Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Mistake A Piece

Team Marge's successful streak hit a bit of a bump yesterday, when both members of our team had one mistake each.

Our Standard run was Marge's first run of the day (I had already run Arrow in Jumpers, where we took one lonely bar down).

The course was tough, with some questionable obstacle approaches and a really hard end line.  The qualifying rate was very, very low.

Our run started out fine as we passed our first big challenge, a flip in to a tunnel, without an issue.  We continued until we reached the teeter.  Marge barreled up it and then leaped from the center.  If you watch the video closely, you can see the judge tilt her head, probably thinking about whether to mark it a failure or not.  I'm not sure if Marge had a foot in the yellow contact zone at the end of the board or not.

The table came directly after the teeter.  Great, a place to stop and regroup... or not!  Marge hopped on the table and hopped immediately off.  And that's what we NQ'd on.  A table fault.  UGH.

The rest of the run was okay... not wonderful, but okay.  Marge keeps coming off of her A-Frame prematurely, which I do not like.

Then, in Jumpers, I was confident that we'd at least pick up some points, since we wouldn't walk away with a double Q on the day.  I guess I was too confident.. because although we worked beautifully together for the rest of the run, I pulled Marge right off of the #5 jump when I called her name too soon.  UGH.  Bad handler.

It's hard not to be frustrated by small and seemingly tiny mistakes like this now that we're working at such a high level and running so darn well at trials.  Of course, I am still proud of our efforts, but I know that I need to be more careful to avoid things like what I did in our Jumpers run. We'll be back out in 2 weeks for three straight days of trialing, where I hope to finally finish off that pesky MX Standard title, pick up a bunch of points and maybe a double Q.

We had a great time at the trial despite our mistakes.  Marge got to see some of her friends and made new ones, too. Look at this adorable Finnish Spitz puppy that Marge met at the trial.  He's owned by a friend of mine, who competes with one of her other Finnish Spitz.  Marge typically does not do well with puppies, but she was infatuated with this little guy and actually let him climb all over her while she was flat on her side!  Can you believe it?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

When Agility Makes Me Cry

I didn't get a chance to blog about it, but Arrow earned her final MXJ leg under my handling on March 30.

Some backstory: I have been showing Arrow for almost two years.  I ran her just for fun in a Jumpers run in June of 2011; I wound up with a blackened thumb, since I had no tugging experience, and we totally destroyed the course.  I had never run her before, but it was a lot of fun. I eventually began to run her in class and started to handle her at some shows. She needed two more MXJ legs to get her title.

She and I began to do pretty well in Standard, picking up a few legs, but Jumpers continued to be a problem.  With no place to stop and regroup, like a table or contact obstacle, I often wound up out of place, Arrow got faster and crazier, and bars inevitably came down.

We qualified ONCE in Jumpers in June 2012, but the dry spell otherwise continued, until this year.

I felt kind of silly, but I truly and honestly cried when I left the ring. I was more emotional after this agility run than I have ever been before. I think it was just the combination of working on it for so long and never expecting that it would happen this day, during this run, our first trial back of the year.

The real kicker is that Arrow went back out the following day and qualified AGAIN in Jumpers.  Two Jumpers Q's back to back?  After struggling for so long?  She would have it no other way.

Arrow has been an amazing teacher to me.  Handling Marge is really pretty easy; I point her in the right direction, and she goes.  Handling Arrow is another story.  Timing, verbal cues, arm position.. everything matters.  She always tries her hardest, but if I'm too close to a jump, the bar comes down.  If I take my eye off of her, she's 5 jumps away in an instant.  And if I call her in mid air?  She instantly folds herself in half to come towards me.. but takes the bar with her.  

Marge also really enjoys her company at trials - I credit Arrow (and Spirit) with teaching Marge to settle in just about any agility setting.  Marge thinks nothing of walking in to a new trial site nowadays.

Arrow is 12 years old. She is obviously in impeccable shape for her age. But, now that she has both of her Masters titles, she'll be running at a jump height 4 inches lower, in the Preferred classes.  It'll be easier on her body and our hope is that more bars will stay up.. though it does mean that she'll be running faster, so I'd better be prepared to keep up.

Her Preferred debut will hopefully be Saturday.  I'm being given quite a welcome to the world of showing two dogs at two jump heights - Marge's Standard class and Arrow's Jumpers class are running at the exact same time, first thing in the morning!

Photo by M. Nicole Fischer Photography
I am so thankful to have had this experience and am excited to start a new chapter!

Monday, April 8, 2013

April Agility Overnighter

This past weekend, Louie, Marge and I ventured to a brand new trial site in Pitman, NJ.  It was an indoor turf arena that I really liked.  The footing was great and there were some nice places to take walks.  I have reservations about trialing there this summer since the area where the agility rings are located is not air conditioned, but it was a really cool place for a trial.

Marge was very successful yet again, earning QQ #6 on Saturday.

There's not too much negative to be said about two qualifying runs, but I do think I could have tightened things up a bit and made my cues more clear.. like, for example, on the wrap at the end of the Jumpers run, where Marge takes the turn really wide because I did not cue the wrap at all.  Between these two runs, Marge came away with 26 more points, and reached a new high for number of points in a single run (16).  This Standard run was Marge's 9th MX leg.

Sunday, we were on the line for our MX.  But, I flubbed things up...

I sent Marge off course over the jump after the dog walk by rushing things.  I could have a) front crossed after the dog walk or b) shaped the turn like a rear cross.. instead, Marge did not read any change in direction of motion and followed my right arm to the nearest jump.  Bad handler!

We got things together in Jumpers later on Sunday afternoon.  That Jumpers run was my favorite run of the weekend.. from the bold lead-out to the many front crosses, I really like how we worked together on this one.  A few turns could have been tightened up, but to qualify on this course and earn 9 points.. I was happy with how things went.

And we had a great time when we weren't doing agility, too.  Though we missed Arrow, who had the weekend off, Marge enjoyed sprawling out at the hotel.

She also hung out and took walks with her best pal, Spirit.

Posing with her QQ loot:

Our efforts this weekend boosted us to 2 QQs, 6 Qs, and 68 MACH points on the year.  Over all, Marge now has 6 QQs, 9 MX legs, 19 MXJ legs, and 235 MACH points.

We'll take next weekend off, then head out for one day of outdoor trialing in Willingboro, NJ the following weekend.  I hope our good luck and solid teamwork continues!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Where We Stop, No One Knows!

This weekend marked Marge's return to the agility ring after a nearly 5-month hiatus from trialing and a 6-week break from heavy agility training (due to my surgery).  It seemed like we were destined for a rough weekend, especially considering that Marge has not seen a contact obstacle since November.  Seems Marge had other plans!


Standard was up first on Saturday.  The course was tricky, with a weave pole entrance that everyone thought was very challenging.  The rest of the course had wonderful flow. Marge ran the course beautifully, but missed the weave pole entrance.  I was originally going to pull her out of the poles and have her re-start them, but because she was so determined and moving so quickly, I decided that it wasn't worth it to risk demotivating her for a run that would have been an NQ either way.

I think I should have slowed down more and perhaps shaped the weave pole entrance as you would shape a rear cross.  I think our fault here just came down to lack of experience with this type of challenging entry.

We did have a successful Jumpers run and scored 9 points.  This was Marge's 15th Masters Jumpers leg. I really liked this run, particularly the cross behind the weave poles.  It's such a cool skill to show off :)

We were wildly successful on Sunday.  Once again, Standard was first; once again, we smoked the course, only this time, we qualified for 14 points.  I was thrilled with the way she moved around the course. This is Marge's 8th Masters Standard leg, which means we only need two more for our MX title.

My instructor did point out that she thinks I released her a bit too quickly on the A-Frame; you can't see in the video, but she was adjusting her stride to hit the 2o2o and I released her before she could even get in to the position.  To avoid missed contacts, my instructor wants me to hold her a bit longer.
I also think that I ate up a lot of time because of how slowly I crossed in front of the teeter; I think I could have chopped a second off of our time by doing that more quickly.

Later in the day, we qualified in Jumpers for 10 points.  This course was a lot of fun.  Marge was a little pokey in the beginning, as she seems to often be at the beginning of a Jumpers run, but then picked up speed later in the course.  It was fun to be able to layer the jump before the tunnel and to do so successfully.
New totals: 5 QQs, 8 MX legs, 16 MXJ Legs, 200 MACH points!
And, in our quest to qualify for AKC Nationals, Marge now has 33 of the required 500 points, 3 of the required 20 Q's, and 1 of the required 4 QQ's!  If she keeps running like this, we may have a shot at it.
The nicest thing is how happy Marge looks in these videos.  I think the time off actually did us some good.. Marge was very happy to be out trialing and her performance reflected that.  It's hard to believe that 3 years ago, at this very trial, Marge made her Novice debut.
Stay tuned for next weekend, when we try out a brand new indoor sports venue.  Hopefully, two more days of shows yields some more great results!

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