Report from the European Open Agility Trial 2008
Gelsenkirchen, Germany

European style agility is different and in many ways more difficult than the sport we know in the USA. It is certainly more challenging for me as the handler.  Our sailing travels keep JIB from agility practice that might include the type of courses seen routinely in Europe, and especially courses designed for the annual European championship.  That is not to say we cannot be competitive, just that we are small fish in a shark-infested pond, across the Pond!

JIB was again the only Poodle on the USA team competing this year in the EO.  The German version was located on the grass infield of a dog racetrack.  The weather was cooler than we expected and the surface changed during the weekend from very good on Friday practice runs, to “sloppy” by Saturday evening individual finals run.

We started off with a real bang, running clean on a Standard course for Medium dogs totaling 158 competitors.  JIB was 19th, and the highest scoring of USA team.  I went into the Jumpers course with confidence in all but the “bounce jumps”.  These are single bar jumps that are set close enough that the dog does not have room for a single stride between jumps.  Last year we had a set of two jumps, and JIB did fine, but this year in Jumpers there was a set of three, after a long fast line of easier jumps.  JIB was clean to that point with only one jump after the bounces.  He crashed the second bar and then took the final jump, earning the dreaded E for elimination.

Still, his Standard run was worth more points, and the total put us among 68 individual dogs in the combined final for medium size!  I was thrilled!  The final is a standard course and clean is the only way to run it.  I felt confident with my plan and warmed JIB up very early as I waited our turn.  There was a flash of lightening, a roll of thunder, and the rain began.  The crowd of spectators was mostly other agility competitors, so most stayed where they were on a grassy hill ringside.

The rain began and was soon a real downpour.  The games continued.  When our turn came it was drizzling, but JIB and I had waterproof attitudes.  He had his game face on, and I looked like a drown rat.  I let him drift a bit wide in the mud turns, but still pushed when I could.  His running contacts were perfect even though I had to make my spot for front crosses at both ends of the dogwalk, and both ends of the Aframe!  Leaving him to his job while I drifted to the landing side instruction phase at a distance was the only way.

I managed to rotate my shoulder and keep my arm low to avoid an off course jump before a 270, and JIB then read a rare rear cross perfectly!  It was almost a 180 U turn off the teeter to the tire and then broad jump, with another hard 150 turn to the last two jumps, another 180.  The grand total was EIGHT front crosses, ONE rear cross and a clean run for 19th place overall. 

Sunday was the team competition, and started with Jumpers.  The biggest challenge to this course was a straight tunnel dog race!  I layered a jump before it to buy some time, and needed to have my arm in position when JIB exited the tunnel, indicating the jump into a 180 serpentine he could not see.  Bless his silver heart.  JIB did that and more, running clean!

My team was not so lucky, but as the ground conditions deteriorated, “clean” runs were very scarce.  Our standard run slipped away, though we did not E, it was very sloppy.

Team USA had a better showing in the EO this year, and I believe next year in Holland both the Team and the Poodle will step up to the European challenge with even greater success.