Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Rear cross practice

I finally got a chance to run the rear cross drill I posted last week. It had rained several days before we left for Utah and then Summit had two days off from agility training. So this morning, we ran all the rear cross sequences. The first two (blue and green paths) were very straightforward and doable. No problems. The next two were more challenging. The purple and red paths show how I cued each turn. These paths are very general as I'm not absolutely positive exactly "where" I was when I began lateral motion.But they show the basic idea.

To get the turn to the red jump, I needed to use deceleration followed by lateral motion to get the tighter turn. For the purple jump, I started lateral motion and the rear cross sooner so that I could then set a line to the purple jump. Neither of these were easy and I spent at least twenty minutes playing around with where I started lateral motion, location of the RC's, and the line I needed to set following the RC.

I also worked Sage on some of the other sequences (from the May Clean Run issue - Backyard Dogs) and she was perfect as usual. I SO need a puppy to train!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tournaments, bars, and "I hate Snooker!"

Driving to Salt Lake City for an outdoor trial in April? Am I crazy?

Well after a long drive in some scary weather, we arrived safely in Utah to enjoy a fun trial put on by a great club. We had perfect weather all weekend, and got to run challenging courses designed by one of my favorite judges.

I specifically travelled to this trial to hopefully earn a Grand Prix Q for the Rocky Mountain Regionals in June. We do not have many USDAA trials in Colorado and those GP Q's are hard.

Summit Q'd in Grand Prix with a 2nd place! Q'd in Steeplechase round 1 with a 2nd place! Q'd in Masters Standard with a 2nd place! Q'd in Relay (6th? our partner had two faults). and had the fastest time in Steeplechase finals, dropped a bar (more on that later), and still placed 5th. Gamblers was the last class on Sunday and since the gamble was not something I train my dogs to do, we decided to leave after Masters Standard and get over the pass before dark in case of another snow storm.

Summit earned his TM (Tournament Master) and SAM (Standard Agility Master) titles this weekend

He dropped only two bars the entire weekend. Saturday morning he dropped a bar in Jumpers. I wasn't surprised. It was the third bar at the beginning of the course that involved a 90 degree turn (pull) from a double. The grass was soaking wet from all the rain/snow the previous day and very thick. There were many bars coming down that morning.

The second bar was in the Steeplechase Finals on Sunday. I had rotated out of a front cross at the end of the weavepoles and flung my inside arm up in the air to cue the slightly off set jump and of course the bar came down. Breaking the flinging arm habit is obviously still a work in progress.

I was very aware of the timing and placement of my front crosses this weekend. I maintained eye contact, waited for my dog to commit to the jump before I started to rotate, I practiced rotating smoothly (no spin and go) and practiced PATIENCE. I got in several tough FC's this weekend (three FM FC's, and a FC landing side of a triple) without a single dropped bar. I think I am getting it! And Summit is obviously happy that I am finally getting it as he posted some VERY fast course times and the bars stayed up.

So he is now qualified to run in all three tournament classes at Regionals and is one GP leg away from being fully qualified for Nationals.

Sage was only entered in Jumpers Saturday morning (lovely run and a Q) and Snooker on Sunday. The Snooker course was tough to plan a flowing course and I knew that this was not going to be a course on which Sage could get a SQ. I planned a pretty tough strategy for Summit (and totally botched it) and so both Sage and Summit had ZERO points in Snooker. Both dogs took the same wrong course tunnel instead of the last jump of the 7-point combo (jump, weaves, jump). Of course, my lateral motion pushing out of the weaves cued the tunnel not the jump. I almost scratched Sage from the class but decided to just go for it anyway and it was the only class she was entered in. I really dislike Snooker (probably because I'm not very good at it) but I'm determined to improve my skills. It would just be nice if we actually got to practice playing Snooker more than six times a year. Maybe I can hire a professional Snooker handler for Sage's last Super Q?

The venue will be the same location for the Regionals. It was a great site with thick grass, lot's of open space for dogs to play, and a creek at the back of the field. It was quite warm on Saturday and after every run, Summit and I would race down to the creek and he would jump in and lay down (he loves water).

This Friday I have a Masters Handling seminar with Joan Meyer. This weekend we'll be hiking in the mountains (weather permitting).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

More training and USDAA this weekend

Monday we spent the day clearing the agility field. Then using the tractor, aerated the entire field. Yesterday after work, I set up the box drill from the May Clean Run (Backyard dogs). This is another set up that I can leave up for a week and practice many different skills. The jumps are at 22" since I have a USDAA trial in Utah this weekend.

I've really been focusing on staying more connected with Summit when executing front crosses. Maintaining indirect eye contact and keeping my arms and motion as smooth as possible. I think I've gotten into some sloppy habits while handling Sage because she is so forgiving. She rarely ever drops bars. Summit on the other hand is very "twitchy" and anything abrubt on my part will take a bar down. On the plus side, this means he rarely ever has a wrong course.

I also set up this drill in order to practice rear crosses which is another skill I could improve with Mr. Summit.

Off to Salt Lake City on Friday for a two-day USDAA trial. Hoping to get a GP or Steeplechase qualifier for Nationals.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Puppies and bars

Very disappointing news on the puppy front. The x-ray showed no puppies and was confirmed when the due date passed and no puppies were born. I feel so bad for the breeder as she was really excited about this cross. I feel bad for me too.


Based on advice I received on the APHS Forum from Linda, I've dropped the bars down to 20" when training Summit. I expected since I'd been jumping him at 24" during training, that he would easily keep the bars up at 20" - not necessarily. He dropped a couple of bars on Tuesday, and one bar this morning. I found that my timing was a little off as well. It is definately much easier to handle a fast dog jumping 24" than it is 20". That extra split-second of "hang time" really helps. So from now on, when I'm practicing handling, Summit will jump 20". Once in a while, I will work simple drills at 24".

Feedback from the three training sessions this week. Contributing factors to dropped bars:

1. Sudden changes in motion (mostly acceleration)
2. When cueing a Forward Send, not being patient and waiting for committment and reconnecting with my dog (this was feedback I received at the February seminar too).
3. Eye contact. Especially when executing FM FC's. Again, staying connected instead of run, spin, and run.

So thanks to the helpful comments I received from blog readers. I was able to isolate some of the things I was doing that contributed to a dropped bar. Once I smooth out my handling and learn not to rush (patience!), I think I will see fewer dropped bars in competition.

I set up the jumpers course from the April Clean Run (Annie Pyle's article). I love this course. There are so many different ways to handle it and plenty of options for practicing crosses, sends, deceleration, etc.

I also ran Sage on the same sequences. She and I are so in-sync. She of course ran them perfectly each time. Except for contacts (which we are still in the process of retraining), there is not a lot of training or practicing that Sage needs.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Weekend results - 1 bar

Summit had some awesome runs this weekend at the Mile High Golden Retriever Club AKC trial. The judges were Katherine Leggett and Terry Smorch. Both judges put out some very challenging courses that were designed to really test a variety of skills. I loved running all the courses this weekend and Summit and I did very well on them. I was very happy to see he had the skills to run all the courses clean. My intentions this weekend were to reinforce the stop and wait on the contacts since I'd been quick releasing Summit on the contacts last weekend in USDAA.

However, he dropped one bar in Friday's jumpers, Saturday's Standard, and Sunday's jumpers. This of course meant no double Q's. Which is disappointing considering how nice his runs were but for the one bar.

I've been watching our videos and really trying to see if I'm doing anything to cause the bar. I don't think I am. I have noticed that he tends to drop a bar while jumping in extension (as opposed to collection). I can cue collection and ask him to jump into me (convergence) which is a difficult skill - and he easily keeps the bars up (see Sunday's standard run - serpentine). He looks like sometimes he flattens out when he's in extension and maybe not picking his feet up?????

I jump him at 24" when we are training and he has a nice rounded form (he respects the bar) and rarely ever drops one. I am still going back and forth about moving him up to the 24" class but I'm not possitive that would "fix" it. However, it might start making him THINK about jumping rather than running over 20" speed bumps.

All in all, I'm very happy with how we handled the courses this weekend and confirmed we have many of the advanced skills to tackle these challenges.

Friday's Jumpers run - 1 bar

Friday's Standard run - Qualifying run. I stepped forward too soon at the start and Summit had a wide turn to the tunnel. I also wasted time after the a-frame. Summit released himself from the a-frame and I marked it. I was ready for that to happen though I wasn't fast enough and marked it after he took the jump. I think he knew what he was being marked for since I only use the "uh oh" for self-releasing contacts.

Saturday's Jumpers run - I overhandled the tunnel by picking up my outside arm briefly to pull him in (not really needed) and he pulled in all right, past the tunnel entrance. Otherwise a nice run.

Saturday's Standard run - 1 bar
This was a tough opening (very tight) and then many dogs took the wrong course jump instead of the teeter. Handlers motion was restricted by the weavepoles.

Sunday's Jumpers run - 1 bar

Sunday's Standard run - 1st place. I loved running this course and enjoyed the challenges. Many dogs NQ'd (especially fast dogs). The dogwalk/tunnel descrimination, the serpentine after the chute, and the ending with another dogwalk/tunnel discrimination and if the handler wasn't there to push the line from the yellow tunnel to yellow jump at the end, the dog's shot out and curled to the left and either ran by the yellow jump or took the wrong course red jump.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Summit wins Steeplechase Finals and Sage earns her Master Gamblers title

It was a fun USDAA weekend. The first thing Saturday morning, Sage earned that last Gamblers leg for her Master Gamblers title! We've been working on this one for two years now. Between the small number of local USDAA shows and the fact that distance work is difficult for Sage, I'm quite happy that we've finally finished this title. Sage now only needs one Super Q for her ADCH. Sunday, the 7-point obstacle was a jump-weaves combination and so although she qualified, she did not get a Super Q. She was only entered in two classes plus Steeplechase. She missed the a-frame contact in Steeplechase so did not make the cut - off for the finals.

Summit had a very good weekend although he started out with dropping one bar in two of the earlier classes; Masters Standard and Grand Prix. But those were the only two bars out of the eight classes he was entered in. He qualified in Gamblers in the morning. Had a great run in Standard (one bar), had another nice run in GP (one bar) and placed third in Pairs, and then had a nice run in Steeplechase for a 5th place and qualifying for the finals. Sunday he had another nice run in Standard and placed 3rd, Q'd in Snooker. We had completed all three (could only attempt 3 of the 4 reds) 7-point combo and were finishing the closing when he took a red jump after the first jump of #7. So close!  That afternoon, he ran a smokin' fast time in Steeplechase to win the finals.

I am really noticing a big difference in Summit's weavepole entries since I've been training with the 2x2's. In Snooker, there was so much distance between the red jumps and the weaves that I had to send him 20-30 feet ahead of me to the weaves. Twice he approached the weaves at a bad angle, self-corrected his angle of approach and nailed the entry. This was so amazing to watch! You could see that he clearly understoon how to FIND the entry.

We have AKC this coming weekend. And puppy news..... she is due on April 12th!