So after 5 months of training, and about a month of being told we should start competing, Guinness and I went along to our first ever UK Agility competition today!
My training club, Dig It Dogs, were hosting a UKA Show this weekend and it was the perfect place to start. The show had been downsized from their larger field due to the weather and as I know a few of the people at Dig It it was the best place for a first try. My agility class trainer was there with her own dogs and competed in the same event as us so she helped me greatly; walking the course together and giving feedback afterwards.
I entered the Steeplechase as at the moment Guinness cannot weave straight poles and is nervous of the seesaw. I was generally quite relaxed but excited and nervous. We got there early and had plenty of time to sort out where we go and what ring we were in. Then it was a case of sit back and watch some of the events, keeping an eye on the schedule.
As the ring was changed for my event I started to run the course in my head as they laid it out and then set off walking my first ever course. Going round I realised that I knew what I was doing and could picture how Guinness would be running it and how best to handle him. I discussed with my trainer what she was doing with her dog, a toy size, so covered all options. The course was relatively easy with one difficult section.
We got in the que for our go and were up in no time. Quite a few dogs had already been eliminated or picked up faults and some dogs just wandered off, completely ignoring their owners. I wasn’t going to be bothered no matter what happened, this was our first run and anything could happen.
We set off well with Guinness jumping the first hurdle, which was my main achievement for the day as he’s got into a bad habit of ducking under the first one! We were going okay but a little messy as I slipped and nearly fell on wet grass at the second jump, but then he took the wrong jump about 1/3 way round. Oops! My fault as I didn’t direct him clear enough. Never mind we carried on quite smoothly with a little problem further along, but overall it wasn’t half bad.
We’d done it! Our first run ever! I’d remembered the course and Guinness had jumped the first hurdle! Success. Those were my only worries. Not only that but he followed my directions, he stayed with me and didn’t get distracted, he ran fast and clearly. Very positive!
When asked if we were having a go at the second Steeplechase class I gave it little thought and went off to sign up. I was excited! I wanted to have another go! Everyone talks about the agility bug and I’ve always been enthusiastic at training but unsure about competing, but after that first one I couldn’t wait to do another!
The second course was very straight forward with a tricky section in the middle with many different handling options. Either attempt a tough rear cross or stick with a slower, easier handling method. There was also a straight run of jumps with 2 set off-line which I knew Guinness could easily run past. We set off really well, doing a smooth row of jumps, but then with the tunnel in sight Guinness took an outside line around the jump straight into the tunnel! I tried to stop him but he was going too quick and too late. D’oh! He has done this sometimes at training, but not very often, and I hadn’t thought about giving a jump command on each one for safety. We carried on and did the tricky section really well and clearly, but he did miss out a jump in the straight finishing route.
I felt quite disappointment that he’d run around the jump as I didn’t handle it wrong, it was just Guinness going for speed and running round. However still very positive! A very successful trainer at Dig It said that we’d done great on the tricky section and again Guinness had been clear and followed me very well. I didn’t feel bad for long! We’d done great!
Two eliminations but two positive first runs! My nerves were reduced greatly in the second run and I can see them disappearing completely very soon. Guinness has got a few silly problems that we need to work on but he is also a great dog and has only been training properly for 5 months! He was calm and relaxed for the whole day but stepped up his concentration and excitement as soon as he watched me walking the course.
I spoke to some lovely people and everyone was encouraging and positive. A very friendly show atmosphere. Bring on the next one! I want to do more and get better and better. I enjoy it and most importantly Guinness loves it. It would be great to win and do well but that is not the most important thing, it’s a sport that is all about fun and laughter and enjoyment.