26 December 2013

Twenty Thirteen

2013 was generally a good year for me and my pack. We had a few ups and downs, especially with Kiba, but we are finishing out the year in a good place mentally.

I'm going to review the year briefly, chronologically, because that kind of order appeals to me :)
I don't really do a lot of specific "goal-setting" or "training journal" activities. The only records I keep are Strafe's AKC Record, because I'm supposed to do so for AKC World Team Tryouts.

I am going to omit the bits about traveling all over to teach, because I did that quite a lot of times this past year. I met knew people, had fun with old friends, and got to explores all kinds of different parts of the country. But this blog is about my dogs and their competition year!

In January and Feb 2013, we did just a local AKC trial and a USDAA trial, trying to get a head start on points and Q's for 2014 AKC Nationals and finishing up Strafe's last Q for USDAA. I had already absorbed what the new AKC qualifying rules would mean for me, and I planned my year out well in advance to make sure I could get both my dogs qualified. They each got a few Q's during these months. Seri got to run at USDAA and didn't do badly, earning a Steeplechase and Team Q.

March was one last local trial, then focusing on AKC Nationals. By this point in time I was worrying a bit about jumping for both Strafe and Kiba. I felt that Kiba's vision issues had gotten worse and wasn't sure how well we'd be able to keep running, and wondered if I should retire her. Strafe had spent the winter picking up speed, and was sometimes getting too close to his jumps and hitting the bar. March 2013 was the very first time I walked Strafe off a course (for knocking a bar). Then we had Nationals, where I despaired about Kiba's inability to track me on course, and she hit the triple as well. Strafe, however, did very well, and I was pretty happy with him.

April was one more AKC trial, and running some really hard courses to prep for Tryouts. I was feeling pretty confident with Strafe. I also had Kiba's eyes checked with a general "not too bad" report. Seri re-injured her wrist during this time as well, and got a nifty custom support to help prevent that from happening again.

In May we went to Tryouts and won 3 of the 5 rounds, giving us a paid spot on the EO Team (I declined to try out for AWC, but obviously would have won on if I had done so). 

June was the USDAA Regional, where Kiba ran surprisingly well, hitting no bars all weekend, and Strafe won just about everything he could win - Regional GP, STP, top individual 26" Team dog, and Biathlon combined winner.

In July I ran only Kiba in a few AKC trials, and she picked up a lot of single Q's, but we still hadn't found our full groove yet. Then Strafe and I traveled to the European Open, where we had a rough start in the first class but then turned in 4 clean rounds in a row culminating in 2nd place in the Large Final - Strafe was 2 years and 10 months old! A thrilling first trip to compete internationally!

In August we ran another local AKC trial, and I withdrew Kiba because of suspected arthritis in her front feet/wrists causing intermittent mild lameness. This was confirmed soon after, but the consensus among my veterinary and PT professionals was "as long as it doesn't hurt her, it's fine to keep running" so we've been keeping an eye on it, so to speak.

In September I ran both dogs at a couple AKC trials, and Kiba started picking up some Q's again including a QQ, and Strafe finished his necessary points and Q's for Nationals. 

October started with a local AKC trial where Kiba got her last QQ and points for Nationals too, and I felt like we were finally getting our groove back with some new handling choices. Then we had USDAA Nationals, where Kiba had some good runs, some bad runs, but I'm super happy with getting 2nd place in PGP Finals. She is almost certainly not going to be attending another USDAA National event. Strafe also did well, placing high in several individual classes and getting 2nd in Biathlon combined and 7th in Grand Prix with a borderline see-saw flyoff (would have been 3rd place without that call, but I don't hold grudges;).

November was local USDAA to begin qualifying for Cynosport 2014 - only Strafe running these Tournaments now. Seri got to play in a local class and stayed sound, running at P16", but basically the idea of running her seriously has been nixed by her healthcare professionals.

and in December we just did some stuff for fun. 
So Strafe met and exceeded all my competition goals for 2013 by far. I wanted to "test him out" a bit against some of the best, just to see where we stood, and we ended up going far beyond that. For 2014 I would like to continue building our skills and his speed and confidence, and "take it to another level" if possible. I do set "competition/performance" goals as in, I have little hopes for how we will perform at AKC Nationals, Tryouts, etc. But the key to having goals like "I want to place in the top 3 at XXXX event" is that you have to be able to accept and move on, if that goal does not happen, because much of what needs to happen is not under your control (footing, equipment, course design, the judge, how the other competitors do)! So yes, i would like to make AKC Finals, for example, but I won't be crying in the corner if we don't!

Kiba tried very hard in 2013 and I'm extremely proud of her for qualifying for AKC Nationals for the 6th time in a row. I was feeling pretty negative about her career after Nationals last spring but I'm pretty optimistic now, and looking forward to her last National event. As with Strafe, she has potential to do very well, but at 9 years old and with a jumping issue, I will take whatever she gives me! I would LOVE to get her to Finals one least time and do her justice by running clean.

Seri retired permanently, with the sole exception of the occasional P3 Jumpers class in USDAA, with no weaves or contacts allowed.

Drifter ran a couple runs last winter, and then I decided that I didn't care about finishing that MACH2 and he is now happily retired as well.

And now it is snowing big fat fluffy snowflakes, and we are hoping to try some sheep herding later today!
ETA: this morning's dusting of snow. Perfect flakes falling, perfect amount - just enough and it'll melt this afternoon ;)

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