So Bloem 2012 has come and gone... it was FREEEEZING... and although I normally deal with the dry cold better than the wet cold (short term), as in I don't get as cold... this year was a little different. :) It was soo dry, my hands cracked everywhere and it was very painful to touch anything. On Sunday morning we were walking the course like robots, since our joints were close to being frozen... There were a few snowflakes falling on Sunday morning when we got to the grounds... first I ever saw in my life, although not really the real thing I guess... a few tiny white flakes on my blue gazebo... that will be my memory... :)
So let's rather start at the beginning... Thursday was quite a pleasant day, not so cold and we kicked off the show, albeit on very hard grounds with very little grass on them, in not too bad a fashion. Chinzi came out all cylinders firing to win the very first Contact round of the weekend in a superb time. Quite surprisingly, Caili followed in her footsteps and also won the QC in Medium, making her up into a KUSA Contact Agility Champion. Caili really started off well by also winning the Grade 5 Dog Jumping QC in that first show. Needless to say, I was very pleased. Photos courtesy of Nadine Shortland.
A nice challenging Contact round saw me once again have my timing out with Chinz, which resulted in a refusal, but even with that still the best time by my star Chinz-Pinz. Some food for thought for me, and something to go train... Thank you judge! :)
Friday came and was Agility Interprovincial day... a little colder but still pleasant conditions, in short, we had fun! Chinzi won another Contact QC and had a phenomenal 2nd place in the Dog Jumping run-off to a master of speed, Seis. She beat some really fast dogs to obtain that 2nd place, so I was very proud of of my Chinz.
Our Western Province Large Team, consisting of Chinzi, Java, Rocket & Luna came 3rd in the Agility Interprovincial competition, and our Medium Team consisting of Lucy, Caili, R-The and Or-sum WON the Medium competition!
Little Bowie had some better rounds on Friday than on Thursday, and got 3 qualifications, 2 in Non-Contact to move up to Grade 2 and 1 in Contact to also move up to Grade 2. He was very consistent in his agility rounds though, haha... he either eliminated or came 1st! LOL :)
In the mean time, after having struggled with lower back pain and muscle spasms for a few weeks now, I really started feeling a very painful muscle strain on Friday, so withdrew from the Dog Jumping Interprovincial event to be held at the Boeremark on the Saturday. Thankfully we had reserve dogs lined up to take Chinzi's place in Large and Bowie's place in Small, thank you Vicki with Rocket and Lindsay with Or-sum. I really needed the rest that morning in order to nurse my leg so I could run the Nationals that afternoon.
Arriving at the fields the wind was galing... worse than in Cape Town at Theo Marais, I promise you! And not only were jumps being blown over constantly, dry grass was blowing in EVERYWHERE... my poor new car will never be the same! Anyhow, since strong winds like those are very rare in the Free State (I get told?), there were no stakes to keep the jumps in place and plans had to be made all over in order for the competition to continue.
It was absolutely HORRIBLE conditions and I take my hat off to EVERY dog and EVERY handler who still tried to give their best performance amidst the super strong winds.
Every dog got a gust of wind at a different place on the course, and unfortunately I feel it did not make for a very fair competition, but what could we do, but continue. We all just had to bite the bullet and make the most of it. Well done to the winners, it took guts! Not to mention the poor judges who constantly had to rebuild their courses and brave the winds!
Levi won the Non-Contact National title for 2012 in Medium and Chinzi was Reserve in the Contact round for Large. Caili also got the Reserve in the Dog Jumping Grade 5. So not too bad all in all. Little Bowie got braver and ran a nice steady round to get 3rd place in the Dog Jumping Grade 3 Nationals.
I tried a brave move with Chinzi and unfortunately eliminated in the Non-Contact. :) Something else to go train though, yay!
After the Nationals we still had to run the FCI show, in which I only entered Chinzi. In the Contact round she came off the A-frame early and as it was threatening the whole weekend, I took the DQ and put her back into her 2o2o. Her round after that was flawless and we could also proof the dogwalk contact then.
Then the FCI Jumping, where I was very disappointed to find yet another Grade 1 level course presented to us. It was basically just a fast spiral type course going round and round and round with one direction change... but once again, we just went out to do our best, and I was very happy with how Chinzi still managed a 2nd place (and QC) to some very fast dogs.
So yes, Sunday's frozen morning was difficult, but I think better than that wind on Saturday! :)
It was so cold, that I had to warm Chinzi up for about 20minutes before I felt she was good to go run a round flat out... I could not risk any injuries so short before our trip to Czech. She excelled again and won the last Contact round of the weekend in fine style, to win her 4th Contact QC of the weekend (5 QC's on the weekend in total)... and she also now has a whopping total of 50 Agility QC's to her name, that is only in Contact & Non-Contact, not including her 9 Dog Jumping QC's. :D
Now for some thoughts on the courses... please don't get me wrong, I am not moaning or complaining, purely sharing my thoughts and opinion. I am long past the place where I moan and complain, since it doesn't help and gets us nowhere. I just run to the best of my ability with whatever I am presented with. However, I also feel constructive criticism could help improve the sport for us all. So please see my view as such.
Apart from 4 Agility courses (and we had a total of 14 over the weekend), 2 Contact and 2 Non-Contact, I was very disappointed with the degree of difficulty the Top grade class were presented with. Most of it was grade 1 level courses with maybe one testing element in them, but really nothing to prepare one self for World Champs or even worthy of the titles we were competing for. I sincerely hope we will be presented with more challenging courses next year.
On the other hand, I found a few of the Dog Jumping courses to be quite innovative and challenging, a breath of fresh air amidst the others.
As for some of the judging, and I completely understand how difficult certain judging aspects can be, having just qualified as a judge myself, it was simply sad... to see someone not even ATTEMPT to get into a good position in order to judge a contact properly. We all make mistakes, sure, but we can at least give it our best shot. :(
So thank you and well done to the judges who challenged us and gave their best. To the others, I hope you will be open to criticism and that someone will guide you to learn from this and improve, since no matter what, we still appreciate the sacrifice you made for standing in the cold and wind, giving of yourself and your time so we can have a competition. Let's grow together though in order to move forward for the betterment of our beloved sport.
At Prize Giving the biggest surprise came when Chinzi won the weekend Overall! :) Last year she missed out by a few points to come second, and we were really trying our best to be as consistent as possible this weekend. I am pleased that amidst terrible weather and less-than-challenging courses, she still gave her best, lasted better than previous years and ran what I thought was very good times for her, consistently throughout the weekend.
Now for some SERIOUS training before World Champs coming up soon!
On our way back, we saw some snow up there on the mountains...
Some video clips to follow soon...