Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Just trying to see if I have this embedding thing down pat ........

Friday, April 19, 2013

Taking the Long Way

That's what this agility journey feels like sometimes.  No matter how well you plan, there's always something out there to come along and mess with your mind.  Obviously my idea of postponing my usual Christmas 'time off from anything to do with agility training' and doing it sometime over Winter instead was a bad one, or so the universe ends up telling me.

Training was going great over Summer on my dry, grassless, dusty area until Ivy managed to get something sharp between her toes while executing a tight turn. Result, one totally mangled toenail and a big gash between the toes that was a nightmare to stop bleeding.  Just when I thought it was under control it would open up again .... and so the healing process had to start all over again.  Did I mention how impatient I am when it comes to not being able to train and Ivy is even worse!  And so we had quite a few weeks off in February/March even though it wasn't planned. Plus I learnt that toe injuries take forever to heal, who would have thought.

But the good news is - I have grass again.  So much nicer to run on than dirt and Ivy agrees.
We ended up missing the first few trials back this year.  I still went to Warrnambool and gave the caravan another outing in March since the accommodation was already organised.  Plus I managed a Masters Jumping pass with a 'borrowed' dog which was fun.  But I missed running my girl and couldn't wait to get back to it - especially as all I wanted was to start to test her contacts under trial conditions after hardly entering agility last year.  Yes, I'm one of those weird people who actually prefer running agility to jumping as well.

Any excuse for a photo overload .
So on to Easter - I didn't even bother entering jumping and entered every agility related run I could find.  Ivy was so excited to be back .... so what does her dumb handler do ....... climb a fence as a shortcut back to the car and pull something in my thigh, all before I have even had a run of course.

We tried to do Excellent and Open agility.  Excellent was a course where I didn't have to run too much, clear until the 2nd last obstacle which was a tunnel/dogwalk discrimination which we didn't get.  On the Open course we had one refusal, caused by me not being able to run and get to the end of the tunel in time.  I decided to call it quits after that as my leg was really hurting and it wasn't fair on Ivy either.  But the encouraging part mixed in with the frustration was that all her contacts met the criteria, big YAY for Ivy.
But wait, there's more - photos that is.
So now it's April and we have only just come back to trialling.  Last weekend was our first trial for the year so once again I am taking the long way.  Learning patience along the way too.  But very happy with her contact performance - over quite a few runs she self released only 2 times, once on an A Frame and once on the seesaw. 

I am willing to cut her a bit of slack on the A Frame for now as I'm sure I have confused her with retraining it so many times. (eg: you're stopping, you're running, now you're back to stopping again)  Plus on the next run I held her there while I ran off and she didn't move at all so I'm not worrying too much about the slippery slope of anticipation just yet.  But I'm not accepting anything like that on the seesaw, so much so that on the run where she self released I actually put her back on as I knew the particualr judge wouldn't mind ..... to the collective sound of gasping outside the ring as it was the 2nd last obstacle from home and we were clear at that point.  So I guess that taking the long way in Excellent agility is self inflicted and so be it.  The rest of her seesaws after that were perfect so I just keep telling myself I am right to look at the big picture, LOL.

We had a clear in Open Agility and won the ring which was pretty exciting given that there were quite a number of Agility Champion dogs entered in Open.   This was a lovely flowing course with the only real difficulty being the distance challenge which caught quite a few dogs out.  It's hard to see on the video but the line went from near the end of the A Frame with 2 jumps down to a tunnel (with the wrong end looking tempting for dogs that didn't really drive down the line of jumps) and then out of the tunnel over another 2 jumps ending in another tunnel discrimination.  I found this one hard as I had to handle it on the 'wrong side' of the jump because of the tape and really made a bit of a mess of handling that part - getting a big spin in the process that cost me time , plus lots of yelling and arm flapping I'm sure. NOT PRETTY ! But I don't think anyone looked very pretty handling that part and I was certainly happy with the outcome.  Here's the link to the video, thanks Deb for getting that run in between trying to fit your own in.

We also managed to go clear and win Novice Gamblers so a big weekend out for Miss Ivy on her first trial back.  Plus she did some lovely work on most courses - one bar down on another Excellent agility run (my fault, especially after seeing the video) and one refusal on the only Masters Jumping I ran -  totally caused by me yet again. 
Told you there were more !
Best thing was her contact performance though.  I am not naive enough to think that they are 'fixed' by any means but it was a good start under trialling conditions  I still want more speed across unfamiliar dogwalks (she's much faster on mine) and I know I need to watch that occasional self releasing on the A Frame but for the first time in her career I had contacts in a trial that I don't hate.  I don't necessarily love them either but I can really see the progress which makes me feel that taking the long way and having most of last year off agility was worthwhile.  I am so envious of all those gorgeous running contacts that I see many people training but I'm not quite ready to go on that journey just yet - hopefully I can get the stopped ones sorted first anyway.  Love training this girl, she is so much fun.  Some more 'testing contacts' coming up this weekend and then we will see where we are and decide how to go on.  Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Much to Ivy's disgust anyway - out comes the silly hat.  She was at least a lot more cooperative about wearing it than the kelpies were anyway.   So on behalf of 'she in the silly hat' I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and New Year.   We might even get around to an agility related post before the end of the year, who knows !

Thursday, November 15, 2012

In Spring a Girl's Fancy turns to ..... Rubber!

So now that the weather has warmed up a little, it's time to finally get those bags of rubber out of the shed and start sprucing up my contacts.

Originally I wanted to do something really girlie like purple with pink contact areas, but thought that might be tempting fate with the macho kelpies - especially Atilla who usually only gets one paw in on most occasions - so I went with generic blue and yellow instead.

I couldn't decide which shade of blue I preferred so in the end I gave in to my indecision and went for both.  I am really happy with the result as I think they look good mixed together ...... kind of like highlights in hair rather than the one flat colour.
The weesaw - just waiting in the shed to have the sides painted in their new matching colours and then we're good to go !

We ended up doing what all the clubs here have done and just trowelled the stuff straight onto the contacts.  I would still like to experiment with making a skin at some stage as I believe this would give a better result, especially on the edges.  However having to add acetone to work the rubber into a skin and being stuck in a fairly average ventilated area to do the job just didn't do it for me, so for home use we went with the 'easier' option, even if it doesn't give the best result.

Having said that though, I think the results are still pretty good.  Although it took quite a few sessions to get the job done (and the dogwalk is still not complete) I think just having two of us working on it actaully gave a better result than doing it at club with 5 or 6 people.  With one person doing the trowelling and smoothing, the end result was more consistent in regard to the amount of pressure applied, if that makes sense - we seemed to get a lot more ridges and uneven surfacing at club. 

I also found that adding a little less binder than the amount recommended to me gave a better result.  The less sticky the rubber, the easier it is to work with, so providing you have it all just coated, it still dries just fine.  I ended up going with 'feel' rather than measuring the binder after the first few 'mixes' and am happy with the results.   The A Frame was completed with different amounts of binder in the mix and you can't see or feel the difference at the end.

So, my Top Ten 'tips' :

1. Use good quality clamps (metal screw ons) to hold the wooden edging on while you are working rather than those cheap plastic trigger type things. Keep pressure on the wood and slide it down and off when you have finished.

2.  Choose a working spot where you can leave heavy equipment like the A Frame in place to dry instead of having to pick it up afterwards.

3. Don't spend money on nitrile gloves from particular big hardware chains.  Woolworths carries them at a fraction of the cost.

4. Don't stress about any bits that are less than perfect - you can go back and do a 'touch up' once the rubber is all applied.  However it is eeasier to do this while the rubber is still wet.  We made the mistake of trying to touch up a couple of bits on the seesaw a few days later and it did not go well.

5. Trowels and wooden edging clean up really easily with a rag dipped in a little bit of diesel.

6. Mixing 2 shades of the one colour on the bigger areas is a 'winner' in my opinion !

7. A flat metal bar gives a better result for smoothing  than a trowel any day.

8. Don't worry about cleaning out mixing tubs at the end.  If you leave them to dry the binder and rubber granules will just peel out like a skin.

9. The fewer people who do the 'flattening' the better, as you get a more consistent pressure and better results.  We had quite a number doing it at club, and the surface is more uneven compared to what we ended up with at home.

10. Just do it - your dogs will thank you for it, believe me!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Another Girl's Road Trip

Last week we made another journey to South Australia to repeat last year's 'Girl's Road Trip' that was so much fun.   This time there were no trials in Adelaide to coincide with the timing so we drove all the way to Whyalla - what were we thinking ??????
It looks not too far on the map, but after spending the whole day driving to Adelaide, another 4 hours on top of that the next day felt like another 14 hours ...... glad I went and we all had a good time but I won't be repeating the experience unless I have a couple of weeks to do it in next time.  My poor butt feels like it has done a lifetime of sitting in one trip and is still paying for it !

Some photos of the 'Whyalla Experience' :

Port Wakefield was so pretty - a town full of historic sandstone buildings that were beautifully maintained.

150 year old Peppercorn tree in Port Wakefield - visions of Treebeard from Lord of the Rings

Fields of canola were the most common sight through the car window

View over the trial ground.  A lot of patchy red sand areas, but mainly grass and in reasonable condition.
A bit challenging for the judges on the second day afer someone put a stake through a water pipe when securing
the weave poles, creating a little swampy area which had to be covered by the dogwalk,
resulting in some very quick thinking course design
An interesting and cost effective solution to rubberising contacts - rubber gazebo matting !
This is the underside.   Matting was glued down tight and then the contact area painted on.
Must admit I had my doubts when I first saw it, but most dogs had very little issue with it, and it did the job
for a fraction of the cost of wet pour rubber.   Very innovative !

 We had some mixed runs over the weekend - a few nice ones with just bars, one with a broken start line that I went back and reset, (and then of course it was a ripper run after that !)  a couple of Masters Jumping runs where I enjoyed the courses a lot but found them very challenging to get into correct position with a fast dog, (although the courses themselves were probably not as technical as we tend to get in Vic.) plus we did manage a first place Qually in ADX on Saturday, which was very nice after having so long off agility to work on that dratted A Frame.  (And which I am now revisiting yet again, but I won't go into the fact that I am a sucky A Frame trainer in this post - that probably deserves a whole post of its own !)
And Ivy's BFF and travelling companion Zee also had a first place Qually in ADX on Sunday, so at least the Vics managed to fly the flag in Excellent Agility for the weekend, LOL.
We didn't enter Sunday afternoon's trial so we could spend some time at the beach before driving back to Adelaide.
Ivy's buddy Zee waits patiently to be allowed out of the car to hit the beach

Success !   Now throw the damned ball !
The tide goes out a loooooong way at Whyalla.  Perfect for ball loving dogs !
Did I mention about throwing the damned ball ...... like now !
And again - I will stare you down until you comply !

There were dolphins playing near the marina, but my zoom isn't good enough to capture a photo

And so finally back to Glenelg and our favourite motel ......
........ and finally Ivy's travelling companions appear almost tired out - almost anyway !
Way too tired to photograph on the drive home but I couldn't resist stopping in Kaniva just over the Victorian border - obviously a town with a sense of humour.  The sheep and kelpie are from an Arts project celebrating the role of the woollen industry in the district and the sign is proudly displayed outside the local pub.  Enjoy !



Saturday, August 18, 2012

Nationals Wrap Up

After having a lot of reservations about actually going to Nationals in the first place, I can definitely say that I'm glad I made the decision to go ahead as the positives certainly outweighed the negatives. 

Ivy finally has that last pass we needed for JDX - gained in her first heat and qualifying for the final as well which is not something that I was expecting to happen.  She's a great dog and definitely right up there for speed when I get it together, but we have had so many 'one bar runs' lately that I think it was starting to cloud my perception of how competitive we might actually be.  And the best thing was .... 2 bars down in total in 7 runs - 3 jumping and agility heats plus the jumping final.  If we managed to reproduce those statistics every time then I would be very happy indeed. (We won't mention her Novice Gamblers run where I totally forgot where I had intended to go with the result being not pretty, especially when she almost took out the judge after taking the spread backwards !)

Here is a link to her final's run.
She jumped off her line on the jump before the run by (or the line I was anticipating she would take anyway) and it all seemed to happen so quickly that I didn't react and try and correct it.  Plus looking at video I think I took one step slightly into her line which in turn pushed her line out a bit too much, but hindsight is a wonderful thing and I am very happy with her run and the time that she recorded. Beautiful course too (apart from where he put that one damn jump - LOL) and we both had a lot of fun running it.

Our Nationals road trip (aka Julia and Ivy's Excellent Adventure) started a few days beforehand when we left for Canberra on the way to Sydney. 

Lovely Winter weather for a drive up the Hume and we stopped off in the tiny little town of Jugiong, which is one of my favourite places.

How awesome is this - local artist has filled an old road house site with a a whole lot of these sculptures and they look amazing.

So on to Canberrra which was also an amazing experience, but not for the same reasons as Nationals that's for sure and not a place I intend to return to trial in a hurry. I have always enjoyed trialling interstate, especially going to Adelaide last year, and the couple of times I have gone across the border to Wagga, but I can't say I enjoyed running in Canberra.  Let's start with the catalogue.

This is a $9 catalogue ....... 5 photocopied pages stapled in the corner with writing so small you could hardly read it anyway.  And I had to ask for a copy as it wasn't provided at check in even though I had paid.  I mean come on guys !  $9 ?  To produce a cheap photocopy with  a staple in the corner ?
Especially when it was available free online and the only reason I paid for one was because I knew I wouldn't have access to a printer while I was away and wasn't sure how far ahead it would be downloaded.

Moving on to the contact equipment.  We are definitely spoiled in Victoria with our rubber contacts in the majority and although I don't especially like the way it seems that some clubs are almost held to ransom if they don't provide them I must admit I love having them.  But even when clubs don't have rubber, the general standard of the wooden equipment is usually fine, unlike what was used here.  I pulled Ivy from all her agility runs both mornings as the equipment was still wet with condensation and there was no way I was risking her on it. Slippery and bald were two words that came to mind.  In the afternoons I still avoided the dogwalk (which was definitely the worst of them all) and just ran the rest of the course, leaving it out, so I could at least get some A Frame practice.  Watching fast dogs slip and slide all over contacts is not my idea of safe trialling and I can't believe it is acceptable equipment for trialling there.   Think I was the only person who 'voted with her feet' though, but so be it.  I won't risk my dog's safety for anything.

Canberra also wins the award for the unfriendliest triallers ever.  I was pretty shocked at this on the Saturday and thought maybe I was imagining it, so after relaying the day's trialling to a friend who came up on the Sunday, she decided to test my theory and say 'hello' to everyone I had tagged as having a face that might crack if they smiled.  Well all I can say is that the theory was well and truly upheld as not one of them even returned her greeting and all turned their faces away and ignored her - too funny.  Geez, they go on about how much they hate Victorians but we're not that scary, surely. Especially when people here always seem to go out of their way to at least greet 'strangers'.   On the flip side, we met some lovely people but all turned out to be from Sydney !   Canberra seems to have this weird kind of Stepford wives vibe about it where if you an outsider you are not encouraged to make any sort of eye contact (unless they deem that you are 'someone' in the world of agility and are worth the bother of speaking too) and the general impression is 'we just want you to piss off back from where you came from'  ...... don't worry, we will be !  Not an experience I ever intend to repeat that's for sure. 

Just as well our time in Sydney well and truly made up for it.  Met lots of lovely people and dogs and was very happy with all our runs.  It was enjoyable watching dogs from all over Australia and New Zealand compete and to see the standard of some of the runs too as it most definitely inspires me to raise my level of handling and to keep working hard.  Loved watching a number of 'Ivy relatives' and some absolutely brilliant kelpies as well - there were quite a number of these.  Not to mention the variety of breeds competing, some that I have never seen doing agility before.

It was a great experience to run in the indoor arena, especially stepping up to the line on finals day which was an unexpected bonus.  Sure, there were some problems with the venue, with not much space for crates indoors or gazebos outdoors, everything being so spread out, not to mention walking up and down all those hills from the parking lot, but the general impression is that the good definitely outweighed the bad and it was an amazing venue to compete in and I am thankful that I had the chance to do so.

Ivy certainly enjoyed herself too, especially being allowed inside in the dog friendly motel and not having those annoying kelpies around !  (So she says)  We had a 'day off' mid week, as I didn't enter any of the Open events in the evenings due to having an hour drive to the venue, so spent the afternoon at Bundeena, a lovely little 'outer suburb' of Sydney right on the beach.

The beach was lovely, as was the sunshine and the outdoor (dog friendly) cafes.  The whole place had the atmosphere of a quaint little 'artists village' (think of a smaller scale Warrandyte in Victoria) where everyone waves as they walk or cycle past and there is a real community feel about it.  I imagine it would be a nice place for a holiday with dogs - just a pity it was a bit far from the Nationals venue as it was the original place I was thinking about staying.

I didn't get to watch too much Finals action as I left straight after our jumping final to get most of the driving home done in daylight hours, but there were some wonderful runs and it certainly felt like a privilege to be part of it.  We may not have been 'successful' in regard to medals but we managed to achieve a few personal goals that I had set so our final run was just as successful in my eyes - and it was exciting to have to move on and set some new goals, which I have now done.  Thanks Ivy for being my very willing partner and giving your all - I might whinge about the fact that you run like a crack addict a lot of the time, but I admit I secretly love it and you are such fun to run, I wouldn't have it any other way.   So time to move on to Masters jumping and kick it up another notch - and my handling a whole lot of notches.   Hopefully we get to repeat our 'excellent adventure' in Brisbane 2014, we can't wait !

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Quick Catch Up for the Birthday Girl

Ivy turned 3 a few days ago which still doesn't seem possible.  This year I went with an 'ivy' theme for her cupcakes.  It took ages to make all the ivy leaves out of fondant but I was happy with how they turned out - not so pleased about the colour though and next time I will try a different method of colouring to get them darker.  Originally I wanted dark green on pale yellow but it wasn't to be .... thank goodness for Plan B. They did get a big paws up from all the dogs though.
Happy Birthday gorgeous girl !
We leave for Nationals in the morning, driving to Canberra first (I am ignoring the weather forecast which appears to have lots of minus signs in front of all the numbers) and then heading up to Sydney on Tuesday.
It's going to be a bit lonely, as most of my friends have pulled out, but I am still looking forward to having a good time with my girl.  Looks like it's 'Boys Week' at home for Liam and the kelpies ..... I am not thinking about what the place will look like when we get back.

I feel totally unprepared for these Nationals - not helped by no training for a week due to the weather here - but strangely enough I really don't care.  We will be winging it with our A Frame (one session at full height and no box does not make for a good A Frame performance) but that's just the way it is.  Canberra is my 'let's see what the hell she will do in a trial' run and if it is too awful then I have no problems pulling her out of agility at Nationals and just running jumping.  Planning on doing the A Frame as many times as humanly possible in Gamblers too.  So while preparation has been nothing like I planned and has almost been non-existant, at least it means that I will be more relaxed as I am not expecting to be competitive at this stage. I am hoping that the experience gives me an idea about where we want to go from here in the next stage of our training and some more goals to work towards.  Also looking forward to seeing some awesome dogs from all around the country.   I will try and update from Sydney if I get the chance.

We had our club trial a couple of weeks back, this is the smaller club that I belong to, still a fairly new club with very few members, and it was awesome to see our small trialling contingent do so well.

From left to right : Dean and Koto (3rd place Novice Jumping), Emi and Niah (1st place Novice Agility), Col and Cindy (Masters Jumping pass), Lynn and Ace (2nd place Excellent Jumping) and me on the end with Atilla (3rd place Masters Agility) and Ivy (1st place Excellent Jumping)   I think Liam needs to learn how to use the zoom on the camera though !

Very happy with both Ivy's jumping runs - we had two bars down on the one before she Q'd - one before and one after the tunnel, which are pretty common bars for her to take and something we are working on, but I actually thought it was a better run.   Plus it was a full second faster than the qualifying one too. No video this time though so will just have to go with my feeling that it was better.

Ivy guarding her 'loot' - especially the edible part !
Have had a big blonde moment in regard to her passes though - thank goodness I sorted it out the night before the trial or I would have been really disappointed.  I was sure we only had one pass to go for JDX, as according to my trial diary we had 4 already.  When I got my cards out to check, I could only find 3.  So after a lot of 'what is going on here ?' and hair pulling (mine not Ivy's) I finally found a Novice Agility pass paperclipped behind one of her Jumping certificates that I had mistakenly recored as an Excellent Jumping pass.  The embarrassing thing about this is that I now have 4 Novice Agility passes and after all my whinging last year that I was never going to get out of Novice Agility ..... well I actually did have 3 passes a couple of weeks before I thought I did, oops !   I have never done this before ... alternatives must be :
1. I am getting old and forgetful.
2. Ivy has had so many one bar down runs where she still came 1st (both in Novice Agility and Excellent Jumping) that it starts to become confusing about which ones are passes and which ones are not.
Hmm, lock in number 2 Eddie !  That's my story and I'm sticking to it!