I came into this trial wanting to train a bit for Nationals, as this is our last trial before that event. This means I was planning a mix of proofing and pushing the dogs. For Kiba I wanted to play with my handling strategy a bit, mostly staying out of her line of sight and trying to see what she can handle regarding jumping and bars. I was pleasantly surprised by what she did - she ran 5 runs in a row with no bars! Then she hit one bar in each of her last 2 runs, so not too bad, overall. I have hope that she can continue to be successful at 16" for the one more year I had planned for her. Here are her 5 runs without bars (yes, she skipped out of the poles when I blind crossed, but that was good feedback for Nationals too, as in "don't do that with her!")
With Strafe I was really hoping to bring our Q rate back up, since that may become a factor in the choosing of the EO Team for July. However, it was just not to be. Strafe is now just about 2 and 1/2 years old, and he is fitter than ever. With his increased age and fitness and experience is coming some increased confidence, and he is now over-striding his takeoff point on some jumps. I want to make it clear that in training, he probably hits one bar per month - over maybe 5-8 training sessions. This is a dog who understands his job over the jumps, and is physically and mentally comfortable with that job - IN TRAINING. At trials he is getting excited, and getting too close to the jump, and hitting the bar. So before this weekend I made a hard decision - that I would walk him off the course if he hit a bar. Strafe has never been walked off the course before for any reason, in 14 months of showing. However, I do stop and walk off the training sequences if he hits a bar (followed by resetting it and trying again, with a big reward if he's successful), so I felt he should be able to understand what was happening.
Friday he did hit a bar in his first run, standard, and I was a little too unprepared and late marking it, so I decided to continue on that course. In JWW he knocked the front bar off the double jump and I did walk him off. He did not want to heel with me so I picked him up and carried him to his leash. Oh, the pitiful face he made! and then our 3rd run was Time 2 Beat and he ran clean! Feeling a bit bad for him, I did have one of my PT's check him out, and his pelvis was just a little bit off, so he got straightened out. Saturday he did not Q in Standard due to running behind me around a turn to find the dogwalk, but hit no bars, and in JWW he ran clean for 1st place. Sunday the nice jumping was out the window again and he hit a bar in T2B and then in Standard again, where I again carried him out. And then of course he was clean in JWW. So, I think what I will do is set up a nice jumping gymnastic sort of exercise here at home for him, with some nice varied spacing and a 180 involved, and do some runs up and down it, and really emphasize jumping performance. We will run that a few times probably tomorrow and Tuesday, and maybe one other day, but he sees the PT on Wed and I don't want to mess him up too much after that - they will be on "light duty" from then till Nationals.
Here are Strafe's 3 clean runs from the weekend. I was definitely disappointed in how our weekend went. It is hard knowing you and your dog are better than your performance, but the key is in formulating a plan to deal with it! Along with a bit of gymnastic work, I did also notice that 3 of the 4 jumps he knocked had a purple wingless standard on them. So I'm wondering if he somehow saw some sort of optical illusion with those? I don't know... he has seen them before though! I will also analyze what I was doing when he knocked the bars, to see if I can formulate a better handling plan in the future, that minimizes the chance for knocking, at least in the short term for Nationals!