Since I’m just beginning to plan my run up to Olympia, I thought I’d jot a super quick blog on the theme. If you know anyone competing for the first time at Olympia, this is for them :) It’s much easier to feel confident when you know what to expect…

1. It’s huge. I know you’ve seen the arena on youtube videos, but it’s bigger - even bigger! Prepare by running enormous courses once you and your dog are fit to do so. Even if you only have a small training space, make sure you set sequences which see you both travelling across the ground plenty.

2. If you’re running in an afternoon or evening event, you and your dog may not be able to hear a thing during your run, because of the crowd cheers. Prepare by running with limited verbal cues during training.

3. The jump wings are massive. They’re usually about double the size of your average jump wing. I usually prepare by borrowing some showjump wings or by doubling up my jump wings, as it can affect your dog’s depth perception.

4. Sometimes there’s a lot of Christmas decorations on the obstacles – think, tinsel on the weave poles, snowmen-painted jump wings etcetera. Again, fairly easy to replicate in training.

5. You usually get a course plan an hour or more before your run. The course plan often bears a limited resemblance to the actual course when it comes to spacing and distances. It varies from year to year, but take the course plan with a big pinch of salt – as it gets thrown up very quickly and the judge only gets a limited amount of time to adjust the obstacles to meet what he/she had in mind.

6. You’ll have little time to walk the course. Rehearse this in training so it doesn’t unnerve you. Sometimes, obstacles will still be being tweaked as you are walking.

7. When you’re waiting to run, you are often in the actual arena – so your dog is directly ringside and watching the dogs before you run. A groom is almost a necessity since in afternoon and evening events your dog needs to be in the ring while you walk the course.

Want to walk courses better? This is for you...

8. Some people take a crate to the backstage bar area. If that helps you and your dog chill, it might work for you. Don’t take one that’s too heavy – the parking isn’t always close by.

9. At the end of your event there may be a prize-giving or laps of honour within the ring, and if you’re in a final it’ll be followed up by a short champagne reception for all competitors, with special congratulations to those in the top places.

10. Olympia is usually a massive amount of fun to compete at – you’ll be up close to the top equestrian athletes, it’ll feel all Christmassy, the crowd will be rooting for you… be sure to have a bloody good time.

Did I miss anything? Ask away if you’re going and want to know something.

This year, I believe the judge is Martin Cavill, which should make the courses a lot of fun to run!

Oh and here’s something I was wondering… I guess the dog walk at Olympia will be set to the “old” height, since the new height comes in from 2019. Does anyone know for sure?

Need some inspiration for setting up your agility courses? Check this out...