The 2019 agility competition season has officially begun and what better way to start the year than heading off to the Kennel Club Agility Team GB Performance Weekend. For those in the Team GB Squad, the Performance Weekend is a final opportunity for squad members to compete together before selection for the 2019 Teams. Now, I must just point out, Flyte and I were not attending this exciting event as Team GB squad members (we wish!) instead we were going to take part in the first heat of the International Tour with the added bonus of watching the real squad members in action vying for that coveted place on the GB Agility Team.
Dogs and handlers who compete in Kennel Club Grades 4-7 who are not part of the GB squad can enter the International Tour. This is a new agility competition that has been launched this year by the Kennel Club as part of the Agility Team GB squad qualification process. This series of seven heats will give competitors the chance to compete on FCI courses in an attempt to accumulate points and be considered for Agility Team GB squad selection. In case you are wondering who or what is FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale), this is the international body that sets the agility regulations and guidelines for international events and competition. Their rules and regs differ slightly from those we use here in the UK. The standard ring size is much larger (be prepared to sprint!) using FCI specific equipment with jump heights being 5 cm lower for each of the small, medium and large height categories, the Judge, who uses a whistle to signal the start of your round, is assisted by an Up Contact Judge, and dogs are not permitted to wear a collar whilst competing in the ring highlight some of the differences.
This heat was made up of three classes; on day one, International Tour Jumping with the course designed and judged by Danish Judge, Bonnik Berthelsen and International Tour Agility designed and judged by UK Judge Paul Hinchley, followed on day two by the International Tour Final, again judged by Bonnik Berthelsen. Bonnik’s courses were international style courses consisting of 22 obstacles set out in a ring that was more than twice the size of that we in the UK usually experience (lots of running required!) with Paul’s agility course being set more along UK lines with the obstacles much closer together (phew less running!). Despite our mixed results, Flyte and I thoroughly enjoyed running all three courses and we definitely learnt from our experience. We got eliminated on Paul’s agility course (Flyte and I really must work on our connection!), we had a couple of refusals and incurred time faults in the Agility Tour Final which was totally down to my body positioning and eagerness to get round the course but at least we were not eliminated this time. Our best result was on what I considered to be the most difficult course, Bonnik’s jumping course, where despite my dubious handling in places (so not what I had planned when walking the course!) we managed a clear round finishing in 10th place out of 96 dogs.
If there are any Grade 4-7 agility handlers out there considering taking part in any of the International Tour heats around the country this year, I strongly recommend that you do. Yes, you will probably be stepping out of your comfort zone, pushing your agility boundaries and testing new agility skills, yes you will have to run faster and further than usual and yes, you probably will be nervous, but what a great opportunity to experience the future of agility here in the UK and as the saying goes “forewarned is forearmed” and, you never know, you might just be an Agility Team GB squad member in the making. Flyte and I hope to see you on the International Tour soon.
Maria and Flyte.