Monsters Fun Day

Our flyballing friends at Monsters Flyball held a fun day over in York at the Yorkshire Museum of Farming. Katie and I thought it would be good socialisation for Rio and Rave, and Katie brought Jetly Awesomeface along as well, to set a good example for the babies.

I’m proud to say the puppies rolled in and took over. Rio was so excited to be somewhere, she was hurling herself at people with no manners whatsoever. Oops! She did settle down after 20mins or so, and reverted to politely greeting people after that, thankfully. Her only freakout was a mild one, over some parents carrying toddlers. She’s happy with adults, happy with prams, happy with toddlers, but people carrying other people is too weird for her.

Rave just took the whole thing in his stride, he’s such a crazy puppy but he’s also pretty easy going, and just rolls with whatever comes his way. They both met goats, chickens, pigs, and a Shetland pony. Rave couldn’t care less, Rio was initially suspicious and then decided all animals looked like lots of fun and either wanted to eat them or herd them … probably eat them, knowing Ri. She playbowed to the Shetland, who didn’t respond (strangely), so he got ignored.

I entered Rio in the fun dog show to see how she’d get on, and she won Prettiest Bitch, and then at the end also won Best In Show. Maybe she does have show dog genes after all (her mum Rita has just won her 3rd CC, making her up to a Show Champion, and her sister KitKat has had multiple BPIB this year). She had a blast, and loved all the treats and attention.

I still don’t know whether I was more excited about her winning the fun dog show, or that she actually did some agility! There was a small Have-a-Go agility course set up, and the Monsters kindly let me drop all the jumps down to Mini and have a play with Rio. We did a little wing wrap work, some sends over a curve of jumps, and then finished with a full sequence of 4 jumps to a tunnel. So proud of her for being totally unphased by the different equipment, environment, and just being willing to work. She’s also never worked over jumps when they’ve all had height, up until now we’ve just had bumps in between wings. She made the choice to skip out on some jumps sometimes, but that’s usual baby dog stuff.

Very successful day!

British Flyball Championships 2011

Summer days. Love the Champs. I don’t care that they’re not whichever competition you* think is better. I appreciate these Championships for what they are, which is a fun, competitive, and noisy tournament full with teams from every corner of the British Isles. Also, nowhere else would you get 200 people willingly dressing up in all kinds of bizarre costumes and dancing like idiots all evening, from tiny babies to 80-yr-olds. Agility just doesn’t have that kind of willingness to let go.

Kim was running in Hawk Owlers on Friday, seeded bottom of Division 31 and eventually coming 2nd. Sad that we didn’t win, but it was a good effort and Kim ran her socks off. She was tired by the last race of the day, due to the ground and the fact she was height dog and so had run every single leg, but she tried her heart out like she always does.

Pose - Barking Owlers, Div 26 Winners Dylan and Mollie were on the same team on Saturday, in Division 26. The team ran amazingly, very tough racing and coming back from 2-legs down on a couple of occasions. So proud of all of them for coming 1st, I can’t think of a bunch of dogs who deserve it more. Mollie is 12, Buffy is 10, Dylan has worked through many issues, Bailey is ever-reliable and ever-speedy and we would be lost without her, Biba has come from running into things to actually running up and down, and Ronnie has embraced his new team without batting an eyelash.

From my own perspective, this is Dylan’s first Divisional win at the Championships. He always tries and he doesn’t always get the credit for that, but he also has to overcome a lot of anxiety to flyball, so I’m very proud of him for this.

Mollie has won every time she has competed, in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011. She will be 13 yrs old for 2012 so we don’t know if she’ll be back to defend her title, but we’ve been saying that every year since we started. Either way, she’s amazing.

Crazy JetlyGhost Owlers, our top team, ran in Division 9 on Sunday and came away with a 2nd. Proud of them as well, and really looking forward to where this team goes in the next year, especially with a handful of new dogs waiting in the wings.

Looking forward to next year already.

*Non specific “you”. Seemed to hear lots of generic grumping on this topic this year, which I just thought was a shame.

Flyball Training

We worked very hard with Dylan at training this week. He is getting more confident changing into Roi, but he’s not foot perfect. Neither am I; it’s very hard to work on perfecting the change when Dylan sometimes “flinches” (throws in an extra short stride just before the line). I’m between 1-3ft off on my changes, so we have work to do yet. Since Norah wasn’t at training, Dylan also hasn’t had chance to work into her and I foresee this being our biggest problem.

We did a lot of box work as well and Dylan ran with a stride regulator in, which makes an immediate and hugely positive impact on his turn. I get lazy with including it, but since it works very well for Roi as well, the stride regulator will be making a more constant appearance in training.

Kim and Mollie both looked great. It looks like – for the first time! – the girls will be in seperate teams at the Champs. Mollie just runs so much better over 9″, and at her age it makes a big difference to her consistency. Because of injuries amongst some of our other dogs, Kim is now the height dog for the bottom team, but if we do get one or two of our other height dogs back, she’ll be advantaged by running over lower anyway. Mollie can’t really run 12″ all day anymore and so we can’t risk that she might have to.

Very complicated team structuring but that’s the way it’s had to roll this time around! Next year we will have a whole bunch of different dogs anyway, with our babies coming up and our older dogs very close to retirement now. I’ve been saying this for ages but that’s how it will go!

Best of luck to everyone at the European Championships this week, especially Katie and Jet, and the rest of the High Flyers teams!

Osmaston Flyball

I’m not sure how to blog about this tournament – I have lots of fragmented memories and no clear thoughts! I didn’t wear shoes all weekend, it was really hot, my dogs were great. That’s about all I can coherantly put together.

Mollie ran well, but we tried to keep her doing as little as possible. It was too hot and she’s too crazy. Luckily we had 6 dogs on Saturday and so could replace her as soon as she started to flag. We also kept her from running as stand-by lead dog by letting Kim do it. Kim takes her role as lead dog extremely seriously, but we were pretty awesome. I think Kim would have been a great lead dog in her day, but she’s always been a height dog and it would simply have been too tiring. Now she’s not always the height dog, but she’s 10, and so it’s still not an option apart from these odd occasions when she can be the sub-sub-lead. The team finished 3rd and ran 21.54s.

Dylan ran in a four dog team over 14″. I hate that we did this, if I’m honest. We had no idea that it was going to be so hot even a few days ago, and we didn’t expect to be as short on dogs as we ended up being. But we were very very lucky, in that it was slightly cooler today, we had a lot of 3-leg races, and the dogs are all experienced so we could skip the full warm-ups etc that we normally do. I am grateful that (as a team) we were prepared to forfeit the races had any of the dogs shown any signs of overheating, but I wish we hadn’t had to put them in a position where that was possible to begin with. We won the division and I think the fastest time was 19.38 (we desperately need a height dog!).

Remember: Thatched cottages and silvered church. Running barefoot, hard ground, cropped grass. Sun on shoulders, faces and between toes. Sharing the pool with Dyl. Sitting and filming the changes for Flyers. Minding the stall. Walking round the duck pond, pub.

Sunny Day Training

Norah

Photos from our Saturday training session. I only had 10mins to sit down and take some photos, so not very many and not a wide variety. I actually don’t mind being busy at flyball, it’s more productive when we are constantly working, the dogs and handlers get more from it and I walk away happier. Sometimes it would be nice to have a week off from picking up the slack though.

These photos make me a little melancholy; times are changing, some for the good and some for the bad, and I am worried that we will lose more than we gain for having a settled team. JetI am not sure that everyone involved in the decision making process is aware of that, I think some people make assumptions about other people’s intentions without actually knowing. Maybe I do as well, and so I hope I’m wrong this time. It doesn’t help that I’ve been re-reading our old results pages, being reminded of our past adventures has really made me wonder where we are going now.

Must remember that flyball is a cyclical game, what goes around comes around. Kim is never worried about this kind of thing. She has a ball so she smiles.

Kim

This is a very cryptic-clue kind of post, but I am feeling introspective this week, and a little bit sad. See the rest of the photos here: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjqwYksL

Winter Season Review

I spent a couple of hours on Monday reviewing the videos from the weekend, as I always do, but also reviewing the videos from the winter series as a whole. That’s why it took me a couple of hours rather than the usual 15mins. Huge thank yous to my lovely mother for standing and filming almost every single run this winter so I can do this (and for driving and keeping me company generally, actually).

The biggest conclusion is that Dylan’s contacts are looking dramatically slower than a couple of months ago. I initially wondered if this might be something that has been gradually happening, and I just haven’t noticed until now. So I sat and watched and watched and watched. All our 2010 (indoor) runs have fast contacts, right through to Wyre in December. Then we had a month off, no training due to Christmas and the snowcalypse, and from January … slower. So, for the next couple of training sessions we’ll be focusing solely on working and rewarding contacts to try and rebuild that speed, which is what we did before the winter season. I’m kicking myself for not noticing sooner and working on it immediately, but I had kind of put Dyl’s contacts to one side and worked on his waits and jumping recently. I cannot do this with him, I have to continuously work on everything simultaneously.

I also have to work the course better and get in front more. The courses we do well on, I am racing him and front crossing. I only saw one course where I used a rear cross effectively and as the best option, the others were me being cautious or lazy. I also have to give more, if I want Dylan to run at 100% I should be giving that too … even on the courses I don’t like or find boring.

It is nice watching my first couple of runs with Jet to the latest ones. We’ve made a lot of progress this winter, her contacts are much better (even her slow Aframe is quicker!) and we’re generally working to the same wavelength now. She’s such an honest, smart and powerful little girl; I will miss her happy shrieking first thing in a morning. I’d love to try and get her up to Grade 5 over the summer but I think Katie probably wants her back now, they have a busy flyball schedule lined up!

Also, my bum is enormous in all these videos and I do not thank my mother for managing to prominently feature it so often. Hopefully it will shrink magically for all the summer season videos. Can’t believe we’re back outdoors in 2 weeks!

Tailwaggers #5 April

Bit of a hit and miss day!

I made some silly handling errors all day, my personal mental management was way off. I looked after the dogs and worked them around the courses, but I made some handling decisions that I really shouldn’t have. Dylan is always very forgiving and bailed me out a couple of times, especially on the Triple A course; Jet is always honest but she was a little bit wild this weekend, and that meant we got lots of E’s.

Dylan’s Novice Plus Jumping was a really straightforward course, a little bit too fast for Dyl and I. We had a bit of a cruising clear, with both of us on auto-pilot, but he surprisingly finished 4th. I think there were a lot of poles from the faster dogs!

Primary Jumping was another very fast, very simple course, and yet I managed to get Jet 5R by using a verbal marker (yes) that Jet doesn’t respond to in the same way as my dogs. Our lack of training together biting me in the ass, and it was a shame as we’d have been pushing for top-3 without it. Bugger!

Novice Plus Agility was a fantastic course, pitched just right. Lots of handling options, lots of handler challenges and no nasty call-offs or outright traps. I had a long argument with Rob when walking the course about whether it was possible to get in front to do a front cross at the end, but I agreed to try it because really, I am a little bit lazy and would rather handle from behind than in front (don’t tell him I said that). Unfortunately Dyl knocked a pole at the start, (#5) and his seesaw was a little slow, but I at least nailed that front cross! Looking at the times, we weren’t fast enough for the placings anyway, which was disappointing but having watched some of the other dogs run, our contacts just weren’t fast enough. A very dark collie bitch (Katie would have loved her!) with absolutely stunning 2o2o contacts won it, with Caddie and Asher in 2nd and 3rd. The collie bitch (Snowy) and Caddie have some of the fastest 2o2o contacts I have ever seen, I aspire to have contacts that good one day!

Primary Agility was another well pitched course, with just an awkward weave entry to put me off. Jet came off the seesaw with too much speed, and instead of shaping her to the weave entry like I should have done, I stood still and tried to let her find it herself (like I would with Dyl). Doesn’t work with Jet! We got 5f there and then I moved across to the Aframe too quickly and she lost me, total miscommunication. Sorry Jetly!

Jet’s Triple A was fairly straightforward but I watched a few dogs run and saw them all have the 3rd pole, and I had a feeling Jet would have it as well. It looked like a straightforward angle from the dog’s perspective but it wasn’t, and Jet did have it down. Bit of a shame again as she had a nice run, but Triple A is not really Jet’s game as the Aframe is her weakest obstacle, she’s too slow (and I rarely saw that about Jet!) Dylan’s Triple A was a similar kind of course, but for some reason when walking it I read pull-throughs where really it wasn’t. I wasn’t the only handler to do that, but it left me wrong-footed throughout, late with my timing, overhandling and generally messy. It didn’t look too bad on the video, and we came 4th anyway, but that’s all thanks to Dylan!

OMG Jumping was a great premise – two sets of numbers, you pick a ball from a bag to tell you which course you run just before you go in – but the courses were a little easy for my preference. Very fast, very easy to remember, and pretty much identical for all levels, except Novice Plus got a set of 6 weaves instead of a jump on one part of the course. I got the Black course with Dylan, which is what I wanted as it had the more spacey part to start. Dyl finished up 7th, out of the placings but not too bad a time. I really wanted the Red course with Jet as she has a tendency to try and bounce everything when she’s opened up, and it doesn’t always work! The Black course had a tighter straight-line finish which tends to be Jet and I’s downfall, but we got the Black course as well. I asked her to collect a bit too much at the end in my worry about poles, and we went into the lead for about 10s before eventually coming 3rd.

HnH April Fool – Go Jetset!

Superstar Jet gets first billing this time. She had a fantastic first run on a tricky Grade 3 course and nailed it, lovely fast weaves and just a really cracking run. She won by a nose, a 1st and so into Grade 4!

She went clear in the Redmills Open Jumping, and finished up 18th. We had a slow start and I nearly lost her on one of the turns, so a very good result! We also went clear in the Grade 3-4 Agility but I have no idea if she got anything as she came up slightly off after her run when heading back to the car, so I pulled her from her last run. She was sound in the afternoon and when delivered home, so hopefully it was nothing serious.

Kim was slightly off in her first two jumping runs, but nothing to ring alarm bells. But she was really not jumping properly in her first agility, so I pulled her from the last class as well. She was sound and her gait looked fine, but she was over stretching into all the jumps with her front end, as though she wasn’t getting any power from her hind. Even when lazing around Kim extends into her jumps, so I’m not sure what that was about. She’s around due a chiro trip anyway.

Dylan got 4 eliminations and a 3rd in Grade 5 Agility with a really lovely run, his contacts were pretty slow compared to how he has been recently and I’m not sure why, but he ran the course very well. Just 0.6s seperating 1st-4th so a good result!

I was very pleased with his elimination runs as well. I was fully prepared to walk if he broke his waits and he held them all day, hmm! We just had some chilled out runs and Dylan took a few more jumps than necessary in most of them, so I was probably a little too relaxed. I tried to keep him quieter and well snuggled in the queue as well, which isn’t easy indoors, but he did seem less stressed.

Next Hare’n’Hounds is outdoors at Easter. Nice weather would be lovely please!

Back at Drax

It’s been a while since we last flyballed, and much longer since we were running on grass, let alone at Drax!

Kim was back in Division 6 and the second team, where she belongs! We had hoped to take a strong 5-dog team but unpredictable entire bitches coming into season meant our fifth dog was bumped up to the top team, and we ran as a four. Our team ended up consisting of two Labs and two Lurchers, which was fun, and everyone ran well. We struggled a little at the end of the day and didn’t quite manage our run of wins from the morning, and ended up 2nd. Theme for the day …

Dyl was up with Barneys in Division 3; I ought to point out that I still think of Dylan and I as being subs for this team, but we’ve actually run with them all winter and as Dylan is running fairly consistent 4.8s now, we will likely be staying there until we find some new, faster, dogs and handlers to usurp us! It was very satisfying to smash our seedtime to bits and run an 18.66 fastest time, and we nearly won the Division but lost by a whisker to Sheffield (literally 0.01 seperating us!). All credit to Jet and Murphy, without whom we would have struggled to even break 19s, let alone repeatedly. Murphy was fantastic, running 4.2s ALL day over 12″, and Jet pulled off some equally amazing 4.4s. We finished 2nd anyway!

Dylan ran well too, no stuttering into the first hurdle and only some moments of silly dancing when he should have been focussing. He was generally tight off the box, although wasn’t using his back end nearly as well or as much as I would have liked. Always work to do!

Mollie ran well, as did her team, and finished 2nd. I was on the line for this team and that naturally means I can’t remember anything except they did good.

Back at Drax in a month, lots of agility in the meantime for Dyl, Jet, Kim and I.

Gap Farm February 11

Excellent flyballing, some very good racing.

Dylan was on brilliant form, the specialised training we’ve been doing recently has been hugely and noticably beneficial for him and a few of the other dogs. It was very cool to see real results so quickly! His boxturn wasn’t brilliant, he is coming away much sharper now rather than turning wide, but he isn’t executing the swimmer’s turn as he should be.

Dylan was also very confident as he was running with his best girls Kim and Jet, and his old Labrador friends Buddy and Lucy. All dogs he feels very comfortable with! Kim wasn’t quite on her usual form, I’m beginning to think that the Gap Farm matting just doesn’t suit her, she never seems to run at her best there. She’s unusual in that respect as I think most teams have found that their teams run equal or better times on the matting. Kim has always prefered very hard ground though, like sports halls or sun-baked turf, so maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised. She brought the hurdle height down for the others though, so it was worth keeping her in that team.

Mollie unfortunately drew the short straw. We knew she was going to be unfit and really needed the spot in the bottom team, who ended up running in the second arena. It was more dimly lit than the main arena and although it was perfectly fine for most dogs, Mollie really struggled to see. It was exactly the kind of light she has the most difficulty with, a kind of muted half-light with deep shadows but no real bright spots. She ended up interfering a few times simply because she lost my mother, and she kept mistaking various non-ball objects for balls which caused some chaos as well. We are just going to have to pull her if the team ends up in that arena again, although I think by this time next year it’s unlikely Mol will be running indoors at all as her eyesight will have deteriorated further by then.

Next flyball at the end of March, plenty of time to get Mollie back up to fitness and hopefully work a little more on Dylan’s box.