Monday, April 17, 2006

Agility competition in Ajdovščina

So, Saturday our home club of Ajdovščina hosted the first outdoor agility competition of the season. Unlike last year, when it poured all day and competitors had to run through knee-deep mud, the weather and the footing were dry.

The course for the first run was quite easy and straightforward, but nevertheless Lyra and I came within a millimeter of being disqualified. For some reason after coming off the bridge she veered left instead of going straight at the next jump, and I was barely able to call her back in time. Got five faults for a runout/refusal.

Even before that her performance on the bridge was shaky. That was really weird and unexpected, because it's our home training ground, and she's galloped across that same bridge countless times with no hesitation whatsoever. I always thought the reason she balked on other bridges, at competitions, was because the obstacles themselves had an unfamiliar look and feel. Now, though, I'm thinking it's the crowds that unsettle her--the bridge (the tail end of which you can see in the photo) was located very close to the edge of the field where spectators were clustered. That may account for why she veered away afterwards, too.

Anyway, apart from that little hiccup, she ran well. Slalom was flawless. It used to be the obstacle that troubled us the most, but she's getting very reliable--assuming the course is set up so that we can enter it with her on my left, which fortunately this one was.

There were an extraordinarily high number of clean runs--nine out of 26 competitors. Lyra and I, with our five faults, were in 10th place. But even with a clean run we wouldn't have moved up more than a place or two, since we don't (yet) run at the breakneck speed of many competitors.

The course for the second run (jumping) also looked easy--but fast--on the walk-through. But appearances can be deceptive: only two dogs had clean runs, whereas 14 were disqualified. Including us, when Lyra went off course by veering right into a tunnel instead of going straight over a wall. Before that we'd already collected 10 faults by messing up twice on the slalom. This, too, was unexpected--she entered correctly and usually if she nails the entrance she moves smoothly and accurately through to the end, so I was already focused mentally on the next obstacle when she ducked out at the second to last pole. Then we screwed up again when we went back to correct it. Besides the faults, this had the effect of disrupting our rhythm and concentration, which made further mistakes, including "fatal" ones like going off-course, more likely. As to why she went the wrong way--it could have been because the wall is not an obstacle we practice on much (we should), and she preferred the more familiar-looking tunnel. And/or it could have been related, again, to the presence of the crowd on the sidelines, and she ran right instead of straight to put more distance between them and her.

I wasn't too disappointed to be disqualified. The faults on the slalom would have put us well down in the ranking anyway--well out of the top three--and we're not eligible for the national championships (državno prvenstvo) so we wouldn't have collected any points even if we'd been ranked. As a member of the crew/home club I got a free jacket (thanks to sponsors) and a couple of free meals AND I didn't have to pay the entry fee, just membership for the year. So we didn't come away empty-handed. Also, I'm in no hurry to qualify for competition at the next level (A2, which requires three clean runs at A1), since I plan on staying in A1 for the whole of the season regardless.

I've set a modest goal of placing in the top three in the Eukanuba Cup--we collected some points for that already with our third-place finish at Prestranek--so I'm hoping to place well in the remaining five competitions over the season that count towards that. And just gain as much experience as possible. We need lots and lots of experience at competitions--conditions can't be duplicated at training. She needs to get used to the crowds and distractions, encounter unfamiliar obstacles in unfamiliar settings, I need to get less nervous. This will only come with competition experience.

We need to train seriously as well, of course, but agility, though a favorite activity, is not all we do, and I'm neither able nor willing to focus single-mindedly on achieving top results in the sport, to the exclusion of all else. I enjoy the competitions and the training, and while it's surely more satisfying to come home with a trophy than a disqualification, I don't want it to matter so much that we can't have fun doing it no matter what the outcome. On Saturday only 8 of 26 competitors--less than a third--successfully completed both runs. It sucks to be disqualified, and it happens in a heart-breaking split second, but realistically, if Lyra and I are ranked in just one competition out of three, we're not doing too badly.

Overall results available here. The youngest and oldest members of our home team produced the best performances--Veronika and Nala were 2nd in A1/J1 medium, Tena and Tara were 5th in A1/J1 small, and Franc and Kena--just returned from maternity leave--were 9th in A3/J3 large. Tine, me, Nuska and Primoz were disqualified. Oh well. better luck next time.

Aussie puppy Olivia would have benefited from the socialization opportunity, but unfortunately Monika has been ill the last few days, and I took them home right after our first run so Monika could go back to bed. I guess I'm a lousy mother, since I went back to the club and left her alone (well, with Oli for company) for the day.


Blogger Stephen O'Leary said...

What glorious fun you must have with your canine companions. I love dogs, and wish I could spare the time to train and play with them the way you do--for now, I'll have to appreciate vicariously while you run through the courses. It's interesting to see what independent cusses they can be--choosing to go the wrong way at just that moment. Just like my children.

Jean, I'm applauding you from thousands of miles away.

7:09 AM, April 22, 2006  
Blogger Jean said...

Thanks for stopping by! There's a competition in Gornja Radgona today but we're staying home this weekend--a little too far away for my travel budget, and anyway I have too much work, inside and out. Next weekend, though, we're going to Ptuj. Yes, there really is a town called Ptuj--pronounced, more or less, Patooey, by English speakers, whose native tongue doesn't allow for that particular initial consanant cluster. Hmm, maybe one day I should let my inner linguist write a post on phonotactics.

9:58 AM, April 22, 2006  

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