I've learned something about myself this week. Don't worry, it's not something mushy and full of rainbows and cupcakes. I learned that I really, really prefer USDAA trials. Like, not just with my logical head, but subconsciously too. All week I've been so excited about Keystone coming up, and getting to run in all the classes (except Pairs), and have fun pushing Kiba and running Seri again. Last time I had an AKC trial coming up I didn't feel excited at all, just slightly anxious hoping my dogs could run clean twice in a day. That's not such a great feeling! So I've learned that I love USDAA. I already knew I wouldn't be doing much AKC next year (I will do a couple of the local ones that fall on free weekends - such as early in the spring and over the summer). But now I'm settling into being comfortable with that decision. Clearly all of me wants to do USDAA.
As for revising the plan - after speaking with Drifter's PT we haven't ruled out jumping 26" just yet. After all the first time he pulled this muscle was last September when he had been jumping 22" for 2 months straight, so we can't say it's the jump height alone that did it this time. More likely it was just a fluke of wet grass and the way he jumps (he goes full extension quite a lot, with a hard snap of the rear legs back to landing, which is a motion that works the iliopsoas muscle quite hard). So the plan is to rest him (with laser, ice, leash walking) for the next week or so, and if he's looking sound I'll slowly ramp him back up to cantering/galloping on a relatively straight line, and then probably the few days between Fair Hill and when we leave I will do a few easy jumping sequences with him and see how he fares. I am very fortunate that I didn't have any big issues to quick-fix before Nationals. He's pretty solid on everything, although he's still not as consistent as I'd like - but you can't fix that in 2 weeks anyway. Long term he is already entered in 4 AKC trials in November at 24". Remember that he's run 24" from early July all the way through September with no issues whatsoever, so I don't think that bothers him. After those are done I will put the jumps back up to 26 and start training a little harder again, run him at the MADness trial New Years weekend at 26, then get him evaluated in January to see how he looks after 6 weeks or so of jumping 26 all the time. If he is sore or pulls his muscle or pelvis, he will go right back down. If he is FINE and the muscle was unrelated to height, then I will leave him up and attend AKC/FCI Tryouts and try for IFCS with him. I hate using a wait and see approach but really there's nothing else I can do at this point unless I want to give up on 26 right now, but even the PT seemed to think it was worth waiting. He's only just turned 6, he's generally quite sound aside from the minor toe issue (his shoulders and wrists are FABULOUS and aside from one time after Perry his back has also been strong).
Another thing of note is that more and more I am truly enjoying running Kiba. (or "Giblet" as she's affectionately referred to around the house - yes it's weird). I was really able to push her hard in GP last weekend and it was great to have her come through for me. I am looking forward to Nationals (so excited that I could potentially have TWO dogs in 22" GP Finals!!) and looking forward to next year trying for IFCS with her. When she was a pup I never, ever would have guessed she'd be outrunning dogs 2" taller with handlers 5mph faster than me. This is a dog who stares at the ceiling half the day and would roll over or run away if I said "No" when training her. She's worked through a lot (now I actually have to lie her down if she's wrong!) and turned out to be quite the little dynamo.
And Seri has a bright future too, but she'll be learning the ropes in 2009. I hope to qualify her and take her to Nationals, but I won't be pushing her to win at Regionals yet. I'd like her to be attentive and perform as asked properly before allowing her enough rein to really run full-out. She's just that kind of dog.