Notes on competing while pregnant and as a new parent

It’s not unusual these days to see mums-to-be with bumps still competing in the agility ring as late as 39 weeks and babes in arms watching with Dad or agility aunties (and uncles) from outside the ring. Selena Bray, mother of three including newborn Arran, shares her experiences as a top competitor and gives us a glimpse of the days before and after his birth.

Some people have to stop quite early and do absolutely nothing. Swollen ankles are a big complaint, but I was lucky and never had that!

Here are some of the highlights of my nine months plus.

Months 1-3 before...

  • Going for qualifiers without considering your state further down the line!

  • Dogs play up. You can't understand why as nothing has changed. You can still run, move and are fully fit. But the dogs know what's going on!

  • The inherent fear that your dad or partner find out you fell over while running your dog on the course!

  • Having to run in an arena surrounded by food outlets, wafting the different stenches whilst you try to work your dog making you heave every few seconds!

  • Being near a toilet is extremely important - either desperate for a wee or just got the nasty stench of fried food!


    Months 3-6...

    • Could eat for Britain! Always hungry, but have particular likes and dislikes.

    • No salad, fruit or veggies allowed! No fried food, no bread, no sauces. Everything is strictly bland.

    • Starting to struggle to run, tired quick and have to keep energy levels up.

    • Dogs have started to learn how to work nicely again and are adapting to the changes.

Months 6-9...

  • Six months pregnant and starting to struggle to get into place. It's just not  easy and the baby was right in the way!

  • Finals of Discover Dogs and Olympia coming up at retraining the dogs to work remotely.

  • Believe it or not, starting to struggle. Running the dogs with more of a funny side step kind of way.

  • Desperately don't want to give birth in the Olympia Arena!

  • The dogs look at you with a 'Oh my, can you embarrass me any more?' kind of way.

  • Knowing that there are certain things you allowed before, i.e. bad start lines when it didn't matter before because I could outrun the dog - but now have to bite the bullet and do the greater good thing and repair such disasters because without a start line, you're dust!

  • After a full day competing or training, my god you know about it. Your legs feel like they'll drop off

  • People continually telling you to take it easy is most frustrating! I'm NOT ill!

  • Dropping the dogs lead or toy on the floor... Oh no! How the hell am I going to get that! It's soooo far away! Why did I not teach a proper retrieve!?

  • Trying to put socks or shoes on is the most challenging experience. Manoeuvre the leg around the belly to the side and eventually give up on extremes like putting socks on... Use slip-on shoes!

  • The last few days, you are so grateful to have dogs which keep you going and keep you active (Stops a lot of the weight gain!) and obviously helps to get quicker on your feet following having your baby!

Winning Mini/Maxi Pairs Discover Dogs with dad Alan Bray - photo: Yulia Titovets

Months 1-4 after...

  1. Oh my, two weeks and have to be able to run at Crufts!

  2. Thursday before running at Crufts is the first time the body allowed anything remotely like a run. Don't know if my dog will remember what to do! Not match fit!

  3. Crippling back pain means that support shorts are more than necessary!

  4. Little and often training and to stop even if you feel 'fine' to build up.

  5. Feel completely frustrated, because I am physically unable to get into prime handling places and have to divert to either safe routes or trust some new training skills to show remote handling!

  6. Building stomach muscles back up with enough sit ups to put a gym to shame. No six pack in sight, not even a can!

  7. Turning to run one way, while your pregnancy extras go the other way is probably the most off-putting thing ever!

  8. Falling about laughing in the Championship final is probably not the done thing!

  9. As you get on the start line, there's nothing like hearing your baby starting to gristle while in the arms of a poor unsuspecting friend who received said baby in a state of sleep or a happy state! They were fooled!

  10. It's great when you mistake someone's compliments for your baby when you have the most delicious puppy in your arms! Expect to discuss the delightful puppy!

  11. Going out to the evening entertainment with the must have and latest trend 'baby sick' accessory on your shoulder is a given!

  12. A two minute job becomes hours with your little helper and knowing this is only going to get harder as they get older!

  13. The feeling that having a baby is no excuse to rehome family pets. It's been easy to deal with all seven of our blessings... well, six, the brown poodle doesn't count! That's with a full time job, running a dog training club, competing and looking after a delightful teenager too! Not an excuse at all.

  14. Knowing that there are loads of people out there on the agility circuit who actually are friends and do care.

  15. Instructing folk at training with an inquisitive Kelpie and a chattering four month old giggling at club members does put you off your train of thought slightly, but it's great to see members playing horses to entertain the little fella during the session it does make your day!

  16. Sharing small amounts of your babies progress with your close friends and agility family and knowing firsthand that it is an awesome life to grow up within.

  17. Baby finding that a dog going through a tunnel is the funniest thing they had ever seen - very very cute and very very off putting!

  18. Packing the van up for a dog show used to be simple! Now it is a game of Tetris, trying to fit all the things in which he might need. For one so small, they take a lot of room, time and energy!

And to think that competing with my girls when they were babies was an even bigger nightmare. I used to have to tie them at the ringside while I worked my dogs! Now I can't get Arran out of his dad's arms!

About the author…
Like so many people, Selena Bray, came to agility from the horse scene. She used to ride at Selston Equestrian Centre where she first noticed an advert for dog agility at Nottingham DTC.

Her first agility dog was a German Shepherd called Soda Pops which she shared with her Dad who taught them both patience. Being a Junior handler in the 1980s, she was lucky enough to be able to run different dogs which club members lent her.

In March 1994 she got her first Miniature Poodle called Jade who was a super little dog, and in 1996 she hit the agility scene with Shay. Unfortunately their careers were cut short but her Agility Champion Shade's name is a tribute to them.

Selena trains at Fox Agility DTC although she spends the majority of her time training everyone else. Her agility hero is her Dad, Alan Bray.

First published 11 October 2015


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