Thursday, April 25, 2013

State Agility 2013

I was really looking forward to this years State Trial.  With Sonic running pretty well and of course it was Cassie's first States I was excited about two fun full days of competition.  Day one was pretty good with Sonic going clear in both Masters Agility classes but no luck in Masters Jumping although I was happy with both runs.  No quallies with Cassie but she was really enjoying herself and so close to getting that first Q.  On Sunday the dogs were all fresh and ready to go with Cassie bright and sparkly.  Her first run was in Novice Jumping and she flew around the course totally outsprinting me.  She has really got the drive home down and showed me a clean set of paws.  Although she did swing wide of the tunnel entrance before going in the judge gave us a clear round for her first ever Q and first place qualifying her for the Novice Jumping final!  Sonic also had a good morning getting that elusive clear round in Masters Jumping.  So by lunchtime I was pretty happy having qualified my dogs for three out of four finals. 

Unfortunately from there the day went downhill.  There was apparently an issue with the computer system which meant we waited around for about five hours before results were given and finals started.  The biggest disappointment was the way it was handled.  There was no communication with competitors about what was going on and from what I can gather there were situations that weren't managed particularly well and some decisions made that were surprising.  What should have been an awesome afternoon of competing and watching some of the top dogs and handlers in Australia pushing themselves to the limit turned into a frustratingly long wait.  Once the finals finally started I ran Cassie in the Novice Jumping final.  Although she was pretty tired by this stage she still ran like a superstar and we just had a refusal at the tunnel which was really my fault as I got in her way trying to make sure she got the tunnel entry.  By the time the Masters Agility final was running it was raining and as I watched everyone pushing for top speed all I could think of was my shoes were not up to me sprinting in this weather without a big risk of sliding over.  Then on top of that Sonic had only been given the all clear from injury that week and of course I'm going to Europe for the World Agility Open in two weeks.  With all that on my mind I had a bad gut feeling about it.  Next thing I know Lyrik comes flying off the side of the dog walk and that decided it for me.  So I scratched Sonic from both the Masters Agility and Masters Jumping finals.  So to say I'm disappointed about how it panned out is an understatement.  I hope there is a "Lessons Learned" discussion after what happened to prevent another such disaster but all I heard afterwards was lots of blaming so I'm not overly optimistic.

The State Trial was the last competition for me before we head overseas for WAO.  I think it will be good for Cassie to have a break and the pressure off as we were working really hard to try and be ready for the States.  As it happened I think she is still another couple of months away from being competely "ready" for the ring.  I'm 90% pleased with her skill level but her weavers and A-frame are not quite where I want them.  At home she's great but I need to spend more time at training working on those things so she gains confidence.  There are no other major events this year so it really doesn't matter how long it takes for us to get back out there.  I have so much fun running her though I hope I won't take too long.  I'm also still not convinced Sonic is right.  Although his runs were good over the weekend and he is handling like a dream when I watch the video back I don't like what his hindquarters are doing over some of the jumps and there is an element of power missing.  So something is going on.  He has a break now too so when I get back I'll work on his fitness levels and see if increased conditioning makes a difference.  If not I'll look at things from a more medical level.  It goes without saying that I hope it's nothing serious.  I love running that dog and he loves doing agility.  It would be heartbreaking if there is a physical problem that means he can't do agility anymore.

On the up side I am the fittest and healthiest I've been in ages.  On our weight loss and exercise program I've lost almost 5kgs, am fitting into clothes I haven't worn for years and I can run (apparently not faster than a papillon though...).  It's going to make such a difference at WAO.  Last year I never managed to get anywhere near as fit as I wanted but this year it's all gone to plan for a change.  Got my new Asics runners and I'm ready for action!!!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Birthday Girl

The Fizzy Bear turned one year old this week.  Can't believe my youngest is a year old!  Time flies by so quickly.  I'm the first to admit that I haven't done very much with Fizz as yet but in saying that she is very immature and a touch on the soft side thanks to her father's genes so not rushing her is without a doubt the best thing for her. 

I was a bit worried about her softness to begin with but with patience and lots of rewarding she is now really enjoying her training and loves getting out there.  Getting her to drive to a toy is funny because she bounces to it and then pounces on the toy but she's confident and happy which is what's important.  The extent of her agility training thus far is a jump, tunnel, jump combination (200 height jumps).  The only other thing I've been focusing on is getting her to drive to my side and building value for reinforcement zone.  It's taken a while but for the first time last week she was driving off her hindquaters to my side.  Small steps but all progress.

Colin is going to give herding a try with her.  When she's been running with the other dogs she has been showing a lot of natural herding moves so I think it will be good for her.  Plus it's something that Colin can do with her that won't interfere with her agility training.  Today Colin had a lesson just about moving stock to get the idea and then after the State Trial we'll head back out so Fizz can have a go on sheep for the first time.  I'm hoping it may help with her confidence too.  You never know I may even dust Riot off and put him back on sheep too!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

It's Agility Time

Yesterday saw Cassie's first ever run in the novice agility class.  On the drive there I was feeling a little apprehensive about my decision to enter her.  Firstly she had never done any agility at the Cloverdale grounds so she had never been on their equipment before and secondly it was her first day trial and the weather forecast was for 30 degrees.  Needless to say there were many "what was I thinking moments".  Aside from that I was keen to see how she'd go.  I've done so much work on her contacts and her confidence that it was hard not to be excited to see how she would handle it. 

All in all I think the day was a success.  No clear rounds but she was happy, fast and confident.  With the warm afternoon a lot of the little dogs were barely breaking out of a trot in the jumping course but she ran just as fast as she normally would.  Her contacts were very good in the mornings agility class and no slowing down as I thought might happen when she realised it was all new.  The only piece of equipment that she didn't do well was the weavers.  She just didn't switch onto the entry at all and wanted to enter half way through.  We made a second attempt for the same result so I kept going and we'll endevour to get a load more work done on those in the next couple of weeks.  She is still running past jumps and sometimes I feel like I'm really hanging around to make sure she fully commits but in saying that I made some dumb handling decisions with her and I can't help but think that contributed towards it.

We have the State Agility Trial in two weeks.  I have no idea how that is going to go and I'm not overly confident that it will be a roaring success but I like the fact that we get more than one go in both agility and jumping with three classes of each up for grabs to try and qualify for finals.  She will only improve the more she's out there.  That will be the last trial we do before Colin and I make our way  back over to Europe for this years World Agility Open so Cassie will have a big break until June when we are back.  I think that break will likely do her good and it wouldn't surprise me if she comes out even more confident.

Speaking of the World Agility Open I have to say I'm very excited about competing in Spain this year.  I have been very lucky in being given the opportunity to run a dog by the name of Hydro who is owned by Lizzie Langwade in the UK.  Hydro is a lovely four and a half year old border collie beautifully trained by Lizzie and is currently competing in Grade 7 agility in the UK.  Hydro and Lizzie have been doing really well themselves, recently winning the Senior Agility class at Crufts.  It is great to know that I just have to focus on running him well as he certainly knows his job thanks to Lizzie's great training.  Here is the video of Hydro winning at Crufts.