Like Father, Like Daughter
By Brenna Fender
California resident Susan Cochran has a long history in agility. She found the sport in 1997 with her then three-and-a-half-year-old Australian Shepherd. The two were trialing after only six months of training, and Cochran was hooked on the sport. Now both a student at Power Paws, training with Nancy Gyes, and an instructor herself, Cochran is winning at the national level. Most recently, she completed a rare feat: winning the 2009 Grand Prix of Dog Agility with three-and-a-half-year-old Border Collie Rider, who is the daughter of Cochran’s first Grand Prix winner, MACH3 ADCH-Gold Aiko. Cochran told Brenna Fender a little bit about reaching these accomplishments.
Brenna Fender (BF): Tell me about Aiko’s experiences on his way to win the 2004 Grand Prix.
Susan Cochran (SC): Aiko was a fairly steady dog to train and bring along in agility, in the beginning, anyway. He was thoughtful and a good listener. I always had great attention but once he had about a year of trialing under his collar he turned on to the game and gained speed and determination. He became a different dog than what I initially trained. He became crazed, and I must admit a bit frustrating, but super fun and I learned a ton about dog training. The year before he won the Grand Prix was one of me struggling to regain control of him. He won the Grand Prix at three-and-one-half years old and that is really about when I began feeling pretty confident walking in the ring with him. He won the Regional that year so we had a bye into the finals. That gave me great confidence, which certainly helped in that finals run.
BF: Is Aiko still competing?
SC: Yes, Aiko is still competing and he is doing great. However, I don’t run him in a full slate of classes over a weekend anymore. Two or three classes a day are plenty at this point. I have dropped him down from jumping 26" to jumping 22" or 20" depending on the venue. Also, last year was his last year for International competition. We went to Europe three times to compete, but those days are past us. The runs I do with him now are all carefully chosen since I really do not want him to get injured. He is a big boy and still hits the equipment (contacts and weave poles) really hard. I want to be able to take my walks with him in the years to come and have him healthy and injury-free.
BF: Who bred Rider and who is her mom?
SC: Carla Popeney with Blackwatch Border Collies bred Rider. She is out of a female by the name of Smarty Joanz and of course my Aiko. I bred Aiko twice about the same time trying to get a female. I chose Rider from those two litters.
BF: What made you choose Rider from those two litters? Surely there were other females, so what made her stand out?
SC: Well, my method of choosing was not very calculated. Aiko’s two litters ended up being spaced two weeks too far apart for me to actually pick from the four females which he eventually produced. I could not and did not want to keep one from the first litter and then try to decide between that girl and another one—if there was one in the second litter. So I knew I was going to keep one from the first litter. When the breeder brought them to my house for delivery to their new homes, I had to choose between the two girls and I honestly did not know which to keep. They were both so darling. So I simply let my husband choose and he chose Rider because she came to him first. This definitely was not very scientific or anything, but it worked out great for everyone involved. Rider is perfect for me (and she still loves my husband).
BF: When did you start to think that Rider could duplicate her dad’s success?
SC: I didn’t entertain the thought until a few months before going to Scottsdale. She was fast enough but I was really struggling with controlling her on course, then all of a sudden we started to click and our training came together. It was between the Southwest Regional in the beginning of September and Scottsdale that began to feel a bit more confident when I entered the ring.
BF: Describe Rider’s experiences on her way to win the 2009 Grand Prix.
SC: Unlike her father, she came out doing everything a gazillion miles an hour and is still that way. I really worked for Rider’s focus but on the other hand she would let me change some of my training and did not fight me on those changes. I started to run her contacts but went back to two on/two off and she easily went with the new plan. She is more forgiving that way than Aiko. Like her father, Rider won the Grand Prix at three and a half years old, so it has been a fairly quick journey thus far to reach that goal.
BF: What will you and Rider do now that you’ve accomplished your goal of winning the Grand Prix? Do you have other goals for her?
SC: I feel like Rider and I have just recently begun working as a team. My main goal is to get as consistent as possible with her on any and every course. And of course, winning the Grand Prix again and/or USDAA Steeplechase would be cool, as well as other national events here in the US. I also have aspirations of competing with her on the international level. We’ll see about all that though. Right now I am still completing her training and working to create a nice team with her.
It was a goal with Rider to win the Grand Prix; since her father won it I thought it would be nice to repeat the win with his daughter. It is very cool to look down at my feet and see father and daughter Cynosport Grand Prix World Champions!