But before I go into the details of our very successful trial, I want to say that two weeks ago was not an NQ fest with nothing to show for it. (In fact, NQ fests are rarely as unproductive as they seem.) That trial showed me very clearly the absolute necessity of proper deceleration. It got me thinking of when Molly needs that information (when she is taking off to jump.) She needs me to do more than stop running when she is three strides away from a jump. She needs me to reverse my forward motion, and begin turning my body into the turn and to get my arm down. I have been training Molly for agility since April of 2012. You might think that I would know this stuff already. But I don't. It has been a lot of trial and error (no pun intended), a lot of getting her ring stress and over arousal down, a lot of learning how to prep her and now I can start to take a deep breath and examine the cause and effect of my handling. And trust that Molly will follow my body language. And she does. She did on Saturday.
We started with Wildcard Level 3. I really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really wanted this Q. Really really. We have NQ'd Wildcard for the craziest reasons - a teeter flyoff (which is just...really something Molly had never done before or since that day. It was so strange.) ... a run out of a very obvious tunnel entrance followed by spring boarding off the top of said tunnel and running in the wrong end. Wildcard is a game of discriminations, but that hasn't been what has been doing us in after all. We are in Level 3, so we have to get two "B" obstacles and one "A". I wanted the 2B Jump, the 7B tunnel and the 10A/B combo. I did not want to take the dog walk first thing of the day and risk a blown contact.
Well Molly was pumped up. This was only her second time at this venue and with the amount of snow outside, she has been mostly a couch potato all week long. She broke her start line stay, which is truly rare for her. She didn't break it and go into a gallop, she just shook herself off and started running at normal speed. I still got my lead out, but I wanted to back up a little farther to give her space to land and cue the turn. We still pulled it off, but I heard her toe tick that number 3 jump on our way past. So glad she didn't drop it! (wouldn't be an NQ, but it would be a fault.). I do a bit of "not trusting Molly" next by recalling her. I should have seen what she did at those weave poles and not called her, but it's hard for me. I envision running in the corner and sniffing, or jumping into the ring crew's lap. And I just want to keep her close to me. I will stop this neurotic behavior in time, but it is a process. Well we got over 5 and 6 fine and I tried to stay close to the 7B tunnel entrance and I see in the video that she runs towards the proper entrance....and then went into the 7A entrance instead. That means we had to do the dog walk! It ended up being no problem at all, whew! This was a small change to make but I am hopeless at thinking on my feet, so the fact that I was able to do it in the ring made me feel proud of myself. It's the little things in life!
Next up was two rounds of Standard. We needed one more Level 3 Q to get out of Standard 3, so I was feeling pretty sure that we could Q in at least one of the courses! Not that I actually want to be in Level 4 Standard or anything...
Standard 3 Round 1 was not an awful course at all. I again had to cue deceleration to Molly as she was taking off for number 2. I did not do a very good job of it, but I did turn my body instead of pointing myself straight forward, and that is a step in the right direction (again, no pun intended!). I got scared and called her to the teeter because she was heading for the Aframe, or so it seemed to me. Next we have some Aframe stress but she got the contact fine. Over a jump, through the tunnel and another decel test. It would be a very Molly thing to do to come barrelling out of the tunnel and over the jump and back up the Aframe instead of turning to the next jump. I think that I cued her nicely here and I am proud we avoided that off course. She chose to enter the weaves properly...and then run out of them to go sniff something. I think this was some residual stress from the Aframe. We are working that out. The rest of the course was easy peasy and a Q!!
Next Standard Level 3 Round 2. Move ups were not permitted during the trial, so we did another round of Level 3. It was actually nice to have a no pressure at all Level 3 course, and it was nice to not have to be in Level 4 that day. I predict we will be in Level 4 for a veeeeeerrrrry long time.
I tried to talk more with my body than my voice. This is really hard for me. I released her from the start line with my hand, did not shout "easy!' or anything to her on the dog walk and she ran over the jump. I did speak "Weave!" for the weaves. She popped out at the end to go sniff something and I put her back in where she went out, but it was still a weave fault. (I was careful to NOT touch the poles as I apparently did in December.) From there she flew right into the tunnel so I backed up behind the next jump. I thought she would come looking for me right out of the tunnel but she took an off course jump. Here I should have called her to me and given her a little more information while she was in the tunnel. I picked her up on my left hand, front crossed after the Aframe and again was proud of my decel and turn cue that we successful did 9 to 10 and not 9 to 15! The rest was not bad, she flew up the line and into the tunnel and I just hung back and called her name while she was in there and she came right back down the line and finished the course. Another Level 3 Q! And all this time we have needed them so bad and we suddenly have too many.
Next was Snooker Level 4 and it was a tricky course! I was groaning. It was like the agility gods were saying, "You want decel practice? YOU'VE GOT IT." I am simply going to post the map to show our plan. There was just nothing good, nothing "safe" to be done on this course. We were trapped like rats by all of those tempting off course options. It was excellent practice for learning to cue Molly properly. And... we actually survived the opening! That is very impressive to me and something that I am really proud of both of us for. And then we blew the closing. Oh well! She did 2 and 3. I wanted to cross and be on the take off side of the 4-jump but I knew I wouldn't make it. I again made the same mistake that I made in the Standard course. I expected her to come out of the tunnel and pull towards me. She didn't. She took that red jump. So, information from this NQ. Give Molly information of my whereabouts while she is in the tunnel! That's two off course jumps in one day because of me!
Last of the day was Colors Level 3. We have been in Colors Level 3 since July so a Q would be really really nice! (it's hard to not be allowed an off course fault, c'mon!) We got it! Now Molly was getting tired and there was a St Bernard a few dogs ahead of her whose handler was giving him some most delicious treat that Molly really really wanted. She had an actual fit about it and started her shuddering yip sounds so we had to go on a little walk! I wanted the Circle course. I did a lead out and cued her over the jump with my right hand and as she was taking off I began turning my body and holding out my left hand (as I did in that Wildcard video.) It worked! I held back to run her around the pinwheel and planned to front cross after the weaves. She instead decided to do some sniffing in front of number 4 so I front crossed there and called her over. She awkwardly ran in front of me into the weave poles and I was sure she would pop out but she stayed in nicely and we bolted through the rest of the course. Yay! Colors Level 4 here we come!
So, 4/5 Q's ain't bad! I feel like I actually handled Molly in a way that did not confuse her completely and that I communicated what I wanted her to do instead of my norm of sending her on the wrong line and then panicking and bellowing her name to get her back. I feel like we are Getting Somewhere. And I learned another valuable lesson. Let Molly know where I am when she is inside of a tunnel!
And here are my doggies showing off their new Standard title ribbons! That's right, Einey was along also! He got his Standard 1 Specialist title. Yay! Below is Ein's course and our video. I wasn't sure how he would do at a different facility than Orchard Hills, but he really rocked it! Ein has done rally-o trials at this facility before as well as that CDSP trial, but agility is different. You never know!
I also entered Snooker Level 1 with him to earn some more points towards his 1000 Point title, but he NQ'd. Ein's switch flipped and he wasn't into it. He ran out around the first red jump and I had to get him back around and over it. He did the second jump. He stopped dead in front of the next Red and when he did jump it, he took the bar! We had to run all the way to the other end of the ring to get another red, and then back over to the other red. (which...I shouldn't have done. All I could think was "must continue plan after getting the unplanned on red jump!" Stupid.) It was a lot of extra running and a lot of time wasted. Ein wasn't into doing the jumps. He didn't shut down and stare or crawl at a walk like he does when he is really anxious, he just did a lot of looking at me and not flowing over things. We made it through 2-4 of the closing with 19 points and an NQ. BUMMER! This is life with Ein though. Have fun, and roll with it when he has decided he's had enough. We still had fun!
And lucky us, we get to go to another CPE trial in two weeks. Yay!