What a difference two weeks can make. Two weekends in a row of "big" events, but only the first one were we competing "for real". We couldn't get the second JWW leg at 26", that quest was not good for me. I'd like to believe Rich was unaware that I was disappointed, but I don't think we can fully hide things from our dogs. After the end of the WTT qualifying quest, I kind of went into a funk. I just wanted to go to the beach with my dogs, not train and not think about agility, my showing/teaching schedule kept me from doing the full retreat I wanted to do. About 10 days before the SW Regional, I remembered that if I'm going to ask my dogs to do this with me, I should prepare them for what I'm going to ask them to do. :)
Really at this stage, Vic's "training" is being demo dog and getting run by a friend/student on Tuesday nights. Vic and I are so dialed with each other. We always have been, he truly is my agility soulmate.
Going from Vic as my main teammate to Rich has been a challenge. Not because Rich isn't great, brilliant is the word I most frequently use when describing him. But where Vic held my hand as we made our way up the agility ladder, Rich runs ahead and asks me to hurry up. So, we prepped for Regionals, logical challenges, jump work and I started making a mental management plan. I've never been a fan of the people with headphones on during walkthroughs, but decided to give it a go. I'm now a big fan of it, I don't see doing it at local shows, but "big" events, I will be doing it from now on. So nice not to have the background noise of people talking about their plans, which often are very different than mine, since I continue to primarily rock it old school with handling choices.
Regionals started with bad runs by me with both boys in Gamblers, fell off plan with Vic and then stayed greedy (lost bonus points), fell off plan with Rich and froze, then fled... I still haven't looked to see how much time I left on the clock, I'm sure it was a lot. I was so disappointed in myself and was lucky that one of my teammates had had a similar mental collapse, so we beat ourselves up, she went and got us coffee, then we went to our corners to regroup. Which we did, Vic was spot on, on a tricky Team Standard and Rich broke his startline, had me running scared, but despite one "GET BACK OVER HERE!!!" line to a weave entry, put down a solid time in Team Standard. I would like to note, my teammate also threw it down in Standard, so regrouping success by both of us! :)
Rich Standard: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kK6b7n5ABGc
Next day started with Steeplechase for Rich (I don't run Vic in it, not our game). The run was nearly perfect, two headchecks that were understandable and only noted because I always think there's room for improvement. Rich was one of the first to run and no one came close. I think that run was the beginning of the change that I now feel with Rich. Team Jumpers was another run where Rich was so amazingly good, one wide turn and a crazy fast time. I saw a few competitors runs and continue to think excessive use of the "fancy" handling is not speeding dogs up. I see dogs questioning what side they'll be coming to and really, those two fists over a jump for collection just looks harsh to me. I used to do that with Finn back in the day, but I wouldn't say we had the best relationship, often our runs were a fistfight in the form of agility and we never really had the relationship I would expect most people do with their teammates, since he wasn't my dog. Vic was so good in Jumpers too, covering me when I wasn't good. He so often hears "you are such a good boy!!! " in the middle of a run. He really is and even though those words often happen after I have screwed up, I do love hearing them on videos. He deserves the praise, our dogs do deserve all sorts of credit for what they put up with and do for us. I wish I saw it more often. I changed plans in Snooker, then didn't remember the course correctly and unfortunately, didn't realize that until making the same mistake with Vic. Before Cynosports I will have to run some games again, I'm definitely off my "game" in those classes. Both boys ran well in Team Relay, both teams won Relay and I have to work on having more aggressive plans when I have to pull the dogs past two tunnel openings. ;) Vic's team was 4th (because of my bad Gamblers and Snooker), Rich's 5th, which was his first "competitive" team at a "big" event. :)
Vic Jumpers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJa_clFr-jQ
Rich Jumpers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFhezn6Yvjo
Last day of Regionals started with Steeplechase for Rich, we had a very wide turn at 2. In my head I was standing still, the video shows I gave an approriate turning cue for Vic. There was definitely a part of me that was thinking about "just run clean" and 2 was a bar Rich can pull. Still, took 2nd in the classs behind Carol's AMAZINGLY fast Schemer, so podium time for the boy and we have that bye for Cynosports. :) Both boys had byes in Grand Prix, but I did run Rich in Rd. 1 where he was clean and I worked contacts to the point that when Kemna watched the video she said, "Okay, that's just ridiculous". ;) Vic ran first. I didn't think we could make podium, because he's older and so many fast dogs in the P 16" class these days, but what we have over the others is complete confidence in each other. He was so good, such a solid run, but I had seen the other runs, so was just happy that I'd had another great run with my most awesome boy. When Terra told me we'd taken 2nd in the class... Well, I'm glad for sunglasses, because I started crying. I love Vic so much, am so grateful for having him in my life and to get rewarded for our teamwork was such an unexpected bonus.
Rich Steeplechase Rd.2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6lg8GpNQfE
Have I mentioned how much I loved the headphones for walkthroughs? Cause I really do, would pick a song and just have it repeat for the entire time. Sunday was Arcade Fire's Ready to Start. Rich was 6th seed in Rd. 2, I hadn't watched anyone run before us, I didn't want to. Again, in this age of spins, I don't find watching others anything but distracting. I get to teach at Power Paws Camp again this year, my topic "So Retro It's Cutting Edge: Decel as a Primary Turning Cue". ;) Anyway, I can honestly say I wasn't thinking about anything other than what I was going to do before our GP run. Rich was wide in some spots, but always knew where he was going next. I'm believing unless a turn is REALLY important, I'm going to let him choose how to deal with it and not manage them. I think as time goes on with enough rewarding in training, he's going to make the best choices for him and really the one who knows what will work best for him is him. And while he was wide, he was also screaming fast on some hard footing (3 days of outdoor showing in the middle of a drought will do that) and won the class by a lot. Finished off my bye quest for the boys with that run. And that feeling kept getting stronger...
We didn't do much to prep for Tryouts after Regionals, the one day I tried to do some stuff was kind of a disaster with him going VERY far away to off courses. I told myself it was okay, we were ready for Regionals and we weren't running "for real" at tryouts, so if things went poorly I could say "he's just 3" and if things went well, I would still be saying "he's just 3", though the latter would be in a higher pitch. ;)
I drove up on Day 1, he practiced great and I felt good before Rd 1 Jumpers, such an awesome course. A course I would like to rerun, because I failed Rich. I didn't even walk the numbers correctly. ;) Still there were glimmers of his brilliance and I may have to burn that unlucky skort... I went out with a friend that night, talked about things other than my agility plans and woke up the next day determined to shake off the day before and show what Rich and I are capable of. Which I believe we did. We had a spot on Rd. 2, so good that Tamas went and asked the score table if we were really a white dog, a run that had him telling me that he's seen lots of dogs and "THAT one, he is special". A story I keep telling, will keep telling and don't bother telling me you've already heard it, because you're not going to stop me from telling it again. ;) If we'd been running for real, we would have won the class. :) The rest of our runs had faults, two weaves (one where I mentally checked out which caused Rich to pull out and one entry I should have done a threadle cue for), a broad jump error and the first bar came down after we stood on the line for too long in Rd. 5, only bar he pulled all weekend. He did all the "hard stuff" great, the errors were young team errors and I believe after Rd 2, I mentally let up a little, because everything else was gravy. :)
Rd 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nv-freZf_ho
Rd 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0D6RQ6UHU0
Rd 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMDDsMl6u40
Rd 5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0G7D_BDLqg
A friend commented on FB that sometimes it would be nice to be able to frame a video... This run would be framed for sure. And did I tell you what Tamas said to me...? :)
But that "feeling", it didn't hit me until the drive home what it was... Confidence. I now know I can be the handler Rich deserves and all that brilliance I have seen is not just "potential", it is the real deal. I have wondered, often out loud, since we first started out if I would ever feel like this with him. Vic was always so easy, I really wasn't sure I could have that same feeling with Rich. And it's not the same, but Rich is going at a rate of speed I have never experienced before, so mistakes will happen, but in the last two weeks I stopped thinking about the potential errors when we stepped to the line. Confidence..., it is so empowering. :) We're all taking a few weeks off from agility, then start the slow prep for Cynosports. It will be Vic's last "big" event. Time goes by so quickly and I am lucky that this golden time with Vic is happening as Rich and I are hitting our stride. It makes me appreciate it all the more.