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A premier event unlike any other...

This year’s CSJ Agility Open competition took place over four days in June at the fantastic Addington Equestrian Centre near Buckingham. The idea, created by Greg Derrett and his team, was to provide everybody - regardless of grade -  the chance to experience a high end, international style competition. With people attending from all over the country, the new concept was back for its second year. Gina Colton reports on her second visit.

After a successful debut in 2018, many people left vowing to add the 2019 dates to their diaries as a 'must attend' event! Based around WAO rules and jump heights, this is a tournament event which consists of 14 runs over five exciting events such as the Pentathlon, Games Challenge (Snooker and Gamblers) and a Steeplechase. With large rings and some of the UK and Europe’s best judges, the courses were fast flowing and challenging - the likes of such rarely seen at your 'standard' show.

This was my second year attending the CSJ Open and it is still an event like no other with rigid timetables, strict running orders and timed group course walking. Sounds scary and 'full on' perhaps? Yes, you need to concentrate and make sure you are in exactly the right place at the right time, but it makes for the most fun and exciting experience.

Each morning the doors of the indoor arena would open at a set time with course maps being made available shortly thereafter. Once released the stampede of people would grab a map and head off, pen in hand, to try and fathom out the best way to tackle the courses. Each day you were given approximately 20 minutes to study two courses so that you were ready to walk them, one after the other. Seems unusual perhaps to have course maps but, when you only have eight minutes to walk - and these courses were large - you needed to have a plan in your head before you even entered the ring!

You were now ready to run. I remember standing in the holding area, next in line, feeling a mixture of fear and adrenaline. Walking out onto the Start Line, all you can see is people sitting in the stands ready to watch you!

And then it was the same as any other competition. You focus on the task and put in your best effort to get the dog around the course. Once you’d completed the first run, you realised that those people in the stands and around the ring were actually very supportive, regardless of how well you'd done. Despite the initial fear, you’d thoroughly relished giving these challenging courses a good go, albeit favouring the letter E!

Did I find it easier to return as a G5 handler as opposed to a G2 handler?
To be honest, not really, as I was returning with a faster, slightly more cocky, little dog. Though I have to admit that I actually felt that the courses were even tougher than in 2018!

Photo: Simon PeacheyI thoroughly enjoyed both years but, by no means found either of them easy. Running alongside, and competing against, members of the GB team, meant that the courses were going to be harder than those experienced elsewhere. They needed to challenge everyone.

Would I recommend it to someone who wants to test themselves and their dog? Yes.

Would I recommend it to a Grade 1 handler? Probably not.

Maybe the only flaw with the event is that it is open to everyone. Before entering, it's essential to read the CSJ web page to find out what the courses actually involve. l just believe that there is the potential for a new handler to see the courses and walk away crying as I nearly did at times... both years! It would perhaps be beneficial to keep it open to everyone, but make sure people are aware that the courses are pitched at an equivalent Grade 6-7 level, or to have a similar format to the British Agility Championship event, in that they also have a Novice Stakes event for the lower grade dogs.

With that said, if you're an inexperienced handler and are happy to see it as a learning curve, watch some amazing top handlers and just enjoy the experience, then go for it! The 2020 dates are already up on Agilitynet!

About the author...
Gina Colton's agility career began five years ago. She had wanted to do agility for a while but both her Staffordshire Bull Terriers were OAPs. When her parents bought a Cockapoo puppy, she thought she'd give it a go. Though Casper took to it well, her parents then decided to move house - two hours away - so weekly training was no longer possible.

A year or so afterwards she heard of someone getting rid of a two year old Jug (Pug X JRT) who wasn't being looked so he came to live with Gina. His name was changed from Baxter to Dexter! It actually turned out that he liked agility and was quite speedy, so it began!

Dexter has been training with Den Keeler at Barking Mad AC in Kettering and competing for two years. He's currently made it to Grade 5 with two wins towards Grade 6.

Gina lives in a small village near Oakham. During the day, she works as a nanny, looking after babies and young children, but she spends as much time as possible at agility shows or having extra training sessions.

Photo of Gina running the course courtesy of Simon Peachey

First published 6th August 2019



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