Grand champion double a rare feat
As a double grand champion in dog agility and jumping, Natasha Neame and her eager canine Tricot are the toast of the Blenheim Agility Training Club.
Their feat is something achieved by only three other Kiwi dog handlers but for Natasha and Tricot it is all about enjoying themselves.
"She has got a lot of drive and determination but most of all she has something special with the dogs that brings the best out in them," club agility manager Sandra Goodwin said.
Natasha's interest in the sport began when she saw dog agility on TV when she was around 12 years old.
Just three years later she got her start in the world of dog agility training with her pet spaniel.
About 10 years later she has become one of the most accomplished trainers in the country, who has also achieved excellent results in Australia.
Today she has eight much-loved dogs, with her most successful the tricolour border collie, Tricot.
"There is something really special about her; she is just so eager to please and to work for me. When we do a run in a contest or training and she makes a mistake she realises right away almost stops as if to say ‘whoops'," Natasha said.
Unlike most agility dogs, Tricot, now seven years old, was trained only from the age of two after she was re-homed to Natasha.
"She came from a farm where she was causing some problems for her owners. A lot of dogs are trained from little puppies so Tricot started quite late," said Natasha.
The pair achieved their grand champion status in agility a year ago and reached the same level in jumping after wins at a contest in Upper Hut last month.
"You have to accumulate wins to reach champion and grand champion status. It's not something you can win in one contest," Natasha said.
Achieving this has meant more than just a lot of training because most of the South Island contests are in Christchurch, with two in Nelson and one in Marlborough.
This has meant a lot of travel and the expense that goes with it for Natasha, who travels to contests about twice a month.
One of Natasha's proudest achievements, other than her double grand champion status, was a win and two seconds at the Australian National Championships where Tricot competed against 300 other dogs.
The New Zealand team that they were a part of placed third overall.
Contests are run over a course consisting of hurdles, slaloms, tunnels and other obstacles, which the dogs must get round as quickly as possible.
The dogs and their handlers do not see the course until just before the contest begins so dog control is vital.
"You have to trust each other - it's a real team effort," Natasha said.
The Blenheim Agility Training Club will be hosting its contest on December 1 at the Renwick Rugby grounds.
The Marlborough Express