30 November 2009

So I'm pretty sure nobody who reads this cares, but anyway:

I am going to cancel my partial season tickets for the Phillies. If you ARE interested, leave me a comment and I'll email you. They are the Sunday plan, which is 14 games, all on the weekends, and you get rights to playoff tickets in the fall.

28 November 2009

Titles are shallow and pedantic.

Spent the last week or so doing a whole LOT of nothing with the dogs. Ran them in the backyard here and there. Taught the first session of the new classes, in our rented wonderful indoor horse arena. Hopefully it will continue to work out over the winter. It's a lovely sand/rubber mixture, that is not too deep and not too shallow, and they drag it to keep it even.

I did notice when I tried to run Seri on a couple courses Wednesday that she pretty much just refused to collect when asked so I stopped asking and put her back in the car. Collection exercises it is for a few weeks! Seri does this sometimes; her natural state of being is "EXTEND!" so I have to counteract that by working on collection and respecting my space with her. She won't run me over, but she definitely conveniently forgets all the lead-out collection work she's done sometimes. That's OK. Kiba actually went through a stage like this as well. At home on one jump Seri is remembering very nicely what to do, so I'm integrating more movement into the equation to make it more exciting. She'll get there.

I decided not to give Seri much time off from agility (aside from the week or so she already had to recover from the hard ground and long drive). She's due in heat end of December or early January, and I will probably send her to go live upstairs with my parents again, so she won't really get any work during that 3-week period aside from running with my mom's dogs in the yard or at class, so that will be her break. Drifter and Kiba are on break now, hiking and running but no serious agility training. I sent them over the dogwalk a few times Wednesday, and did some one-jump stuff in the yard at 12" and 16", but that's about the extent of what they'll do for a couple more weeks. I want to let their muscles recover with no repetitive pounding on them for a bit. Today we'll hit the park and go for a brief (60-90 min) hike, on leash (because it's Saturday and people may be out).

USDAA released their official point standings to team contenders. It affirms what everyone thought; 3 of us are tied for the 2nd and 3rd spots on the 26" IFCS Team. First tiebreaker is dogs defeated during the four 4-star trials attended. I win that! Drifter's average was about 10 dogs more than the next dog, who was about 10 dogs more than the 3rd dog, so that clearly breaks the tie. It kind of works out weird, and while I do feel like my dog performed well at the leading up events AND at Cynosports, of the other 2 dogs, the dog who won't make the team did better in AZ than the dog who will. They both did well at the smaller events, it just happens that one did better at larger events than the other. I am glad this came into play, but at the same time, the person who didn't make it DOES happen to live in a part of the country that just doesn't have competition. Not sure if I feel bad though. I had to beat a LOT more dogs to get my points than they did, so I guess it all works out in the end. My conclusion is; I'm really glad I made the team, I feel that I worked hard to earn it, including my very LAST run where I had to hang on to tie (glad I didn't know THAT going in!!). But I do think the point-earning system could use a bit more refining. There's still something not *quite* right about it. Hmm.

Anyway, USDAA hasn't made the phone calls yet, but there's no reason to think I won't get one!

Yes this is a rambling post, more than I have been putting up lately! And I'm not done.
After every large event i tend to look at what I did and didn't do well, whether I think my dogs are on the right "career path", and what I plan to do with them in the future.

A summary of my thoughts-
Drifter - as I've come to expect from him (with one exception - Tryouts) he continued to perform extremelly well under pressure. He came off his minor injury very well, only hit one bar all week, and brought home some ribbons, medals, a trophy, a shirt, and a world team berth. That said, I think IFCS is his last hurrah at 26". He is 7 years old, he is barely 20" tall, and he has a short, low-set neck. He can be fabulous at that height, but he is more fabulous at the lower heights. We will attend 2010 AKC Nationals at 20" as planned, and 2010 Cynosports at 22". This means Drifter will have to tolerate some jump height changes this winter/spring as we both prepare for IFCS at 26", and work towards qualifying for National events at 20" and 22". I think he can do it. We ran some 20" back in September and came back to 26" in October and he did fine. It's not the ideal situation but we'll survive it for one season. After IFCS in May, he is officially a 20/22" dog for the rest of his life. I'd like him to last. He's definitely not slowing down yet!

Kiba - i was SO thrilled that she was able to turn in the times to make Final rounds this year. She was the last dog to make it into Steeplechase Finals, but it was a pretty wide open course, not her specialty, and they only took 20 dogs out of that huge class, so for a 17.75", 27lb dog who used to run away if I said "no", that is a big accomplishment. She also had .5 second to spare in GP Semifinal - would have easily been in the Finals if not for the one bar. She did hit a few bars in AZ in other classes. 22" is by no means easy for her. It is comparable to Drifter at 26". She is turning 5 next week and has been pretty sound except for her recurring minor back pain. I will continue to run her at 16" in AKC and 22" in USDAA until I see a reason not to. I have full confidence in her ability to place at both National events in those heights.

Seri - well Seri had a few really big "baby dog" moments. But she also had some really good "adult dog" moments. She didn't hit a lot of bars. She DID miss a lot of weave entries but that doesn't really concern me for now. She didn't miss any contacts. She didn't break any stays. She only had 2 off courses and one was sort of my fault for assuming she "had" the right part of discrimination. Made Steeplechase Semi-finals. So I'm not sorry I took her, but I AM glad I wasn't trying to get her ready for Tryouts this coming May - not only because I won't be able to go (leaving for IFCS that weekend!), but because she isn't ready yet. My plan with Seri is to continue to hone collection skills and jumping skills, and impulse control, and to get into Excellent B and qualify for 2011 AKC Nationals and Tryouts with her, where she will run at 26". Not sure if she's ready or not, but we'll find out.

23 November 2009

Measure of Success

Back in 2007 when I first put Drifter down from 26" to 22", I set a goal of doing better at Regional and National events before I tried to make it onto a World Team. I figured USDAA Nationals is some of the best competition in the world (seriously!), and if I couldn't place there consistently, then I had no business on a World Team.

Well I think I'm accomplishing it. I was thinking about Drifter's career at Nationals the other day. He has placed (meaning winning a placement ribbon in something) every year at Nationals since I started taking him at 26 months old.

2004 he was at 22" because I wanted to let him mature before moving the jumps up. He WON 22" Team Gamblers. He also had the fastest time in Steeplechase Semifinals (there weren't quarterfinals till 2007) but hit one bar. I was happy.
2005 wasn't our best year, I was unfocused going in. At 26" and he got into GP Semifinals but then hit a bar. He did get 10th in Snooker EVEN WITH a bobble in the opening where he took the wrong color netting us less points than our plan had.

2006 was our first "big" year. Still jumping 26". He won the Grand Prix at the Northeast Regional for the first time (was only 3.5 years old) with a rockin' time. Then out at Nationals he got 2nd in Team Standard, 3rd in Team Gamblers, and ran clean in GP Finals with a 3rd.
2007 was my half and half year. I got fed up with the bars and him throwing his pelvis out and put him down to 22" - AFTER our first 2 Regionals (where he almost won down in GA), so I scrambled to get him qualified. Well we managed it. Then he won both the Semifinals and the Finals of Steeplechase, "won" the quarterfinals of Grand Prix (no ribbon for that). but he sort of flunked in Team classes - no E's but no great runs either.

2008 he started coming into his own. He had just turned 6. Won the Northeast Regional GP for the 2nd time. He got into Steeplechase Semi's from the quarterfinals. He won European Standard. 3rd in Team Standard. Clean but wide/no placement in Snooker and jumpers, and perfect but a greedy handler in Gamblers. One brain fart on his part kept us from Steeplechase Finals - ran around the broad jump. GP Finals we joined the masses of 22" dogs missing the dogwalk contact, but still got 7th as we had the fastest faulted round. Would have been 2nd by a hair if he'd been clean.

2009 he was awesome back up at 26". Won European Standard, 3rd in Team Standard, 1st in Team Snooker, 1st in GP Semifinal, and 3rd in GP Final.

So I feel like we've taken huge strides towards our goal of being on the World Team by doing so well at big events. I LOVE the big events, they are the sole reason I compete at the small ones. I don't have the money to be a title hunter, and I have come to believe it's not good for the dogs to trial a lot, mentally or physically. But winning at the big events, that's what I want. It's such a thrill - and I don't care if I don't win, as long as we layed it on the line successfully, that's what I really enjoy.

21 November 2009

AZ Recap

All the dogs did well in AZ. I survived my drive out/back alone with 4 dogs very well. Went through 3.5 audiobooks. Drifter looked 100% sound the whole ride out and felt great when checked before running.
here's the class-by-class recap.

Wednesday - European Standard
This was a fun little course, although I was a little frustrated that it was dogwalk-turn and don't take the jump right off the end. I hemmed and hawed about whether to just let Drifter run off course - if I turn him too much off the dogwalk he starts coming off a little early. I decided to just run like mad off the end and call when he hit the ground, and if he went off course I wouldn't care. He didn't.
Drifter - clean run, a little wide in 2 places but 1st in the class to start the week with a blue ribbon.
Kiba - a little over-the-top going in, she hit a bar and missed her aframe (I let her run)
Seri - WILD-ASS BABY DOG got walked off after; knocking a bar, running off her DW, knocking a bar, missing a rear cross cue, then going behind me to go back up the DW. All before obstacle 6.

Thursday -
Team Jumpers -
Kiba clean, ended up around 12th place
Drifter - Had a majorly disappointing WTF moment, and went off course out of a tunnel. I think that's his 2nd off course all year.
Seri - not too bad, jumped bigger and bigger as the course went on but survived with only a spin and one bar.

Team Snooker - I had a plan in the morning. I knew it wouldn't last. My plan had only 55 points. People were getting through 56 and 57. So I watched, made a new plan, and tried it with Kiba to see if I'd have time with Drifter.
Kiba - knocked the 7 in the opening but made it through my plan with 4+ seconds to spare
Drifter - awesome, ev en without a lead-out (his stay is shot, I get about 5 steps), only 26" dog to make 57 points for a 1st and another blue and a trophy
Seri - um. This plan was too much for her. 1 point:)

Steeplechase Quarterfinals: Only Seri was in this, the other 2 had byes into Semifinals. Seri was a VERY good girl here, her first run in the main ring. Only fault was a miss on the 2nd weave entry, quickly corrected, meaning she acheived Semifinalist status! Yay!

Team Standard- good course, I worried about a few bars, and of course it was dogwalk into a corner meaning I had to run like a crazy person only to pivot into the weaves.
Kiba - clean, 14th place.
Drifter - clean, 3rd place.
Seri - not bad. missed a weave entry but otherwise clean.

Steeplechase Semifinals - due to poor scheduling, my 26" dogs had exactly THREE minutes of down time between Team Standard and Steeplechase Semi's. This sucks. It was sunny and warm and nowhere near my kennel tent so they got jammed in a crate together.
Drifter - was not "with it", still cooling off from Standard. Hit a bar and the broad jump. No Finals.
Seri - not bad, hit a bar and missed the weave entry (yes, that's a theme here). Someone asked me if we had bred her:)
Kiba - clean, good run but it was a bit of a wide-open speed course so I wasn't sure if she'd make it, being a little thing.

Grand Prix Quarterfinals - again only Seri in this class. She was SO GOOD until we got to the dogwalk/tunnel discrimination, where I thought she had the DW but I was wrong. Then she did the tunnel a couple more times for good measure. Once I got her on the DW she did the rest of the course clean, so I was pretty pleased. She's showing some nice moments of promise.

Afternoon Friday, I had Drifter checked out and he was quite sore. 2 runs that close together on the concrete-hard ground was a bit much for him. 26" is a good 6" over his shoulder, and he runs HARD out there. I think he was sore going into Steeplechase and would have greatly benefited from a 10-20 minute slow walk to warm up/cool down his muscles. Oh well. Nothing I could do about that.
Also that afternoon I found out KIBA made Steeplechase Finals! She was 20th out of 20 dogs to make it in! dogs on either side of her were VERY close in times, only hundredths off, so any wasted stride and we would not have made it, but I was very pleased with her, she's a good little smidget!

Team Gamblers - had an actual honest-to-goodness distance gamble. Only problem was there was a 10-point easy gamble and a 20-point hard gamble. I was the THIRD dog to run in my height so I had NO idea whether people would get it or not, but I figured with IFCS points on the line I had to try. Well Drifter spun too close to a jump before figuring out what I wanted and finishing the gamble. The judge called it a refusal so we didn't get the points, but if we had gotten it we would been top 3. Oh well again!
Seri was very good, although she also failed at the hard gamble, that's ok.
Kiba was perfect and nailed the easy gamble.

Grand Prix Semifinals (no Seri)
Kiba - ran first in a non-main ring. She was booking along really well and then hit a bar. Oh well.
Drifter - in the main ring. IFCS on the line. I knew I had to make GP Finals or my shot was over. He NAILED this course, fastest 26" time, for 9 more points and first seed into Finals.

Saturday night Steeplechase Finals!
Little Kiba dog was perfect. Again the course was a bit wide open so I knew our shot at winning was pretty slim, but she ran a great clean course and didn't put a foot wrong. We got 8th place, a pretty ribbon, and an IRS form to fill out for our $100!

Saturday morning Team Relay
Kiba's team was in 3rd going in, but the top 3 teams were only separated by 7 points. Unfortunately Kiba hit a bar and missed her weave entry so we didn't overtake anyone, but we did finish 3rd overall for another shirt, a medal, and a great big ribbon!

GP Finals
Drifter was the LAST DOG to run the course for the entire weekend! And he was great. I did lose a bit of time after the see-saw so maybe lost 2nd place and got 3rd instead, but I was so happy with him. (he 2-strided his aframe, which caught my eye and distracted me, then when I pushed out to the jump I lost sight of the see-saw and had to book extra-hard to get there so he didn't fly off and was behind when he came off of it, so he had a moment of "where now?") anyway, he got 3rd, behind Maverick by .07, and ahead of Icon by only .02! I was SO happy with his weekend, he was really good.

Afterwards I found out that we were one of THREE dogs tied for 2nd place in IFCS points. We are still awaiting final word from USDAA on who made the team, but Drifter should win the tiebreakers, he defeated the most dogs, got the most Tournament top ten points, and did the best head to head at nationals. I think! Anyway I am excited to go to England! How AWESOME would that be? A crowning acheivement for Drifter's career, and a fun trip for me! After this he is doing 20" in AKC from now on, and 22" for Tournaments in USDAA as that's what he'll jump at Nationals next fall (which WON'T be in AZ!!!!). We will do regular titling classes at 26" to maintain his form.

For now we are on time off. They are doing nothing at ALL for a few more days to heal them up from running on the super hard ground, then we'll resume hiking and running for a few weeks, and back to agility mid-December.

08 November 2009

I'm on the road to Arizona right now. I'm posting updates on facebook and probably won't update here much at all till I get back.

Last week Drifter pulled up lame, but I think he's going to be fine for the trial. He looks good right now. Tonight we are in TX, will arrive in AZ tomorrow evening.