On 21st July, we’ll start driving out to the European Opens. The EOs are the biggest annual international agility championship. This year they’re in Austria, in Magna Racino. The event is held in Europe, but features national teams from all over the world. There are two chunks to the championship – made up of individual runs and team runs.
I absolutely adore competing at international events. It’s by far my favourite thing. I will get to see so many world class partnerships. I’ll get to experience a new country and to take on an epic road-trip challenge with my beloved Shelley by my side. Plus, she’s mind-blowingly talented – missing out on a first place last year by 1 fault, fastest time.
The preparation is fairly epic as well. What does it encompass?
1. Dog fitness work – this includes daily sessions in line with the plan my fantastic physiotherapist has put together for us. What’s included? Treadmill hydrotherapy, strengthening, proprioception, elements which target cardio and speed… plus lots more! Shelley is also now down to her fighting weight, and on an optimal diet predominantly fuelled by Eden. The two key people who play a part in this journey with me are Nicky Grant (physiotherapist) and Clare Degan (hydrotherapist). Metaphorically, they are on the journey with me. Their support is incredible.
2. Agility prep – training specific skills and particular handling elements both on our own and with the GB Team.
3. My fitness work – over the last few months I’ve been working closely with Chris Kerton, who is also coming out to EO. We’ve been focusing on my general, overall fitness – strength, stability… Plus everything is gearing up towards improving my ability to handle at speed in the ring. I’ve also lost a lot of weight since giving birth to Charlie in February and am lighter than I was pre-pregnancy which is allowing me to move more quickly and obviously reduces my risk of injury long-term.
4. Mental prep – just making sure we won’t be overawed by the event or feel undue pressure. Experience has helped enormously with this element. We’ve done enough national and international championships now to know ourselves well. I can anticipate both how I and Shelley will be. I’m pretty level-headed at these things. For me, agility is a rollercoaster and the trick is to remember during the troughs that a peak is coming, and vice versa. My chief support – my other half, Matt – understands how to be there for me, and is a great asset in discreetly helping us be our best.
As I said, I absolutely love international championships, and above all the EOs. Thank you to everyone who has joined me on the journey in our preparation. For anyone who supports us from afar – thank you too. The one thing I know for sure is that we will have a bl**dy good time. Nothing beats stepping onto the start-line with your best friend by your side. We are so lucky to live this privileged life.
Having competed at many international and national championship events over multiple years, I’ve just finished a really cool workbook specifically targeted at those who have set their sights on that type of thing - whether it's Crufts, the AWCs, WAO, or winning tickets… learn more here.