Wednesday, 12 June 2013

AAC Regionals Recap

Well first off I AM EXHAUSTED!!! It's Wednesday and I still feel like a zombie.  The long days, crazy weather and stress of the competition has taken it's toll on me.  I have spent the majority of the last few days in bed. Good thing I have nothing planned this coming weekend. It will be a weekend of relaxation.

So now onto the standings.  I couldn't be more pleased with my two shelties.  Strider gave me an exceptional weekend.  He ran all six rounds in regionals clean and 3/4 clean in the warm up trial.  Strider had a "senior" moment in the steeplechase run on Friday, running past the chute. If I had of just thought enough to bring him back, that round would have been clean too.  Guess I also had a "senior" moment!
   It's amazing how consistent the little guy is.  He is that "comfortable pair of old shoes".  We know each other and we know what to expect.  I can walk into the ring with him and just focus on having fun.  We have nothing to prove and we have reached all our goals together.  Now each run is about having fun and enjoying the time together. 
   Strider accumulated 685.97 points, qualified for nationals and placed 2nd overall in the 10" vets class. 

Spryte also had a great weekend.  The highlight for me was our jumpers run in the Friday warm up trial.  It was tough!  Back sides, threadles, serps.  Everyone was complaining about how hard it was and how this didn't bode well for the courses to come in the actual regional event.  I kept telling myself that we can do it!  We've run equally hard courses at home and we were ready for the challenge.  And sure enough Spryte gave me her best run of the weekend.  We ran it clean and with 6.17 yards per second.  We were one of the only teams to have Q'd that run.  I felt connected with her and my timing was bang on.  It was one of those rare moments in agility where you feel like one with your dog.  It's a great feeling and one I won't forget soon.

Spryte ended up running three runs clean in the regional event.  She had an amazing gamble run were she racked up 71 opening points, completing both mini's twice and the main gamble.  It was another highlight to the weekend.  Spryte ended up with 525.36 points, qualified for Nationals and took 3rd place overall in the 16" specials class.

The most important thing after a big event is to reflect on what went right and what we can improve on.  The 2 weeks before regionals I purchased the book "With Winning in Mind". A book on the psychology of winning.  The biggest message in the book being to picture a great performance, and not allow negative thoughts to creep into your mind.  I spent several minutes before each run getting into my "Zen" state.  I focused on calm breathing, a great run and enjoying my dogs.  It also talks about having a ritual statement before starting that promotes the positive thinking and doesn't give you a chance to think negatively.  So as I approached my start line I would think to myself "I love my dog, I love agility and I am ready". I have to say I have never felt so calm and in control at a big event.   It helped me focus and stay in the game.  I highly recommend the book and plan on implementing the steps in the future.

The other thing I took away from the event was to "handle each obstacle!"  Something stated again in this months Clean Run magazine.  In one of the standard runs with Spryte I took for granted a tire after a tunnel, assuming she would take it. I was focused two obstacles down the line were there was a bit of  a discrimination.  The lack of handling cost me a clean run.  She blasted out of the tunnel right past the tire, earning us a refusal fault.  If I had of been handling each obstacle I would have called out the tire and she probably would have taken it.

I have started Justine Davenports foundation program for her handling system in agility.  One of the things she does is name every obstacle on course.  Right up until this weekend I thought it was a bit funny.  I come from the training that you only talk to your dog when you need to get it's attention. Yelling out each obstacle sounded very basic and beginner like.  So I admit I have not adopted this part of the handling system.  I did not see the point in the behaviour.

Well let me tell you I get it now!!! If you call out each obstacle it means you are HANDLING each obstacle. It's really hard to brush past or ignore an obstacle if you have to cue your dog to take it.  It forces the handler to stay in the game and stay focused through the whole course. Right down to the last obstacle.  A lesson well learnt and now I will make more of an effort to adopt this new practise in my training.

As a side note, the social side of regionals was a blast.  I enjoyed chatting with people I haven't seen in a while.  Sitting around our portable campfire at night with friends talking and laughing about everything dog and some non doggie topics too. I also really enjoyed watching my students compete in the events.  Many of them it was their first regional event.  They all made me proud and stayed positive even when things didn't go as planned.  They handled like pros and their dogs were having a great time.  You all did a wonderful job this past weekend!

Here are some runs from the weekend: