Looking For Competition Zen… Have You Seen It?

When I competed with Ruby I dreaded those wide open courses in A1 (novice) level because he was very handler-focused, but had no intention of slowing down just because I was slow. Instead if I was late he would turn into me and at that point there was basically no way to get him focused on the next obstacle before getting a fault. I knew he needed more independence, but I thought I had a good reason not to train it: I was afraid that with his length of stride and over-the-top attitude he would become very difficult to turn so what would work for us in A1 would work against us in A2.

So I put this pressure on myself that I must get three clean runs in A1 as soon as humanly possible so that we can move up to A2 where the courses wouldn’t be so straight anymore and I could send him to a cik/cap and have some more time to move to my next spot (that was my idea, anyway). But guess what? That pressure to run clean didn’t work too well for me, either. It would have been much wiser to train more independence and obstacle focus and just get comfortable on those A1 courses, even though we would temporarily loose some turning ability. Ah, live and learn 🙂

Why this look into the past you ask? I was just listening to Daisy Peel’s podcast on Mileage and it got me thinking that her way makes much more sense. When a team starts trialing it’s not about accumulating clean runs, not even for the worthy goal of escaping A1 courses 😉 It’s about accumulating trial experiences. First chute, first tyre, first front cross after a straight line, first rear cross into weaves, first blind cross after A-frame, first front cross after teeter, first 180 turn, first serpentine… All the things we have trained at home, but they need to be tested in this new, highly arousing and distracting environment with a handler that is behaving irationally, running too slow and waving hands too much.

I will try to keep this in mind as we will be getting ready for the first competition after this long pause… try to be zen about it and not care about faults… and there will be… not care about offcourses… and there will be… not care about clumsy handling and forgotten courses… and there will be. It will be hard not to care, but I will do my best 🙂

A competition run from two years ago… there were a lot of “firsts” in this run, it wasn’t pretty, but the course allowed me to keep up with Ruby and somehow we pulled it together (just barely)… until I forgot the course. How could I be zen about that?

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13 thoughts on “Looking For Competition Zen… Have You Seen It?

  1. I think this is the first time I’ve seen the jumps you were talking about with Ruby! He looks like he enjoys bouncing/springing. I know Lu does – she loves that upward motion, rather than a forward motion. 😉
    It’s definitely hard to be zen and not care about mistakes! I’m going to try this with Lu when we start. Having watched Silvia’s AF DVD again at the end she talks about not starting too early as long as you don’t care about mistakes and just enjoy running and learn from what happens and practise it later… I’m going to TRY!!!
    So we might have to try and not care about those things together. 😉

  2. He reserved the most spectacular jumps for competitions 😉 That probably had something to do with how tense I was because his jumping was really much “calmer” in training and even in this video you can see how he changed his jumping style once I sent him offcourse and subsequently relaxed.
    It’s easier knowing you’re not the only one focusing on wrong things, isn’t it? 🙂 I think I’m going to post Post-Its around the apartment saying “it’s about mileage”. If I say it to myself 100 times per day it should eventually stick, right? I mean I do understand it rationally, it’s the emotional part of it that gets me in trouble 🙂

  3. Penny

    This is your best post ever ok? EVER!

    How handy is it that the three of us are at this stage together? VERY HANDY! 🙂

    I can’t wait to listen to the podcast. VERY TIMELY!

    And I also think it isn’t just the dog’s mileage that is important. It is the handler AND the dog’s mileage. For example, it’s the first serpentine you are handling with the dog (in a highly charged environment) too. So if the first time you handle a serp like you only just got out of your Forest Gump style brace last week, then hey… it’s just about accumulating more mileage.

    • SO HANDY!!!

      I think you’re so right as well about it being your mileage together, and not just you getting your moves down but learning to trust one another as a team. I’ve been thinking a lot about trust lately with Lu and I think the more mileage you get together, the better you read each other and come to work together.

      Yes, we definitely need lots of post-its, with handy slogans. “Run with joy!” “Don’t try and solve all the problems!” “It’s just about mileage!” “Mistakes are just opportunities for learning!” “Your dog is always learning!” etc etc. We could make a whole wall of them. 😉

      • Exactly! See my reply to Penny 🙂
        I’m going to use the mental game approach where you write it down and post it to 5 places for a month where you will see it several times each day, like clock, fridge, mirror… Every time you see it you should read it. It becomes tedious, but I do think it works in changing what you mostly think about the subject 🙂

    • * blush * I do love that you found this perspective as useful as I have 🙂
      Oh yes, it’s about all sorts of mileage, though Daisy Peel being a top competitor focuses on dog’s mileage. Another thing I found very interesting is that even after 25 teeters in competitions (I think, or was it 50?) she still considers the teeter to be a relatively “new” obstacle in competition. Lots of patience there.
      The podcast even got me thinking about my impatience with my own handling (in general, not just in competition) and how it can be more productive to focus on mileage than on getting it right at this point as there are so many situations that we have never encountered before. I’m thinking of setting up a challenge for myself when we finish this break: 100 sequences in 100 days, where each sequence has 3-8 obstacles. I would do some of them without bars to decrease the wear and tear and to help my dogs focus on my handling, not on bars. It should help with both mine and my dog’s mileage 🙂

      • I’ve been thinking about this sequences for handling without bars, then adding bars in once the dog has understanding and your handling is clear- cos we’ve been playing around like this lately and Lu seems really ‘into’ it – I think she’s really enjoying just playing without worrying about bars, too… so I thought the same thing, maybe I’d do a sequence with her once to practise, get handling, etc, then put on bars?

        And ok – I’ll try writing down a mantra and sticking them around. I can certainly see that it could get tedious, but also a lot more present and visual, maybe it will sink in. 😉

        • I like the idea of doing the same sequence first without bars and then with them! My initial thought was to just to do more sequences without bars than with (and only have bars on easy sequences), then with time have bars on more difficult sequences as well.

  4. Loved it! We have shared on our Facebook page and also the page for the club we train with. It is a great way to look at things.

    • Wow, thanks!

      • Pleasure. I’m a notorious bar dropper (novice dog and mum is a 1st time handler and we kinda fell into agility so didn’t start off with all that foundation stuff…. going back and doing it now). It means we do some awesome runs but not clear as there is usually a bar down somewhere… usually just one so I get called “One Bar Bodhi”. There are some days when mum needs a nice post like this to remind that it is all about the learning…. and the time together :o)

        • Oh yeah… time to take the pressure off 🙂 I think dropped bars are a great motivation for perfecting handling. No wonder you got into OMD 😉

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