Sunday, 27 December 2015

Guest bloggers - Stacey

Following Team GB's successes at Olympia this year, I've asked the winners to write a blog to share with you. First up is Stacey Iwin-Burns who won this years small dog final. Over to Stacey.

Firstly I would like to thank Mark for asking me to write this blog post. For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Stacey Irwin-Burns, and I come from Peacehaven (East Sussex).

For me this past year in agility had been a bit of a whirlwind, with nearly every single one of my goals and dreams being met. I currently run 3 Grade 7 dogs – Sam who is 5 years old, Pixie who is 6 years old, and Boo who is 7 years old. All three of them have had brilliant season, and between the three of them I have won, a Champ CC, a Reserve CC, a couple of Champ individual round wins, WAO 4th place overall, qualifying for the British Open, and a couple of 1st places in the YKC ring at Crufts. There have been three-highlight moments for me. The first being part of the WAO England team. The second one was when I received three emails from the team GB Management offering not one but all three of my dogs a place on the GB Squad.  This is something I was very proud of achieving, and I couldn’t wait to start training with the squad.

The day of the first squad training came around, and I must admit I was a little bit nervous, as I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The day as a whole was very well thought out by all of the management team, and boy did it put us through our paces. I have come away with lots of little things to work on, one of those being my fitness and speed.  Strength and fitness is one of the things I have had to work quite hard on this year as I tore one of the ligaments in my knee at Christmas last year. (Something that I hope I wont be repeating this Christmas!!)

One of the other things that I also identified as something for myself and the dogs to work on, was the need to be able to execute certain skills at a greater speed than what my dogs are normally used to doing. The European style courses allow the dogs to gather a lot more speed than the courses they experience over in the UK. Therefore making skills such as weave entries a lot harder than normal. It is something I am going to be adding to the top of my training list.

My other main highlight of the year was qualifying for Olympia. I have qualified for the semi-finals on a couple of occasions, however it has never quite worked out. This year I was determined to make it my goal to qualify for the finals, and I’m pleased to say that Sam ran well at the semi finals at the KCI, which gave us our spot in the top ten qualifying us for the final.

I must admit Sam’s build up for Olympia wasn’t as thorough as I would have liked, and this was mainly because I chose to give him a rest from agility during October and the beginning of November. This may seem a bit odd with such a big event coming up, however this was the only time in our calendar where I knew he could have complete rest from any training days/competitions. Once his period of rest was up, I began to slowly build up his jump fitness, and it wasn’t until the first GB training day that he had actually ran a full course.

The morning of Olympia then came around, and I was surprisingly calm. I managed to stay calm until about an hour before the event, and then the nerves started to kick in, however this time it was more of an excited nervousness as apposed to worried nerves. The afternoon’s warm up course was a fast and furious course to get us relaxed and used to running in the arena. I went into this run with a bit more of a relaxed head on as I knew it was just about giving Sam experience in the big arena before the evening final. Sam absolutely loved the atmosphere and put in an excellent run which put us third, just behind Sam Lane and David Wright, who both put in superb runs.

It was then time for our 6-hour wait before the evening final. The time seemed to take a long time to pass, and this is when my nervous started to kick in again. Finally the time came for us to start warming up. Sam was more than ready to get into the arena again, and I also couldn’t wait. I had been drawn as running order number 1. At first this made me more nervous, as it meant I wouldn’t get a chance to see how the course had ran, however this wasn’t helping my nerves. So I flipped it on its head and looked at it in another way. Running first meant that I could hopefully put in a round that meant all those behind me had to push. I knew that there were a lot of amazing dogs to run after me, and never in my dreams did I think I could get near any of their times on such a fast course. So my main aim was to just go out there and try to put in the best run that we were capable of.

It was then time to go and walk the course, as I knew I was running first, I tired not to be out walking the course for too long, as I wanted to get Sam focused on me before we stepped onto the start line. The final bell went, which meant the moment I had always dreamed of was about to happen. Sam was flying, and loved the crowd shouting and screaming! Before I knew it the run was over and I was so pleased that he had gone clear. The next 5 or so minutes were quite a blur, as all I remember hearing was the commentator saying that I was still in the lead. It got to the final dog, and Sam was still hanging onto first place, Jeanette Tandy was last to run, with the amazing Betsy. I knew that this pairing could easily beat me. Betsy had an unlucky pole at number 4, which meant Sam and I had one the final. To say this was a dream come true is an understatement, never in my wildest dreams did I think we would get to Olympia, let alone win the Final! I am so proud of Sam for what he has achieved this year, and would just like to say a massive thank you to all of our family, friends, sponsors and supporters for making it all possible.

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