Sunday, July 6, 2014

Post Nationals 2014

Where to start.  The Nationals were amazing.  The Queensland Nationals Committee did a great job in how they planned it and ran it.  The hotel was fantastic and super dog friendly and we had great weather.  But best of all I got to watch some truly amazing dog and handler combinations from around Australia and New Zealand push themselves to the limit. 

The competition started really well for Western Australia when the WA State Team totally kicked butt and won the teams competition beating NZ into second place.  Our best result ever.  We've come second a couple of time before including back in 2004 when Soda and I were on the team.  But we'd never managed that elusive first place.  The new team selection process where dogs are selected based on consistency rather than wins is definitely a much better way of picking our team.

Day one for me was also a great start.  Cassie came out in her first run and easily won her Excellent Agility class.  She was almost 10 seconds clear of second place even with a very tentative first two obstacles.  Cassie also ran happily in Masters Jumping but lacked focus for the first half so we DQ'd.  I had thought perhaps we would be OK but on Day 2 when we didn't have any classes I took her to the practice ring and she did not want to do agility at all!  And that was pretty much the way it played for the rest of the Nationals.  I could get her over the first couple of jumps but then she would shut down and either try and hide in the tunnel or completely disengage from me and wander off.  Fortunately I did manage to get her around the Strategic Pairs Excellent course with Ashleigh and Spirit.  I was so worried that we would let them down but Cassie although not at full strength handled the bits she had to do.  So we ended up in second place.  Pretty great all things considered.

Sonic on the other hand was a very happy boy.  I ran him in all the Masters Jumping classes and just the one Masters Agility class and his body held up beautifully.  Unfortunately he had a bar down in two of his JDM runs and the little bugger missed his dog walk contact in agility.  Which was a huge shame as in each of them he would easily have qualified for finals.  I was really excited by the times he was running.  He was about two seconds off first place in all of them.  Given that he can't turn and power out of his corners like the other fast dogs he did a great job.  It was the first Nationals that I hadn't made a final with him.  I don't know what I would have done without him.  He appears to still be OK so I'll give him a couple of weeks break from everything but his normal exercise.  Then we'll get back into the body strengthening work and hopefully do some Masters Jumping runs over the rest of the year.  I think the mistake I made after Albany was getting straight back into training but I want to make sure that this time his body has a proper break.

Aside from my own runs it was exciting and inspiring watching some of the other dogs run.  WA is certainly top of the agility game in Australia.  On the whole the handling and skills of the dogs was so impressive.  I was feeling very proud.  For the most part the courses were lovely.  I enjoyed every one I ran with Sonic.  This was the first time I'd run completely separate courses for Cassie.  At home the 200's run the same courses as every other height.  But at Nationals they are designing and setting courses for the individual heights.  I have to say I was a little surprised to see how tiny and tight some of the courses were.  If Cassie was in the mood to run I'm sure she would have handled them OK but I found them cramped and claustrophobic.  If I had a 200 height dog that trotted around the course I may have felt differently but I have to say I love seeing Cassie stretch out.  Something she would have struggled to do on those courses.  I personally don't think that a 200 course should be like that and I'm relieved that I don't have to experience them on a regular basis when I trial at home. 

It was also great to  check out some of the other dogs.  Given that I'm looking for a new border collie pup it was interesting to see the dogs that are winning. In most cases the same dogs/kennels who were winning in NSW 2012.  Looks like there may be a few litters coming up over the next 12 months so hopefully I'll find what I'm looking for.

There is a part of me that is very relieved that the Nationals are over.  With everything that has gone wrong with Cassie in the ring I was finding it really stressful not knowing what was going to happen.  Not to mention that I didn't actually want to trial her.  But it seemed crazy to not at least try.  Now I can pull her out of the ring and just focus on working through it without the pressure of big events.  I honestly don't care if she's not in the ring for the rest of year.  I just want to get through it.  So I've signed up for the latest Susan Garrett's Recallers.  I did Recallers a couple of years ago but I think it will be a great opportunity to have a structured course to follow.  That will take me through the next month and then I'll decide what's next.  I've also decided that I need to be way stricter.  Ok yes, I admit that I spoil her.  She gets attention when she wants, treats just because she's cute and the run of the house.  That has all stopped.  I'm making her earn everything she gets and for stuff around the home it's a biscuit if she's lucky.  More often than not its a pat and "good girl".  No more something for nothing....  Fizz is being subject to the same new rules.  It's our own fault.  We've let them run amok for too long and it has to stop.  Fizz gives the boys a really hard time including running and snapping at their faces when they are quietly minding their own business in their crates.  But no more.  Time to engage her brain and stop letting her rehearse shitty behaviour.  I've seen an improvement in some things already but it's going to be a long road I suspect and I'm going to have to work very hard with Cassie.  Hopefully at some point in the future I'll be able to trial her again and recreate the joy for agility that I know she has.