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The M & M Show

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An agility test crossed with the Great British Bake-off...

Moira Bowden has been in the wonderful world of agility for so long that she canít actually remember life before setting off every Friday afternoon to set up home in a field somewhere in the country. Since those early days of competing with her whippet Folly, her involvement with the sport has grown by leaps and bounds - excuse the pun - and it gave her and her sister Maddie Greening the idea of running a Winter Series of agility shows for people with their beginner dogs and those who want to consolidate training their more experienced dogs over the winter months. This is tale of two sisters and how they set up the M & M shows.

I am now an active member on the Committee of Chipping Norton DTS so I spend a lot of time and energy co-ordinating weekly training, organising training days, encouraging new members and running a successful Open show every year. This year I was pleased that we managed to secure a brand new venue, Banbury Rugby Club, where the ground is very well established, well drained and maintained. Thank goodness the weather was fantastic and the sun shone, unlike last year's mud bath!

My sister Maddie and I have ring managed for Bitz 'n Bobz at their winter series for several years and that experience gave us the confidence to set up something similar, albeit on a smaller scale, at The Dog Training Barn at at Middleton Cheney. It is a wonderful indoor venue, right on our doorstep, with a full set of equipment and a sand and silicon floor which is great to run on and perfect for a one ring show.

It was an unknown quantity
We both felt that Limited shows are a great place to teach others how a show runs including all the jobs that need doing on a ring - scoring, scriming, pole picking, tickets etc. Our aim was to send all our newbies out in to the real world of agility confident and well trained in the art of helping at a show.

We really had no idea if it would take off but, to our amazement, we had an incredible response and all the shows thus far, have reached their limit well before the closing dates. Possibly that is because we offer four runs per dog (with a limit of 480 runs per show.) For those who want to use the opportunity to 'train in a competitive situation, it is a perfect opportunity to practice those contacts, start line waits and European turns that we are all learning in training but, if youíre like me, donít always have the confidence to actually carry out in the ring!

It is definitely a popular concept as last year we were full pretty much as soon as the schedules were released. Itís great as sometimes itís the first show for people or they have never helped before. We make a point of offering to walk courses with newbies, if they are not sure, and ensure they know what to do when they come to book in.

Happily we have a regular team of helpers who make the show run like clockwork. We have 480 runs in just the one ring so we have to be super-efficient on timing to ensure we are finished before it gets too dark! We have two judges so the ring runs straight through, a system that really seems to work, and we generally finish around 5.30/6.00. Without our wonderful helpers, we would certainly struggle to get through that many dogs. We could not run shows without them. We donít even have to allocate jobs. Everyone just seems to know where help is needed and they all do their bit to make sure we all get to run our dogs.

Show highlights
A successful show is not just about the Agility and the dogs!

Our Christmas show was something to behold Ė from carol singing to festive hats to Christmas-themed cakes and our trophies for this show were beautiful hand painted glass tree decorations.

The main highlight of the series however, was our March Charity Show. We used recycled rosettes and trophies. The Dog Training Barn reduced the cost of the venue hire and we had a mammoth raffle. The generosity of all the competitors was incredible. All the proceeds from the entries and the raffle raised a staggering sum in the region of £1400 for our nominated charity, Prostate Cancer UK. Maddieís husband, the lovely Tom, has been battling this cruel disease for the last five years.

Both Maddie and I are keen bakers and we always provide homemade cakes for all our helpers. Last year we had a slow cooker bake off with some of the regulars. The super talented Sally Walker and I were neck and neck until she pulled it out of the bag with her pretty Easter lamb cupcakes. I retired gracefully to the position of runner up!

This lead to the M & Mís Bake Off. It started off with just Maddie, myself and Sally Walker but gradually more and more people joined in. We are planning on repeating it again this year, possibly with a monthly theme. The challenge will be open to all!

Running the M & M Winter Series has been so much fun. We really do have some of the nicest people in Agility who come along each month to enjoy competing and training their dogs.

Jump & Twist Pairs
One of my favourite classes is Pairs. Up until last year, there was a distinct lack of 'fun Pairs' at Kennel Club shows until Miranda Frankham and I came up with the idea of a class with a difference. We were at the TAG Summer show in 2013 and we were eating cake (again!) in our motorhome. Within an hour we had it! And so the Just So Jump and Twist Pairs was born.

For those people who havenít seen the class, it is a Combined G1-7 where all heights compete against each other. Each pair consists of two dogs of the same height -One completes an Agility course, the other completes a Jumping course. Itís fast, furious and great fun to watch. Following 10 heats at shows up and down the country, there was an exciting Final at TAG Summer Show. With the continued support of our sponsors Sandra and Owen of Just So Rosettes and Nick and Julie Ross from Jewlnick, we are now into our second year of heats.

This year the Final will be at Letchworth Show on the Saturday evening, after the show has finished, and will be judged by Gary Bowles who designs the beautiful trophies sponsored by Jewlnick. The winners this year will win the incredible sum of £200 generously put up by Jewlnick. We have a Facebook page which is regularly updated with results. photos and hopefully this year some videos.

Iíd be a liar if I said doing the shows and Pairs competition it isnít hard work. It all takes a great deal of time, effort and organisation, but I think it is worth it. I am lucky enough to compete most weekends at shows which others have given up their time and energy to organise. If we all do our bit, be it organising and running shows, helping at shows, teaching others, supporting each other on the rings, we will all be able to continue enjoying our amazing sport with our equally amazing dogs. The rewards of running such successful and popular events make it all worthwhile.

About the author
Moira Bowden has competed in agility for about 16 years. She started out with her beautiful whippet Folly who only did it because she loved Moira and only wanted to please! Since then, Moira has probably best been known for the incredible Dash, her German Shorthaired Pointer who was the most difficult and naughty dog in the world but who took her to the equivalent of the moon and back when we were part of the winning Crufts Team 2010.

And now she has the equally awesome Blink, her fast, super talented and delightful, a cheeky little scruffy black poodle X. There is certainly nothing little about her personality!

There is talk that sometime soon Moira may well be crossing to the dark side... a collie in the Bowden household. Watch this space!

Moira lives in a village just outside Banbury in Oxfordshire, right opposite Maddie!

She works a a Learning Assistant in a secondary school, reaping the rewards of both working with pupils with varying degrees of special needs as well as long school holidays! A perfect job for an agility addict.

First published 10 July 2015