Stephanie Best is one of our animal hydrotherapists who she placed second with her border collie Rio at Crufts in agility, but she hadn’t realised it when she walked off the arena until she heard everyone saying: “Steph you’re second!” She had completely missed the tannoy announcements. “I didn’t really process it, but everyone was calling my name…it was something I’d worked really hard for and it was amazing.
“We went to Crufts and we ran the agility and jump round, and got a double clear which then went through to the final which 20% made it to. He went round and came second, which I never even thought of. My goal was just to go to Crufts and just get a clear round.”
Three days before Crufts she had a bad training session and doubted her ability to get a clear round with Rio, but on the day of Crufts she woke up confident. “I believed in myself. I felt really proud in the main ring”.
Steph has been doing agility for around 10 years and started with a Dalmatian and a shiatsu. Originally Rio was her boyfriend’s mum’s dog but he came to live with Steph in May 2017. Since then he started at the lowest grades in competition but quickly made his way up to grade 7 in just under a year and since then they have made it on the GB squad with the process of being selected to compete at European or world level. As well as being Crufts’ agility runner up of course!
Rio has not always been calm. When he was younger whilst on a walk during a dark winter evening, he managed to slip of his lead and got lost in the town. Since then he’s been a bit funny having some separation anxiety. During the Olympia Hall show in 2017 he was nervous but still won. It’s clear his worries have not held him back.
However, it can be really tough to qualify for the contest. Steph has known people who can win one round and get the clear, but on the second they may knock a pole resulting in them not qualifying. “It can be quite demoralising”.
So does she have any tips for succeeding in agility? “Practice. Practice. Practice. Practice makes perfect. And if you’re in agility you just need to be confident.”
To prepare herself she adopted a new fitness regime using the gym, working out 2-5 times a week, gaining a personal trainer, and changing her diet. She even drives all the way to Devon to see a fitness professional about her bad back.
Since her runner up achievement she has had plenty of well-done messages which she has been keeping on top of. “I’ve never been so popular in my whole entire life, with Facebook comments and all that I’ve had nearly a thousand messages and I am not a messenger, but I messaged or liked all those people back.”
Between Steph and her boyfriend they have 6 dogs and live with her parents, who are more into horses and bikes than dogs! They are both into dog training and they teach agility in some fields in Three Legged Cross near Burwood and the pair have different approaches to it, “my boyfriend’s really relaxed but I like to be on it.” She splits her time between there and her job in hydrotherapy here at Southern Counties Veterinary Specialists.