Friday, February 19, 2010

That which you manifest is before you...

On the eve of a trial it's easy to wax poetic. Destiny is out there - courses have yet to be walked, contacts haven't been missed and everyone has the potential to double Q :-) As anyone who has read our blog recently knows, we've struggled with our a-frame contacts this fall. As Teller's confidence has increased, he's adding more power to his a-frame performance - with power I've seen a single hit on the down side of the a-frame - he's hitting right above (2" or so) the contact zone and coming off. I've had a really hard time replicating this performance in training - out of the 200 or so a-frame reps over the last 6-8 weeks he's missed the contact three times....which was great and I felt like we worked through that particular scenario - but I've felt like we haven't really fixed the performance.

So here we are, the night before a trial - we need one more open standard leg. It's within our reach - we've just got to come together.

Back in 1992, Jane Savoie (a fellow Vermonter) published a book titled "That Winning Feeling!: A New Approach to Riding Using Psychocybernetics". I remember standing in Tony's Tack Shop and feeling drawn to the book. Not just because I knew Jane from horse shows - but because at the time I really struggled with ring nerves. Trust me, sitting on a moving horse, wearing white pants and a tight black blazer is no time to feel nauseous. Not to mention horses feel a riders stress as they feel every aid. I have an old tattered copy of "That Winning Feeling" with the yellow dust cover - and I wanted to go back and re-read it this week - of course because I was looking for it I couldn't find it. Now I've got to figure out who I lent it to or perhaps I just need to get on amazon and purchase a new copy....but my old one was signed!!!

My take-away so many years ago was the visualization process. I vividly remember laying in the bed the week before a show visualizing the perfect test: perfect transitions, riding into the corners, my position, perfect helped. That which you manifest is before you. While much of this book is specific to horseback riding it's easily translated to competition in the dog world - and any athletic sport where our own psyche can be the piece of the puzzle that is hindering our performance.

I used to have a visualization routine with agility and rally courses and obedience runs. Provided I wasn't the first dog in the ring I was able to watch a heel pattern and the ring setup and then find a quiet place to visualize. And the same process in agility. At some point - about the time that I started trialing Teller I stopped taking the time to visualize the course and the performance I was looking for. While, I've never had the same nerves with the dogs that I initially had with the horses, showing Murphy was always a variable - some days he wanted to play, some days he didn't want to play and that was part of trialing Murphy. This variability was frustrating which didn't help either of our performance.

That variable is gone with Teller. Teller will always play the game which he has been taught to do. He won't quit working and while we both make mistakes we don't ever give up on each other. He's a different dog and I'm a different handler.

So, starting this weekend I'm going back to visualization before our runs - it's seeing the perfect two-hit a-frame performance and it's nailing those weave entries. I'm going to go find a quiet spot, sit down with a course map and my mp3 player, close my eyes and visualize.

From "The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein:
"The car goes where your eyes go...that which you manifest is before you."

And of course, Be the na na na na na na....(Caddyshack):

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