Monday, October 15, 2007

USDAA, cool is cool, and moments of greatness!

We're back from our USDAA trial this past weekend, and catching up on all our emails. We're moving kind of slow today, it was a long, but fun, weekend!

I was entered in Standard, Snooker and Gambles on Saturday; Gracie in Standard and Gamblers. On Sunday I did Pairs, Jumpers and Standard, Gracie did Standard and Jumpers. So Mum was pretty busy running from ring to ring. And she tried volunteering some in between. Being that she's pushing the top numbers in age (don't tell her I said that, K?) she's not moving too fast today.

The weather this weekend was amazing - between 55 and 65 both days with mostly to partly cloudy. Just my kind of weather, I'm tellin' ya!

My Gamblers run was first for the weekend. At that time it was about 50 some degrees. Mum had a good plan - jump, walk, jump, frame, out jump then a right to the teeter, jump and teeter again, jump then up the frame - and then play around the jumps until the buzzer went off. The buzzer went off just as I was taking the jump after the frame. Mum was on my right and led me right into the first jump of the gamble. It was a great angle to the tunnel entrance (right). Because I was flying through the course (probably faster than I have ever run in competition), she was able to send me into jump and the tunnel of the gamble, so she had just enough time to run around the gamble box and pull me through the 3 jump, then turn me for jump 4.

We both have to say it was just beautiful!!!! One of our best runs ever. I was running wide in the opening and took a couple of extra jumps that Mum hadn't planned. That really paid off for this run 'cause it got us the one extra point we needed for 1st place! Woo Hoo!!!!! That was our second Gamble Q in Masters and to get a first was just so exciting!

Next up was Standard. We need two Standard Q's for our MAD title (Masters Agility Dog), so we really wanted this one. But it wasn't to be.

The opening 1-3 seemed a lot easier for big and small dogs than we had all expected. Mum led out a little, then front crossed after 2 to shoot me into the tunnel. The weave entrance after 5 (double) looks tough, but many mastered it well. Mum then did a rear cross over the jump to the walk. We've been working on rear crosses and her timing was good on this one. 9-12 went smoothly. I do running contacts so Mum decided to rear cross the jump before the chute. Her timing was really bad on that one and I got a refusal.

The rest of the course ran great. I've been slow on the teeter, so after my two in gamblers, Mum was pretty confident and ran past the teeter as I was on it to get a front cross in after the tire. That worked well. Her other plan if I was really fast on the teeter was to stay on the inside of jumps 18-19 and jump pull/push me through. It wasn't needed for us, but worked for many. Mum has taught me a great 'around', and it worked great for 18-19. But no Q, grrrrrr! So that also meant no possibility of the MAD title this weekend.

Next up was snooker. The course was great! With loads of Super Q potential for us anyway, no weaves to slow us down, and no teeters too. So we decided to go for the four reds. Mum watched a few others run and many were doing well, some not so well. But to get the Super Q, we definitely needed speed and tightness. So Mum worked me tight, so tight in fact that I back jumped into our second color. But I was speedy and we were both happy with that.

Sunday I started with Pairs. We were paired with a very energetic Jack Russell. And they went first. The only thing I have to say is if you want to get me to run fast, have me watch a fast JRT run before my run. Their run was clean and I was wantin' to herd that little guy. My turn came and I took off like a 'bat out of h@!!'. Took the first two jumps, and then the tunnel (oops I was supposed to take the frame). So Mum turned me around to get up the frame and I took two off course jumps in the process. Then was too psyched to do my weaves, tied again, nope no weaves. So, Mum just ran me through the rest of the course.

I was as wild as they can be, and Mum says it was my worst run ever!!! But I had loads of fun, and Mum was really glad to see the wild/fastness in me (she never discourages that, since I'm so meticulous anyway). Thank goodness we had an understanding partner!

Next up was Standard. We really wanted this one, 'cause it's just too much pressure to have to try to get two in a weekend. There was much discussion in the walk through about how to handle 4-9. Mum decided since I had been making my dogwalk contacts well in competition (although not in practice, lately) she would front cross after 4, treat 5-8 like a pinwheel, then front cross after 8 to get me into the correct tunnel entrance. She knew it was risky and that I may go for the weaves, but she hung back a bit and even though I looked at the weaves I made the correct tunnel.

The next real challenge was for Mum to get to the end of the tunnel (or at least give me a clue) to take the jump after. The tunnel was a bit straighter on the course than it looks on the map. So some pups had a bit of trouble getting that jump in. We made it. Mum did a post turn at the jump and sent me up the walk. After my nasty Pairs run and seemingly love for tunnels during that run, she paid particular attention to get me up the frame. For me at 16" the chute wasn't a problem, and big dogs didn't seem to have too much trouble, even though the entrance to the chute looks a bit nasty.

Mum held back for me to come out of the chute and sent me over 16 with a rear cross. Her timing was good this time and my teeter seemed faster, so she ran past it to get a front cross in before 18-20. She did make sure that the front cross wasn't right in front of the teeter, 'cause that's one of the things that we think is slowing me down. Worked well enough for a Q and a fourth place. Whew - now we don't have to get two in a weekend for the MAD, yeah!

Jumpers was the last run of the day. A potentially very speedy course. We ran well, but as is my past - I'm definitely not as speedy on my last run as my first. But it was fast enough for a second place Q. Jumpers is definitely my best event.

Now for Gracie!!!!!!

Mum has to say that from trial to trial this year she is definitely seeing improvement in Gracie's runs. She is still running off in the ring, but this weekend Gracie did an amazing thing. She came back to Mum - not once, not twice, but many times. And she had some real moments of greatness; as one of our friends that has watched many of our runs this year noted.

Mum was incredibly grateful to the judge in the starters ring this weekend. He was very kind in letting Mum and Gracie work through a few things, even to the point of getting Gracie back three times in one run.

We did notice a few new things that may give clues as to Gracie's state of mind at trials. One of the things Mum observed is her skittishness before her runs. If someone walks up behind her she actually jumps in the air. So Mum worked away from folks this weekend before the runs, playing with Gracie and having her 'work/play' for treats. Mum also talked very calmly to Gracie and rubbed on her belly, gave her lots of butt scratches, helping to calm Gracie (and Mum) down a bit. We think some of those things worked.

She is so incredibly awesome at practice, paying loads of attention to Mum and conquering courses like a pro. But she just looses it at competition. Many folks tell Mum she shouldn't be running Gracie at trials, but a few folks (including the judge this past weekend) says enter her in as many competitions and runs as possible to help her get used to it. Mum agrees with the later and will keep taking Gracie wherever we go.

There was a time when we thought Gracie was massively stressed at trials. And I think she was in the beginning. But now that Mum and Gracie have been working more as a 'team', observations point more toward Gracie just having loads of fun and wanting to play, play, play - running around the rings looking for whatever and whomever will play with her

So Mum has been working more and more playing with Gracie in the ring at practice. But making sure that Gracie plays with her, not anything or anyone else! So it's more of a team game.

Gracie had four runs this weekend. Her best 'moment of greatness' was in her final run of the weekend - Jumpers.

Many folks ask why Mum leads out with Gracie. Why doesn't she just run with her from the start. Well, Mum says that every time she has run with Gracie from the start she runs around the first jump and takes off. So Mum has been leading out, sometimes one, sometimes two and even sometimes past two jumps with Gracie. It just works and she has an amazing start line stay (Good Girl!). So Mum led out past the second jump on this Jumpers run.

Gracie ran around the first jump, but then took the second, third, fourth and fifth. Mum did a quickie front cross, and Gracie took 6 and 7. She almost blew past the chute, but at the last minute decided to take it, yeah!!!! She then took 10 and 11, and then Mum lost her, despite the fact she was yelling tunnel to Gracie before she even went over 10. Gracie ran behind the tunnel, came back around and took the opposite tunnel entrance, and then Mum totally lost her. She started zooming and landed at a smelly spot where Mum picked her up, gave her some kisses, thanked the judge and ran to the exit, carrying Gracie as Gracie licked Mum's face silly.

Funny thing- as Gracie was running for the smelly spot, Mum overheard several folks yelling - GUARD THE GATE, GUARD THE GATE!!!!! Mum is soooo grateful to all those cool folks who watch out for Gracie when she runs. She's getting pretty famous and well-known as the 'gotta guard the gate, dog'. Someday it won't be, fur sure!

Mum was really happy with Gracie's last run (and her performance overall this weekend), and thinks that since it was a more difficult jumpers course - which Gracie is more used to - it helped Gracie to focus on Mum loads more. So we're gonna set up courses that are big round wide circles, to get Gracie a little more used to what we see in trials. And hope that it helps her more!

Hope you all had a good weekend!!!!!!

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