One of the most prestigious agility events of the year, and one of the main qualifiers for Crufts, KCI is an event that attracts people from across the globe. This year was my second time at the show, though I was only running Sparrow on this occasion and concentrating on the Novice Cup qualifier.
What’s the Novice Cup?
The Novice Cup is open to dogs in grades 3-5 who have either had a win or earned a set number of points during the previous twelve months. There is a qualifier for each height and you can only qualify at KCI, the top dogs from each height compete in a final held at Crufts.
The process begins with a jumping and agility round, the top 15 dogs from which go through to a semi-final held on the Saturday of KCI and the top dogs from that go through to the final at Crufts. With 189 dogs entered in the Small Novice Cup, the competition was tight and, realistically, only a double clear, or just one round with faults was going to get through.
Novice Cup Jumping
Sparrow had her jumping round first. It was a nice, flowing course designed by Denise Welch. The main traps were a blind tunnel entrance at the start, a tricky pull off to a off-side jump after the weaves and a pull-off from what appeared to the dog to be a straight line finish. I decided not to hold back, there was no point. I front crossed the weaves, threw in a ketschker, and relied on Sparrow listening to me when it came to the straight run for home. I was remarkably calm during this run and everything went smoothly. I was ecstatic when we came over the last jump clear. We placed 12th, a great start to our Novice Cup adventure.
Novice Cup Agility
The agility course was not nice like the jumping course. It felt cramped, as if everything had to happen crammed up one portion of the ring. I was also surprised to see that the dogwalk was run twice. I have honestly never seen that before. The worst part of the course was at the start; after two jumps and the seesaw you had to take the dog over a jump and bring them to the far mouth of a tunnel under the dogwalk. The traps were numerous – the dog could take the near tunnel mouth, or the dogwalk, there was also a long jump to the right, which proved too tempting for Sparrow.
I think this course demonstrated to me a greater need for strong obstacle discrimination, as that was what caused us trouble. I was so busy trying to get Sparrow in the tunnel, that I never saw the potential for her to go over the long jump.
Of course we were eliminated, but we also ran some nice stuff, including awesome contacts and I was really pleased with the blind cross I pulled off at the top of the weaves.
While we did not qualify this year, I feel excited by the enthusiasm and confidence Sparrow showed in the ring and think this bodes well for KCI next year and other qualifiers. In 2018 I doubt I will be eligible for Novice Cup, as it is unlikely Sparrow will still be Grade 5, but then things get really exciting with the British Open!