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Slovenia Revisited

It's a small, small world

Apart from the British handlers, of course, the star of the 2003 FCI Agility World Championships was student Silvia Trkman and her amazing Pyrenean Sheepdogs La and Fluke. She placed first and second in the Individual Jumping class and was six, yes six, seconds faster than the second placed dog in the agility. She wrote this article a few years ago for Agilitynet and it seems appropriate today to understand how much this gifted handler has achieved.

In Slovenia, everything is near. The furthest competition is two hours of driving away. It's a small country, located between Italy and Austria, with population of two million and with something over 100 of those crazy people, called agility people. Being one of those, Silvia Trkman tells about agility in Slovenia…

The first presentation of agility in Slovenia was in 1989 - though back then, it didn't look much like agility as we know it now. The dogs mostly came from classic IPO (schutzhund + obedience + tracking) training and were running along side their handlers on the left side. They tried their best on the obstacles that they mostly saw only at so called 'competitions'.

World Championship
Nine years later, the FCI entrusted Slovenia to organise World Agility Championship that were held October 1998 in Maribor. Today there are more than 100 dogs competing regularly. Most of them were bought as family dogs and got infected by agility virus later, so you can see all breeds of dogs competing. Most common in standard dogs include German Shepherd Dogs, Belgian Malinois, Retrievers, Setters, while Minis include Poodles, English Cockers, Spitz and small Mongrels.

The first dogs bought with agility in mind appeared just a couple of years ago, and since then, the number of Border Collies has been growing, too. Before agility began, believe it or not, there were no Border Collies in whole country. Now, however, we've imported BCs from England, Belgium, Italy, Germany and Croatia and had several litters, so we have more and more BCs every year. All the dogs are pretty young. The first BC ran in our Team in the World Championships in 2000. We've been sending a Samoyed, an American Staffordshire Terrier, a Dalmatian, Retrievers and other breeds, not often seen in agility, to WCs.

That's probably why we don't have many high placements from World Championships, since you can't do much without a BC in WC. According to statistics, only BCs, Tervuerens and one Epagnuel Breton and one Beauceron were among top three in WC in all the years it exists. The fact that in Slovenia, National Champion in 1998 was a Samoyed (not ordinary Samoyed though: he is mine!), tells a lot. But I think it's nice to see dogs of all breeds enjoying and even winning in agility.

We have been sending teams to the European Championships (which became the World Championship in 1996) from early beginnings of the competition in 1992. More and more countries are presented every year and the quality and the speed of the dogs grow significantly from year to year too.

Slovenia's best individual showing is fifth place at the 2000 World Championship in Helsinki, Finland, achieved by the author and her Pyrenean Shepherd in Mini class.

FCI rules
Vedette jumpingFor those not familiar with the WC, it's run in two height classes; Mini for dogs under 40cm that jump 35-40cm and Standard for dogs over 40cm that jump 55-65 cm. Every country can send four Minis and four Standards which are selected differently in different countries. In Slovenia, we have 6 qualification competitions, four best results from which count and those four who place the highest in four of those 6 competitions get to go to World Championships. The Team for Portugal 2001 is not completely known, my money is on one BC, one Labrador and two Belgians in Standard and Pyrenean Shepherd and two Poodles in Mini.

We don't have that large number of agility people to choose from than other countries, but the quality is constantly growing, so we have all the reasons to stay optimistic.

Living in a small country also has its advantages. We can be at every competition in Slovenia with no more than two hours travelling time, within five hours of driving you can be on competition every weekend and within 10 hours of driving you can be almost anywhere in Europe. I've competed in 13 different European countries with my dogs. It's also the other way around: we have people from Croatia, Italy and Austria regularly competing in Slovenia.

Aitken jumpingWe have around twenty competitions every year. Ten count towards the National Championship of which six are qualifiers for the World Championship Team. Six are for the trophy and the others are competitions for various cups and trophies. The number of competitions and qualifying system is determined by the governing body the Kinoloska Zveza Slovenije (KZS). It has no influence, however, on the rules on those competitions. - Those are determined by FCI and the same in almost all European countries (with an exception of France where the judging is the same, but competitions are run in four different height classes, called A, B, C, D). There are three levels of classes (A1, A2 and A3). Progress to A2 is possible with three runs with five or less penalty points, progress to A3 with three placements among top three with clean run.

So I guess FCI agility is somewhere in between US and UK agility. You can progress with qualifying (to A2, but not A3), but you're not given any titles, so winning is still the only thing that counts. In Slovenia, winning is still possible with almost any breed. But if the BC Boom of the last two or three years continues, it won't be so for long.

World Championship is not everything
World Championship is definitely an event you never forget, but camping at dog clubs all around Europe has its charm and if you never go to small competitions in small villages, you'll never meet the nicest people on Earth. Competitions are to me mostly just a good excuse for travelling Europe, meeting people, making friends and exchanging experiences. I wouldn't trade that for a win on WC.

The most important part of agility is loving a dog you have and despite I don't see anything wrong in buying a dog with agility in mind, I'm definitely against buying a dog with only agility in mind. The only good reason for doing agility is still enjoying working with a dog we love.


 About the author...
Silvia Trkman (Sia to her friends) is a student of Philosophy and Journalism at the University of Ljubljana.

She has been doing agility for eight years now, starting with her first dog that she got when she was 11. Aiken was a hard dog to start with. He was very dominant and independent Samoyed puppy, but with a lot of work, he became the most successful agility Samoyed in the world ever. He was National Champion in 1998, World Team member in 1997 and 1998 and is best placed northern dog in WC.

 Aiken is retired now, so it's Silvia's second dog, four year old Pyrenean Shepherd Vedette - La, does the winning now. She 's been National champion since 1999 and has been a member of the World Team member since 1998. She ran her first WC at only 21 months. Vedette holds the record of being the  best placed Slovenian dog in WC (fifth place in Helsinki 2000), has wins from 11 different European countries and is International Agility Champion etc. In short, she is one of the best Mini dogs in Europe.

You can contact Sia on e-mail: janez.trkman@telemach.net or see more of her dogs on  http://www.geocities.com/sssiaaa/