Thursday was a half day session in Masters Jumping and it was hot (mid 90's) and sunny for most of the afternoon. We started out with a short sequence involving a push to the back side of a jump, a threadle and a rear cross. The push to the back of the jump was a similar scenario to one from the Jennifer Crank seminar I did last February and since I'd made a mistake with the handling choice last time I remembered the 'correct' way to do it this time and handled it no problem. I guess some things are finally starting to sink in. The threadle was no problem, again stuff from that other seminar was a big help there. The rear cross was another matter. In fact so many people had trouble with the rear that the next thing we worked on was a rear cross drill. Turns out my biggest problem with the rear cross is that I rush. I scurry around all frantic-like. Daisy told me to try walking through the drill taking big long strides (as big as I can manage with my short legs anyway) and I was amazed at how well that worked. I also had trouble with a rear cross on the flat which I found surprising because I've been doing them in trials lately with no problem. This was a much sharper turn though and I couldn't pull it off. So she added a jump for us to head to then took away the jump. We got it eventually but it wasn't pretty. Something for us to practice.
We also worked on a jump drill that involved 3 jumps in a line and a curved tunnel at each end. Send the dog through the tunnel then run down the line and send them through the other tunnel. At first the jumps were evenly spaced about 18' apart then she moved the middle jump closer to one of the end jumps in 6" to 1' increments. The idea was to get the dog to think about adjusting his stride for the shorter distance. He wasn't allowed to bounce jump. Strummer was completely off his head for this exercise in part because he was wound up from the sound of the other high drive dogs flying through the tunnels. Every time the distance changed he'd bounce jump so Daisy put a jump bar on the ground where he'd want to land so he had to put in a full stride and that worked. I'd never thought about bounce jumping one way or the other and it's not something I ever taught or encouraged but I could see how he had a lot more control over his body for the next obstacle when he added the stride versus flinging himself over the jump with the bounce. I'll have to look at some of my old video but I doubt he's done much bounce jumping at trials because of the nature of the Starters courses he's been on in USDAA and even at the Masters level in DOCNA the jumps are a fair distance apart. I'm supposing this is more of an issue for the tighter AKC/International style courses but it's something I'm going to start watching out for and may throw that drill into the mix every once in a while since clearly it's and issue for Strummer.
The final exercise was another tight, tricky course with a push to the back side of a jump and a threadle. There were at least 7 different ways to handle it and we had to come up with 2 to try. Strum was bouncing a jump again and sailing off into space for one of my handling choices but the other way worked o.k.
Masters Handling for high drive dogs
Friday was a full day of handling and the main difference from the day before was that we had a full course to handle that included weave poles. No contact obstacles though, just jumps, tunnels and weaves so not all that different from the Jumpers seminar. We had a much nicer day weather wise though-cooler and cloudy for most of the day with a bit of cooling light rain in the late afternoon.
Walking the first course of the day was intimidating. It was a very technical international style course-more pushes to back sides of jumps and threadles-and there were people who are a lot more skilled than me who were puzzling over it. It's not the sort of thing I see in competition, especially in DOCNA, and unless UKI catches on here it's not the sort of thing I'm likely to see. Again it was very like the sort of thing I saw last February at Jennifer Crank's 'International Course' Seminar and thankfully there were a few things I remembered that helped me figure out what to do. I needed some help with the execution of some of it but at least I wasn't totally lost with what was going on. It's interesting to learn how to do this stuff from a handler's point of view but from the dog's point of view? I can't imagine it's all that much fun for them compared to a course where they can stretch out and run a little more but I guess it depends on the dog. Maybe some dogs are thinkers and like this sort of thing. But I like a course with a bit of both, some running and some thinking and I think DOCNA and USDAA are a good compromise for that. On the other hand while this sort of thing isn't my cup of tea-guess I'll never be on the World Team ; )-I can see the value in learning it. The basic concepts of how to use your motion and other cues and how to combine them are applicable to any kind of course. I think some of this stuff only seems more difficult because I'm not used to seeing it.
My biggest problem with my handling seems to be my rushing around. This is no surprise, I even noted it a few posts ago in my DOCNA trial report. Not many bars came down during the seminar and many that did come down were the result of rushing which is as I expected. A couple came down that Daisy couldn't tell me why and this happens occasionally in lessons with Joy. It's frustrating not to know why because how do you know what to work on but I guess for now I work on the things I know I can control, like my scurrying around in a panic. I wasn't the only one there with this problem it turns out. Not that I'd want to wish it on anyone. Again there was a part of a course I was rushing and flailing my arms and worrying and Daisy told me to walk through it rather than run and sure enough it made all the difference, everything all calm and smooth (well, smoother anyway). It'll be hard to have the discipline to do that during a trial but I think I'm going to have to experiment with it in places where it might be appropriate because it settles both me and Strummer and things go much better.
We did do one course that had a lot of running and distance between jumps, reminded me of a Snooker type course, and that was fun. It wasn't easy and I had my share of mistakes, most of them again involving rushing things, but it was fun.
Overall it was a fun and worthwhile seminar. It was tiring driving up to Fort Collins everyday (a little over an hour each way) but I found a scenic route through the backroads that was quicker than the highway which jangled my nerves on the first day and I had someone to carpool with one day so it wasn't so bad. Normally I'm not fond of the seminar format, so much sitting around watching other people and waiting, I get bored after a couple of hours and I don't typically learn all that much from watching other people. Occasionally I'll pick up little things here and there but it's not the most effective way for me to learn. But there were a lot of great handlers there, it was interesting to watch them and to see that they also struggle with things.
Strummer was bad in his crate for the first 2 days because it was too hot to put him in the car for most of the time and he got worse with each day. It's simply too much stimulation for him to be so near the ring and it builds up making him even more sensitive to it. Flooding doesn't work with this dog and in fact it makes him worse. I did manage to keep him from barking his fool head off the whole time, just, and he wasn't disruptive to the seminar but it was tiring having to deal with him. On Thursday it was cool enough that I could keep him in the car and it was a much more relaxing day for both of us. He almost seemed relieved and I was able to watch the other people more and hear what Daisy had to say to them. He was more relaxed ringside waiting his turn too since he wasn't spending all his down time getting worked up. Silly dog, one of these days he's going to be normal, or so I keep telling myself.