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A culinary Agility treat...

Last May, 19 year old Megan Burns and her mum  took the short boat trip from Guernsey over to the neighbouring island of Jersey for the annual Jersey European Agility Festival. She had been there twice before and was looking forward to the 2015 show. This year did not disappoint. Great agility plus beautiful beaches, superb food and fascinating attractions made for a perfect show. Here is a brief overview of each day and her thoughts.

I love the Jersey European Agility Festival for the agility. Run over four days under FCCI Agility regulations at the Jersey Accommodation Centre, each day is dedicated to different nation and has a country theme with a judge from that country, complimentary drinks at the prize giving and an evening meal at Barney's Restaurant.

Personally I find the standard of agility to be higher at the Festival than most other shows I attend. With there only being two grades, you can compete against some Grade 7 (Championship) dogs and, although this may put some people off, the courses mean that everyone is challenged so it is really an equal footing and goes down to how well your dog is trained.

I also enjoy seeing the difference in really competitive breeds that there are in Europe compared to in Britain. Obviously, there are still the Border Collies, Shelties, Spaniels etc. but there are a greater number of Staffies, Poodles, Belgian Shepherds, GSDs and even a couple of Pugs last year. It definitely makes for different competition, as well as seeing the differences within the breeds in Britain compared to Europe which really intrigues me.

Inside the accommodation centre, there is a vast array of food on offer throughout the day. Breakfasts for the guests start before the show, giving plenty of time to eat, sort the dogs out then walk courses without being frantic - unless you fancy a lay in! Lunches offer soups, sandwiches, cakes, burgers, chips, hot drinks, cold drinks etc etc. Lots to choose from, all made to order, with a quick service. What more could you ask for?

Finally, as I have mentioned, there is a different theme each day. When it comes to presentation time, there are complimentary alcohol beverages fitting with the day, whilst the rosettes are being presented. This is then followed - if you choose whilst entering - a themed dinner of main course and pudding. The portion sizes are great, the food is delicious and with everyone discussing agility (or not), drinking and having a fabulous time, it's a great way to round off each day.

Day 1
Friday was Jersey Day which acts as a warm up to the following days with a few fun classes. The Knock-out challenges and Tunnel Exchange classes continued into the evening when competitors could pay a small amount for a two course meal linked to that nation. The food on Jersey Day was fish pie followed by sticky toffee pudding and Jersey ice cream. The judge was Anita Le Masurier.

Day 2
The second day was French Day with main judge being Pascale Crespel. There are two Agility rounds and two Jumping rounds, one of which was a Pairs round of Large and then Small / Medium. The show only has two rings, and runs all day, finishing at about 5pm. This allows for the competitors to spectate around the rings and there is plenty of encouragement and lots of people chatting all the time.

One thing that makes this show different is that at the end of each day everyone brings their chairs around the Secretary’s tent where they do all of the presentations and everyone has a complimentary drink linked to the nation in their hand. For the French Day, this was either red or white wine.

The evening meal was confit duck leg with mash and orange sauce followed by profiteroles and the famous Profiterole Challenge where two members from each nation go head-to-head to eat a bowl full of profiteroles the quickest - without hands! Always a great laugh!

Day 3
The third day was British Day with judges Jane James, Graham and Pat Partridge. Again, there were two Agility and two Jumping rounds - one of the Jumping rounds being a Nations Team round where three Small / Medium dogs or three Large dogs from the same nation compete in a relay. The best get selected for the final held on the Monday.

The presentation was completed by a glass of Pimms and dinner was a full roast followed by brownie and ice cream. It has to be said that the meals were delicious and great portions for the amount you pay!

I have to say that I certainly feel more in my element when I see a British judge standing in the ring with British courses but trying the European courses is a great opportunity. On the odd occasion that I have seen a course plan, if there were no numbers it would be impossible to tell the course! This, I feel, really distinguishes European judges from British judges where you can almost guess the route without numbers being laid. The courses also flow a lot more, with wider spaces, flowing angles and although there are definitely areas that need handling and occasionally have a "back side jump" it all works really nicely and there was not a course that I felt "Gosh, my dog and I are going to struggle here".

Day 4
The final day Monday was Spanish Day with Jordi Narvarro judging. There are qualifying runs on the two previous days for Small and Medium and then for Grade A (equivalent to Grade 1-3) and Grade B (equivalent of Grade 4-7) in Large along with the Nations Team Final. The results of the qualifying classes are allocated points and the dogs with the highest number of points make the final. There was one agility, one jumping and a Helter Skelter run before the finals took place.

Unfortunately, it rained nearly all day on Monday, but the spirits weren’t dampened as everyone sat and watched the finals and stayed for the presentations and the raffle in aid of Jersey Hospice.

Over the last festival, Pickle and I won a class (A&B Jumping), got two thirds and a clear round. This allowed us to compete in the final on the Monday afternoon. Unfortunately, PIckle slipped in the final and landed on a pole costing us 5 faults.

My mum, despite accompanying me to the vast majority of the shows that I go to, does not compete. She has recently got herself her own puppy who will be competing next year and the festival in 2017 may be their debut!

All in all, JEAF is a great event. The attention to detail from the organisers Andre Rees, Chris Cullen and Sally Rees was awesome, the running of the event was smooth, even though there are different languages, everyone makes new friends whether they are from Jersey, Guernsey, Great Britain, France, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Finland, Austria, Netherlands or even the USA. If you’re lucky, you might get to win a Jersey teddy (1st place prize) and even if you don’t win a teddy, you’ll get some lovely memories.

This year, there has been a change to the schedule to include a Guernsey Day. I think this is the first time this has ever happened and I have been lucky enough to be asked to judge! This is a great opportunity for me to expand my judging repertoire as well as make a stamp as to what a Guernsey course could be! I'm very much looking forward to it. I will then be competing for the other three days of the festival and am flying to Jersey especially for the event from university.

About the author...
Megan Burns
lives in Guernsey but studies Advertising at Bournemouth University.

She has been competing in agility for five years now with my working cocker x poodle Pickle who currently competes at Grade 5 (KC). He's her first agility dog and they've been on such a journey due to the lack of agility trainers on Guernsey. They are practically self-taught and relied upon travelling occasionally to the Mainland to gain knowledge. Now, although competing at relatively few numbers of shows a year, they've won out of G1 - G4 in the first show they entered at each grade.

Despite being at university, she still like to keep her toes dipped in agility by creating promotional work for clients within the agility world whether it is logos, posters, videos, Facebook pages/groups or total rebrands and have recently branched into selling digital drawings of people's dogs. When she has a free weekend, she judges at independent shows or meets up with friends for training until the spring comes around and she can train and compete her own dog and help her mum train hers.

First published 19 February



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