Posted by: allstaragility | October 22, 2010

Recent Reflections

After the whirlwind of coming home from the Lincoln trial and leaving early the next morning for a week-long road trip to USDAA Nationals, I think I am finally getting back to life as usual (if there is such a thing!).  So many things to say so I am going to try to sum it up in one post…

First of all, the Lincoln trial was a blast!  The surface was wonderful, even though the space a little cramped.  I look forward to more trials at that location.  With all my focus on running Solei,  Bode blossomed with less pressure was a great  little boy.  Running 2 dogs again will be good for both of us.  I was so happy with his mental presence while running and he was 4/6 on the weekend.  Dan Dege’s courses where refreshing and offered the perfect challenges we needed before USDAA Nationals (but that will be an entirely different soapbox-blog).

Breathtaking is the only word that accurately describes running Solei at her first trial.  I couldn’t be happier with her performance.   Her second dogwalk was better than her first, showing more confidence.  By her last run, the over-the-top-girl came out,  and I was happy to see her make an appearance.   It proves she’s got it in her and we will have to work together to find that fine-line and push beyond it.   Now, if only I can avoid running into the jumps…

A few observations of what I need to address more with Solei:  While she is so light on her feet, she is really relying on her physical ability to clear the jumps rather than “thinking” about jumping.   Many people would think this is fine, but I really want a confident, thinking  jumper.   Over several of the jumps, she is taking off too close to the bar, swinging her hind end up higher than necessary to clear the jump.  I have noticed this in quite a few larger, faster dogs.  I am not too worried about it at this point as she is still working through adrenaline and running, but I will study it more and work on the grids.   In the meantime, if somebody decides it is a common problem in our sport  (Late Take-off Syndrome) then let it be known that Lorraine Bredahl should get the credit for naming it! 🙂

Besides jumping, we are going back to put more training focus on the A-frame and teeter now that I am pretty confident about the dogwalk.   I have taken the AF a little for granted and now it is time to really perfect her striding on it.   Solei loves the teeter a little too much- especially the banging of it and gets a tad sticky, wanting to bite the board.   Cute at one time, but something to get over ASAP.

USDAA Nationals was, once again, the best party around!  From Tuesday to when we left on Saturday night, it was exhausting and exhilarating all at once.  I wasn’t keen on the format of an additional day as it made the event too long.  I was actually OK that Bode didn’t make GP finals on Sunday afternoon as I was ready to go home.  That says a lot, coming from the competitor I am, as to the mental state my dogs and I were in.   People with one dog competing often walked the course at 7am and might not have run it until later in the afternoon, or ran it early and had an entire day left with no more runs.   Since I had Skye in Performance and Bode in Championship, I usually had at least 3 runs spaced out each day, so it wasn’t too bad- just long days.  Factor that with staying for finals on Friday and Saturday nights and it was a true test of mental and physical stamina.

With so much down time, there was no lack in being able to watch amazing dogs/handlers.  I was able to witness just how far our sport has come in the last few years and I learned so much by watching all of the different handling.   We really are somewhat “sheltered” in the central US as to the depth of competitive dogs and handlers across our country.    I’ll leave it at that for now and expand on the subject  another time…   I am so proud of everybody who represented our region and I think most of us came home fueled to raise ourselves and our dogs to the new standards being set by the  USDAA agility community.

What can I say about Skye that doesn’t bring tears to my eyes?  He just turned 11 and his spirit and love for the game is inspiring.  My hope with him at nationals was to run him in one last event finals.  He was so close in Perf. Grand Prix, but took a weird slip off the side of the teeter.   In the Speed Jumping Semi finals, the long days were catching up with his body and he was not 100%, even after a good warm-up.  He made it around the course, but I was worried his time wasn’t fast enough and only 8 dogs were making it into finals.   As luck would have it, Skye and John Nys’ dog Blink tied for the last spot and we were both able to move on!

I love the night finals!  It is an unparalleled, addictive atmosphere.    The course was fast, but having 2 sets of weaves concerned me some with Skye as he just isn’t able to drive through them like he used to.   Skye has always had a “finals” mode of running when he knows I am going to be pushing for all he is worth and he says, “let’s show ’em what we got!”   It was a thrilling, bittersweet moment to cross the line knowing that was the last time we would do so together.   The silver medal was icing on the cake for a beautiful moment I will treasure forever.

Bode had some wonderful runs and I think I am most proud of the team standard run.  It was a course biting people left and right.  My team had no choice but to go all out on it to try to move up in rankings and Bode started us off with a very solid run under a lot of pressure with me pushing him hard.  Ashley and Angie then had 2 more spectacular runs that helped our team move up 100 spots!   It proved that Bode does have his moments of brilliance and they are getting brighter and more frequent as he matures.   The long week was not good for his mental fortitude and our last run reminded me that we still have a way to go to get back to where we were…

It was an honor and a rush to team with Angie with Dylan and Ashley with Luka.   We all didn’t have our best game runs, but we did have fun strategizing and supporting each other.   The fact that little Dylan is still so damn competitive while she is fighting her battle with lymphoma and undergoing chemo treatments is awe-inspiring and brings hard reality to the wonderland we live in at these events.    To see their love for the sport, along with Angie’s uncertainty of Dylan’s future,  praying that this isn’t their last nationals together, was heartbreaking.  I hope with all my heart that they will be kicking our butts for many years to come!

Next items on the slate…  Silas Boogk seminar in Wisconsin next week!  Both dogs are going as I am not sure if Bode can handle running on carpet and I would love to fit Solei in a few of the sequences.  I am determined to learn how to run like a crazy German!!!  Blind crosses, here we come!

Bode is taking a respite from AKC competition until January where he will be released as Bode, version 2.0!  I let him run the dogwalk in the GP semis and we came much closer to closing the time gap between him and the “speed” dogs.  I surmised I have nothing to lose with this venture;  we have worked on it in training, tested it a few times in competition and I don’t think we have anything to lose at this point!  If I have one dog running the DW, I might as well have two so I can learn how to train and handle the darn thing better!

Solei has 3 more AKC trials this year and her first USDAA competition New Year’s weekend!  It was hard to think in Kentucky that Solei could possibly be running at her first National competition there next year.  Ok, no pressure, but it was a fun thought!

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