No more the 'underdogs'
Agility in South Africa has come a long way in a relatively short time. What began with fun events at horse shows has progressed to producing a stunned but very proud World Champion Agility Team of 2004. Viva South Africa!
The first step toward Agility was 'Dog Jumping,' started in 1982 by Werner Gotz of Cape Town. It is a sport unique to South Africa, with the first official Judges trained in 1983. The sport was modelled on Show Jumping, including the red and white flags on the hurdles and the tables of competition that are identified in Show Jumping.
When International Sanctions were lifted against South Africa, an already latent interest in the development of Agility abroad was allowed free rein. Agility in its current form was introduced to SA in 1998, with the first Judging Course and Judge’s Exam being held by Peter Lewis of Great Britain in May of that year. The first official Agility show followed a month or so later.
The first official SA Team at the AWC competed at Helsinki in 2000. Only three dogs in a four-dog-team competition presented a tough test and they fought well! They were Lloyd Bristow, Justus Truter and Linda Squair with, respectively, BCs Zest, Sasha-Ann and Ripple. Zest and Ripple are no longer with us, but are remembered fondly by all who knew them. Sasha-Ann recently starred in a movie on the South African theatre circuit, Story of an African Farm.
Some of our top handlers have taken what they have learned in training and competition as well as what they have learned from their experiences at the AWC and are offering training workshops at intervals across the country. We have also had handlers from Belgium, Italy and Austria, sharing their knowledge, training techniques and philosophies. Through all of this we have learned much about the dynamics of handling, course design and training for specific obstacles such as contacts, which will always remain the most challenging aspect of Agility.
Most important of all, through the successes achieved by Linda with Debbie, Rob Evans with Bronic (sixth in AWC Individual Large, Germany), Justus Truter with Jay-Ann (fifth in AWC Individual Large, Germany) and last but certainly not least, our Large Team 2004.
We have learned that we need stand back for no-one; that passion, dedication and love for the sport will catapult us to the top. As long as we believe in our and our dogs’ abilities, we can only succeed. As long as we are still willing to learn, we can only grow.
Viva South Africa, Viva! Viva Agility. Viva!
About the author...
Qualifying as a Championship Show Agility Judge in 2003, she has found as much satisfaction in judging as in competing. When not competing in Agility, you may find her training for Sheepdog Trials, in which both her dogs also show plenty of talent!"
Photos: Courtesy of Nadine Shortland