Big dogs ran last on Saturday. The Excellent JWW was nice and flowing; I usually like Jeff Ipser's courses a lot. I only saw two areas of concern for us. The first was the final pinwheel after the weaves. After building up speed over the double, the dogs were staring at the off course jump #1. Jump #15 was hiding behind a post. It would only be visible to the dog if the handler cued the dog to turn after #14. The next area of concern was jump #18 after the second time through the straight tunnel. It was a very flat 180, so I knew I'd have to support jump #18 and not move on too early.
I hate that first run after we've had a break from trialling. As much as I try not to, I do get nervous. Because Devon and I are still a green team, I'm still not totally confident and that makes me nervous.
I think on Saturday we were just a little out of sync. Devon tugged well up to the ring area; but after she stopped tugging if I wasn't actively giving her treats for tricks, she would start scratching, which I knew was stress. I tried not to let it make me anxious and didn't crab at her for it.
Devon started the run a little sluggish, but we worked through the opening well. My first mistake came at the last weave pole. These were 24 inch poles and she's only seen them a couple of times. As she was in the poles I could see she was adjusting her stride from her usual striding for 22 inch poles to the 24 inch poles. I thought we had the poles and stepped laterally just a split second too soon and Devon popped out of the last pole. She wasn't fully committed to that last pole.
I didn't react and pushed forward with the run. However, I made a second mistake on her commitment point with the turn from the straight tunnel to the #18 jump. I even told myself each time I walked that course to stay by the wing for her until she was committed, and I can see by the video I didn't support it long enough.
I always hang onto my mistakes longer than I ever do if the dog makes a mistake (probably because if my dog makes a mistake it's lack of training which is my fault). It was a nice course and Devon ran it well; but I made a couple of small errors and one I even identified and still screwed up! I will say the other thing that struck me in watching the run is that Devon did speed up when I relaxed and started pushing for my position after we'd NQ'd. That tells me her speed has a lot to do with my nerves. Here's the run:
I felt better Sunday after a good night's sleep. Big dogs ran first, and Devon was the very last 20 inch dog to run. We had another beautiful course, and this one had an interesting close. The line from 15 to 16 pushed slightly to the right before the course turned back to the left. It was a deceptive push with off course potential on either side.
Most of the big dog handlers were walking it with a rear cross, but I didn't want to be stuck behind the wing of the triple way too far behind my dog to make the turn back to 17. Even if you got the #17 jump, you were risking the dog turning back to you because you were behind and taking the off course before reaching 18.
With a front cross before 15 you still had to get around the jump standard for a slight push for the triple. During the walk through, I finally decided on the front cross on the landing side of 15. It showed the dog his path and with the tunnel it gave me enough time to get to where I needed to be.
The 14-17 sequence was the problem area for the big dogs as expected (as a side note very few of the small dogs struggled here because there handlers were able to show the pull and still get around the triple to support 17). Very few big dog handlers did a front cross; most chose the rear. A lot of people got the off course to #3 if they didn't show enough pull to their right. A lot of people got stuck behind the wing of #16 needing or choosing to do the rear on the flat after the triple and got hung up before 17. Those who did do the front cross after 15 just squeaked it in.
Needless to say after watching all the 26-20 inch dogs, I was concerned for my plan. But I decided to run my plan, trust my dog and push to be in the right location. I wasn't nervous at all for this run. And I told Devon all the folks around the ring were there to watch her. She always loves to perform for a crowd, and of course all the little dog handlers wanted to get at their walk thru! I even had to hand Devon off as the dog in front of us went to the line when I realized my shoe was untied. That threw Devon a curve right before going into the ring.
I ran with Devon off the line, and she loved it. We had a much better start than Saturday. My front cross before the 180 was late, but Devon handled it well with minimal affect on her speed. Devon was prepared for the 24 inch weaves and handled them beautifully. After the tunnel, I hauled it to my front cross spot, and I know I broke my connection with my dog. However, Devon was perfect and followed my direction and nailed this section of the course. You can hear my yell of satisfaction when she landed after the triple!
What a beautiful run! Not only did this run win the Excellent A class, but Devon finished her AXJ on it. When I looked back, Devon earned her AXJ with three first place finishes and earned two of her legs on Jeff Ipser courses (I also finished Ian's MACH on one of Jeff's courses, so he's lucky for us).
And once again I was reminded that when I'm relaxed and concentrating on getting to where I need to be (i.e. getting my job done for the team), Devon does her job just right. As someone said after watching Sunday's video, "You guys both looked like you were having fun out there." We were!