Monday, October 28, 2013

Expectations... The AWC Part 3 - Saturday

Saturday morning started off with Small Individual Jumping... And with me forgetting my brain at home... together with my cooler box and several other things... I had friends and husbands driving around and running to my car fetching stuff and generally just trying to mop together all my loose ends...

There is a big difference in the running of the team event and the individual event.  In the team event you have a whole load of other people depending on you not to mess it up... easier said than done of course, one thing to always remember is that our dogs don't understand 'running safe', all they know is what we teach them  and that is generally to 'run fast and all out'... so therefore it is always a good idea to run your team runs hard to get a good result, do what our dogs understand.  However in the individual event there is a little bit extra to that... it is the 'all or nothing' aspect.  In the individual runs, you really have nothing to lose and there are only 2 options: Be on fire or go out in flames...

The judge was Harald Schjelderup from Norway:

I liked the course, I felt it was a good match for the surface (even if it was on the easier side).  I was the only Small dog from South Africa to run for competition... oh for those that do not know quite how it works... each country is only allowed to enter 9 dogs for the individual competition with a maximum of 6 dogs in any height category.  However due to the low entry numbers this year, they were allowing the 'team only' dogs to run as NFC (Not For Competition) at the beginning of the class (actually this was also a huge confusion, since the draw orders were initially published with these dogs running in the middle of the actual competition, which I was NOT happy about... and of course we then prepared ourselves for this draw, just to be told that these dogs would now run at the beginning)... I had some good advice from a friend walking the course.

I think this was the run I was the calmest about.  The favourite to win the event (and an awesome person that I had trained with the week before) was running right before me and I was rooting for him big time.  It was very saddening when he made one small mistake, it really did bring that little bit of 'extra awareness' to my mind.  If I had to choose, I would say this was our best round of the weekend.  He was VERY wide coming out of tunnel number 4, much more so than it seems on the video and my front crosses after the wall and 15 were rather late, but all in all not a bad round.  Our biggest downfall was that by this time Volt slowed down to a near walk in the weavepoles...  This cost us some serious time.  He had been checked out on the Monday before the event, but subsequent to this round I had the team physio take a look at him and his right shoulder was really stiff and taking some strain.  Regardless, this round left us with 0.42 time faults (which could have been avoided with tighter turns after the tunnel, 14 and 15... stupid handler) and in 8th place over-all.

Next up was Medium Individual Agility with judge Gawie Faul:

Less than a handful of dogs managed a good turn out of tunnel 6, but other than that it was a nice course with some good rounds.

And then of course Large Individual Jumping with judge Harald Schjelderup again:

They did however move the tyre to jump 12 though, which I felt was much worse actually due to a TURN after they tyre... AGAIN.  And always for large dogs which makes it so much worse.  It was an interesting course with many different options in the opening sequence.  After the event we actually set up this opening sequence to train and I subsequently timed the splits.  The most economical option, for those that would like to know, was a left turn after 2 and another left turn after 4.

It was finally time for the first 'world champion' rounds of the weekend, starting off with Team Medium Agility by judge Gawie Faul:

There were four teams in this competition, with the team lying in 4th already carrying a DQ from the first round, so as long as none of the other teams had 2 DQ's, their podium places were guaranteed.  The end result was 1st Switzerland, 2nd Germany and 3rd South Africa.

Next up was the Small Team Agility, judged by Gawie Faul:

There were 5 teams in this event and it was the only of the team events where no teams were carrying any DQ's... which at least made for some exciting competition.

Running first was Austria, carrying 20.48 faults through from the jumping round. They had a total of 10 Course faults on the Agility course, so could still be in contention of the other teams had huge problems...

Next up was Switzerland, they were only bringing in 5 faults from the jumping round, so were nipping at our heels.  They managed to run 3/4 course clears in the team to give them 0 faults for the Agility round... and to our knowledge at that point 5 faults in total.

South Africa ran next, with Hilary and Euro leading us off with a nice course clear and according to the score board and announcer 0.37 faults, Nan and Noodle were up next and ran a lovely course clear (it was announced as clear and a clear was shown on the board).  Things were looking good.  Gaby and Scoobie was up next, she had a very unfortunate fly-off on the See-Saw, followed by another contact fault on the Dog Walk.  So by my calculation at this point, to ensure our spot on the podium, I HAD to run clear, there were still two good teams to follow us that was very likely to pull off all clear rounds.  This was my first time running in the last spot and I was half laughing walking up to the start and telling our coach that I hoped I had what it takes to be in this position.  I did it.  I ran a course clear.  It was NOT our prettiest round, all I remembered after the round was Volt's bad faceplant after the long jump and the crowd gasping at his seesaw (don't worry peeps, I know he will stop, he just likes living on the edge :) ), the rest was a bit blurry, super proud of Volt for coping with my retardedness!

So at this point, by my calculation (and the scoreboard's), we were lying in the lead with two teams to come, technically (once again according to the scoreboard) we had 0.37 faults in total with they USA on the start line.  When they had 1 clear, 1 x 5 faulter, 1 x time faulter and 1 x dq this meant we had moved in one spot above them!

Last up was the German Team, a very good team indeed and it surprised no-one that they had 4 very good clears to, without a doubt, win the gold!  While they were celebrating 3 other teams were standing by the marshalling gate waiting for the official results.  I was pretty convinced we had silver and either USA or Switzerland was lying 3rd.  After about 10 minutes they announced the results... but Switzerland was 2nd and we were 3rd.  Please understand that I am not unhappy with the placing, but I was totally confused, so after some celebration, we called over an official and was just repeatedly told that 'they results announced ARE right', but it is only after about 20 minutes that someone bothered to tell us WHY... they had captured the SCT wrong???  The majority of the dogs that we thought was clear and had been announced as clear, actually had time faults.  I feel like a bit of an @ss going on at everyone that they had the results wrong, but in my defence, if you had gone by the display, I kind of was right.

Anyhow, well done the the German and Swiss teams for good performances, well deserved :)

And well done to my Super Sheltie for being... well Super :)

And thank you to fantastic team mates that really supported one another and did their best.

I am going to share my AWC compilation in this post and I will write one last post about the final day of competition:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Getting it done... The AWC Part 2 - The first couple of rounds...

After the completion of the KUSA cup, the 'real business' started.  Opening ceremony went without any real drama.

First up was the Team Large Jumping, designed and judged by the South African, Gawie Faul (Click on the picture to see a bigger version):

Now if you ask me, the AWC does have one very big flaw in the fact that scrutiny and approval of courses for the event take place without any knowledge (and by the looks of it sometimes consideration) of the surface.  This has been a factor in the AWC many times before.  There could be many different solutions for this.   Judges could submit two possible options for each class, one for a 'good surface' and one for a 'bad surface' and only once the official practice has been completed does the judge choose.  Perhaps judges should be allowed to make changes on the floor if they realise that the course is appropriate for the footing.

I attended the AWC in 2010 (as a spectator), 2012 and 2013 (as a competitor) and watched every second of livestream in 2011.  I assure you that the effect of the surface could be confirmed in each of the official practice sessions.

The large team jumping was my least favourite course of the weekend, because I felt it was inappropriate to test the exact same thing 6 times in one course and of course the dreaded HORRIBLE turn after the tyre. This last part really annoys me, because it seems judges will never learn.  Yes, I know it is a break-away tyre, but I think the European Open amongst others proved that a breaking away is not a guarantee. The course was most definitely not suited to the surface, especially not this early in the weekend before dogs adapted to the footing.   Regardless, some lovely rounds, especially from Helmut Paulik and Lane (that also won the round).

Next up was Medium Team Jumping designed and judged by Norwegian judge, Harald Schjelderup:

This was definitely a much better course and produced some really enjoyable rounds.  I do have to say I was a bit disappointed in the lack of pole entries though, many handlers had to manage terribly.

My first AWC round was the last round of the day (just another note, I was not too impressed with the program for the AWC, as it saw the Smalls running either first or last or both 3/4 rounds available to us).  Gawie Faul was the judge again and while we were all dreading the course after the Large course, it turned out that we had a very easy (almost grade 1 or 2) course waiting for us.  Regardless you still have to go out there and do your thing:

Our running order for Team South Africa Small was 6/7 with only Switzerland running after us.  Me and Volt were running last for our team.  There was some controversy regarding the Small competition which I really don't even want to get into.

The first dog for our team had a very unfortunate disqualification jumping through the side of the tyre, followed by two nice clears from my other team mates.  This meant that in order to give us a chance for a podium finish, I had to run a course clear.  This was my first time running in the last spot in the team event and it does have a different dynamic to it (a dynamic which it turns out I really enjoy).  This round was not exactly my best round ever, but I did manage to get around (coincidentally with my best individual finish of the weekend in 6th place).  I did thoroughly enjoy running this round and pretty sure Volt did too. And these rounds managed a third place on the team podium as well.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Dealing with it all... The AWC 2013 Part 1 - The KUSA Cup

Going into this year's AWC was not an easy feat at all for any of the South African team... some statistics...

Of the 14 dogs/13 handlers on the team:

- We had 4 brand new handlers (with new dogs obviously)... a large dog that had both a team and individual spot, a large dog handler with only an individual spot and a small and medium dog each with only a team spot.  These were handlers that never had the opportunity to try out in the past.

- 2 new team dogs, with repeat handles, one medium and one large, both with individual and team spots.

- 8 repeat dogs and handlers, 2 large, 1 small, 1 medium with team and individual spots, 1 large with an individual spot only, 2 small and 1 medium with team spots only.

The dynamics of a team always contributes towards the entire event experience.  You have a responsibility to your team members to give it your all and try your very best for them.

Before I continue I would like to mention one thing, regardless of whether there was 10 dogs or 400, every handler still had to go out there and do it.  Run the clear round, make the right choices.  Our dogs still had to keep the bars up, touch the contacts.  You still had to beat the competition.  So well done to all the winners!!!

This year presented itself with a very unique set of challenges.

-  With so few countries and dogs attending, it actually added to the pressure in many ways.  Where one could often go anonymous in the masses at previous AWC's with hundreds of other dogs competing (if you were not a 'household name' of course), this was far less likely in 2013.  With only 13 dogs in medium individual, 12 mediums in team , 16 smalls in individual, 19 smalls in team, 23 in large individual and 19 in large team, people were bound to remember every dog that ran.  At one of our team events earlier in the week, one of the organisers jokingly said to a team mate (with regards to the medium team competition) that all they had to do was 'not finish last' and they would be on the podium???  I don't know if this was supposed to be a 'comforting thought' but all it did was disturb me.

-  The statistical probability of ending up with a medal also increased greatly of course... mentally this was one of the hardest things for me.  While it has always been my dream to be on an AWC podium, I wanted it to be a more 'rightful' place and less of a 'default' placing. More than once I had the thought that I would actually prefer NOT winning a medal this year, but rather do it at a representative AWC (yes, I know, what a horrible thought to have), while at the same time thinking that I wanted to run the full on, hardest, most intense, best rounds of Agility I ever have in my life!  Oh the contradiction.  At the end of the day I chose to look at it as just another competition and forget what they were calling it. And please understand the individual placings were all well-deserved brilliant dogs and handlers that deserve their achievements.  This DID however also add much more additional pressure to all the participants I think.

- For our team, we had a decent contingent of supporters for the first time ever.  This made for noisier support (awesome), but also more scrutiny (stressful).  The new team members of course didn't know anything else, so I think this would not have affected them as much as repeat team members.

- The controversy surrounding the competition.  It was hard to avoid all the negativity and drama flying around in cyberspace.  As per my previous post I, myself, had a ton of objections regarding the matter too.  I had to deal with this, I owed my team mates and supporters the best I could give, despite my personal feelings, or those of others all around the world.

There were many other aspects that influenced me mentally and physically, but at the end of the day my goals were:

- To run the utter best rounds I possibly could.
- To appreciate every course I could run with my awesome dogs
- To enjoy every second

Due to the lack of numbers, the organisers arranged for an additional event starting on Friday morning called the KUSA Cup.  This was open to all AWC participants, reserves, white dogs and South African Grade 3 Agility dogs up to 100 dogs (on a first come, first serve basis).  I have to admit that I was rather happy about this turn of events, as it meant that I would have a chance to run Chaos against the international competitors.  I was rather gutted that he wouldn't be able to compete.  He has been on such form coming back from his injury, that it was a rather hard pill to swallow.  I also made the decision to run Volt and if he was faulted in the first round, I would not run him in the second to save him for the AWC.

First off... jumping... this is my own drawing of the course (click on the picture to see a bigger version):

We had an official practice the previous day, but only AWC dogs were allowed on the surface.  The surface wasn't ideal at all, with no cushioning.  Volt had slipped a lot the previous day and adjusted his pace accordingly... he also banged his head into the weave poles rather badly and then proceeded to weave rather slowly, choosing to go around each weave pole instead of touching them.  I had warmed up Chaos before his run, but the warm up area was rather small and I don't think it gave the dogs a true feel of the surface...

Order was large, medium then small.  Chaos was draw number 19 (of 45 dogs).  He landed on his face after number 1, not expecting the slippery surface on a turn, but he recovered well to run a course clear with some time faults (only two dogs ran in the course time I THINK, since these results were never published) finishing 8th in the jumping round.  I have to admit that if the bars weren't so insanely heavy (I estimated at least 3kg-4kg), he might actually have had a knock, but who knows.

Steinermeister was draw 2, which is not ideal for him, as his excitement builds with each dog that runs. Volt landed on his face after jump 1 as well, had several bad slips before jump 8 (luckily no face plants, but you could hear his nails dig in to the surface badly) and then adjusted his pace even more... this left me out of position for my actual plan from 15-19 so it turned into a wide mess... Course clear, with time faults.  He still gave me everything he could and for that, I am very proud!  He also finished 8th in the jumping round (out of 23 dogs I think). Eight seemed to be my haunted position of the weekend... unbeknownst to me at this point, 208 was my catalogue number for the weekend too.

They immediately set up the contact Agility course:

Sorry a rather bad picture I found on the internet...  As you will see from the video, 11 - 12 was quite different and 16-20 was VERY different.

Draws were in reverse order of merit, so both my dogs would be running towards the end of their classes.  Smalls were running first this time around.  Volt started off rather slowly, not extending his stride, putting my timing off by miles, eish, I really need to learn to adapt better on my feet.  Another bad slip before the poles.  I am very happy with his contact performance though, especially the see-saw which I have been working hard on.  His dog walk was on the slow side, but got better as the weekend went along.  He ran a wide slower clear round, to finish 9th in Agility and 5th over-all.  All in all, despite the slipping and pace adjusting, I think this competition was good for our confidence, just getting out there and getting around the courses.

With Chaos this was his 'all or nothing' round of the weekend... These are my favourite kind of rounds.  Having nothing to lose.  We had a ball out there.  He managed to get a 7th in the Agility round, finishing 4th over-all.  Honestly, super proud of the dude and happy with the result, but finishing forth sucks a$$!  That 'almost on the podium' spot...

Starting off with 4/4 course clears did give me a lot of confidence for the competition, while it could have gone the other way.  It DID make me wish even more that Chaos was on the team (since he finished the highest of all SA dogs)... more about the AWC in a next post...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

About the Controversy...

Please note what I am about to write is not 'new' to me, however earlier this year a general letter was sent out advising Agility handlers in South Africa that if we were not 'positive' about the upcoming South African AWC, there would be consequences.

First of all I would like to say from the word go, that even though I am a South African and I am on the team and I live in the city where it was hosted and I am involved in many aspects of Agility... I can still not answer any questions you might have, as the answers were never shared with me.  However I would like to share some facts with the rest of the world.

1.  Many South Africans were actually not in full support of this event being held in our country (yes many were for it too).  The concerns included:
1. 1 Shipping of dogs - Yes, we fly our dogs to Europe annually.  However it is a much smaller amount of dogs.  We know how South Africa 'works' (yes, Africa certainly has its own way of doing things).  I was as surprised as the next person when I saw pictures posted on Facebook of how dogs were received in Johannesburg, seeing as our dogs have never been received like this for the 10 years I have been involved in our world teams. Despite promises of arrangements for 'non-listed' to be able to attend (The Department of Agriculture List that determines quarantine), I would have bet a rather large amount of money 5 years ago already that our government would never allow for this (once again this is an African thing...). There are only 3 options for direct flights into Johannesburg from mainland Europe (Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris), these flights are generally limited to 5 dogs per flight, however we have in the past been able to make special arrangements to accommodate more dogs per flight.

1.2 Money, money, money -  This was my main concern.  First of all, our sport (and this is world wide) does NOT have the money to spend 3000 - 5000 euro PER dog and handler to send them to an AWC.  Most teams don't even have decent sponsorship for a European AWC, never mind flying to the other side of the world.  In fact our own South African team has barely ever had semi-decent sponsorship.  Shouldn't the powers that be have tried to clean our own house first?  Even if the whole world WANTED this championship to be in our country, the money would never be there for a representative event. Not being able to try out myself for many years because I could not afford the trip (and I am one of MAYBE 20 handlers in South Africa that aspire to go), I could sympathise with the 300 odd handlers that would not be able to afford the trip to South Africa. My monetary concern included the lack of a sponsor.  Having been involved for many years, I knew that we suffered a serious lack of sponsors.

1.3  Lack of experience - For those that have been attending the AWC for many years, have you ever seen a decent sized contingent of South African supporters?  I think the most we have had at one time is 10?  All the little things that we take for granted at the AWC, is foreign to 99% of South Africa's Agility community.  Start line protocol at AWC is something that the volunteers that worked at the event have NEVER EVEN HEARD of or seen. Replacing bars, queues (here in SA we don't queue to compete), microchip scanning, vet checks, measuring of dogs (we don't even have proper rules regarding this matter), watching up-contact judges, electronic scoring systems... these are things that almost NONE of the volunteers would be familiar with.  Never mind the small traditions, like the 'elimination song', dancing, slow claps.  99% of Agility South Africa is not even willing to travel to Europe to experience this, but now we have to bring it all the way to them?  I can count our FCI judges on one hand... and of these FCI judges only one has judged ONE event in Europe.  Unlike me, hardly any of these judges even follow international trend.  How can we expect a judge that has never judged more than 60 Grade 3 dogs at a time (outdoors, without an up-contact judge) to deal with the pressures of such a major event.

1.4  South Africa's 'Non-Pet-Friendliness' - Unfortunately the majority of South Africa is NOT pet friendly to the same extent as Europe and North America (I can only testify to those continents I have visited).  There is very limited (in my neighbourhood for example there is none) public transport available and there is absolutely no pets allowed at all on the public transport that IS available.  Pet-friendly accommodation is also not that readily available. Animals are not allowed in any shopping centre, shop, restaurant or any other public area that I know of (well there is a dedicated dog park where the dogs are allowed in the restaurant, but not much else).

These concerns were voiced to the organising committee on several occasions... I know this is true, because I was the person voicing them.

Now the event has come and gone.  I was there.  I've got the t-shirt (a few actually).  Every year people do have problems or issues or concerns with random matters regarding the AWC or things that were said or done, this year will be no different.  I have tried to think of a way to categorise my thoughts, but I find it very  difficult, as some thoughts are bittersweet and don't actually belong with the positive or the negative.  I will also try to share some facts that you might not know.  I will not comment on any judging or course design, as I have many personal feelings, but that is Agility ladies and gentleman, that is part of the game we play and at the end of the day it is our choice to run a course or not.

-  Of course comments have been flying through cyberspace for nearly 2 years within the Agility community regarding this event.  Some just being ridiculous and others with valid concerns.  It does feel to me (like it does to many others), that the FCI actively ignored this commentary.  I think the FCI could have gone a long way to resolve the issue(s) instead of just keeping quiet and make quiet statements of 'this will happen'.  This of course was my experience, perhaps I don't visit the right websites.

- I have to admit that I DO resent those that immediately judged every handler on this earth that is willing to fly their dogs in the cargo hold.  This implies that, not only is our entire South African Agility Team, cruel, but so is every person that has ever imported a dog to South Africa, or every non-European country that attends the AWC or EO (USA, Canada, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Japan, China, Mexico etc).  I assure you my dogs's health and safety are my first concern.  I categorically do not think there is anything wrong with shipping dogs in the cargo hold provided you have made the correct arrangements and you know what you are doing.  Especially our dogs, that are subject to loud, noisy and strange environments on a regular basis.  Agility handlers crate their dogs in these environment on a regular basis.  I also have to leave my dogs in crates at home on their own on a regular basis to work.  My dogs love their crates and I have never had a dog that stressed excessively flying.  Those dogs of mine that ARE nervous, will never ever fly.If you choose not to fly your dogs, I respect that choice completely, however I also don't appreciate you judging me for my choices.

- What also annoys me to no end, are the South African handlers, spectators and supporters that had their mouths full about countries not attending.  Firstly because it is each handler's choice and each spectators choice and you cannot judge people for this.  But mostly because the people moaning the most had never even bothered or could not afford to attend a European AWC themselves, yet they somehow expect the reverse?

- In September last year an 'Events Manager' was appointed by the organisers to run the event.  This company had no connection to Agility in the past and none of its employees were known to the Agility community.  The notice read:


Dear Karene

Please will you place the following message on the KUSA website.



The Kennel Union has pleasure in confirming that it has appointed FULL
STRIDE MEDIA as our Events Manager for the above which will be held in
Johannesburg at the Dome during October, 9th-13th 2013.  FULL STRIDE MEDIA
will be responsible for arranging the event in conjunction with our Agility
people and they have assumed full responsibility for the financial liability

This is a tremendous step forward for South Africa and we feel sure that all
members of the Kennel Union will want to support it in one way or another.

Full details will be available from time to time in the coming weeks.


Greg Eva


P O Box 2659

-  I did experience a bit of a 'black hole' where information was concerned and would have appreciated more regular updates.  This was so much more important in light of the controversy surrounding this event.  Even if it was just a message of reassurance on a bi-weekly basis, that things were still happening.  The silence invited the start of rumours.

- The 'Meet and Greet' - While it didn't interrupt the proceedings much, I still feel that a generator should have been at hand.  Power failures are not a 'new thing' to us South Africans, more of a given.

-  The surface - Yes, it wasn't ideal, I ran on it too.  However let me remind handlers that the surface is one of the most controversial issues at the AWC and it has been 'wrong' many times in the past in many countries.  The lack of funds to test a surface for extensive periods prior to the event is NOT own to South Africa.  My personal opinion on this surface is that there was nothing wrong with the actual 'top layer' surface if I can call it that, but rather a lack of decent soft under-surface.  By the end of the weekend, as they always do, most dogs however had already adapted to it.  The complaints regarding surface was just as bad after the 2011 Lievin AWC.

-  Incorrect results announced - This annoyed me to no end and in actual fact cause massive confusion for the celebration of a few rounds.  The timing equipment and results were out-contracted to an Austrian company that does this on a regular basis.  We had two gentlemen fly in to take care of this matter for the weekend.  I don't know where the communication error was, but several times the SCT was either left out or incorrectly captured, which led to results being miscalculated for the KUSA cup and also incorrect time faults being announced in the AWC.  In one of the events four teams were mulling around in the marshalling area convinced the placings had been announced incorrectly.  This is a matter where more careful attention should have been paid.

-  Bibs - The bibs were also out-contracted to a company that very obviously has never had anything to do with Agility.  They ended up being a dress-size to too big for me (yes, it was literally longer than the skirt I ran in).  They had to make a special exception where handlers could run without bibs.  Was a sample never checked before confirming the order?  Even if the events company took charge of these arrangements, a member of the organising committee should have followed up.

-  Lack of music - HUGE gap in communication.  For those that were not there, we spent the first two days in dead silence.  Somewhere along the way, someone forgot to apply for a 'public music license', seeing as the venue themselves do not have one.  This is really something that should have been checked, double checked, triple checked and then maybe checked once more.

-  False starts - There were two of these (and two almosts) that I saw over the weekend.  The person that was responsible for marshalling the start had never attended an AWC and never seen a video.  There were several volunteers that had actually been to the event and had fulfilled a similar duty before.  I would have perhaps considered rather using them.

-  The general lack of public updates - It was only discovered close to the event that they would not be able to publish live results.  I have no idea what the reason for this was.  This is something that should have been on a 'to do' list months ago.  It should have been followed up by an Agility person, as we are the ones that know how important it is for our small community to follow the event 'live'.  The fact that the German Facebook page was more regularly updated than the official page confirms that this was a rather big oversight.

-  Livestream - This point is particularly close to my heart, especially seeing as the organisers insisted from the beginning to take responsibility for this themselves (initially this was because they believed this would be a huge fundraising scheme).  At an open meeting held more than a year ago, I personally raised several concerns regarding livestream.  These included very slow South African data speeds (at that point the fastest lines available was 4mb/s... and this on paper, no speed test that I ever ran at that stage could reach those speeds), unreliability of connections (due to the layout of Johannesburg, where everything is very far spread out, wireless connections rely on the infrastructure of a widely spread network of towers, which regularly buckle under the strain of high usage.  Fixed lines are regularly subject to cable theft).  Satellite would have been way too expensive for any Agility event to make use of.  And while I understand that this task was out-contracted to a company that claimed they knew what they were doing, it should have still been followed up by the organisers.  It is THEIR name that is tied to it, it was THEIR choice to have it linked to the actual FCI2013 Agility pages.  Blame was being thrown around like nobody's business, however since I pointed these concerns more than a year ago, I actually don't have much sympathy.

-  While there were few dogs, I personally still feel that at least there was some competition and excitement in the individual event..  I appreciate the handlers that DID attend.  The atmosphere was quite good (mostly), very supportive.  I do hope that the South African supporters realise that while they saw some awesome rounds and good handling, this was not an AWC like they normally are.  I would love to see all these supporters travel with the team next year!

- Stickers for record cards - We do not have these.  They were never arranged.  Another one of the aspects that the organising committee blames on Full Stride media, but that I feel an actual Agility person should have followed up on.

- There were several other issues, I don't feel it is my place to share, but then I guess there always is.

My one hope is that the FCI realises that our sport is not ready for an off-continent AWC (as much as I loved not spending a fortune this year), whether it is North America, South America, Asia or Africa, I don't believe that our sport is financially ready for this specific event to be hosted on another continent.  I hope that the FCI delegates start listening to their handlers.  I hope that the handlers believe the FCI the next time they decide on something.

As always, the AWC has left me motivated and fired up to train.  More about my own experiences and runs in a next post.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A list...

Okay once again I have started seven (yes literally seven) blog posts with various thoughts, ideas, facts, randomness and stuff, which I never had time to finish.  So now I am going to try a different approach.  I am going to VERY concisely try an list all the thoughts, ideas, facts, randomness and stuff JUST to catch everyone up and then maybe from there I can start REAL blog posts again.

1.  I just came back from a two week dog-less (and Agility-less) European holiday... so who is going to offer me a job in Europe, so me, The Nerd and The Boys can move?  Germany is preferable, Netherlands a close second, but honestly, I am not fussy... anything will do.  I had a fantastic time and would like to thank my crazy Finnish and German friends for their hospitality!

2.  Happy VERY belated 3rd Birthday to the SuperSheltie.  The amazing merly Belgian boy that has never ceases to amaze me.  Here is to many, many, many, many, many more!

3.  Another VERY belated 1st Birthday to the Slinky Psycho Girly Whirly dog.  I am having SO much fun with her already that I can't wait for the years to come.

4.  Running with a toy in your pocket is baiting.  And if you don't NEED to run with it, then why do you do it?  So people like me who believe is baiting can bitch about it?  Why take the risk of the toy falling out of your pocket while running?   Baiting is defined as: 'To entice, especially by trickery or strategy.'    I don't know about yours, but my dogs are not stupid, they know when I have a toy/food in my pocket and when I don't. I ,in fact, had an interesting discussion with a fellow-handler (who was trying to convince me that this is NOT baiting) that said if she doesn't have the toy on her body, her dogs would run off looking for their toy, even if it was being held by a steward or out of reach.  I am pretty sure that this then categorically proves my point?  In fact the effect of having a toy or food in your pocket has been proved multiple times. When I am judging, I will disqualify you.  Please understand me, my dogs are all for being rewarded, however they will complete the course happily before shooting off to their lead or toy outside the ring and even then, I can (and do) get them under control before leaving the ring and rewarding.  Maybe some venues allow it, but having followed every major FCI championship for more than 10 years and reading the guidelines and the rules and the forums and talking to people... yup, I am sure ours doesn't.

5.  I had my first judging appointment of the year.  I worked on my courses for almost a month.  I really liked them.  Tested them with my own dogs and got clears all the way around.  Just to have the most disappointing day with people make small (and big) mistakes and... interesting handling choices.  Not one single clear in Grade 3. Mostly my courses were enjoyed, one handler that reacted in a rather rude, annoying, aggressive and generally unacceptable way.  This is one of the subjects I would like to write more on at some stage... about upping the standard and how to do it.  My grade 3 courses (Click on the course to see a bigger version):

6.  Next week is the AWC 2013.  Hmmmm... many, many, many, many, many thoughts on this matter.  But I will only be able to share my thoughts after the event.  For now we are preparing to go out there and give it our all, regardless, despite and not considering anything else.

7.  South African Agility is about to enter yet another year with blinkers on, kicking with four feet against change.  This decision is of course made by a body that consists of only 40% competitors and 60% of people that have NEVER EVER done Agility.  The proposed changes are supported by pages and pages of research, videos, photos, examples and arguments.  They have been successfully proven across the world.  However the powers that be, when asked why they won't support it, is allowed to just answer 'because'? Because of personal agendas?  Because of spite?  Because you don't understand?  Mostly because we are so afraid of change I guess.

8.  As a judge you are generally not allowed to make up rules as you go along.  For those rules that DO have grey areas, you should surely be looking at the world trend and getting guidance from your umbrella bodies... in our case the FCI.  Instead lets invent an interpretation and then randomly fling faults at it.  We have had a serious plague of judges not keeping up to date with rules/discussions/interpretations/techniques or downright common sense.

9.  I have said it before and I will say it again.  If you do Agility 'Just For Fun' (I will now call you the JFF's), the only difference between you and me should be that you don't care about placings, gradings, leagues, logs, clear round stats and speed.  Your dog should still be trained to the best of your ability.  Why?  Because running an untrained dog around an Agility course screaming at them or attempting the weave poles 17 times with no success is actually NOT fun for your dog (or for me, since I want to clobber you).

So that is the list for now.  Hopefully I will have another blogpost out very shortly.