Impressions of a Canadian Agilityphile
It all began when Deb Witmer sent an innocent e-mail to the AGILE email list asking about trials in Scotland during the time of their vacation. Much to her surprise, she received several enthusiastic replies containing information about trials, dates and websites that could help. She and her husband Tom were home-based in Callandar for a week. This article about their visit to the East Lothian DTC Dog Agility Show on the weekend of 17 July was written with a Canadian audience in mind.
The trial site, the Meadowmill Sports Centre in Prestonpans, East Lothian, was a wonderful sports field and complex, and my initial impression was lots of people and lots of dogs. This is really BIG!!!
Campbell, Lorna and Brook (their pooch) spent time explaining how agility happens in Scotland, introducing me around, and even letting me tag along to walk the Jumpers and Pairs Jumpers course.
I was quite impressed with the ability of a club to run four rings. For such a large trial the atmosphere was very relaxed, with competitors and their dogs knowing when to show and calmly presenting themselves to the gate steward for their scribe sheet.
Our Canadian system of obtaining Qís (qualifying runs) that lead to a title of some sort (if youíre lucky Ė God how many more years before we get our Masters?) does not exist in Scotland. There, you need to come first in your class in order to move up. I understand that bottlenecks exist and I have to say I really wonder how so many people with slower dogs stay interested in the sport. Could it have something to do with the very active social life of a Scottish trial? Of course, one of the early things Campbell pointed out to me was the huge party tent where the disco happens on Saturday night. Fortunately, the field is also littered with trailers and tents so after the party you can walk home. The only risk to your run the next day may be a hangover. In terms of the equipment, everything matched with each ring having its own colour scheme. The jumps use one bar only and there are two jump heights. I actually saw a larger sheltie that had to jump 30 inches!!!
Both the broad jump and the wishing well jump, two pieces of equipment I have yet to see used in a course in my five years of agility here in Canada, were in use in one of the rings that day. The handlers comments I overheard about the wishing well jump told me they hadnít been using it either. However, the table, a staple in our courses, is rarely used and if it is, it is usually only as a time stopper (The table count, I was told, takes up too much time to be used in a course).
talk about volume
However, volume isnít always the best as one class will have over 200 runs. The odds of a ribbon plummet drastically. Imagine what the walk-throughs are like, jostling elbows with that many people! And imagine knowing that you are 215th to go in for your run!!!
Time is everything
I have to say, though I found the ring sides very quiet. I have become used to the spectators and judges showing appreciation after a run and wondered a bit at the rather subdued response to the team efforts on the course. Maybe it was the party the night before?
Oh Ė and get thisÖ..they even take time out for a one-hour lunch break!!!!
For those of you waiting with baited breath, I apologise that I am unable to make a 'port-a-potty' assessment as I couldnít find one to visit. Iím not sure where that puts this trial in the rankings. Sorry to disappoint you.
In closing I wish to thank Campbell and Lorna for responding to my call for help and guiding me to experience a Scottish agility trial. You certainly impressed this Canuck!!!!
About the author...
Holiday snaps by Deb.