Stacey and Sam take on Europe!
This was the first time that Sam and I have been selected to represent Team GB at the European Open Championships. The European Open has always been a major agility goal of mine, and I’m so pleased that I had Sam by my side to experience our first EO together.
Day 1- All the team have to travel together on a team coach, so day one involved a nice early tart to arrive at the meeting point, near to the Euro Tunnel. All of the dogs travel with us on the coach, all in their individual cages. This is the first time Sam has travelled on a coach, so I wasn’t sure how he was going to find it, but as always he took it in his stride and settled down fine. Upon arrival in France we travelled to an indoor training venue to have a last minute training session with the dogs, and familiarise themselves to running on the different equipment. For Sam and I this involved a few short sequences, with lots of rewarding of his contacts. Sam sure does love his Natures Menu Meaty Chicken treats! The rest of the day was then free for us to do whatever we liked. I wanted to make sure Sam was chilled and settled before competition, so I gave him a short walk to loosen up all his muscles after travelling, and then spent the evening relaxing in the hotel room.
Day 2 – Day 2 started with a nice leisurely morning stroll for Sam, before an hour of proprioception work arranged by our team physio. This was aimed at loosening the dogs up before Friday’s competition. After this session we had most of the morning/early afternoon to do as we would like. For me this was another opportunity to make sure Sam was as chilled as possible. So, we spent the morning in our room, just relaxing and spending quality time together. In the afternoon we then headed to the venue for our official team training at the venue. Once again for me this was another opportunity to get Sam used to the different equipment, and reinforce a couple of skills that I thought might be tested at the event. This session was very fast moving. We only have a few minutes of training each, and therefore you have to know exactly what you want to do before hand so you can get into the ring and get it done. After the training session we had a bit of spare time to look around the venue before the evenings opening ceremony. The opening ceremony is a chance for the host to welcome all of the teams to the event. All of the teams have to walk around the ring one by one before gathering together for the welcoming speech. Sam joined me for the ceremony, however by the end he was rather tired and managed to just fall asleep on my lap.
Day 3 – This was the first day of competition. The first day was Team day. I was running in a team with Lou Cadman, Natasha Wise, and Christine Wingate-Wynne. First up was the Team Agility. The weather conditions were not great for this run, and just before I was due to go into the ring the heavens opened and the ground became very slippery. A lot of handlers before me were falling over, and a few managed to pick up injuries because of this. I didn’t have time to go and change my footwear, which meant I couldn’t run as I normally would in fear of slipping over. Sam felt amazing in this run, however we picked up an unfortunate E near the end of the course. I feel my footing going from underneath me, and in the split second I gathered my feet, I lost connection with Sam which resulted in him taking an off course jump. Team Jumping was up next, another very fast but tricky course, one which you had to be on top of the dog the whole way round. Unfortunately Sam and I didn’t connect on a ‘Go round Serp’, which resulted him picking up another Elimination. So day one resulted in two very slight mistakes, but I cannot believe how well Sam was running. He thrives off these big events and stepped up a gear in the ring. I partly think this was the reason for a few of our mistakes through the event as he was going much faster than how he runs most weekends at shows.
Day 4 – Individual day. Once again this was another day of little mistakes for Sam and I, and unfortunately because of these we did not make the following days finals.
The European Open was a totally new experience for Sam and I, and is ran very differently to all other events we have competed in, in the past. I have lots to take away and work on. And look forward to fighting for a space on the 2017 team!