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Hi de hi...

It's not often people put pen to paper - or fingers to keyboard - but everyone who attended the Crazymaesy Camp this year had such a fantastic time that they wanted to promote its success. The training was superb - as always with Jo Fraser. It wasn't just the instruction that made the camp so successful. It was such good fun as well. Crazymaesy campers had three super days of agility training, evening entertainment, lunches and drinks provided. They also took took away with them extensive training notes, complete with diagrams of all the courses and exercises they had done successfully or otherwise! Plus there were goody bags for the dogs. Jenny Gibson and Jackie Atkins sent us this account.

Jo has a natural aptitude for putting people at ease and she brings humour into her training sessions. She is able to assess people's potential almost immediately and use her knowledge and understanding of dogs - and people - to improve their confidence and skills as a handler. Unfortunately, not all of us are natural athletes but, Jo uses what strengths we do have to get the best from our dogs.

Monday

The camp officially started! We arrived at the venue, a beautiful and secluded organic farm a mile or so outside Faringdon (Oxon.). The views across the horizon were stunning but, little did we know that we wouldn't be getting much chance to enjoy the view as bad weather was just around the corner!

We were greeted by Max, Jo's 12 year old son, who was sitting on the gate in the oncoming drizzle where he had been stationed to meet and greet campers and show them to their camping spot. Unfortunately, a passing well-meaning motorist had spotted Max and had alerted the local police to the 'abandoned' or 'run away' child sitting and (quote) 'looking sad' (unquote) on the gate to a field. The police duly arrived and, once they were satisfied that Max was neither unhappy nor abandoned, the camp could officially start... again!

Distance handling
The first evening at camp started with Jo's demonstration on distance handling. Everyone watched in admiration as Jo showed Raz working around a variety of equipment with complete confidence no matter where Jo took a position. The lesson was simple. The dog sees everything in straight lines. If you look for the lines, you will start to understand where your dog is heading. Always look in the direction you want to dog to go and not the direction the equipment is facing. It all seemed so easy but could we all reproduce it with our dogs during the next few days.

Tuesday

Jumps & tunnels
The session consisted of small exercises which we built on until we could confidently piece together a short sequence. Although most of us know that body language is important, sometimes we are too busy trying to get from the start to finish in the quickest time we don't always remember where we should be or what commands we should be using. Starting with the small exercises initially allowed us to learn through the repetition, giving us more confidence and enthusiasm to tackle the longer sequence.

The session ended with everyone walking a whole course, trying to remember to find the straight lines through the equipment for our dogs and looking for the points where we needed to turn the dog onto a new line. Jo ensured everyone was successful in their attempt, and we left feeling satisfied we were all making significant progress.


Comments from Happy Campers

I had a terrific time. Can't believe the value for money - two sessions per day of exceptional training, yummy food, lovely walks and great company. Only the weather - and the cow field - could have been better! When's the next one? Janet

I thoroughly enjoyed myself despite the weather, and the provision of Carol's lovely food was very welcome - even the night she fed us weeds! I took away a new view on handling and how to run a course but, most of all, I gained a real boost to my confidence. I returned home Thursday night and had a show the very next day. With my extra confidence, I just went for it in my first class, even though I had missed walking the course. My G5 dog won. It was his 3rd Jumping win and is now is G6. And my G4 dog came 4th. Estelle

I had a terrific time despite the very wet and windy weather all day and all night! Good company to learn with, good food both at lunchtime and tea time. An added bonus was that I did not have to cook after doing agility all day. The camp opened my mind into a different way of agility as well as trying out different foods! Finally, I remember how helpful everyone was throughout the four days. I went home wet and tired but, had a great time and would do it again! Jennie & Tinker

Although we endured an extremely windy first day followed by two days of continuous rain, the excellent training and scrumptious refreshments rendered the hostile weather negligible. Well done Jo and Carol.
Pat Lane who only used to compete in fine weather

Herbal remedies
Tuesday evening was very interesting and enlightening. Carol spoke with great knowledge and passion about the benefits of herbal remedies in promoting good health and treating diseases in our dogs. There was a chance to get our hands dirty and attempt to make herbal medicine balls, using ingredients that were readily available in the hedgerows. Afterwards Carol supplied a tasty supper which included nettle potato cake. Although it may sound strange was really very, very good.

Wednesday

Contacts
Jo advocates if you are happy with your contacts, then don't mess with them. But she also explained that dogs quickly learn that the object is to get around the agility course as fast as possible and it is much quicker to jump off an obstacle. As the dog's confidence grows in the ring simultaneously contact points started to be pinged. Some of us were worried about correcting in the ring for fear of crushing confidence or being asked to leave by a disgruntled judge. Jo reminded us that everything a dog learns is a trick. For contacts that means run quickly to the end point and wait until released. We were reminded our dogs need consistency from us. If we allow them to self-release ping in the ring, they will have learnt that as the new trick!

The session ended with everyone completing a whole course remembering straight lines, turning points and achieving success on the contact equipment.

The Quiz
If ever you were in any doubt about the competitive nature of agility folk, set them a doggy agility quiz. Then you'll know for sure! It was not so much as a quiz as a highly scary social experiment! Put two teams of alcohol-filled competitors together and give them and open ended question like 'List all the ways to get yourself eliminated on an agility course?' and you'll be amazed at what you get!

Our team took the question very seriously and listed over 20 very valid points, discussing in great detail whether 'pooing' and 'weeing' in the ring are two separate E'able offences or just one? Jo's daughter, Matilda (14) who is not an agility bod took a less serious view. She had only three answers and strangely enough they didn't correspond to any answers on either team. They were:-

  1. Running a course with a cat

  2. Running naked

  3. Running a course naked & with a cat!

Maybe we agility folk take life too seriously!

Thursday

Weaves
Once
again Jo made us think about how our body positioning had an impacted on what our dogs saw and where we were directing them. We looked at reliable weave pole entries from a variety of angles and distance.

The camp ended with everyone successfully completely a course, implementing all our newly acquired talent.

Summary
We left the camp full of confidence and ready for whatever those judges might set us. However tricky some courses may have seemed to us in the past, we now would look at them in a different and more informed way. Now, we have the knowledge and motivation to help our dogs succeed.

Since leaving camp we have heard of many great achievements from other campers with numerous wins and many 2nd and 3rd placed trophies as well high places in some difficult classes.

Now, apart from the superb training , what one other thing stick in all our minds when remembering the camp. Could it be:-

  • The strange little jigs Jo would do to demonstrate bad handling

  • Jo bursting into song to highlight your mistakes

  • Carol having to adapt her menu for the fussiest of eaters like somebody requesting nothing green or remotely foreign on the menu!

No, it was none of the above.

It was, of course, the rain! It showered during the distance handling demo. There was a deluge during jumping lesson on Tuesday, and it absolutely hammered down on the contact workshop the next day. Finally it drizzled on us on Thursday. It is amazing how many handlers and dogs could huddle into a gazebo! That was, of course, before the gazebo broke due to hurricane Crazymaesy passing over Faringdon! Unfortunately, the eye of this storm didn't materialise as the wind and rain persisted for the full three days! One of our lasting memories will be of Jo doggedly standing in the middle of the course, soaked to the skin with a very damp towel around her shoulders. And for that, if nothing else we salute you, Jo Fraser 'dog trainer extraordinaire!'

Thank you Jo, Carol, Matilda and Max for all your hard work and for making the camp such a success. Not only did we all leave with more knowledge and confidence but, we also left with a few more friends.

Book us in for the next one, please.

Addendum from Jo Fraser...
Oh my goodness. How wet is wet? Crazymaesy Camp put up with hurricanes, tornadoes, whirlwinds and, at one point, I am sure a Tsunami came crashing through. Did this stop all of you from completing the exercises. No! You are all mad and thoroughly enjoyable to work with. Not once did the smiles leave your faces, and I will remember forever how many people it takes to hold down a gazebo. You all ran your dogs with conviction, and you all managed to consume lots of food and alcohol.

Did we have fun? Yes we did - and how that could be when we were all wearing lifejackets to stay afloat I will never know. How you even heard any advice I gave, good or bad, above the roar of the wind is a mystery. Perhaps thatís why you all smiled so much... to keep the idiot (me) happy.

Thank you for making the camp so much fun because thatís what agility is about, fun. Congratulations to all of you who have had such good results since. Itís all down to your hard work and commitment to making it enjoyable for your dogs.

I look forward to the next one, come rain or shine. I know it won't dampen your enthusiasm.

Jo Fraser trains dogs and their owners for competition at an organic farm between Oxford and Swindon. She caters for all grades and will encourage you to find the best way to handle for you and your dog. If you need a winter MOT or are interested in training for your club, please email Jo on jo@crazymaesy.co.uk. or ring m. 07530 984108.

Author credits...
Jenny Gibson
lives in North Wiltshire with her family and three completing collie crosses - two Irish rescues and her youngest a Skipperkee/collie X who started completing at KC shows in September. Her daughter, Hannah 14, also competes running one of their less enthusiastic collies or borrowing Jo Frazer's dog Fats to run.

They have been training regularly with Jo for a couple of years.

Jackie Atkins is the proud owner of two super border collies, Gael and Tag. Running a small business from home, she finds agility a perfect tonic to de-stress from the working week. Currently she am working up the grades with the help of her two daughters Lucy who has competed successfully this year and Holly an eager nine year old who patiently walks courses, queues, films all their runs and occasionally, if the nerves are getting the better of jackie, sings a soothing song!

Photos: Mel Taylor www.meltaylorphotography.co.uk

Publisher 05/10/10