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Sue Rolfe

In conversation with Sandrine Farr

Last year was a fantastic year for Sue Rolfe. Her youngest daughter Emma gave birth to a second grand-daughter and her eldest daughter Sara got married. Agility-wise there were many achievements which culminated in winning the Pedigree Agility stakes at Olympia 2004, possibly the most important agility final in the UK, if not Europe. She gave this interview to Sandrine Farr after she had won the Pedigree Agility Stakes at Olympia 2004 for her club's newsletter. Hers is an inspirational success story.

SANDRINE: When, where and why did you start Agility?

SUE: Will started Agility with our Midi dog Jack about nine years ago. We'd had collies before, but we hadn't tried Agility. I had done a bit of Obedience with Pip. We thought it would be good fun for Jack .

I went to watch Will train Jack, but it wasn't much fun watching so I soon decided to give it a go! I started Agility with Penny about eight years ago. Will and I went to UpAndOver, and it's still our club now. Penny was a rescue. She was about 15 months old when I got her. She was a problem dog and training her was a very long process. In fact, it took months of hard work before I could even join an agility class, but I was determined not to give up.

SANDRINE: What did you achieve with Penny?

SUE: We got to Senior level. Penny was, in fact, the first dog trained up to Senior level by UpAndOver. She also did Flyball and got to Intermediate level.

SANDRINE: Tell me about your present dog Kestrel

SUE: Kes was born on the 21 July 2001. Her sire is Mary Ray's dog Quincy and her dam is Tri Fly. We had seen Tri Fly run and had been impressed.

Kes has some famous brothers from a previous mating of Quincy and Tri Fly such as Simon Peachey's Forby For Diesel and Dianne Talbot's Paws for Breath.

When we saw the puppies, I immediately fell in love with Kes. She was the only tri-coloured bitch and she had a very high drive. She has been brilliant to train, so bright and full of enthusiasm and although she is mad in the agility ring she is very easy to live with. I love her dearly.

SANDRINE: Who inspires you?

SUE: Jo Fraser, because she is so full of passion and also Will because he's been so successful.

SANDRINE: What qualities make a good handler?

SUE: A good partnership. Have a dog that you love. I love Kes, and we have fun together. You also need to know your own strengths and weaknesses as well as your dog's. Remember what works for one doesn't work for another. It's what works for you and your dog.

Another thing that is most important is consistency. Be true to your ideas, stick with them e.g. how you want your contacts.

Also remember to keep things FUN. In the early days of training don't be too hard on your dog it may put them off. Tell them when something is wrong then make it possible for them to do it right and then praise them and TUG, TUG, TUG.

Sandrine: What advice would you give to people who start competing in 2005?

Olympia 2004 - The Groom's Story

Karen Laker was asked by Sue to be her groom on the day. The Semi Final course in the morning was tricky at the beginning, then spread out.

Sue and Kes ran 11th and apart from one bit after a long straight where Kes had a slight twizzle, they worked spot on - good handling and good response.

Sue's husband Will was unlucky. As a result of his bad back and Maeve's slight lameness, he hadn't been able to run Maeve much. They were eliminated in the Semis.

Poor Will had to put up with a great deal of ribbing from all the other competitors and the commentator. If he was disappointed, he hid it and instead concentrated on helping Sue to relax and enjoy the day. He was brilliant, and he deserves a mention and congratulations too because getting to the Semi finals is a huge achievement for any handler.

Sue and Kes were inspiring in the Final. It was a big course - a running man's course.

They went clear and into the lead with a truly brilliant run. The Final is in reverse order so as Sue had come fourth in the Semi Final there were three to go after her: Chris Cole, David Munnings and last years winner Alan Disbery.

Next to run was Chris Cole and he certainly can run. He was also clear but not quite quick enough. Pressure got to the next two handlers resulting in faults. Sue and Kes had done it!

Everybody - all the other competitors and the organisers - were all genuinely pleased for Sue and Kes. They were very popular winners. Some were pleased because she 'did it for the girls', some because they were newcomers, some because it was a brilliant run. Karen was pleased because she deserved it. Sue always does her best and her best beat the rest of them that night!

SUE: Have realistic goals. On the day keep calm and try to focus on doing the things you've been doing through the winter, like the set pieces you've practised in training. If things go wrong, don't get cross with your dog it's probably your fault, work the rest of the course and learn from your mistake. If you don't compete very often, you'll be very nervous on the day and just walking the course and remembering the course can be very daunting. What I can say is that is that the more you get out there and compete the easier it becomes. Honest!

SANDRINE: What do you think of all the changes happening in Agility at the moment?

SUE: What I love about the sport is that it's fair. If you do the fastest clear round you win, it doesn't matter what your dog looks like or how stylishly it performs. In a sport you will always get winners and losers. If you change things too much to make progression more accessible to all, you might lose the competitive edge that makes agility exciting and produces top handlers and dogs. What Kes has achieved this year was difficult and therefore very, very special.

Sue wished to thank Mark & Karen Laker, who run the UpAndOver training club, for all their support over the last few years.

About Sue Rolfe...
Sue trains at UpAndOver twice a week, and also teaches a group there.

Last year she won into Advanced with Kes which was her main aim, qualified for the Supadogs Senior Final, the Trek Pairs Final and, of course, Olympia. Since this article was printed in the UpAndOver club newsletter, she went on to win first part of the International event at Crufts for England and came second in the Crufts Singles Senior Final, putting in a brilliant performance. Currently Kes is top of the Senior League for her region in the Agility Eye tables.