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Wendy Fairlamb's trip to IFCS World Cup

Whey hey... Wednesday, 7 May arrived at last! At 6.30am Wendy Fairlamb, her dog Scout and groom Chris Baldwin packed their luggage into the van and set off to the meet the rest of the GB team  at Junction 8 on the M20. They were off to the 2008 IFCS Agility World Cup. Look out Belgium, the Brits were coming.

We arrived at the services with plenty of time to give Scout a walk and get a cup of coffee for ourselves before putting Dawn Weaver's dogs into my van. There was only a small amount of swearing from Scout! Sheila and Dawn got settled in the back and we're off again.

We arrived at Dover with time to spare and so we got in line to be loaded onto the ferry. Like most people who have never travelled their dogs abroad before, I was wondering how Scout would cope with the journey. Well, I shouldn't have worried about it at all. We all had 'Live animal' stickers on the van windscreens so we were one of the first vehicles to be loaded which meant that we were the first off the other side. When we got back to the van Scout, Minky, Freeway and Chelsea were all happily snoozing. Apparently they are all good sailors!

Chris had agreed to drive on the 'wrong side of the road' leg of the trip, so once the kids (Dawn and Sheila) were settled in the back we set off again in our five van convoy. Chris Cole was leading as he had the Sat Nav and, despite my mistrust of anything computerised, I have to admit it made the journey very easy.

In no time at all, we arrived at our hotel in Kortrijk. Wow! What a lovely hotel it was with a sauna, gym, tanning room and a swimming pool.

Once we had all checked in and given the dogs a walk, we went off as a group to find somewhere to eat. The town had several places. Luckily we picked a great restaurant the first night which then became our local for the rest of the trip. Greg, Laura, Tace and Shaun had already been out to take a look at the venue in Ingelmunster and to time how long the journey would take so we wouldn't have to rush in the morning.

After a lay-in on Thursday morning, we set off to the venue. We had an allocated time for the vet check and training. All our dogs were passed fit by the IFCS appointed vet. All dogs, regardless of height, were measured with a sliding rule. The training session went very well with all the dogs working very happily on the equipment including the frame tyre.

Start as you mean to go on...
Friday morning we set up camp in the air-conditioned building provided for us and went to walk the Power and Speed course which was to be our first class. There would be no medals awarded for this class but that didn't stop that super fit athlete of a man Dave Alderson winning the class with his BC Spice. The rest of us didn't fair so well, but we were all pleased with our dogs who had worked well in the very different atmosphere.

The next course to walk was the All Round Individual Agility. This class had four parts - Agility, Jumping, Gamblers and Snooker. Medals would be awarded for the overall winner as well as the individual winner of each class.

The course was nice but it had several traps. Greg's team talk was that we should try not to get eliminated as this would carry points through to the next round. Unfortunately Scout and Trigga were to quick for me and Mark, and they managed to bounce stride away from us over the wrong jump. They obviously weren't listening to team orders!

Dawn had a good run with Chelsea, finishing in 4th place. She also took Silver with her other dog, Minky. Super fit  Dave won his height category to take his first Gold. He also finished 4th with his little Poodle Libby. This left both Dawn and Dave in a great position for the rest of the All round competition.

By this point in time, I was beginning to feel very down hearted with my performance. Greg was being really nice, telling me how well Scout was working, how good his contacts were and how I could still go for an individual Gold. Trouble is I'm just not used to Greg being nice. He normally takes the micky when I go wrong!

The final class to be walked for the day was the Biathlon Jumping. As the name suggests, this was a two part competition comprised of one Agility round and one Jumping round. We walked the course which had a tunnel trap at the 3rd obstacle, two pull throughs and another tunnel trap half way around and another three from home. Oh joyI really hoped this wasn't going to be another E. Greg would soon be making me swim The Channel home.

Dave really was on form. Not happy with two wins already, he went on to get Gold with both Spice and Libby.

I fetched Scout from his crate and walked to the ring to meet Tace for his pre-run massage. I was almost the last person to run and everyone was hot and tired. The temperature was between 24 - 27 centigrade all weekend. Shaun asked me how I was doing and I said 'Fine thanks,' so he said 'Well that's good. Now get in that ring and win a Gold! Tace looked horrified and told him not to bully me but I said. 'Its fine. Its what I need.' And that's exactly what I did. Ha ha ha...  nothing like a good nagging to get yourself in gear.

Before we left, Dave had the honour of being the first of us onto the rostrum for the medal presentation. All the teams gathered around for the ceremony - the Japanese and Russian Federation in nice straight neat rows, the Canadians and Americans in a noisy whooping gaggle, the Netherlands laid back talking ten to the dozen etc. etc. and us Brits standing in the shade waiting for our special version of God Save the Queen to begin! Dave steps up swathed in the Union Jack, a huge grin on his face - no doubt thinking about finding a tobacco shop on the way back to the hotel. Big drum roll... here we go. A look of shock on the other competitors' faces as Brain May screeches into life with his unique version of the National Anthem. Boy, did it sound great over the sound system! I'll leave you all to have a listen on Youtube to judge for yourselves, but it seemed popular with the crowds.

So at the end of Day 1 at 7pm, we had a win in Power & Speed, three wins in the Biathlon jumping, one Gold in Individual Agility and one Silver. What a fantastic start to the Championships! Off to the pub to celebrate me thinks.

Saturday arrives bright, clear and very hot, hot, hot!
There is less breeze than yesterday so Pete and Greg reminded us to make sure we and our dogs all drink lots of water.

Our first course arrives on paper so we have a look whilst it's being set out. Greg goes through the previous days results. Eight of the team are in good positions for the All Around Competition. As I had blown out on my Agility,  I just had to go for individual medals.

I've really grown to enjoy the Gamblers runs since joining UKA. My Large dog Tishi is just not fast enough to compete in the KC Gamblers classes, and we don't have them in Smalls so I didn't enter them until I joined UKA.

In the IFCS Gamble or Joker classes the Gamble must be completed behind a line from a distance. This particular Gamble class also had another optional distance gamble during the course which earned extra points. This was a send away through a tunnel onto a jump, turn right into the weaves and over a jump all from behind a line halfway along the tunnel. The course time for Scout was 35 seconds with 16 seconds to complete the gamble. I told Shaun, the 'Games King,' where I planned to go including twice around the extra gamble. Shaun agreed it looked a good course with me getting to the gamble line in 36 seconds. Now in the UK you would time your round to finish just before the course time, but with IFCS rules you will be eliminated for loitering waiting for the whistle to blow. As Scout is head strong and I can not always guarantee his turns, I thought it would be safer to estimate over the time.

Right, off we go. Wait for two jumps, tyre then into the send away. Easy for Scouty boy. It's turning I struggle with. Send away perfect and back around it again. Loves send aways, my boy. Turn left over a jump. Up the A-frame, jump, jump , A-frame, jump, pull hard left onto the seesaw. The whistle should blow right about ... now. Yep, great. There it is. Off the seesaw, over the gamble line into another send away, down a tunnel onto the jump. OMG Scout stops before the jump but he loves send aways! Okay, stay calm, step forward push him on. Good he's over it. Remember to take a step back so I can step forward again if he turns in - thanks, Angela. Back into the tunnel, sharp turn left and over the finish. Did he get in the time with that hesitation though? Yes, he did and we've won the Individual Gamblers Gold.

No time to get over-excited though because the Biathlon Agility is ready for walking. Now I never think its very good when I really like a course because I worry that I won't concentrate properly, but I really loved this course. The start was tight turns and Scout started growling at me as I pulled him tight around the wings. It was scary. Have to keep hold of the little treasure or he'll be off if he's this up for it! His contacts were solid and I almost relaxed as we got to the long jump, two jumps from home. Bad move. He almost took over and was heading for the back of the last jump. I heard the crowd gasp. Then I breath out again. Obviously my Scout screech worked better than the day before because he turned and hopped over the jump round the wing over the last jump. Yeah, clear round. Greg's face was so funny. I think he may have aged ten years watching me run Scout and I'm not even going to mention what happened to Tace. I'll let her tell you about that. Two more dogs ran both going clear but nothing could catch Scouts time so the Gold Biathlon medal was ours.

The course was obviously a favourite with some of the others in the team with Gold for Dave with Spice and Dawn with Minky. Poor Dawn we told her Minky had got the Silver because the original results were wrong so her bottom lip was starting to quiver at the medal presentation when she wasn't called up for it. She almost fell over when we shoved her forward to get the Gold.

Mark and Trigga finished with a Bronze with a run which I think should've been filmed for a 'how it should be done' example of handler and dog as one. It was breathtaking. Karen Buglar finished in 8th place with Ace, her fantastic little Sheltie who is ten years old. What a great achievement!

Snooker was next. I have to be honest and say that it's not my favourite class because it involves thinking on your feet and worse of all... numbers. I don't do numbers!! All I can say is that I went wrong, tried to correct it, saved it a bit, went wrong again and then the wheels fell off. Ha ha. Oh well, more training required on that one. However, Chris Cole with Cap and Dawn with Chelsea really mastered the course getting Silver and Bronze with their cleverly planned and executed precision runs.

The last run of the day was the Individual jumping. The course was very fast and, at first glance, looked easy. Several of the first handlers to run lost their dogs over the back of the long jump and more of them failed stop their dogs coming out of the tunnel at speed over the wrong jump. It was a very subtle course and I wonder if even the judge herself realised how tricky it would be.

As this was part of the All Around class, I knew I was going for my individual Gold again. The beginning was okay for me - two jumps, recall into a pipe tunnel and a big sweep around the outside which I might have layered if it were not for the frame tyre which is still used in Europe. After this was a side by side tunnel trap which, if I did them, would've been a great place for a blind turn. I told Greg this to which he said 'I'll close my eyes. I don't care if he breaks your legs getting there just make sure you crawl and put him in the right tunnel! That's good... the insults are still going strong. Anyway I got the right tunnel. The only real problem left now was stopping him jumping long after the long jump and getting e'd by going into the flat tunnel. I managed to get in front of him to put a steady command in before the long jump and scooped him hard left over the last two jumps. Fantastic! Gold number three.

Dave had amazing runs with both Spice and Libby taking a Gold with each of them, too. Dawn had such consistent runs in the All Around that she and Chelsea earned themselves a Bronze overall. Some achievement holding it together over four courses.

Saturday's classes were finished but, as it was now past 8.00pm, the medal ceremony was rescheduled for the next day. Off we went to the hotel. A quick shower, feed and walk the dogs and then off we went to get a Cherry beer in our restaurant to celebrate.

Sunday was team day but not as we know it!
There were three members in the team with nominated reserves so handlers could be swapped depending on the course. The heights of the dogs in each team also had to be mixed. Scout's team was to be me and Dawn with Chelsea and Minky for the individual Agilty. I went first and managed to get around clear. Phew, what a relief! Dawn was next but Chelsea was having a mardy poodle moment, having been kept waiting. She placed a manicured nail on the A-frame to get an E. Minky had 5 faults.

In the individual jumping things were reversed. Chelsea went clear and Scout mowed me down to get to the wall and got an E this time. Jane Powell replaced Minky and ran a lovely faultless round with Keeta. The last part of the team was a relay with the course split into thirds. I ran clear and passed the baton - which we held whilst running - to Angela Williams with Pi who had a pole down and 5 on the seesaw. Dawn then finished with a clear from Chelsea. No medals for the team run.

That was it, the most amazingly proud weekend of my life over. The closing ceremony was as relaxed as the opening one with not too many speeches. We sat on the grass like typical Brit tourists with a Belgium beer in our hands and cheered for the final medal presentation with Brian raising the rafters for the last time.

In true Oscars style, I would like to thank the following:-

  • Greg, Laura and Shaun for their faith and support (and insults.)
  • Tace for both mine and Scout's massage
  • Pete for agreeing to come with us. It was good to know you were there if we needed you and for translating the Flemish menus.
  • Chris for driving and grooming
  • Everyone at my club Racingredd
  • Anyone else who raised money to help with the teams expenses to send us to Belgium
  • Most all thanks to my little star, Scout

About the author...
Wendy Fairlamb lives and teaches agility from her home in South Lincolnshire.

Her family always had collies because her Grandad was a farm worker and shepherd. Then when she was about 10 years old, she fell for a sob story and a Beagle arrived! She kept thinking 'I'll grow out of them but six beagles later...

At the moment as well as Scout, Wendy lives with the two beagles Ernie and Michelle, a Portuguese Podengo called Moca and collies Tishi, Nuggett, Calum and Daniel. However in a couple of weeks time a baby BSD Lakenois called Bristle will be moving in!

First published 10/06/08