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Month: March 2013

Is it possible to have a fun weekend in Steelers country? YES!

Is it possible to have a fun weekend in Steelers country? YES!

As a loyal Ravens fan I have a hard time justifying making the long drive up to the Pittsburg area.  This weekend I had a very good reason, a fun filled agility weekend in an amazing facility.  We had been to the B & D Activity center last year and I liked it so much decided to come back.  Earlier in the week there was a major snow storm in the northern states so I wasn’t sure how much snow they would get, but luckily the gods were in our favor as there was hardly any snow on the ground when I got there and the temps reached the 50 degree mark!! Couldn’t have asked for a better weekend.  I opted to leave Dasher and Zorro home with Brandon as they were not entered and I wasn’t sure how much play time they would get.  So it was just Zip and I on this road trip.

The judge this weekend was Lynn Sigman.  I love Lynn, not only is she a good friend, but her courses are always fun and challenging.  Zip and I had a great weekend.  I probably should correct that statement, Zip always has a good weekend.  Zip, aka the perfect JRT, never puts a foot out of place unless I misdirect him so any mistakes he has are mine.  I was happy (for the most part) with my handling this weekend.  The courses were challenging enough that I was able to work on some handling moves that I had been practicing and wanted to put in a show situation and also some homework issues which always need practicing.  We ended up going 8 for 9 and the one off course we had was entirely my fault in a misplaced rear-cross.  I was really happy with Zippy’s running this weekend.  He gave me really good dogwalks, probably the best we have had in competition.  Watching videos of past shows I can see where I am tentative when running the DW in competition, I am not tentative when we are practicing.  This weekend I tried to really concentrate on running the DW like we do in practice and so far it seems to  be working.  Once again proving all of our mistakes are clearly handler induced!

This is our Snooker run from Saturday. The seven pointed obstacle was three elements, the jump, the tunnel and then the jump again. I didn’t think we had enough time to do all four sevens so we opted for a five, 2 sevens and a six.

This is the Masters Challenge Jumpers course from Saturday. I was pretty happy with this run. I did not run the #8,9 and 10 sequence like I had planned. I had planned to do a blind between #9 and #10 but chickened out at the last moment. Zip saved my butt as usual.

This last run is our Masters Challenge Standard run on Sunday. We started off a bit pokey but then picked up some speed as we got into it. I do feel that these international style courses can bleed speed off the dogs, but in my opinion that is a training issue for me. Building and keeping the appropriate amount of speed through the technical aspects of the course is what I have been working on with all my dogs. I think Zip and I have gotten better at it but you can see the first few jumps need some work. #15 to #16 didn’t exactly go as planned, Zip was supposed to be on my right to take #16 but clearly he read it as a blind cross. Good thing that jump was bidirectional.

A fun weekend all around. It was a nice small show so I was finished running by 2:00 pm and Zip and I hit the road. We made it home in record time.

Internationalization

Internationalization

“International style” seems to be the latest buzz word in the agility community.  Some people I have talked to hate it, others love it.  Personally I fall into the “love it” category.  I think my first real experience with international style courses was when I went to England in 2011 to compete at WAO.  Actually I should correct myself, I was running international style courses a few months before the event in order to prepare for the event.  I should thank our coach/manger Tracy Sklenar for making the introduction.  I was familiar with theadles and had been doing those for a few years.  However when I first saw a backside challenge, I thought “WHAT??”  but at the same time thought, this looks like FUN!!

I am happy to see more venues offering international style classes.  I think that many competitors are interested in running international courses and its nice to see that the various venues are listening to their members.  For competitors that have international aspirations, having the ability to run more challenging courses in a show setting is imperative to being able to compete on an international stage.  It seems silly for the USA to spend time and money to send teams abroad for international competitions and not have our teams prepared for what they will face internationally.  For those competitors that don’t necessarily want to go abroad to compete, they have the opportunity to step up their game and push themselves beyond their comfort zone and try new things.  Another positive by-product of the international trend in the USA is all the amazing international handlers that are coming to the USA to give seminars.  I have had the opportunity to take a few seminars by some of these handlers from over-seas and have gotten lots of great insights on handling.  I love all the new ideas and challenges that the over-seas handlers expose us to during these seminars.  I always come home with lots of great ideas and lots of new stuff to practice.

I know that there are some people who don’t like this international trend that is sweeping our sport.  I honestly don’t know what to say to about that.  Maybe these people don’t like to be outside their comfort level, maybe they just need the confidence that they can in fact rise up to the challenges.  I would probably describe myself as having a competitive nature.  Not so much that I feel the need to beat others in competition, but I want to beat my own past performances.  I am always thinking of ways to “one up” myself and I am most happy when I work outside my comfort level.  I am not afraid of failing.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like to fail, but I am not afraid if I do fail because I know I will try harder to figure out whatever challenge is in front of me. When I do get it right that’s when a feeling of satisfaction comes over me.  I think its a good thing that our sport is evolving, change is a good thing.  I think change is a good way to figure out what we want or don’t want. Between equipment standards changing for the better with regard to our dogs safety and our courses becoming more similar to what others around the world are doing, I think we are headed in the right direction.

You can check out other opinions on the “Internationalization” of agility here.