Sunday, March 07, 2010

Southern Adirondack Agility Club trial

Getting up at 4am is a shock to the system; getting into the car and driving at 4:30am is another shock to the system. Morning person I am not! This was our first trip to High Goal Farm - they have quite a few trials there over the last eighteen months or so, I thought it was so much further away and the lack of close and affordable motels has always prevented me from sending an entry. The trip was a piece of cake though at a little over two hours each way it was an easy day-trip. Yes that means nearly 5 hours in the car each day - but it saves cash on hotels and since we run in the first class of the day and then the 4th class of the day now (excellent STD and excellent JWW) it means we're home relatively early (always a plus).

It's all back roads to get there and it was somewhat surreal to see so many dark houses early this morning - then light from the east as the sunrise approached (southbound) - and then as we moved into the heart of VT farmland the lights in the barns as farmers rose to feed and milk their cows. It's sad to see so much of old rural Vermont in deterioration though - 100+ year old barns on their last legs, farmhouses abandoned - many on the historic register left to fall down (if they fall down they can be built over - if they are still hanging on they cannot be demolished to make room for other structures). At this point some are too far gone to be saved even with bottomless resources. There's also the 55mph view of what farming is like in Vermont - and this weekend the MUD! Cows and horses now at least 6 months since their last bath standing, laying and frolicking in mud up to their fetlocks. The joys of springtime in Vermont!

Standard: We were the first dog on the line. Yes we had a good amount of time to warm up and an obsessive walk-through starting at 7:15 - but Teller was wild and I didn't handle him well. Some mistakes I didn't expect him to make but some really brilliant bits too. He had a great a-frame today, I was pleased though off the a-frame he committed to the tunnel WAY sooner that I would have liked (as in he committed to the tunnel as soon as he cleared the apex of the a-frame). At least he committed to the correct entry! Then it was chute to the triple to the weaves, he came blasting out of the chute (ta-da!) and didn't see the triple, HOWEVER, I called him and he sliced the triple w/o a refusal. He nailed his weave entry but hit hard on pole #4 - I think he was expecting 24" weaves and these were 20" spacing. As he worked his way through them he skipped every other weave as he was figuring it out. I decided not to fix him in the weaves - it's excellent, any mistake is an NQ and I didn't want to penalize him for the right effort (getting the entry and then hitting that 4th pole so hard). I should have shown him the 20" weaves at waggles this week and I didn't - plus I loved what he have given me so far in that run. I also knew that after his cool-out and cookies he'd go back into his crate and think about it. I KNEW that he'd come back in the next class with the smaller spacing all figured out - and he did. Trust him.

After the weaves it was a 90 degree right turn to the dogwalk - he didn't see it - I don't know why he didn't see it. But I didn't take him back for that either. JUST KEEP RUNNING.

JWW:  It was a nice course - but I was a little concerned about the end of the course - it was a tunnel and then 5 jumps on a broken line more or less straight out. That's a long stretch of time where I can't get ahead of him to handle the series strategically. But!! TRUST YOUR DOG ERICA. I did and it paid off. Teller's willingness to do exactly what I ask of him is amazing. The number of times this dog has saved our runs - well, I won't go there! I rear-crossed the jump into the tunnel and before he was even in the tunnel I was able to move away and setup for the 5 jumps out. I was there for one and two (of the five) and then sent him to the broken line ahead of me. He committed to the entire line at the 2nd (of five) and just flew. Good enough for an Excellent B placement (4th) and 8 MACH points. That is our 4th MXJ leg and brings our total to 18 MACH points.

Moment of the day: This club hands out a big bag of Eagle Holistic biscuits to all of the exhibitors - it's a really nice touch. They don't have to do it - most clubs don't (in fact SAAC is the only one I can recall in recent memory). I was handed my bag after Teller had run his standard course (1st dog on line Saturday AM) while we're sitting ringside getting ready to tape Lori's run. I put the bag next to my chair and Teller laid at my feet like a golden angel (he can be sometimes) while I videotaped the run. After I finished, I packed up the camera and asked him if he'd like to go back out to the car (for a drink and then cool-out walk). As soon as I stood he calmly walked over, picked up the bag of biscuits and looked at me as if he was saying "OK, I've got the cookies...let's roll".

The morning started with JWW and ran little to big (4-8-12-16-20-24-26) so we technically could have made a later and more leisurely trip down this morning. Unfortunately, that's just not in my character. I have a really hard time knowing that the trial is running and that I'm not there in case something weird happens (like none of the 12" dogs show up). So I needed to be there around 9:30 (ended up being 10am that we walked) and we arrived at 7:15 (another 5am departure). 

JWW: It was another flowing,course - well suited for Teller. I walked it one way and ended up running it completely differently - not making it to where I needed to be for a front cross and then rear-crossing and layering part of a pinwheel. It worked out like I had planned it that way - Teller read me so well and I'm quite pleased with the run, though he did have to "think" more about the weaves than I'd like him to. It was good enough for a 3rd placement (in Ex B!!!) and 7 MACH points. That's 15 points for the weekend. It's a drop in the bucket, but if we can get some consistency in our standard runs (and there's light at the end of that tunnel) it's going to come together and the points will happen. In the meantime we're happy for a Q and some points.

Standard: For the most part I'm pleased with both my handling and Teller's response to my handling. I loved his a-frame contact. He wasn't called for a refusal on the table (though he probably should have) but I love how he found the correct tunnel entry (left) after the triple-single. He came around to that red non-wing and I'm not sure what he saw instead of the teeter - it was weird - he's generally not a table-suck. Loved his weave entry and his weaves. I was late in my call out of  the chute, but liked that I was able to layer that jump AND that he didn't see that off-course #12 tunnel between #19 and #20.

Moment of the day: Teller finishes his second run of the day (standard) and it was a nice run - he's feeling a little high on himself. He spots his friend Tom (timer), but directly in front of Tom is the timer box. Teller clears the last jump, says hello to Tom (directly in front of the last jump) and in one motion picks up the timer box (attached to Tom) and walks away with it - squealing in delight - clearly proud of himself for finding what he perceived to be a dropped object. It was a crowd pleaser for sure - which only made it MORE fun for Teller!

The venue: High Goal Farm is gorgeous. Clean (though muddy in the midst of a spring thaw), bright, airy and just beautiful facility. I'm totally envious of Wendy's wood paneled office - think high end stable's office/tack room. A neat row of dog crates, books, a large desk - just to die for. Knotty pine paneling in the restrooms, a full kitchen, lots of space to move around and crating for everyone who wanted to crate indoors (it was 50 degrees so I worked out of my car), two HUGE outdoor rings - one setup for herding and the other for agility). There was lots of space to walk the dogs - and no neighbors! It's what I'd love to build if I ever manage to win the lottery (or find a sponsor). I'll definitely keep my eyes out for future trials down there - particularly since I can make daytrips in good weather.

The judge: Lavonda Herring. I don't think I've shown under Lavonda before - she's definitely going on my "look out for where/when she's judging and enter that show" list. Her calls were consistently fair across the board, she was kind and patient with the exhibitors, she did whistle a few people off-course but her calls were right on. Her courses were excellent all weekend. They asked some good questions of both the dogs and the handlers, without favoring little or big dogs. Teller got to move out quite a bit - particularly in JWW and even in STD where things felt tight, the course didn't run tight.

The take-home: I feel like my startlines are suffering a little - nothing awful, but this is where it starts...I didn't need a startline in standard this afternoon, but he released himself a fraction of a second before I did in JWW this morning. I'm not freaking out about it - just going to make an effort this week to go back in and reinforce his startline waits between now and our next trial.

A-frame is better - not there yet - I'm going to keep doing our 10 reps three times a week. High rate of success and high rate of reinforcement.

The video from the weekend:

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