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Slovakia

Agility in the heart of Europe

Even though agility came into being as such in 1978, it didn't arrive in Slovakia until much later. It began in that small Central and Eastern European country in 1992 when a small group of young enthusiasts from  Bratislava 'discovered' the sport and started to train on the provisional obstacles. And the rest, as they say, is history. Mishka Mrackova explains how it has grown into the most popular canine sport in this little country in the heart of Europe.

Almost immediately the inexperienced handlers proved to be successful at various agility competitions held in Czech Republic and Austria. They took part in Judges and Instructors Seminars in Prague (Czech Rep.,) organised summer training camps and presented agility at different events in the form of demonstrations.

During the years 1994-1995, step by step, the set of obstacles was completed according to the Agility Reglement FCI, and the Slovak Agility Club was established as the chief agility organisation in Slovakia. By and by agility gained more supporters. New agility clubs appeared and agility competitions are held. The new chief agility organization Association of Slovak Agility Clubs was established and replaced the first one in January 2004.

Clubs
Today, there are approximately 100 agility competitors and about 12 agility clubs scattered all over Slovakia. Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, is probably the best place for agility in the country as you can find three agility clubs there. The general situation is quite good because some clubs have serious sponsors, which make possible them to organise competitions, buy obstacles and so on.

Agility in Slovakia is a sport of young people. The average age of an agility competitor is about 25 years, and it's normal  to see children in agility ring running with their own dogs. And I think it's very good for agility.

Shows
The main agility season in Slovakia starts in April and ends in October. In the winter season, indoor competitions and indoor trainings on carpet are held.

Every year there are about ten two-days competitions or 20 competition days. The majority are held on grass, according to the rules of FCI. There are three classes -1, 2, 3 with three different height categories (Small, Medium, Large). One competition day usually consist of three runs-

  1. Agility run - according to the classes i.e. Agility 1, Agility 2 or Agility 3

  2. Open Agility run - all three classes compete together

  3. Open Jumping run

The Nationals
The Slovak National Agility Championships have been held annually since 1996 as the season highlight in Slovakia. Held annually at the end of August during the International dog show in Bratislava, they use a different system which is very similar to that of FCI Agility World Champs. They are two days` competition (or in the other words weekend competition) judged by foreign judges and always held on carpet.

Our 'Nationals' consist of team and individual competition. On Saturday the program is Agility run for Team competition and Jumping run for individual competition while on Sunday, it is run contrariwise. Winners are the three best in each category in overall result i.e. Agility run + Jumping run.

These Nationals are held as an international agility competition. Foreigners can take part in, but the title 'Slovak National Agility Champion' is given only to the best placed Slovak competitor in each category (Small, Medium and Large). The qualification criteria for the Slovak National Agility Championships are determined by the Association of Slovak Agility Clubs in the beginning of season every year.

Dogs
As far as breeds are concerned, agility in Slovakia is really various sport. At competitions you can meet a lot of crossbreeds, Border Collies, Belgian Shepherds, Vizslas, Poodles, Fox Terriers, Parson Russell Terriers, Welsh Terriers Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Shelties, Chinese Crested Dogs, King Charles Spaniels and Beagles etc.

International
Slovak competitors take regularly part in agility competitions abroad, mainly in Czech Rep., Hungary, Austria, Croatia and Slovenia as well as in the other parts of Europe, where they try to gain new experience.

In Helsinki 2000, the Slovak national team took part at the Agility World Championships for the first time.

Agility is the most progressive canine sport in Slovakia and it's getting more and more popular.


About the  author...
Michala Mrackova (Mishka) is a student at Komensky University in Bratislava. She has been running agility since 1998. She is a licensed obedience instructor and agility trainer in Agility Klub Skiper Bratislava.

Now, she competes with two dogs- Selly and Agra, both crossbreeds. Selly is in Large A2 and Agra is in Medium A2. Mishka regularly takes part in competitions in Slovakia as well as in abroad. She is glad that both her dogs are totally crazy about agility, and it is the most important thing for her, because it's a headstone for success in agility. She thinks that agility should be still fun for both a handler and his dog, regardless of whether they have the highest ambitions in this wonderful sport or not. Everybody should have still in mind that agility is sport based on the team-work between a handler and his dog.

Mishka was a memeber of Slovak national team at the first European Junior Champs 2002, the first European Open 2002 and the second European Open 2003. Her best results with Selly are silver medal from the Slovak National Agility Champs 2003 and fifth place at the first EO in Graz, Austria.

For more about agility in Slovakia, you can visit Mishka's website: http://www.mojweb.sk/agilitydogs