Did you hear the lions roar...
For many people the agility show at Longleat was and forever will be their all-time favourite. Those were the days when doing agility came second to enjoying the social side and when you knew everyone, at least by sight, and invites to join for a drink as you walked by a pitch were commonplace. And who could forget the lions 6am alarm calls and and how that could completely silence a camp full of dogs? Shirley Elkins came across these photos, a provisional ring plan and the Rules for the infamous Derby the other day and agreed to share her memories.
To put it simply, Longleat was one of the best shows I have ever been to.
My memories of arriving at Longleat are filled with a big WOW. The sight of all the rings and a sea of caravans and tents as you came up over the hill on the way into the venue was a sight not to be forgotten. As a background for the show, Longleat House always looked spectacular with the waterfalls at the side and the river running along the front. You could hear the lions roar as you got out of your car to take it all in.
I found an old ring plan of the 2000 show. (See below)
Those were the days
I always used to try and camp alongside the lane as you came in or to the left of the lane by the river, but it didn’t seem to matter where you camped as the rings were never far away, unlike the roar of the lions which always seemed so close, especially at night.
In those days I had my trusted Labradors and Retrievers. I now have collies. Here I must give my Labrador Amber a mention. She was my first Agility dog and without her I would never have got so involved in the sport as I am today.
The Wolves could be heard howling and you could hear the hippopotamus and the sea lions. They all seemed so close. And if you ever found time during your day, you could always go on a Longleat Bus ride to see the wolves, something not to be missed.
I remember thinking that there were so many rings how on earth would I cope, but I did, I loved everything about it. Entertainment was put on ever evening, there were heelwork to music displays, dogs having a go at ‘football’ and the famous Longleat Derby where Agility handlers got to run their dog round what I thought was something like a show jumping course, Complete with brush fences and real water jumps. Everyone was so friendly.
The course was huge - two rings put together made it a long long run. Dogs needed to be fit - and so did handlers. You needed amazing legs and good lungs to get round.
The competition was held over two rounds. It included weaves but excluded tyre, tunnels and a seesaw. Additional judges were appointed to look after some of the equipment. Of course, the safety of the dogs was paramount so the first round course time was generous to enable to handle to maximum care. Clears from Round 1 went forward to Round 2 and a jump-off against the clock over a shortened course but uphill. In the final run-off against the clock, you had to miss out obstacles as well!
Lord Bath presented the prizes - £100 + trophy and sash to the winner and £50 for the runner up with gifts from the sponsor Genesis Premium Dog Food. All qualifiers received a commemorative rosette.
Someone called Greg Derrett won every Derby.
I so wanted to win a lions head trophy, and I got my wish. Amber came 3rd in Elementary Agility. I was shell shocked and overjoyed. That trophy has always taken pride of place on the wall, even now that Amber is no longer with us.
It is such a shame that Agility shows are no longer held in the grounds of the famous Longleat House. I was lucky to be one of the competitors who got to compete and camp there and enjoy the surroundings - such happy memories of a wonderful show. So thank you to the clubs who put on this show in such lovely grounds.
Shirley's first collie Gemma (now 15) wasn't really that interested in agility. When she was four years old, she acquired Izzy, her first blue merle. All her dogs have been fantastic in their own right - such a joy to own and train. Sadly Shirley lost Izzy back in the summer, but her other dogs, Daisy (G7), Renn (G5) and Kira (G3) are all making good progress.
She lives in Devon and works part-time to pay for a very expensive hobby.
First published 10 October 2018