Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Regionals, It's The New Nationals

Or at least is was supposed to be for me. But I found it hard to muster any extra excitement for the event, even with Cody having earned a bye into the Grand Prix finals. In a word it was draining, partly because it was my 3rd week in a row of dog activities monopoizing my entire weekend and partly because the novelty has long worn off. Instead of being excited about being able to watch a bunch of top handlers from out of town I was annoyed at how long I had to wait for some of my runs. Give me asmall local one ring trial over a 3 ring circus any day. Yeah yeah, I know, whine whine, complain complain. Most people would be thrilled to have Regionals just 40 minutes away. It's not so much that I wasn't happy to be at a trial as it was that I wasn't as excited about it as I was hoping to be.

Friday was hot (mid 90's or so) with no cloud cover and not much breeze and the dogs, especially Lola, were hot & unmotivated. It took a lot of mental energy on my part to get them 'up' for their runs. I remembered having to go through this with Lola at Nationals which was also hot and was ever more happy in my decision not to go this year. She eventually stopped the distraction sniffing outside the ring, engaged with me and did her runs but I felt she was going through the motions rather than full on enjoying herself. Cody was also not so thrilled to be running in the heat but he handles it better than Lola as he's a smaller, more lightly built dog and he goes crazy in the hose before his runs so I can cool him down in the water and get him amped at the same time. Sat. and Sun. were better with relatively cooler temps. and cloud cover/wind during the afternoons so we had better runs on those days.

In general Lola was way slower than normal for most of the weekend but she had very few missteps. She missed a few contacts (missed A-frame probably cost her a spot in Speed Jumping finals) and the woesome table was again a problem but otherwise had some nice runs. The highlight was her Team Jumpers run which she ran while it was thundering. She's scared of thunder, not to the point of being phobic but she didn't want to come out of crate and somehow I managed to not only coax her out but get her engaged with me enough to go in the ring and do her thing. She was slow (it was still a bit hot for her) but she stayed focused on me and had a nice clean run. I was so proud of her for working through her fears. She also had a nice run in Round 1 of the GP, qualifying her for finals.

Cody wasn't entered in team so he had only 2-3 runs per day which worked out perfectly for him. I loved not having to race back to the crates for every run and he seemed to have more energy and focus. Yeah he was pissed when Lola got to run and he didn't but he dealt with it. Highlight was his Snooker run and Super Q. It was cool & cloudy and he was so happy & focused.

Other highlights, Lola had perfect weaves and missed only a few contacts (1 dogwalk, 2 A-frame that I remember). Cody missed only one weave entry (a very simple one, don't know why) but had otherwise perfect weaves. I don't think he missed any A-frame contacts, missed at least one dogwalk. Had a beautiful dogwalk with a stop in Standard.

Biggest low point was the table for both dogs. How embarrassing to have 2 dogs with table issues. Why me? I don't freak out on them in the ring or yell at them or get stressed about it. I think it's a heat/stress thing. Cody had an otherwise beautiful standard run heading into the table then refused to lie down. I think he may have even jumped off then on again. I finally got him to lie down and we left the ring for big treats. Lola had even worse problems as she didn't even want to get on but after what felt like an eternity I got her on and into a down for 3 seconds then she popped into a sit before I released her. Still I ran her out of the ring for lotsa treats. Susan Garrett probably would have my guts for garters for reinforcing her for breaking her down but I was so thrilled to have her down on the table at all that I was o.k. with it. I have some ideas for dealing with this in training but I need to build a table for my yard first. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks I can get to that.

Unfortunately the Grand Prix Finals did not turn out to be as much fun as I'd hoped. For some inexplicable reason the judges had overlapping walk throughs for Perf. Grand Prix and Perf. Snooker. I had barely figured out where I was going on the technical GP course when they called for Snooker walk throughs. That ring took precedence since it had Master Snooker and Master Pairs while the GP ring had only the GP to run. The GP judge was supposed to hold his ring for Snooker conflicts so I figured surely he'd give us Perf. people a little more time to walk after the Snooker walk through. I thought wrong. As soon as I stepped out of the Snooker ring they were calling my name to run in the GP ring since I was first dog. I ran over there and explained and begged for a little time to walk. He said I could have a few seconds while he messed with the timer but it was only enough to get through the first third of the course plus everyone else was waiting with their dogs to run and I felt stupid being out there. They moved me down a few dogs so I could get Cody but that only meant I had less time to go get Lola when Cody was done. I arrived at the ring a bit hot & frazzled. Now let's be honest here, Cody would have taken that off course at the #10 tunnel even if I'd walked until the cows came home but still I got lost at the end of the course and it wasn't quite the fun experience I was hoping for. Lola's run went a little better but the ending from the dogwalk on out went badly and I wished I'd had more time to puzzle that part out. I couldn't believe more Perf. people weren't annoyed by this but it turned out that there were very few of us (maybe 2 in the 22" class which ran first) who were in both Snooker & GP so those few of us slipped through the cracks. Stupid thing was the GP ring finished an hour or so before the other ring, if he'd only held the GP ring up 15 minutes all would have been good and he'd still have been done plenty early (the whole trial was done by around 2:45) but there weren't enough of us to complain and everyone else was ringside chomping at the bit to go. Sometimes that's just the way it goes at these big trials though I suppose if this would have happened to some top handler in the GP finals somebody somewhere would have heard about it. Since I'm not going to Nationals and didn't care about a semi's bye I didn't care enough about it to make a big deal.

Anyway, here's the course map for GP finals and embarrassing video of me. Not my finest moments to be sure but a good lesson in how not to handle this course if you choose to set it up and try it. The #10 tunnel felt like it was set up closer to the #9 chute and with the off course end more inviting but maybe that's only because I had a problem there. I tried to do a front cross between #9 and #10 but this turned out to be a poor choice. Cody went barrelling out of the chute and into the tunnel without giving me so much as a glance (yes I called his name, about a billion times) and for Lola it turned into a call off which I hate. You really needed to have independent weaves so that you could leave the dog in the weaves and run laterally away from the chute to cue the turn before the dog even got in the chute. Funny thing is just a few days before Joy was working with Cody and me on getting Cody to pay attention to me when he's running fast over a line of jumps then needs to turn rather than go into a tunnel that's straight ahead. He went barrelling into that tunnel about 4 times and we had to keep making it simpler for him until he got it. Something to work on.

The other tricky part was from the dogwalk to the finish. My thought was to front cross between #16 and #17 then again between #18 and #19 but this didn't work out so fabulous. Joy was standing ringside and giving advice to a friend on how to run it and it didn't involve those front crosses but I can't remember exactly what she suggested. I'm thinking maybe a rear between #16 and #17 then send to #18 and turn to run for #19. Something to set up and try.

#4 to #5 was also a challenge, the dogwalk was a huge draw and the #16 jump was right in your way for cueing the turn.

I felt bad about making Cody fix the mistake after the dog walk. Normally I don't do that kind of thing, especially with Cody, but that was where I got lost and I wanted to get it straight in my head for Lola's run so this was one area of the course where the lack of a walk through had an adverse effect. It looks so ugly on tape though, ugh, I'm regretting that.

Lola's 2 refusals were a result of her going too slowly in the heat and me not cueing a strong enough send for a rear cross. Again, I shouldn't have fixed those, normally I wouldn't but it was GP finals which is a really lame reason. Hopefully Lo will forgive me. Anyway, Joy worked on sending with me in class last night and thinking about it Stacy worked on this with me in a different context at her workshop so it's something I'll be working on with Lola. That was one good thing about that course, it exposed several training holes and thanks to Joy I have some ideas on how to fix them.

I have more video and course maps to come.

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