Wednesday, 29 February 2012

LGT Update / OJAC 2012


Been so busy this week I havent had even time to write on here since last weekend at OJAC.
For more information on OJAC, please click below:

OJAC 2012

Open junior agility championships

Congratulations to all of the winners at OJAC 2012

Last weekend was the first ever junior agility championships. I thoroughly enjoyed the event and thought it was a huge success.

I travelled down to Gloucester on Friday where I met Anthony Clarke and Marc Saunders at the venue. We had a lot of work to do but worked until late getting everything set for Saturday and the opening ceremony.

The weekend started with the opening ceremony where the nations of Wales, Scotland, England, Rep Ireland, Belgium, Netherlands and Canada were introduced.

After the morning ceremony, we had the team jumping class (which I judged) followed by the individual jumping judged by Marc Saunders.

On Sunday I was helping out around the show whilst Marc judged the team agility, and then it was my turn to judge the Individual agility final round, which proved to be an exciting climax in both the under and over 12 categories.

This week I have been training my own dog Scott ready for Crufts next week. I am heading to Chesterfield tonight for a training class, and on Friday I fly to Norway for a weekend seminar in Bergen. I am back Monday.

I have also been working on the "Official OJAC 2012" video which I will share as soon as it is finished, please look out for it!


Monday, 20 February 2012

A weekend in Warsaw. Polish culture and agility!

Weekend in Poland.


I am writing this from Warsaw airport departures lounge after a very hectic weekend in Poland. I Have not had internet access so not had a chance to update anything on here.

Friday I flew into a very grey and snowy Warsaw airport. I was met by Magda who took me (via some heavy traffic) to a local Polish pub for some dinner. I ate dumplings but they were full of meat and were very tasty.

After the meal we drove to the training venue where I was also staying. It was about 40 minutes outside of Warsaw city. The venue was a horse arena and had a café etc as well as the rooms.

On Friday we did two sessions of training up til 11pm. After the training session we had some “mulled wine” which was “not so strong” (apparently!) and we had a few of these glasses with some light food.

Next morning I was up at 7am to build courses and help with the start of the competition. I was judging in the morning 3 class 2 courses and some beginner courses. We had lunch around 1pm and then I got ready for my training seminars, 4 x 1.5 hour sessions, which ended around 9pm. The groups consisted of a beginner (puppy group) a beginner competing group, and a class 2/3 group. Including the judging I had done about 12 hours and was spent.

So by Saturday evening I was somewhat tired, but did I rest, no! I was invited to go to Alexandra’s (one of my students on the seminar) house party (it was a birthday party). So I went along to meet everyone. The people were not agility but friends / students from university.

Well I was made to feel very welcome by everyone, it was really nice and I met some good people. However, part of fitting in is to drink what I consider a large amount of Vodka (this is apparently normal in Poland!) and I was trying to keep up with everyone and do Great Britain proud with my endurance. Epic fail! I was very red and bloodshot eyes.. (as normal!)

In fairness I have not drank (neat) that amount since I don’t know when. We partied until 3.30am and then I decided (in my drunken way) that I better head back for some sleep. I was up again at 7.30am for more judging.

So come 7.30am and my alarm for day 2. Not a pleasant sight. I felt just about sober and able to carry out my judging. Lucky the cold air in the hall got inside my lungs and began to sober me up.

In Poland new judges have to be shown and learn from experienced judges. Well guess what. Sunday I had a shadow judge watching me in all my professional glory. It wasn’t long before the shadow judge helped me by pointing out I had in fact marked 4 refusals for a dog and had not yet eliminated!

So I judged class 1 and then class 3, 6 classes in total. It was now lunch time. I was feeling ready to eat something so we had some chicken and soup. After the prize giving I went for a much needed 30 minute sleep!

We then had the afternoon sessions of training.

During the seminars I tried to cover (each day) a separate theme. On Sunday we looked at contacts and managing stop v running contacts, theory and reinforcement.  On Saturday we had looked at weave training and proofing, for example.

There were many topics that we talked about during the 3 days of seminars. Each student got ideas and information to work on, and I was happy that my training seemed well received.

On the Sunday evening I said goodbye to Magda and some of the others. (Magda organised my trip) and switched accommodation, and went back to Alexandra’s house (The party venue Saturday night) where I stayed over before heading back to the airport Monday.

I would like to say thank you to Magda for organising the weekend, thanks to my students for working hard, thanks to my shadow judge for keeping me focused Sunday morning, and to Alexandra for showing me the Polish party way and Vodka-shot culture!

This week I am in England, in fact I am here for 11 days now the most of 2012 which is nice. I have lessons during the week. This weekend coming Is OJAC (the Open Junior Agility Championships) and I along with Marc Saunders and Anthony Clarke are involved with judging & organising the event. It should be another busy weekend.

Although first I need to recover from this one!



Monday, 13 February 2012

Last days in Finland & Back to the UK (for a few days at least!)

Blog Update February 13th

So I am now writing my blog post whilst on my flight home to the UK. Its 2pm UK time and I have just taken off from Helsinki airport.

My last few days in Finland have kind been a blur. The seminars in Tornio, 4 days worth went really well. The hall was big enough for two courses, and what I did was set up small exercises for the group on one side, whilst we continued to work on the main objectives on my side.

One of the main focuses throughout this trip has been pull through’s, and making sure handlers use the correct arms to pull the dog through the gap and then using a drive arm to, well yes I guess clue is in the title, drive to the next jump.

We also did a lot of weave exercises, ranging from basic weave completion exercises to the more advanced entries, discrimination and independence.

On the Saturday 11th, before my training session. Jani (my friend and club member) took me out on a snow mobile driving experience. It was really good fun and I had a blast. We followed tracks into the forest and also around Tornio town.

As I that wasn’t enough, we then exposed are bodies to more adrenaline shocks. On the Saturday night I true Finland style, we went to Sauna and then threw ourselves into the freezing cold snow. Crazy indeed!

The sauna was outdoors so we walked into the sauna and got changed. Inside the sauna the heat was intense. I think I kept using that term all night “this is so intense!” and then when it so hot I had to get out, we then dived outside and into the snow. This was equally extreme. A healthy mind and body though, that is what they say!?

To add to the seeming lunacy of this whole routine, liquid refreshment is available a plenty inside the sauna… in the form of cans of beer. Of course it is so hot that the beer is drank very quickly as a source to cool down, and the inevitable increase in willingness to jump into the snow ensues.

On Sunday I was somewhat quieter than normal during my training sessions with the concrete pillars that support the roof proving a useful leaning post for me. Lucky for me my students were very kind and brought me lip balm (my lips and general skin has cracked a lot during my time here) Swedish chocolate, and for my headache… some pain killers!

Quick update on the flight, the guy opposite but one from me just dropped his meal on the floor… chin up moment if ever I saw one!

Anyways where were we:

So Sunday evening I left Tornio and flew back to Helsinki, and today I am on my way back to the UK. I spent 21 very special hours in Helsinki, although I will not spend anymore, I will not ever forget my time there.

This week I have lessons Wednesday and Thursday I think, I need to check the diary really but that’s in the overheads and I don’t want my food all over the floor as well! That reminds me, just adjusted my watch back to UK time.

UK time will feel a little weird when I am back. I have actually only been in the UK 9 days of 2012. All the rest was in SA and then Finland, where at both the time is GMT +2.

My next trip on a plane is, ah yes in 4 days. More air mile with KLM. On Friday I make the journey to Warsaw in Poland. I have never been to Poland before and am looking forward to the trip. It should be warmer than Finland has been (if you call -1 or 0 warm that is!) but I am looking forward all the same. I am teaching Friday night and then judging and training both Saturday and Sunday. I return from Poland on Monday 20th.

I will update from Poland. Or maybe this week if anything exciting happens.

Thank you Finland… Kiitos!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Finland Update Thursday 9th February


Writing a blog update on a train is something ive not done before, but I am currently heading South West in the north of Finland towards Kemi, where I will then drive to Tornio for my next 4 days of teaching. Today is day 8.

Outside the window is thick snow, the trees look like they have been sprayed with Christmas decoration snow as they look so neat. The train has wifi and also is warm and comfortable. It also is on time to the minute. To make it even better I also have my own seat, and the train is long so its not over crowded. The ticket was pretty cheap too. Why do I have to have these experiences… I have to catch the train in UK again next week… it just wont be the same anymore!

So 5 days of seminars are done in Rovanimmi, and two previous in Pello. Two nights ago I saw the northern lights. I will try and see if any of my pictures came out. I was taking videos and pictures of the green swirling lights in the sky. My hands were burning because of the cold. I had gloves but cant work the small camera buttons with my gloves on. It was -30 and a bitter, bitter cold.

Yesterday before training we went bowling. I love a good game of bowling and it was really good fun although I didn’t manage any strikes, played a good game overall.

So today I will start another 6 hours of seminars with new students in Tornio. I am sure I will have as much fun here as I have in the previous cities. I am staying at a Spa hotel in Tornio, I stayed there before and it was very comfortable, so looking forward to some down time.

Speak soon


Saturday, 4 February 2012

Finland Update - Cold like ive never felt!

Here is my update from a very cold Finland!

Yes we hit -40!! Crazy.

Blog Update – Lapland Finland

Been a while since I have had internet access up here in the north of Finland.

I left England on Wednesday, taking a flight from Manchester to Helsinki and then connecting on a plane that can only be described as RETRO (we got in from the back, not even the front of the plane!) on a flight to Kemi / Tornio.

As I walked off the plane, (sorry climbed off) the cold really hit me. I had noticed it in Helsinki, where it was -8, but it was a very chilly -23 when I walked to the terminal building in Kemi.

There I met Maija who was looking after me during my first part of me “tour of north” and we went to get some food before heading North towards Pello. This drive was over 100k and took 2 hours. During the drive we crossed over into the Arctic Circle (about 30k south of Pello) I arrived at the Motel (where I am currently staying) in Pello and it was now -29. This has been the average temperature here during my first few days.

On Thursday I met Maija who took me about 40 minutes into the forest. (There are lots of tree’s here in Finland. So many that everywhere looks very similar!) we went to a reindeer farm and I was lucky enough to feed the reindeers. They look clumsy animals but in fact are very agile and can move a lot. They can run fast also. After feeding (which is surprisingly hard work!) we headed inside for some coffee and a warm up. The temperature never rose about -27 degrees. It is so cold that your eye lids freeze and ice forms around your face. Its quiet a strange feeling actually!

We had lunch and then at 4pm I went to the indoor school here in Pello and started my training classes. The first class was mostly beginners and we spent a lot of time focusing on the actual skills training of the dog, rather than handling directly. It is so important to get the foundation taught properly before advanced handling moves are used. The group worked very hard and the dogs really pushed on which was good.

At 7pm we stopped for a pizza break. The hall here in Pello is heated, about +15 degrees inside. So I was not cold at all during the training. In fact I took off my ski suit that I have been wearing all the rest of the day and was quite comfortable in my tracksuit bottoms and jumper.

From 7.15pm I then trained the next group up until 10pm. This group had mainly class 1 & 2 competing dogs. We focused on pull through’s and queuing the dogs for their turns. This was a very productive session and the handlers really tried hard to apply the techniques that we were practicing.

Friday morning we were due to go snowmobiling but temperatures of -35 meant that we could not do that! So instead we took the dogs for a walk in the forest. I wrapped up with many lays, but still your eyes and nose get very cold in such extreme temperatures. The ice forms on your face and on your eyes... it feels very strange!

We then went for a drive over to Sweden. The border is very close, infact Sweden and Finland are separated by one river, about the width of two or three football pitches. However as you cross over and head into Sweden, you go back in time 1 hour, as Sweden is GMT +1, unlike Finland’s GMT +2.

The afternoon was the start of the second day of Pello seminars. The same timings as the Thursday and I used the sessions to build upon what had been done the previous day. One of the exercises for the second group really encouraged a send to the weaves, and I encouraged the handlers to really send their dogs to the weaves first, and not try and take them there. This proved challenging but very beneficial for that handlers as the dogs improved and sent to the weaves themselves.

When the training session had finished I went out side to a crazy -35degree’s, a new record low temperature during my trip! After we had showered we headed to a local pub for a beer!

On Saturday I made the 2 hour journey by car to Rovanimmi where I am based for 5 days. The first seminar was on the afternoon (6 hours) and I hope to cover a range of topics throughout the seminars.

It is now -30 outside and we have just returned back from a meal out in the city. This is the first time I have had internet access so far on this trip. I see that the UK also has snow and ice!

For now, take care. Stay safe.