I reckon there'll be some tired agility dogs and handlers this morning after four fantastic days of Crufts 2017.
I was there with my dog Devo as part of the Scunthorpe team on Thursday, I watched the live stream Friday and was back at the NEC with my Team Manager hat on Sunday.
For me Crufts brings all the previous years competitions to a big finale. It's also a chance to meet up with friends from the dog world, it's the start of the new agility season and I get to see the best agility in the UK.
My team run didn't go to plan this year for many reasons which I've been reflecting on; that'll be another seminar story in the future... However, I love being part of a team and all the lead up to the event. It's a unique competition with different skill sets and dynamics and very rewarding however it goes.
There were numerous great moments for me over the four days, especially the agility finals. I'm fortunate to work with a lot of the handlers on Agility Team GB, so I know how much they put in behind the scenes that cumulates in what we see on the green carpet.
Talking of the green carpet, after Crufts 2016 Steve Croxford (KC Vice Chairman) gave me a 'wee' project to come up with suggestions for an alternative surface for the main arena. We both recalled the surface used at the 2012 FCI World Championships in Czech Republic being excellent for agility, so I set about seeing if this would work at Crufts. I'm pleased to say the new surface met the approval of all the disciplines who use it, especially the agility handlers.
I often get asked how does Agility Team GB benefit the wider agility community. This is a great example of something seen and experienced at international level filtering down to our domestic competition for the benefit of our sport. BTW - Steve's given me another 'wee' project this year....watch this space.
As Agility Team GB Team Manager, Crufts is an opportunity for me to watch handlers deal with the excitement, the competition pressure and their preparations to perform when it really matters. The experienced handlers, and those who train their brains as well as their dogs, perform extremely well in these conditions; in fact they thrive on it. For the less experienced I hope they reflect on the many aspects of their performance and come back even stronger in the future.
A top international rugby player said to me once.
"When I step on to the field, 95% of my performance comes down to the mental game"
Congratulations to everyone who qualified and ran at Crufts. Congratulations also to the judges who designed testing, fast courses which were exciting and entertaining to watch.
Thank you to everyone who works tirelessly before and during Crufts too. I know how much goes on behind the scenes. Everyone has a lot of fun, that's why they volunteer year after year, however these are long, full-on days, you are very much appreciated by everyone there.
The journey to Crufts 2018 begins....