Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Evergreen Golden Retriever Club AKC Agility Trial, Labor Day Weekend

This Labor Day Argus Ranch and the Evergreen Golden Retriever Club hosted a four-day AKC agility trial. We were entered Saturday through Monday. Based upon typical traffic heading north during rush hour with a holiday thrown in, I opted not to drive up Friday night. My youngest son was going with me, too, since his brother would be at the Dave Matthews Band concert at the Gorge Amphitheater with his aunt. So when I got off work Friday we packed the truck, had dinner, and got the rest of things packed and ready. That included some super fun Great Dane t-shirts that Zach and I wore but that also kept me up a bit later than I wanted to be. The alarm went off at 2am on Saturday morning and up and at em' we were, hitting the road at the incredibly insane hour of 3 am. After a quick coffee stop about 30 minutes south of Tacoma, we arrived at Argus Ranch at 6:30 am Saturday.

We were entered in Open Fast, Excellent A Standard, and Excellent B JWW for both Saturday and Sunday. This was a two ring trial and our judges were Lavonda Herring and Edith Allyn. The order we ran in ended up being Fast around 8:30 am then JWW around 12:30 followed by Standard at 4:30 or so. That made for an extremely long day and a tired dog.

I'd made the decision a few months back not to worry about Fast too much. I don't really plan on entering it too often and wasn't sure why I did in this case. However, I don't throw in the towel as a rule going in. I just don't put a lot of stock or worry into succeeding. I map a plan and use the course to warm up, practice problem areas, strategize, and just go from there. That said, the course Saturday looked doable and was one of the nicest Fast courses I've seen lately.
So, one thing I learned that I seemed to not have known is that you cannot use any non-single jump obstacles more than once for points. Originally I had planned on taking the single jumps up the middle and using the a-frame to the tunnel and then back over the a-frame. In order to get 55 points though, that wouldn't work with the time I'm alloted since the second time over the a-frame wouldn't count for points. So a change of plans meant doing the teeter to the tunnel to the a-frame then back over the single then to the double into the send bonus. All went fine until the send. Vegas took the jump fine but hesitated at the tunnel resulting in a refusal and a faulted send. So, no go there but as stated previously, it wasn't about qualifying but about getting out and warming up and working together.

As I mentioned it was a while before we ran again. Vegas spent some time in her kennel to rest and some time out with me. When she was in her kennel, Zach and I were usually working in one of the rings. She's not always fond of this and sometimes pitches quite the fit, but Saturday she did fairly well fortunately.

When JWW came around, we were definitely ready to go. I don't think I ever summed up the changes AKC made to the rules for agility that started to take effect on September 1, but this was our first chance to see how those changes affected us and hopefully gave us a better chance at success toward earning MACH points. Here is the map of the course:
The course looked fun and definitely doable. I've learned how to manage weave entrances following a tunnel by making sure I visually keep Vegas' head from tunnel exit to weave entrance and she has really caught on. The course itself wasn't the issue this time around. Instead for some reason Vegas popped out of the weaves at pole 10. I've learned that one way to avoid that is to step in at that point or reach a hand out front to get her attention. However, in analyzing the course during the walk through, I wasn't sure whether to do that or not because immediately following the weaves was a tunnel entrance that could become a problem were I to do that. In the end I chose not to push and she popped her weaves and it cost us the Q. But, I will say I was proud of my girl for following through with the second time through the weaves. I didn't let it go. And then the buzz words of the day were "12 for the price of 22." LOL

Last up for the day was our Standard course. Going into this trial we still didn't have any Excellent A Standard legs and while I didn't consciously set a goal regarding that for the weekend, by the time we finished this run I started thinking toward a goal. Perhaps that's all I need to stop making silly mistakes that cost us runs. 

In walking the course I was struggling a bit with how to deal with 4-6. I wasn't sure what side to be on, whether to try to get in a front cross before 4, or whether to "flip" Vegas from 5-6. Fortunately when I went out there, I just did what came most naturally and it worked beautifully. Vegas was a good girl and took the curve from 4 to 5 naturally and that allowed me to rear cross her with a flip to 6 and call her forward to the table. I don't think she gave the #3 jump a glance. I wish I could get in her head and know what she was thinking when she got on the table and didn't have to sit or down. That's one of the new AKC rule changes and it certainly was a time saver. Another area that could have caused issue was the teeter/a-frame discrimination but as you can see in the video, she breezed by the a-frame like it wasn't there so another potential problem averted. Everything else went smoothly and I didn't have any real concerns walking the course. Most people were concerned with walking and had issue with running through the final sequence of dog walk to tire - and naturally so - but that was of no concern to me. :) I don't have the usual problems of a dog racing ahead of me on the dog walk - at least not yet. I knew I could get to the end of the dog walk, wait for Vegas, and do a front cross to point her to the tire and over the final jump. That was exactly how it played out. Vegas was running really fast on this course too. Standard is certainly never going to allow her the speed of a jumpers course but when I was running the numbers today, I learned she'd run this course in 3.18 YPS, coming in 11 seconds under SCT. I really wish this had been an Excellent B run as that would have been a heckuva lot of MACH points. Alas, I'll take it though as it meant we finally got our first Excellent A Standard leg. Hooray!

So, we ended the day with just the one qualifying run. However, it was still a success because other than popping the weaves, Vegas ran hard, she ran true, and she did what I asked. Plus, we were still all smiling by the end of such an exhausting day. That alone was a miracle. Off to the hotel we went to rest up for the evening and hopefully get a good night's sleep.

Unfortunately rest was not to be had - at least not for me. I woke up around 2 or 3 am and was up and down the rest of the night sick to my stomach. I felt lousy when I got up and it took me longer than I like to get moving and get ready. I struggled with the decision to have anything to eat and finally went ahead and had oatmeal and a banana figuring that was a fairly safe bet. Fortunately the nausea and tummy trouble wore off and we were on our way. Lucky for me, too, I got the first cup of coffee of the day from Argus' Giddyup Express snack shack and it was free! I was definitely needing coffee by then.

Same as Saturday, we had Fast first. This time however, we ended up running Standard next followed by JWW and were done and out of there before 2pm. I love tall to small days. :)

Fast was a bit tougher on Sunday. The send was a tunnel into weaves at 10 feet. I got Vegas all revved up to go into the ring and boy was she full of it. Obviously she had slept Saturday night. Perhaps I revved her a bit too much. She skipped the double I tried to send her over and it took me at least three tries to get her over it. I'm not sure even now why I got so stuck on sending her over it although I know how I had plotted the course we needed everything I had planned to qualify assuming we had enough time. But, getting stuck on that double cost us a ton of time and cost us the game. Oh well - Vegas was sure smiling.
Our next run was Standard. The course was nice again although the judge pointed out that old habits are hard to break and it had an extra tunnel in it. However, even AKC approved the course a month ago so the course stayed as was. As you'll see in the video, I'm now convinced Vegas can count (Haha - just kidding.) and decided that the third tunnel was too much and she shouldn't have to do it since it shouldn't have been there. In actuality, I'm not sure why she refused. In retrospect it doesn't matter much. I know from the scoring we also got a major fault and I'm quite certain that was from a missed contact on the a-frame. She did plenty of things well though so I can't complain. I'm especially proud of how well she's turned around her weaves and how nice she looks doing them. Lots of people complimented on her speed this weekend, too.

(Ignore the announcement at the beginning. My son is so cute and does such a great job most of the time but occasionally the wrong course is announced.)

Last but not least for the day was JWW. Here is the course:

The first obstacle and series on this course was nice. I was glad to get the tunnel out of the way right off the bat and it allowed me to be on the other side of the #2 jump to call Vegas through and be in position for the next sequence. In watching other competitors ahead of us, particularly those who have competed at the world team level (E.g. Daisy Peel, Barb Davis, etc), I noticed they were moving out on the right side of the 2, 3, and 4 jumps. Of course they are running insanely fast slinky dogs (AKA Border Collies) or Shelties, but it was interesting to watch - and not a move for me. I stuck to the outside (left) because the flip maneuver works well for me and getting out of Vegas' path does not so much. I was able to rear cross at 4/5 and flip Vegas out to 6 running with her down the next straight-away. From there until 13 we were good but I knew I needed to gain her head after the #14 jump so that she came up the middle instead of taking the outside. An area a lot of people had issue with was making sure their dog didn't assume they were to go into the weaves again as we headed into the final section. Vegas did great.

The total yardage for this course was 157; the SCT 44. Vegas ran it in 38.10 seconds for a YPS of 4.12. We earned 5 MACH points on this run! Whoohoo! Super exciting way to end this day, too. I was very proud of my girl.

Final day, running small to tall, one judge, two rings, no Fast. I was just thinking, "Should be interesting." I had two kids to get ready for school the next day after a 3.5 hour drive home barring traffic snafus. How long would the day be?

We arrived later than normal - around 8:15 am. After getting Vegas situated in her kennel, Zach and I signed up to work two classes each for the day, both as bar setters. Our Standard run was the first we ran of the day and JWW was last. We managed to get packed up and on the road about 2pm. I felt a little guilty about leaving knowing there were 3 or 4 classes left. Normally I would be happy to stay and work but with kids going to school and a long drive ahead, I just couldn't.

Once again the standard course was nice. I messed us up. I didn't anticipate a problem area and it caught me off guard. My reaction was slow enough that my next queue to Vegas caused the judge to call a refusal on the a-frame. Out there on the course it seemed like she didn't want to take it for me but it was really all about the command being slow and her positioning with regard to the obstacle. Lessons, learning moments, and training opportunities!! Other than that the course was fine. She ran well, she ran strong, and she ran clean. The course yardage was 181 and she ran it in 62.68 (SCT was 67) putting her at 2.89 YPS.

Our last run of the weekend was another shot at MACH points. I'd be fibbing if I said that doesn't cross my mind with every run. But here's where it gets interesting. Zach and I had been outside with the dogs letting them sniff around in one of the yards. We got caught up in chatting with this lady who runs Scottish Terriers and then when I wanted to get moving, I had to tell Zach a half dozen times to leash up Leo. All of a sudden I worried about my walk through and took off. Sure enough they were walking and by the time I got Vegas in her kennel, hopped the wall into the arena, I only got to walk about 5 obstacles before the ring had to be cleared. CRUD! Boy oh boy was I stressed. The last thing I ever needed was to miss my walk through.

We ended up watching most of the class up until our turn. I went out and warmed Vegas up and was playing with her, goofing around, and mostly just trying to calm nerves and just be ready when it was our turn. Finally it was...

Unfortunately I don't have any video of this run as my son wasn't prepared for when it was our turn. Earlier in the day after Standard we had debriefed with Craig. Basically he told me I gave up when one thing went wrong and didn't push for the speed I should. At that time as much as I wanted to succeed in this run, I decided I would push and push Vegas for speed. Going into this run at this point, I certainly still had that in mind. I took off on the outside for the first sequence, 1 - 4. After flipping Vegas out to the #5 jump, I sent her up over 6, 7, and 8, crossing behind and 8 while she headed for the #9 jump. I was still on her left up the back stretch. As Craig said, he was a little worried when I came from behind on #12 but I pushed through to get Vegas into position for the weaves, decelerated just enough to get her moving through them then pushed for her to speed up. I ran her hard through this course encouraging her and just moving along without hesitation. It paid off! I'm not sure what the course yardage was but the SCT was 44 and she ran it in 36.40. We got 7 MACH points!!!! My baby girl did so good this weekend. We went from having 9 MACH points to 21. We had a great time, got to see great friends run, got to see our friend Judy and her Papillon, Oreo, get their MACH, and play our favorite game all at the same time. What a weekend - I can't wait for another. Next trial is the last weekend of the month, just two days, but hopefully we'll have as much fun as this one.

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