Thursday, December 23, 2010

Timberland Valley Dog Fanciers Association AKC Trial 12/17-19 DAY THREE

Better late than is my recap for the last day of last weekend's trial.

Often trials don't hold Fast runs on Sunday but this trial offered it each day. However, being the last weekend before Christmas the entry wasn't full so things moved along well. In fact, it almost seemed like we practically ran back to back being a tall to small day again.

The Fast course for Sunday was designed and judged by the same judge from Friday's Excellent Fast course. Just to give an idea of her course design, only two dogs in the entire Excellent class Friday qualified. It was into a tunnel, over the a-frame, and then 10' out from the a-frame was a 90-degree turn into the weave entry. All of this, of course, from the distance of at least 10, if not 15 plus, feet. Yeah, so basically I hadn't a prayer for the Fast course - so I thought. After all, we don't work distance.
So my plan was laid out and I intended to try the send bonus for practice. I was overwhelmingly surprised and pleased with what Vegas did do! She almost got it! And, in fact, again only two dogs qualified in the entire course. Here is one thing that could have changed the outcome: If the weaves were not a part of the send line. They essentially formed a formidable wall to the dogs which was confusing. They felt more separated from their handlers than they would have been with a taped line only, and our body language wasn't as easy to read. Regardless, I am so proud of how Vegas did. She took the dog walk instead of the tunnel, but she read all of my language and maneuvered exactly as I planned and expected otherwise. We began with the run of single jumps that arced from the start line to the tunnel. That gave her a nice "launch" into the tunnel and I knew her momentum out of the tunnel would propel her over the jump. My goal was to "flip" her with a quickly extended arm and have her turn toward the wall and see the tunnel. Everything went according to plan except the tunnel. And I couldn't care less! So here is what we did:
After our Fast run I had a few minutes with Vegas and then had to walk the Standard course.
It's courses like we saw this weekend that reaffirm to me that we are ready for high-level competition. Sometimes it feels like we got there by good graces and luck and then there are times, like recently, when I am learning to accept our one tiny mistake and realize we are truly a team that is skilled enough to perform at the level. So this course....well, let's just say there were some very serious gripes and grumbles about the complexity with regard to the safe performance (wear to the body) particularly for some breeds. For me, my biggest concern again was the entrance to the weaves. They are our weakest component to date in that they are not 100% reliable. I walked the course both doing a front cross and also just moving outward toward the #2 jump and then turning Vegas into a straight-on entrance. What I did not anticipate was what did happen. Vegas was running well. We made it through the first portion and as far as the a-frame with no bobbles, smooth flow, and good speed.

And then I pulled her off the #13. I stepped and turned just a moment too soon to align us for the teeter and that caused a refusal. This was a major bummer and I wanted to jump up and down in frustration because we had made it so far without a hitch. And there were still more challenging areas to come. For instance, I needed to make it to the end of the chute for a front cross into the #18 jump without getting in Vegas' way. Could I do it? Fortunately I was able to do so and the remainder of the run went off without a hitch. Vegas performed beautifully. Once again, handler error.

After Standard I grabbed Leo and took both dogs out to the back of the fairgrounds in the grass to sniff, walk, and enjoy the sunshine. When we came back in I couldn't hardly believe it but we were already needing to walk our Jumpers course. I quickly put the dogs away and had a quick go at it.
A plus - the weaves had a nice entrance. A negative - the weaves headed straight into the fencing plus there was a table full of drill chargers and the like a few feet beyond along the wall. The tunnel on the map appears much farther away than it was in actuality.

Apparently we had enjoyed our high of the weekend though as this course was not to give us our reward either. I felt like I was behind the entire time. Perhaps I was getting tired or perhaps Vegas was just really moving. Regardless, we were not in sync the way we had been. We made it through to the weaves though, and once again things fell apart. I thought we would be okay but the 10-pole problem happened again. All of a sudden Vegas' head went up like she saw something and she popped out of her weaves. At that point I didn't even finish. We moved on. And that was that. Time to pack up and make the two hour drive home.

I learned some things, of course, over the weekend. I continue to struggle from time to time with our tiny, little mistake that costs us a run and wish for a calamity. But as I mentioned earlier, I am grateful for the realization that those tiny little mistakes on complex courses show we are up for the competition. And I love my Vegas girl. She gives it her all every single time and she does it with a smile.

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