Agility Teams that Inspire us to Dream Big
You can’t help but notice certain competitors. They seem to have gotten all the pieces put together. They have a well trained dog, they have honed their handling skills, confidence and timing are refined. They shine so brightly and handle so smoothly that we can’t imagine ever being as good as them. But once you start getting some skills, more experience and rhythm of your own, you start looking at them in different light. Not just as that person to cheer for, but also as a inspiration for what you can become.
With that in mind, I really enjoy chatting with handlers that inspire me. Sangie Brooks and Vette make such a lovely team, I felt compelled to ask her about her agility journey. I hope you too enjoy learning more from this fantastic team to inspire you in your own journey.
Hi Sangie, Congratulations on your latest big accomplishment, Gold Medalist 600 Pentathlon at the 2017 UKI World Agility Open. Since this is your second big International competition do you feel you have worked out any struggles you may have had with the first?
Last year I was extremely nervous at my first international competition. I admit I was a little “star struck” being around all the well-known competitors and even felt like I did not belong. The more the competition went on last year, the more I realized they were “human” too and make mistakes. I had to repeat to myself several times, each run was just another run like back home. This year I already had the mental mentality of its just another run like back home.
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to get to the point of qualifying for International level competition?
I started agility in 2007 with my lab Lexie. Soon after I got my Aussie, Carly. Carly ended up having terrible ring nerves and Lexie decided weaves were not her thing, so I decided to get another dog. Vette came along in 2010. He was an old soul from the beginning. He loved learning and caught on fast. He started as a steady dog. He earned his USDAA ADCH in just 7 months. It was not until a few later than Vette confidence increased along with his speed. Of course there were always challenges along the way. We did have one-knocked bar syndrome for a bit. I will admit the more competitive I got the more I lost criteria on contacts by ripping him off early, so my contacts are not as strong or reliable as they use to be.
Do you have a method of dealing with ring nerves that has helped you along the way and at these competitions?
I try and wear headphones and listen to music while walking course to focus in creating a plan that is best for my dog.
What impressed you the most about you and Vette’s performance?
Vette always impresses me with his easy going personality regardless of where we are. Looking back, I was pleased with my ability to shake off the “E” I had in Team relay. In my mind I just cost Team USA a medal.. I had to get past that and focus on the last run in Pentathlon.
What would you say has been the single most contributing factor to being successful at these high pressure competitions?
I don’t know if there is any single factor, but Mental Management preparation is definitely key. Trying to keep the same pre-run routine regardless of where you are running. Visualizing the course in your head and picturing yourself running it successful.
What has been the biggest struggle for you personally and how were you able to conquer that challenge?
My biggest challenge is my health. I have Lupus and struggle with hypocalcimia (low calcium levels in the blood serum). At big competitions I tend to get lost in the day and it messes up my normal medication schedule. I told my coaches of the dilemma and they were great at ensuring I took my medications at the prescribed time.
Besides the travel elements of international travel, do you find these competitions to be similar to local trials. How would you say they differ?
It really is just like a local show with a few minor exceptions. There is a person standing in front of start jump and you can not leave until they are gone. You exit the ring off-leash.
If you could go back and talk to your ‘new to agility’ self, what would you say that would help the most?
Have more patience and remember every dog is different.
You can experience Sangie as trial judge August 26, 2017 in Leander Texas at DePaw Dog Sports.