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?