Last weekend's four-day Memorial Day weekend trial marked trial #1 of 5 weekends in a row that Vegas and I will be competing to try and earn a spot amongst the Great Danes to the AKC Agility Invitationals this coming December. Going into this weekend we had one Open Standard leg and one Excellent A JWW leg. Although Standard is important, we were really focusing on and counting on the JWW classes to help boost our chances. We needed to get into Excellent B so we could start earning MACH points with each qualifying run (that was under time).
The trial was hosted by the McKenzie Cascade Dog Fanciers club and held at the Lane County Fairgrounds in Eugene, OR. The trial ran from Friday through Monday offering FAST, Standard, and JWW runs for the first three days and Standard and JWW on Monday. The kids and I kind of made a mini-vacation of it and went down to Eugene on Thursday evening and returned on Monday afternoon. To put a smile on the kids' face I even bought us tickets to see the University of Oregon Ducks baseball team play the California Golden Bears on Friday night at PK Park.
Without further ado, here is how the weekend went in more depth than I posted last.
The first run of the day Friday was Open Fast. Originally the first ring, Excellent, was supposed to start at 8:30 am and the second ring was to start at 9am. It turned out they only had one microphone system for the judges so the Excellent ring had to finish before the second ring could get started. That delayed things a bit but our Fast classes ran quickly as there are not as many entered at that level. Here is the course:
Our next run of the day was Excellent A JWW. I should mention I had put Vegas and myself under a lot of pressure at the last trial and ended up a nervous and emotional wreck. This weekend I had to change my mindset and just tell myself (and Vegas) over and over that we were going out to play and have fun. I had a few momentary twinges but for the most part that worked much better and people even commented on how relaxed she seemed. Knowing this was the first of four attempts at JWW this weekend, I was really pleased with our runs - including this one. Vegas handled like a dream. She was such a good girl and the issues we had were completely my fault.
The last run of the day was Open Standard. I really didn't know what to expect this weekend from Standard. Vegas hasn't let me down with taking the weaves in JWW for the last couple of AKC trials but she's refused them or done "run bys" in Standard. We've worked really hard at them the last three weeks, using our yard stick-in-the-ground weaves, a pouch of treats, and a lot of bouncy fun praise. But, the proof was going to be this weekend.
Did I mention what a rockstar she was? Well, just in case I didn't...Vegas was a completely wonderful partner almost the entire weekend. She was cooperative, assertive, fun, and responsive. Our Standard run was a lot of fun because she ran the entire thing. The only issue, once again, was a handling error I made.
Saturday was a super tired day spent fighting to smile and stay positive. The baseball game got out somewhat late (after 10pm) and then we had to drive back to the hotel, get the dogs pottied and settled, and then wind down. We also happened to have some very rude hotel neighbors who made it seem more like a low-budget apartment complex than a hotel and decided yelling, making noise, banging doors, and having screaming kids running up and down the walkway until after midnight was acceptable. This led to Vegas "woofing" regularly out of partial alarm and partial alertness. So, needless to say, running small to tall made for an even longer day.
Again, we ran FAST early in the day but then played the hurry up and wait game for our rings to be ready/available for our next runs. FAST was a complex course that we realy didn't have a hope for so I basically just plotted a course that would allow Vegas to warm up good.
At this point I don't remember what we ran next, JWW or Standard. However, Vegas ran like a dream and I couldn't be more proud of her. She was such a great girl.
And that completed what was our second leg of Open Standard (which I discovered that night - I originally had it in my mind that it was our first).
We finished with a score of 95 in 52.05 seconds. The yardage for this course was 141 yards and the time was 58 seconds. The deduction to our score was from the table fault and we ended up with a second place ribbon.
Sunday we ran FAST again. This time the course was a bit more complicated looking but shouldn't have been that difficult. There were three options for the send bonus - two 90 degree angled jumps, one with a left turn, one with a right turn, or a series of two parallel jumps. Based upon our need to run and use this course as a warm-up, I chose the send bonus that was a left-turn at 90 degress. See the original course below and following that the course with my notes.
No video for that run because my videographers slept in.
Next up was another Open Standard opportunity.
The next thing the video has helped me to realize is how slowly Vegas is moving across the dog walk these days. I am not sure what is causing that but I think I need to get back to her core strengthening and hind end awareness work. She's taken quite a few falls in her agility career but never in a trial. She doesn't appear to lack confidence but she's certainly careful of foot at times. I dug up this picture which shows a very simple exercise we used to do...just using a taped up phone book as a base to turn around which puts her hind end in control of her body's movement.
The next issued which seemed to be a trend this weekend was her jumping off the table. I need to work more on that and also just the firmness and seriousness of her stay in that environment. For now and while things matter so much I won't trust her to stay on the table. That mistake cost us time and caused a table fault. The next few obstacles were fairly straightforward. Using a rear-cross while she's in the tunnel works out great and tends to be a bit easier on my legs than front crosses.
In reviewing the video I can hear me calling "weave" before she took off for the jump before the weave poles so I'm not sure what caused her to carry out so far and then take her time to loop back to me. However, that was another problem that cost an additional second or two plus a fault when she didn't stop until she had gone between poles one and two from the wrong side. The next challenge I had planned for was the jump turn to the teeter and the table being there. In CPE, the table is our "game over" point. Here it is live and would be an off course. I knew I didn't have a lot of hope in getting on the other side of the weaves to be in better position for the jump, so I knew I had to be prepared to RFP or something to keep her heading toward the table if I sent her out and around the jump after the weaves. As you can tell from the video, being prepared is good but it happened to be unnecessary in this instance. She headed right toward the teeter and we finished the course. Over time, too many faults, but we had some good moments, too.
Our last run of the day was Excellent B Jumpers - our first chance. The course looked like a lot of fun and flowed well. Starting with a tunnel is not super common, and not bad, but not my favorite way to start a course. If possible it's nice on such a giant dog to have some momentum into the tunnel. On this course, it just meant me entrusting her to take the tunnel then beating it over to be ready for a front cross before she came out of the tunnel so I was in position for the next few obstacles. Fortunately everything went off without a hitch here until we got to the weaves. She popped out and I can't figure out why. Fortunately I brought this up to Craig and he gave me a simple pointer that helped Sunday to prevent it and I will continue to use this as long as I feel necessary. I do have to give Vegas huge kudos here for handling the maneuvers I keep calling "flips" so well. To identify a flip, just watch for my arm to go straight up right before an obstacle. This is a signal to her to change direction and it works remarkably well. It led her straight into the weaves without me having to be in front of that jump and turning her.
After watching a ton of dogs on this course, I was a little concerned about getting lost after the weaves because several handlers ended up taking their dogs in different directions as of the second jump. Fortuntaely I remembered and Vegas followed through well. Another conundrum was whether to try to fit in a front cross before the triple or to trust Vegas. Sticking with the Craig-ism that if I can't get there, I stuck to the outside and rear-crossed after the obstacle following the triple.
The only other error in this course was coming out of the tunnel and I recognize that as my fault. I sent Vegas into the tunnel and then called her as I was headed into position. When she came out of the tunnel she went in the direction she had heard my voice. Another something for me to remember. I'm still learning....
One other thing that had happend Sunday that was super exciting was at the general briefing. I had missed general briefing every other morning as they did it so early but for some reason Sunday they called briefing mid-morning. I happened to have Vegas out and was wandering around visiting with my oldest son, Kane. We went to briefing between the rings with Vegas in two. They talked first about some of the legislative issues surrounding land use that are going on in Oregon and what is being done about it and then they moved on to give out the awards for High in Trial for Saturday. I didn't even know they were doing the High in Trial let alone by breed groups. My son commented that maybe Vegas would get something and I had just told him, "No, that kind of thing normally goes to Dobermans and Border Collies, etc." Then they said, "The High in Trial award for Saturday goes to Vegas." I was in shock! to say the least. My mouth dropped open and I just stood rooted to the spot. My son fortunately recovered faster than I did and went to get our ribbon as I finally reacted and loved all over Vegas. Talk about a fait accompli! Here is the picture I took of her Monday when we got home and headed to the park for a bit.
We showed up later on Monday to give us more sleep time and time to check out. Turns out we could have slept for a few more hours....it was a long wait. When we finally ran, it was a toss-up if I was going to have to walk JWW before I even got to run Standard. It was close! Rachel Vegas and I jump in front of her and Harry Potter to give us an extra minute or two. We ran then I came out of the ring, passed Vegas to my son, and walked the JWW course. Here is the Standard course:
Last run of the weekend...#12. Another shot at Excellent B JWW and MACH points. Here goes.
And that is that until the coming weekend, which at this point is really soon! Stay tuned.