I have been extremely down-and-out crushed about weave poles lately. I have put more time and energy into training the weave poles than any other obstacle for sure - as it should be! I work hard on proofing, on independance and entries. I have pushed myself so hard to improve my handling, my pressure, my stress - and that has not been easy. I still fail a lot. But I never stop trying. Lately, though, I have wanted to stop trying. I feel like I have hit a wall.
My husband Vince and I were taking our regular evening neighborhood walk with the dogs last Sunday night. V could care less about agility, or dog sports in general, and he has a very limited attention span for discussion of any of these subjects. That does not stop me from talking about them! And every now and then, he comes up with these incredible one sentence words of wisdom that really hit home. I was talking about Molly's weave poles. After some back and forth it all finally came to the core of the matter: my stress. And he said, "You expect her to fail, so she does."
That gutted me, it brought tears to my eyes. It is absolutely the truest thing anybody could have said. When I do the walk through I think, "She can't get that entry at a trial." I never do my walkthrough with the mindset of handling the weaves as though Molly would just get the entry and do the weaves, it is always some dumbed down version of handling in order to "help" her do what she is more than capable of doing. And a lot of thought to how I can be a Good Handler. Shoulders forward, jogging...I am trying so hard. But my mind is not there and Molly knows it. I know it. I don't believe in her. I do, but I don't know how to let go and show her that I do.
Is it about "the Q"? I care about qualifying, but it is not my end all be all. I NQ a lot and I move on and analyze what went right and I am content with that. A friend and I were talking and we were talking specifically about The Pressure. The pressure of competition and how hard that can be on a team, the pressure for advancement. But the mind is a tricky place and I had to ask, "Where is the pressure coming from for me?" The pressure for me is coming from wanting to fix this issue, wanting so badly to make progress on this issue. It is not about a title or moving up a level or "the Q". It is about years of work and growth together with my girl and this one thing just keeps knocking us down. It doesn't seem to get better. I want to fly at it and fix it, attack it and crush it. We fixed the A-frame and the Dog Walk. But the weaves remain a pathetically unresolved issue and I think my pressure comes from feeling like a failure to my dog and a failure as a trainer. "But this trial! we are going to have nice weaves because I am going to do x, y and z!" But progress is not a linear path.
I must stop saying negative things about Molly's weaves. I must stop doubting her. I must stop expecting her to fail, or she will continue to fail. In the beginning of the year I made a similar decision about Standard class and it worked. Such is the power of the mental game. It is not woo-woo, it is not silly - there is power in words. There is power in thoughts.
So, today. We did USDAA. Molly ran in P2 Gamblers and it was a tunnel to two jumps that were ludicrously far away, I never thought she would get them - she did! (But then a dummy jump snagged her.) I didn't care, I was so proud of her!
Standard...the weave entry was hard, A-frame to jump and then a sort of tandem turn into the weaves. And here I realized how I hold back - my first instinct was, "You can't tandem turn her into the weaves at a trial. She'll never get the entry." I pushed that thought aside. I ran her down that Aframe, over the jump and I turned her at the entry. She missed it. And that's gonna happen, but I have got to start handling her into those weaves with confidence. I pulled her back and pep talked to her and she flew through the weaves. I jogged alongside of her and kept my hand outstretched - her weaves were lovely. We NQd 1.79 seconds overtime but I'll take that over a Q with slow sad weaves any day!
We did Pairs next and her weaves this time were out of a tunnel and I just...did my best. I don't really remember what i did but she grabbed her entry and weaved like a boss.
I am trying. We will get there! I believe sweet Perri will fall right in line when I get my brain under control with Molly. She is sensitive and absolutely cannot handle pressure.
Perri only did Standard and Pairs today and she qualified in both. She dropped on the table! This was very exciting - last time we tried USDAA Standard and I asked Perri to drop on the table she gave me her paw. (As in, the hand shake dog trick) We have been working hard since I entered her in Standard (thanks to the chute being gone!) on dropping on hard surfaces. And her weaves were happy and fast and I was so proud of her. And in the walkthrough I recognized and caught myself. The weaves were out of a tunnel and I had negative thinking - "she will be going too fast, better slow her down for the entry." Recognizing these thoughts moving forward will be important. Perri did pop out, she was distracted by a ring crew person sitting next to the weaves, but I put her back in where she left and she continued weaving at a nice clip. Accept failure, believe in my dog. Trust. Positive thinking!
Pairs was fun - we ran with our dear friends Donna and Sly for a first place and a Q. Sly did the weaves for Perri, like a proper gentleman!
We will be returning to some more USDAA, I think. My new training club hosts four USDAA trials a year, and I like the challenge. I love AKC, but with the refusal rules it is putting a lot of stress and pressure on me that I am just not ready for with the weave poles - I can see that now. USDAA is a good addition to CPE for us right now.