I have been so excited to share our first Regionals experience with everyone! Waiting for the photos to be released has been an agonizing anticipation (kudos to the photographer for working through so many images so quickly!).
Every year the Agility Association of Canada (AAC) holds provincial Regional trials. These trials are used as qualifiers for Nationals in August. Each province hosts a Regionals competition which draws pretty much all the competing dogs from that province. You want to talk about a huge trial! This is probably close to 350 dogs competing in 3 simultaneously running rings over 3 days (one warm up day and two days of actual competition). Placement at this trial does mean a little more than at your local trials because you're competing against a fair number of other dogs. The points you accumulate during the 2 days of competition are make or break when it comes to qualifying for Nationals that year. To qualify you need 350 points. Each dog runs 3 courses per day (Jumpers, Standard, and Gambler) for a total of 6 over the course of the weekend. In Standard and Jumpers you start with a perfect score of 100 and deductions are made for every error (5 for dropping a bar, 5 for a refusal, 20 for an off course, 1 point for every second over course time, etc). If you are clean, you get to keep your 100 points and you also get bonus points for every second UNDER time that you ran (so if you were 10 seconds under course time your score would be 110). In Gamble you start with 0 points and you try to accumulate as many as you possibly can. Any dog eligible to trial can enter, even dogs that just started running at the Starter level, but all the courses at Regionals are at the Masters level.
I had no real expectations for Kili going into Regionals this year as it was our very first time. With Nationals being out in Montreal this year, I also had no intention of attending even if Kili did qualify. I was looking at this year as a learning experience for next year, as Nationals should be out west again and we would want to attend. Which was great because I felt like there was no pressure, just have fun and gain some valuable experience. Kili has only recently moved up to the Masters level and hasn't run too many courses in trials at this level yet. She has recently reached a new level in terms of listening and focus, so my only real hope for the weekend was for her to pay attention, stay focused, and take direction. Well, she did that and so much more.
Friday is a warm up day. It is not part of the competition but allows the dogs to see some of the equipment, see the venue, and get used to all the commotion. There are warm up runs that you can purchase, which gives you about 90 s in the ring to do whatever you want, and toys are allowed. There are also Steeplechase runs offered. We ran 2 warm ups and 1 Steeplechase, and Kili was fast and happy and listened really well.
On Saturday, Kili was amazing. She ran both her Jumpers and Standard clean, and did some nice distance work in the Gamble. She has only run 1 Master Gamble in her career up to this point, and most of the distance work is 18-20 feet away from you. That is REALLY far. She did some of the mini gamble, more than I was expecting, so that was really great even though she didn't get the main gamble. I knew this was going to be one of our weaker points, and there's plenty of time to work on it over the next year! This amazing girl stunned me though, when we found out that evening at the banquet that she had won first place in her division (22 inch Specials) in Jumpers, and 4th place in Standard. Imagine that! A greyhound winning a class at Regionals! I told her how proud I was of her and after that performance she could do whatever she liked on Sunday.
Sunday rolled around and Kili continued to shine on some really tough courses. She did get a few calls that I did not agree with on Sunday though, in both Jumpers and Standard.
At the beginning of the Jumpers run we get called for blocking at the tunnel entrance. When I spoke to the judge she said it was because I had touched Kili's face intentionally to pull her away from the entrance. If that's what she saw then she has to call it, but since I am about 99% sure I didn't touch her (and I don't see a touch in my video either) I don't think it was the right call. All I think I did was put my hand in front of her face in order to lead her, which is acceptable. Later in that run I got behind my super fast dog and had to make a rear cross instead of my planned front... with such a large stride it pushed Kili out too far and she missed the next jump, resulting in a refusal. She finished an otherwise beautiful Jumpers run with 10 faults.
I came out of Kili's Standard run thinking she was clean, and was very excited. It was a really nice run. Then my trainer tells me that she was called on the UP contact of the teeter for 5 faults. I asked the judge about it, since up contact calls are pretty much unheard of and I thought they had removed the up contact requirement because it's a little unfair to large dogs who have large strides. Apparently the rule now is that the up contact can be missed if the approach is straight, but if they're not straight and they miss the contact it gets called. Well, Kili may not have been straight as an arrow, but it was certainly not an unsafe approach. With her long stride, coming out of a turn to the teeter we have had far more crooked approaches. So I didn't really like that call, but you win some and you lose some.
Her Sunday Gamble wasn't a great run as far as points, but I was really happy with her distance weave poles. I should have had her do it again since it was worth 10 points, but I only planned to try it once because I honestly wasn't too sure if she could do it. 18 feet is a long way to send to weave poles! Once you have a plan you're usually best to stick to the plan.
Imagine my surprise during the awards ceremony when Kili got placements in both Jumpers and Standard, despite the faults. And the even bigger surprise when she was called to the podium during the aggregate awards. When I went back and looked at the scores, she just barely eked out the 4th place dog, by less than a point... that's where a call that makes the difference between 5 faults and a clean run can make a big difference! Regardless, I could not be prouder of my crazy girl! I was almost in tears on the podium I was so overwhelmed. This is possibly the first time a greyhound has run at a Regionals event (I'm not really sure if there's any way to find that out), and I'm guessing it is probably the first time a greyhound has qualified for Nationals. I know it has to be the first time a greyhound has been on the podium. Onwards and upwards! Time to get to work on some of our areas needing improvement before next year!
Here's video of all of Kili's runs: