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Friends forever...

Photographer Linda Gore caught up with best friends Morgan Taite-Shoosmith, Imogene White and Taylor Lyon at Crufts. The three girls - all dressed in black and all running black dogs - were loving the atmosphere and being together again. They talked about their friendship and how they manage their distance relationship. She  asked the about their Crufts journey, how they qualified and finally how it went for them.

Morgan Taite-Shoosmith

Age: 15 years
Lives in Herne Bay, Kent
Dogs: Havannah, Cuba and Vienna (Standard Poodles)
Trains at Upanova's and Gifted Agility

I was four years old when I started agility.

I met Immy when I was ten years old at Dogs in Need and Taylor at Open Junior Agility Championships (OJAC) at the same age.

The girls always make me laugh. When camping at YKC in August 2021, for instance, we had a caravan for the mums and a caravan for us girls. We were messing around one evening in the caravan and Immy was on the top bunk bed, pretending she was a marshmallow! She did a forward roll and when she sat up she hit her head on the ceiling light it was hilarious.

Immy has accidentally hit Taylor on the head with a baseball bat while Taylor has previously locked herself in a toilet. We have had such fun times together.

My heroes are Alan Bray and Shannon Springford. I look up to Alan for all he has achieved and what he still achieves. Shannon is another idle of mine especially as she started her journey as a YKC member. I love watching her compete with her dogs and admire what she has achieved with hard work and determination.

I qualified for Crufts 2022 at Newark YKC weekend.

Reflections...

What a busy time it was - the best Crufts ever!

Saturday I was in the breed ring with Cuba and I got a 2nd.

Then I had to rush over to YKC ring for the Jumping where I was sixth in. It was a very sad but happy day for me as Havannah was retiring.

Then another change of clothes to compete in the Utility Handling which I won. That meant I had to go back Sunday.

On Sunday, I won Groomer of the Year and then I went and won the final in the Handling, so now I will represent UK in international events.

I managed to meet up with Immy and Taylor but all of us were very busy this year competing. We will all be meeting up at shows this year. They really are amazing friends and I am so lucky to have met them.

Immy White

Age: 14 years
Lives: in Cheshunt, Herts
Dogs: Sky (Working Cocker) and Loch (Border Collie)

Me, Morgan, and Taylor all met and became really close friends in March 2018 at the Open Junior Agility Championships (OJAC). We have many funny stories to tell from when we were at YKC Summer camp in August like when I was on the top bunk, did some sort of tumble and hit my head on the ceiling. We were all crying with laughter. Unfortunately I live quite far away from my friends.

I have my own four-year-old small Working Cocker Spaniel called Sky. At the moment, she is on rehab because of an injury to her knee and I haven't been able to train her for some time. I am lucky, however, to be running my Mum's eight-year-old black and white Border Collie Loch. I'm also really lucky to be allowed to run Kate and Paul Moore's Border Collie called Cushti. He is lovely. I don't have an agility hero, but I am inspired by all the people that have helped me on my agility journey.

I have trained with Amy Bennett, Dan Shaw, Dave Munnings, Martin Reid, and Naarah Cuddy as well as attending foundation life skills with Kirsty Ann McCallan which I really enjoyed with Sky and Mum's youngest dog Focus. I have been a member of the YKC for a long time and when I was 6 I started agility running other people's dogs.

Reflections...

I loved spending time at Crufts. I really enjoy competing, but I also liked watching my friends achieve great things and sharing in their celebrations. When we all get together, we always have fun. The four days always goes far too quickly, and I didn't want it to end. I am so proud of what we all achieved that weekend.

On Thursday, I watched the YKC Graduate class and got the dogs used to being in the Crufts environment, since they hadn't competed there before. Then on Friday, I watched my Mum's friend compete in the ABC qualifiers in the Main ring, and then went back to the hotel to relax and have a swim.

The Saturday this year was just so busy with three agility classes and a lot of rushing about getting ready to walk courses, and warming up the dogs. It was YKC Under 18s Jumping for Loch and me, and we managed a 3rd place in the Large category. I was so pleased as we had made a mistake in the weave poles. When they called my name out at the presentations, I was really surprised and delighted.

When we were up at the Main ring, we were having our photos taken on the podium, and the TV cameras panned round and were in the background, so made it on the Channel 4 Crufts coverage. After the podium photos, it was off to the Main ring to watch Taylor and Elliott perform in the final of the Agility Dog of the Year. Then it was back to the YKC ring just in time to watch Morgan in the Handling event to see her win the Utility Handling competition.

Sunday was YKC Pairs. Loch and I were paired with Yvie and Epic. Yvie went first and did the Agility section of the course, while Loch did the Jumping. We managed to get a 5th place, even with unfortunate elimination by me on the Jumping section.

I thoroughly enjoyed visiting all the stands and managed to visit my sponsor JR Pet products, to thank them for their continued support.

It's an honour to complete at Crufts, and I will be working really hard this year to try and qualify again for next year with my dogs. I am very grateful to have friends like Morgan and Taylor. They are like part of the family, and I can't wait to see them again.

Taylor Lyon

Age: 13 years
Lives in Northamptonshire
Dog: Elliott (Working Cocker Spaniel)
Trains at Agility Slice with Jo Gleed

I was five when I started Agility with my Mum's English Springer Spaniel, Henry. Elliott was my first dog and I trained him from a puppy when I was only five years old.

My agility hero is Natasha Wise. She started having Collies which she has so much control over. They are fast and able to do anything in front of them. She managed to deal with any failure she had, too. Now she has a Working Cocker Spaniel like me and it's nice to see other people who have these kinds of dogs.

At any shows we hang out together, compete against each other and have fun. Whenever we are camping, we are together! Most moments we get are funny! Immy and Morgan are absolutely my best friends.

 I qualified for Crufts at Dogs in Need for the ADOY and Newark Activity Weekend for the Jumping.

Reflections...

Crufts 2022 was truly amazing. We travelled up the night before and stayed in a hotel near to the NEC. Elliott loves staying away in the hotel rooms. He always rolls around when we put a blanket on the bed for him. He's used to sleeping away from home and really enjoys it.

On the Saturday morning, we woke up early and left the hotel to go to the NEC where we ate breakfast. Later Morgan's mum did our hair all in the same way. We brushed Elliott out and he seemed perfectly happy to sleep in his crate while I walked our first course.

It was the Agility Dog of the Year first. The course was nice, but there was lots of good competition. I tried to make sure I would take Elliott on the best line. He ran perfectly for me with a fast clear round, but we wouldn't know the results until the end of all three Agility classes.

Next was the ABC Agility - another nice course with some trickier parts to them and still lots of great handlers walking the course with me. Elliott's run was great again with another fast clear round. Everyone around the YKC arena was so supporting, cheering us home as he jumped the final fence.

Finally it was the Under 18s Jumping. Morgan and Immy were in, too. I wasn't running Elliott but instead a friend's Border Collie Darcey. The course was a tight one with a very fast and close weave entry. Many dogs were being caught by that, but Darcey slowed perfectly to prevent a refusal. She ended with an elimination after accidentally taking the wrong side of a jump, but this was her first time at Crufts and she dealt so well with the atmosphere and the crowds.

It turned out that Elliott had come 3rd in the Under 24s ABC, and we had a brilliant 2nd in the Agility Dog of the Year that would qualify him for the Finals in the Main Arena. He did really well to come so high up considering he is now eight years old and this was his fifth time competing at Crufts and our first year in the over 12s.

Going to the main arena was a bit of a rush. We only had 20 minutes after the Jumping finished to get into the Main Arena holding ring before the ADOY finals started walking. We got Elliott settled in before all of us were called into the ring to walk the course. As we stepped out of the tunnel on to the green carpet, I looked up at the stands that were all full of people. It was amazing. I loved seeing everyone watching us walk the course.

The course was really nice, definitely more spread out than in the YKC Arena. Elliott would have a chance to really stretch out and run fast. I had prepared him and myself by warming him up on the carpeted area in the collecting ring.

I really enjoyed my time in the spotlight. I pushed Elliott hard and tried to make his turns tight. His run was perfect, but he was unlucky to miss the contact on the dog walk. The crowd cheered as I was racing him down the last line, and he stretched out and simply strode over the white contact at the bottom. I didn't mind though because he had already done so well at Crufts this year.

After our YKC Agility had finished, we stayed in the Main Arena collecting ring to have photos taken together and we helped with the photography for the International Agility podiums. Immy, Morgan and I held up the top three nations flags' while trying to stay out of the shot. It was a lot of fun, but our arms hurt afterward from holding up the flags at unusual angles while hiding behind the podium!

Over the years, Elliott has taught me that we are capable of anything. He has done amazingly well to get to Grade 7 and qualify for Crufts again, I really enjoyed Crufts this year and it was lovely to have Immy and Morgan with their dogs there with me. They make it so much more fun and always fill the air with laughter.

Thank you to Linda Gore and Julie Stevens for organising this article.

Photos: Linda Gore - All Crufts images can be found on Liinda Gore Photography Facebook.

First published: 25th March 2022

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