The Olympia hall is beautiful with the glass roof. It always looks so festive and really gets you in the Christmas mood! Here is a photo of the arena loaded with horse jumps. For us dog agility people the ring is TOO big; for the horse people it is probably too small. The horses are just gorgeous.
In reality this is a HORSE SHOW! And it is very spectator oriented. So although it is THE major agility final of the year; it doesn't always have that "agility" feel about it. It is a little tense as we have only 2 minutes to walk the course with the dogs in the arena with us and then run immediately. Luckily Kate put up some flowing sensible courses that didn't require too much mental anguish! The noise is deafening down in the arena and the announcers get the crowds worked up. When the horses are doing there things (jumping and dressage ect) you can hear a pin drop. But when the dogs start the agility; the announcers go into overdrive. It is not conducive to a calm focused run! It is exciting though! The huge ring and the crowds do get you wound up a bit! I was really proud of Zen this year; she has matured since we were first at Olympia two years ago when she was only just 2 years old! She seemed to cope better and was able to relax.
Chi took the atmosphere into his stride. He looked great and no one commented on his funny hair cut. To see him run you wouldn't know he just had two surgeries and hasn't run agility in weeks!
So anyway this is how it went.....
Here is a photo of Course walking in the afternoon. You may notice they had a clown on the course with a fake dog. In addition the announcer was walking about describing the course to the crowds. So an announcer, clown with fake dog, ring party still setting the course and us (in red) walking the course all in two minutes! I just kept moving around the announcer and tuned him out totally! At one point I thought about asking him to get the heck out of the way but I thought that might have been frowned upon! ha!
This is how they bring us in right behind the truck carrying the equipment. We then stand for a few minutes in the arena while they get the stuff off the two trucks. The equipment is cute; lots of Christmas themed stuff. And they use a wall jump which we don't see very often and put tinsel on top of the weave poles! Also the jumps are extra big for audience appeal....
I found the hardest thing was walking the course in the two minutes! I usually walk, as in NOT RUN, a course a few times before actually running it in speed. There was no time for this and you had to RUN around once or maybe twice and that was it. I started running on to the course walk and my legs completely stopped working and I felt really winded, my throat went totally dry and I felt like I was running in quicksand! Not a great start! Luckily I was running last out of the ten. Poor Lisa was running first! As usual I was the last person out on the course and had to dash to get Zen from poor Sonia who was being shuffled off the course with the rest of the grooms. As Sonia was leaving she thought she spotted Lisa's shoelace untied; so she was yelling at her and then I was yelling at Lisa as she was walking to the line (you will see Lisa look back puzzled on the video!). HAHA! Actually it wasn't untied but she just has very long laces!
They are very strict about how they take you into the arena and how your grooms hold the dogs ect. You follow the premier cart with equipment in and the little workers get right to work and set the course up in about 2 minutes! Amazing stuff. As they are setting it you have to get right in and walk it. In the morning run (grand prix) it wasn't so bad because the first run was actually BEFORE the spectators had arrived. So there wasn't the crowds to try and please! You will notice in the photos and videos that during the jumping run the arena was empty. The silence was lovely!
The first jumping run was nice and smooth for Zen and Chi. Chi went first out of all the dogs and put in a phenomenal run; he wanted to show that he was meant to be there! Lisa felt that she lost connection towards the end as she got slightly lost but you can hardly see any errors. I did not expect either dog to do anything in the jumping as they are competing against much larger border collies and the stride length on some of the collies is incredible. In such a big arena they would eat up the ground compared to Zen and Chi. Honestly I originally thought the course was too easy and that we would just put in a steady clear compared to the others; I had been hoping for difficult courses. But it is OLYMPIA and the courses have to be tailored for the fact that there are spectators and there is a time constraint. BUT even with all that; Zen and Chi had no trouble keeping up their speed compared to the others! Wow! Zen actually slipped in the tunnel and I remember thinking "Shit she is never coming out of there!" whereas on the video you can hardly tell! It is amazing what we can notice while we are running.
Well I am very proud that Zen got 2nd in the jumping. Although that doesn't sound as exciting as winning it; it gave me a boost that she can still run with the big dogs even on a big course! Unfortunately for us, in this run they only gave trophies to the first place dog! Bummer!
We did not have a long wait until our second run; probably just under 2 hours. So just a little time to look around the shopping stalls. I didn't actually buy anything! Must try harder on Thursday!
The second run was the agility run and this was the one I really wanted to win. But alas things don't always go to plan! Zen was running well but had one wide turn at the top of the course. This was on my mind (yes I know it shouldn't have been!) as we came into the last jumping sequence. Plus the fact that the announcer was really whipping up the crowds (come on girls and boys blah blah blah almost at the end good times blah blah)! I just lost it after the collapsed tunnel at a very easy part....all I needed to do was step toward the damn jump! Instead I pulled away hoping to get a tighter turn to the long jump and Zen came out of the chute seeing me more that way. She is so honest that she came right along with me. Oh well, coulda woulda shouda! Now we have all winter to reinforce those contacts.
Chi and Lisa went after us. My God he was putting in a stonking run! A darn pole down ruined their chances but hey he looked fantastic! Chi actually had the fastest time out of all the dogs! Chi really enjoyed the atmosphere! Lisa will be resting Chi now for the next month or so; just working on his rehab and getting him fighting fit; but I am glad he had the chance to shine for the day!
Overall a good day; although maybe not the most successful agility-wise. I do have to remember that Zen did get a respectable 2nd even if she didn't get a trophy for it!
And we got to see Father Christmas!
And so here is the video!