Tally and Charlie along with their half brother Travis…god help us! lol

Pixie and Fergus are both also making good progress but we are having an issue with Pixie ‘stalking’ the ball so we’re going to have to do some seperate exercises away from training to try and overcome that. Aston is currently resting from a shoulder injury but should be able to start training in a few weeks, he is certainly very keen, we will just need to manage his very strong ‘eye’ I think. He is an incredibly clever dog and reminds me very much of half sister Faith (only he has a much softer nature…she’s hard as nails..possibly just the difference between boys and girls?) and while he may have Lexie’s tendency to ‘bizzy-ness’ (everything at 100 mph) he is also very smart and figures things out to his advantage very quickly which I have learnt to my cost while he’s been on ‘house rest’! He has learned how to open every door in the house so just happily lets himself in/out of wherever he does/doesn’t want to be, along with anyone else that happens to be on either side of said door! He has also learned how to open the stairgate and has dug a huge hole in the one corner of the garden where this could lead to escape! This has resulted in quite a bit of destructive behaviour we didn’t have from him as a little puppy (he’s now 10 months old) which includes chewing my laptop charger up into a zillion pieces and eating a huge hole out of the seat of my jeans as well as merrily leading everyone else through his escape tunnel so they can galavant around the orchard and storage yard out the back…all in all…he’s been quite hard work of late! I've entered him in a couple of shows next month but he really is bald as a coot at the moment and looking very 'raw' so may not make it into the ring again just yet...we'll see!

Friday, 10 September 2010

Drax - August Bank Holiday

So the last of our 5 legger August flyball marathon was the bank holiday weekend over at Drax. Not the most picturesque of venues to spend a bank holiday weekend admittedly (in the shadow of the power station cooling towers!) but a good venue nonetheless, it boasts a good sized nice club house that do really good food and drink and excellent shower facilities too, priorities for any weekend away flyballing! I also took my two Spark-Mercy pups, Viva and Vogue for their first camping trip since they’d come as a litter at 5 weeks old, they were very well behaved (apart from barking at every passer by!)

Our NEW team gazebo in the shadow of the cooling towers…lovely!

The troublesome twins!

I travelled over after work on Friday and had the luxury of having a tent all set up ready for me on my arrival (thanks Hazell!) so could just feed my dogs and get on with the important job of socialising! It ended up being a rather late one to bed (about 5am) and up a couple of hours later to get sorted for the days racing, fortunately we were off the first two divisions so that gave us just enough time to fully wake up! This team wasn’t the usual line up since Faith (the fastest dog on the team) was in season and stayed home so we brought Pip up from the Pawz to replace her. Paul continued running Mac start dog while Alison took over running Pip, Hazell kindly ran Dottie (and this is a very kind act…she’s hard work to run as she likes to nip her handler to psyche herself up!) and I ran Teal last dog. This combination actually worked quite well, Pip loves running behind her daddy (both human and canine in this case! lol) and Alison totally nailed the changeover into Mac, Dottie ran a bit better than she has done of late but Teal was really off form…she’s carrying too much weight at the moment and just wasn’t really that up for it. They ran a fastest time of 19.71 to come 4th in Division 5, about what I would have expected with Pip in place of Faith, we probably could have won this division with the regular line up, oh well.

Saturday we had a nice early night (lol) ready for a busy day ahead Sunday. Sunday began at 8.30am with the starter team, Demon Cubz, which comprised Maisie, Travis, Spud and Radley. Radley has been struggling for focus and confidence recently so we decided to pop her back into starters this weekend to see whether that would help; unfortunately they hadn’t arrived for the first race so we lost it but the other 3 were running well and when Radley did join us she was too which I was really pleased about. I don’t quite know what has happened to Radley but this seems to have started when she had a litter of pups earlier in the year. It seems to have really affected her confidence which is the opposite to what I found with Teal when she had her first litter and came back raring and brimming with confidence but I wonder if this is because I didn’t keep a Teal puppy (well not one that continued to live with us anyway) whereas Radley now has her daughter Truly to think about, which is possibly more important for her as she is also now no longer an ‘only dog’. She ran well all day though and they came 3rd :o)

Radley and Truly

We were straight into division 11 with the Pawz and boy did we struggle with this team! When moving Pip up into the Racers I hadn’t considered that we were also moving our only experienced start dog from this team. We started out running Fynn start, followed by Fly, Ethan and Squirrel who I was having to tuck in on the line so Ethan wouldn’t run out (seems a waste of a perfectly good terrier who will run in and change from 30ft but hey ho!); this worked fine until Fynn started doing his ‘stopping to take in the view’ routine (damn dog!) and Gemma asked to run him last. We tried running fly first…she bolted straight across to the other lane, we lost the leg on interference…she has WAY too much eye and is NOT cut out for start dog! The only way we could do this was to run Ethan start dog (yes…Ethan…eternal ‘arse-ender’ going start!) with Squirrel tucked in behind followed by Fly and then Fynn which worked ok for a couple of legs until Fly went in early against Squirrel causing her to run out…poor little Squirrel, as soon as a dog goes in early on her it knocks her confidence and she will keep running out she was going to have to go last…which meant Ethan was going to have to go 3rd and since Fly couldn’t go start she was going to have to go 2nd so….Fynn ended up back start in the same order we’d started on. We did actually run our two best times, morning and afternoon with this line up , we came last with a fastest time of 22.30…not actually that bad considered we’d submitted 22.20 and lost the fastest dog (Pip ) to the second team…work in progress me thinks! Lol

We than had a division off before heading back into the ring for Division 2 with the Demonz…Dylan, Bailey, Lexie and River. I can’t quite put my finger on why but we struggled with this team managing 3rd place with only an 18.13 (a little disappointing after the 17.85 we ran at the Champs). We have a two week break before running again so hopefully the dogs will come back refreshed.

Monday we had two multibreed teams running, our usual line up in the first team, Diverse Demonz…Dylan, Ruaraidh (collie x kelpie from Dolphins), Leo (standard Poodle from supernovas) and Teal. Teal seemed to be a little better than Saturday but still not back on full form and Leo was nursing a knee injury so we struggled to get anywhere near our previous 17.84 but we ran well and consistently, this is a really good little team. It came down to the last race…us (no. 1 seed) Vs Doncaster (no. 2 seed) and they had run faster than us so we knew it was going to be incredibly tight. It was and came down to the 5th leg but we’d pushed them enough and they got a light…phew! We’d won all our races and the Division again…excellent!

The 2nd team, Demon Medley was a hastily thrown together combination due to no Bailey, injury of our crossbreed and losing the other standard poodle (he’d run for his own team since the last time he’d run for us making him ineligible to run again)…Faith would have been next choice BC but of course she was in season so we had Saffy (gorgeous lurcher), River, Radley, Squirrel and Echo (border terrier from Doncaster). I was hoping Radley would be full of beans after her successful run out in starters the previous day but alas she wasn’t and refused to run…very frustrating. Echo was steady but seemed to struggle on our Belgian box, the hole settings are quite high for a little dog, especially if they’ve not been taught to jump on/off so are just reaching up to take the ball. River and Saffy were fab, Riv ran start dog and they both but in some excellent times, Squirrel also ran reliably as last dog but we were seriously outclassed in that division, especially as we were running two little height dogs, and came last by a long way! Had I known which dogs we would end up running I would have submitted a much slower time.

I also judged division 2 which saw some really good close racing and it was lovely to see Echo (Bryning Superstella, Quillan – Lexie daughter and Rivers sister) running so well with Doghouse Odd’s n Sod’s, she was hitting 4.1’s all day…she’s really come on this season and is proving to be a cracking little flyball dog. All in all it was a good day.

The only slightly disappointing aspect was the Multibreed trophy which was to be awarded to the ‘best’ multibreed team over the two tournaments. This was calculated on total number of races won. Well…we were unbeaten at both tournaments, winning division 1 on both occasions and running a fastest time of 17.84 but another team were also unbeaten over both comps winning a division 4 and 3 with a fastest time of 19.78 (running on a seed time of 21.61). The organizers had no idea what to do about a tie because… ‘it’s never happened before’…well surely it was always a distinct possibility! Now as far as I’m concerned common sense would dictate that the fastest team should be the winners? This is a competitive sport after all and the whole point is to run 4 dogs as fast as you can but no, the options were to share the trophy (6 months each) or some ludicrous system of which team’s average time was closest to their seed time. Now, it’s worth pointing out that the other team had actually run a fastest time 1.8 seconds faster than their seed time and had (obviously) anihalated the opposition in their division (hardly in the spirit of competition) but occasionally throwing in a slower dog when they were two legs up and could afford to lose a leg (knowing they wouldn’t struggle to win the next one) so yes…their ‘average’ time probably wasn’t that far off their seed time but a more accurate measure of consistency is in the variance between their fastest and slowest times (some nearly 4 seconds!). While we were running a four dog team in division 1 where seed time is completely irrelevant, hence there being no break out times…you’re already running against the fastest opposition possible so there’s no way you can ‘cheat’ the seed time system to pitch yourself in a less competitive division and we didn’t even run the fastest time of that division, we raced damn hard to get our 5 race wins that day. To be honest, by this point I really couldn’t be bothered and had to go and judge division two so told them to just give it to the other team, after all, what did we want it for? The fact we were even having this conversation meant it clearly didn’t mean anything anyway so had just become a pointless piece of wood and metal! If it gives others satisfaction to achieve meaningless things so easily then let them have their easily attained pleasures. I am increasingly disappointed by the number of flyballers this appears to apply to :o(

Anyway, this got me on to thinking about another discussion we’d had the previous weekend about rosettes…I can’t stand the fact that rosettes are awarded to 4th place…in a 6 team division this is so stupid, that’s rosettes to 66%!! The system in agility is so much better, rosettes to 10%, sometimes possibly 15% but the elite competitors anyway, makes them mean something, something to strive for and a real sense of achievement when you win one! For a long time now I’ve just handed mine back at flyball, I only keep firsts or those that are special in some other way, like my dogs first comp or a tournament we’ve never been to before etc. I never keep a 4th though! It was the same thing with the change in the points system to offer higher points rewards to slower teams. What is so wrong about rewarding the best? It’s nice getting the awards but to be honest they are becoming worth less and less in my opinion. This is supposed to be a competitive sport, the aim is to run as fast as you can, as with all sports… some teams/dogs will be faster than others but they should be rewarded for being so! In my opinion a new tier of points should be brought in for teams running under 18 seconds so the very fastest dogs get the highest rewards (as it should be!). Ok, that’s my rant over... lol