Posted by: Adrienne | March 16, 2010

March Madness Update

Sunday was a good day for us! 

Driving over to the trial site I found myself in a bit of a funk.  I had the vague notion that I didn’t want to do a trial, it was too stressful and not any fun anyways.  I really don’t know whether to blame Daylight Savings or my awful performance back in January’s trial due to trying to think my way through an Elite Jumpers course on three hours of sleep following 40+ hours of work in three days.  Hmm…

The day couldn’t have been more perfect. An unseasonable 70 degrees outside, sunny and no wind. The first really warm day of the year.  When I got to the trial site I thought perhaps most of the attendees had overslept, there were almost no cars in the lot!  It ends up they parked in back.  Still, it was a small trial this time.

My plan this weekend was to play to our strengths, work some weaves since Emma still isn’t confident on them in a trial situation and to work on having smooth, upbeat runs.  I wanted to have fun with Emma and a few Qs wouldn’t hurt either.

Our day consisted of 6 runs.  Two each of Gamblers, Regular and Jumpers.  Emma and I run Novice Gamblers, Open Regular and we are running at Elite Level in Jumpers.

(Gamblers is 30 seconds to accumulate points on your choice of obstacles, then a closing sequence set behind a distance line that the handler must not cross.  Regular is all the equipment on a numbered course that must be completed in full.  Jumpers is just jumps and tunnels set in a design that really tests handling and teamwork [read, tricky stuff] with very fast qualifying times. Each class has three skill levels: Novice, Open then Elite.  A certain number of qualifying runs, “Qs”, are needed to gain the requisite titles before moving up to the next level.)

The first Gamble run we were smoking the course.  She was running fast, she did her weaves, I was getting some nice (for us) distance with her.  Then on the gamble I pulled back and reeled her in off the correct obstacle.  Due to my mis-interpreting the judge’s instructions, I thought we were done and reached down and gave Emma tussle.  Turns out I could have sent her back and completed the course. 

Since we don’t have the necessary distance skills to compete in Open level, I put us back in Novice and if we get something like seven Qs (you only need two to pass Novice) we get an Outstanding Performance title.  I figure by the time we have that we’ll be up for Open. Fingers crossed.  The distances at Open are 15-20 feet.  We’re not there yet.

Our second gamble I picked a path that didn’t have as many points but gave me a chance to work some skills with her that we have been practicing.  It was a nice run and my timing is getting better.  The 30 second buzzer sounded right when I had her in the tunnel that set her up for the gamble.  We hit it at speed and my little girl finished in style for a Q!  Of note is the fact that my legs almost went out from under me on the way to the gamble.  I guess I’m still getting over the illness that took me out for two weeks.  But there was no way I was going to blow such a nice run by something as inconvenient as tumbling down in the middle of a course!

Then came Open.  The course itself really didn’t present any unsolvable puzzles.  (And I do love ASCA courses.  ASCA stresses open, flowing courses, nothing choppy.  And when you do your job right and don’t screw it up for the dog, the runs can be a beautiful thing.)  Our biggest challenge in Open is the weave poles, all twelve of them.   It is just this past winter that Emma started reliably doing twelve poles in class.  Given the added stress at a trial, she still is not consistent on them there.  Obstacle number two on the first run was weaves.  She did her “I’m going to sniff and go slowly” going through the weaves and missed a pole.  So I sent her through them again.  And again.  And again.  I believe it was our fourth attempt that she finally made it through all twelve with some semblance of concentration.  Now, four is a bit excessive and normally I would have called it quits before that.  But in this case it really was the thing to do.  She wasn’t uncontrollably stressed.  And getting her to finish the poles, at a trial, seemed to reinforce that “Yeesss, I want you to do them here too.”  After that the run was beautiful!  The handler didn’t screw up and the dog ran wonderfully.  My long time agility friend, Judy was enthusiastic in her praise.  “That was excellent!  You didn’t flap your arms, and your feet were pointed the right way!”  High praise indeed in our parlance.  I thought we had a shot at a Q, if we hadn’t gone over time.  Ends up we did.  9.32 seconds over.  4.32 seconds too much for a 1/2 Q.  Ah well, it was a gorgeous run discounting the weaves.  And even that wasn’t horrendous since she did finish them.  Last trialI couldn’t even get that!

Open round two was pretty much a disaster.  Right off the start line I could tell she was stressed.  What was a fast opening — a straight line over jump, tire and then dogwalk — she was taking slowly and with her head down.  Sometimes I really don’t know what it is that puts her over the top and shuts her down.  Was she anticipating the weaves?  Was it having to run past the timer and scribe (the same spot she had run past on her Gambler’s run?)  Or was it something that stressed her out in between the runs?  A particular dog/person/being left in the crate?  At any rate, I could tell this was not going to be her best run of the day.  It actually wasn’t going horribly.  I managed to get her upbeat and running faster.  There was one bobble, can’t recall what, and then the weaves at the end were a hot mess.  I got whistled off the course (for time) just after I sent her back to do the previous tunnel and re-try the weaves.  Having her shut down for only one run was a marked improvement though.  When we started trialing it was over seventy-five percent.

And then Jumpers.  Ah, these were fun!  Annelise has been working us over in class on our handling.  And if you can break a course down and figure out the tricky bits, it’s not so bad.  After the runs another competitor mentioned that the courses were very technical.  And I guess they were, they did require some handling!  But they also had a super fun flow.  The first Jumpers run was pretty darn good.  I was where I should have been almost the whole time.   Emma stayed connected and moving.  This was huge, since I could tell she was still dealing with whatever had flaked her out in Regular.  She wasn’t running flat-out (even if 4.08 yards per second isn’t anything to sneeze at) and I had to move in and supports jumps more closely than I had planned on.  But we did get it!  An Elite Jumpers Q and one that finished our Elite Jumpers Standard title.  Now Emma can add JS-E to her name.

I thought I had the second course mapped out pretty well.  But after jump 10 I couldn’t remember where 11 was!  When I found it I discovered I had put myself on the wrong side of the pin wheel.  And I had to call Emma back and send her over 11 since I had sent her on by it.  This put me out of position and the next few jumps I got her over, but it wasn’t pretty.  I was back in position for the ending but without the momentum that I would have had if I had gotten it right.  That bobble cost us the run  .54 seconds over time.  No faults are allowed for a Jumpers Q.  Blast!  Half a second!  <grin>

Getting four Qs instead of two would’ve tickled me pink.  But even the runs we didn’t Q had their highlights.  And with our overall improvement — not one off-course all day, and there were plenty of opportunities on these courses and she had some really pretty runing contacts –I was mighty satisfied. 

I am now looking forward to our next chance to play for the ribbons.  The funk has been broken.   Teacup is in April and another ASCA trial.  I can’t wait!

I hope you have enjoyed the play by play.  I did promise a report and now you have it!

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Responses

  1. Good job Emma!


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