Thursday April 29th - Day 1 of Qualifying Heats Ok - So Phoenix's first runs at the Nationals - Novice Agility. Well nerves got the better of us both :-) No wait at the start line, missed contacts, and from memory a missed weave. Phoenix was very pre-occupied with all the people watching, and went into her scardy dog "I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to be doing here Mum" mode. I'll give her credit though because there were WAY more spectators than we are used to at normal trials, and she tried really hard for me. I must admit I too was a bit in awe of the number of people watching and I don't think I handled Nix in the same manner I normally would. Sorry Nix.
Next run was Excellent Jumping. My nerves were still not under control! Nix ran better than in her Agility run which was nice, but still not at her usual level. She still seemed to be a little overwhelmed by the atmosphere and my being nervous wouldn't have helped her at all. Damn stomach full of butterflies!!!!! Thus no clear round.
The afternoon saw us attempt Snooker for the first time! I had absolutely NO idea what I was doing - not a good start :-) We didn't get a quallie card but it was a good fun run and I think we both needed it!!!
Friday April 30th - Day 2 of Qualifying Heats "Get the butterflies in formation and you will kill them" That was the advice given to me in a good luck text before the start of todays heats. You know what? It made a difference. Every time I felt nervous I pictured all those butterflies flying in a 'V' and helping to drive me. Might sound silly but by god it worked!!! It helped Nix too! By me being more relaxed so was Nix. She was fast, happy and more importantly listening to me.
So - Excellent Jumping. An interesting course with many dogs getting caught up on the the run home where they sidetracked to a non existent tunnel entry. Dogs were ducking around a sandbag thinking it was a tunnel entry when in reality it was just the side of the tunnel and causing them to miss the jump they were supposed to take. Having watched this happen I decided to modify how I would handle that section and thankfully it worked. Nix ran clear - gained a 2nd place and a spot in the finals - WOOHOO!!
Novice Agility - Another lovely run. I made sure to pay full attention to contacts and those darn weavers!! Nix wasn't as fluid in her run as she was in jumping but I was still very happy with it - and well I should be. Clear round, 1st Place and a spot in the finals - AWESOME!!
Games again this afternoon - First attempt at Novice Gamblers this time!! Again LOADS of fun. Wasn't sure how we would go as Gamblers involves a distance handling challenge at the end and Nix would prefer to stay fairly close to me. Well Nix did me proud, we got our required number of points and then managed the "gamble" (distance challenge) at the end - first quallie card for Gamblers - Very cool.
What a day - 3 Clear rounds, a 1st Place, a 2nd Place and a spot in the finals for both Novice Agility and Excellent Jumping - HAPPY HAPPY CAMPER!!
Saturday May 1st - Day 3 of Qualifying Heats Still on a high from yesterday and looking forward to todays runs. Novice Agility unfortunately was not clear. Nix had an attack of falling in love with the Rough Collies!! She has an obsession with Rough Collies - Absolutely LOVES them. She spotted her 'boyfriend' Bailey and a couple of others before her run. Hmmmm - I need to do distraction training for Rough Collies. As we make our way around the course Phoenix is looking for the 'fluffy boys'. Very embarrassing when you have a dog waiting on the table looking in the opposite direction to where you are, doing happy body wags as she looks at the boys while you stand there saying "Leave it, leave it" to keep her on the table!! Geez it was funny :-)
Excellent Jumping - Nix definitely prefers Jumping to Agility. She is faster, more relaxed, more focused and happier (note to self to work on this in training!). Another great run today - Clear and 4th Place. Eligible for a spot in the finals but we were already there from yesterdays run.
Novice Strategic Pairs this afternoon. Teaming up again with Bernice & her lovely Kelpie 'Chuckles' for some more fun. Having worked out which sections we were each to do of the course we waited for our turn. What a hoot!! Bernice and I were both so pre-occupied with our own little sections that we forgot to watch what the other was doing!! A few reminders from the judge to look at our partner and eventually we got through the course finishing it with giant smiles and a great laugh!! We managed to qualify and even get 4th Place - CLASSIC!
Sunday May 2nd - The Finals OMG I have never been so nervous in all my life!! Novice Agility was the first final of the day. Nothing else was going on - EVERYBODY was watching. There were rows of people lined up around all 4 sides of the ring. People right on the ring ropes - EEK. This is something we have never encountered before - need to relax - HA! So it comes to our turn. I'm thinking positive thoughts, trying to get all those butterflies working with me. Feeling good. We step up, I remove Nix's collar and lead and it hits me ----- There is dead silence, not a sound. Not only that but as I look up I notice some of the best handlers in the country and they are watching me!! AAARRGHHH
So I try best I can to compose myself and reassure my Nixy Pix that it's all ok - She's not buying into it! We get through the first 4 obstacles reasonably well, Nix is looking at the crowd and I have to call hard to get her into the right tunnel entry, then we get to the A-Frame. Nix reaches the apex, stops dead and scans the crowd. She's not really that interested in coming down!! We continue on and Nix is in one heck of a hurry to get out of the ring, we miss both lots of contacts and the weavers were less than impressive. Boy what an experience that was.
I get a chance to chill out for a bit and watch some other fantastic runs before we go into the Excellent Jumping final. Man were there some fantastic dog and handler combinations to watch too.
Excellent Jumping - I'm feeling a little (emphasis on 'little') more relaxed. I have a better understanding of what to expect and I'm ready to go. The course is nice and we have a good shot at going clear and doing well. Step up to the line, take Nix's collar off and I hear someone call out - I have no idea what they said or even if they were calling out to me. Yet I lost concentration for a second. I return my focus to Nix and the stress has got to her too. She sits at the start line and starts scratching. She didn't do it for long but my god when you have so many people watching you it feels like an eternity!! Dodgy handler returns and I did the worst lead out you can ever imagine - Nix runs past the third jump :-( Such a shame because after that I got it together and we had an awesome run - fast, tight turns and managed the tricky bits really well. Oh well!
What an amazing 4 days!! I was so proud of my Nixy Pix and what we achieved. Still a baby dog (2 1/2) with only a years trialling under our belt I was more than happy. A big thank you to the organisers and all the competitors who helped to make the four days so enjoyable too. I had a fabulous time and the pleasure of meeting and making many wonderful new friends. It was a great experience and a big learning curve for both of us. Now to start making plans for NSW in 2012 :-)
** Photos to come soon **