Friday, April 09, 2010

The Cascade Iron Welsh Challenge

As part of the Welsh Springer Spaniel 2010 National Specialty (just completed on April 5th), there was a new competition - the "Iron Welsh Challenge". Basically, dogs had to participate in at least 3 of the 6 events offered - tracking, agility, obedience, rally, conformation and field. Points were awarded based on difficulty level and scores appropriate to the event. The top point winner is declared Champion, gets bragging rights - AND - a custom portrait by prominent NW spaniel artist, Karen Lee. the Fetcher Sketcher.

What the heck, I thought, enter in all the events! Maybe we'll pass one or two. Our qualifying rate in Agility has been dismal of late, but Rally is as much of a sure thing as can be with dogs. Clifford and I went outside our comfort zone and trained in Tracking and Obedience, starting Tracking in November, and Obedience in February. We practiced in Agility and Rally, and I conditioned him in the Field. And I entered him in all 6 events, some in multiple classes - had to have backup plans considering our recent record.

By the last event of the National, Clifford was in the Iron Welsh lead. There had been 4 different leaders, and the final outcome was to be decided by the Hunt Test - just as it should be. He could clinch the title just by passing the Junior Hunt Test - not always a given, as he's sometimes out of control and doesn't always bring the bird all the way to me. By the end of the test, he'd passed and became the First ever Iron Welsh Champion!

Clifford was amazing during the National weekend. On Thursday morning, he worked and worked at his track without passing, so was already tired going into the afternoon agility trial. He went out and passed his first agility event - the Open FAST class! Next was Open JWW agility, and despite a bonehead handler move, passed again to earn his OAJ title, a title we've been trying to earn for about a year and a half.

Friday morning, we went into the Novice obedience ring, and he earned his first obedience leg - something I thought would never happen. (Even though on the long sit, the dog next to him got up and got right in his face!)

It was easy from there. Rally Excellent and Advanced were fun; classes we'd been in before and enjoyed. And, he was in a conformation class by himself, so earned 1st place, though his handler (me!) didn't leave enough time to do a decent job of grooming.

At the All-breed agility trial on Saturday, he earned both his Open FAST title (garnering 75 out of 80 possible points!!!), and first 2 MACH points.

For Clifford, the very best event was last. BIRDS! He ran second in the Junior Hunt Test, making great finds, staying in control for one flyaway, and bringing in his second bird after catching it in the air. His water retrieve was no-nonsense and delivered directly to hand. WOWEEEEEEE!

The accomplishment is still sinking in. I met many new friends at the National, got reacquainted with others, and had a great time sharing ideas and talking "spaniel". Clifford's breeder, Adrienne Bancker, flew out from Georgia and got to watch him earn the IWC. Amazing. There will be photos and video. I'll have to share the painting! For now I'm floating amongst the clouds. :-)

Franna - proud kibble provider to Clifford - the Cascade Iron Welsh Champion.