First USDAA Trial

What a rush! I had so much fun at my first USDAA trial. Gel had a ball as well. We ran five times on Saturday. The first class was Gamblers and we qualified. The second class was Standard and we qualified. The third was Jumpers and I screwed up (as usual, I think I have a phobia about Jumpers courses and go in ready to screw up). In Pairs, Gel’s run was flawless and fast. I told my partner that Gel would be coming in to the baton exchange area like a freight train and to have her dog focused and ready to leave. I handed her the baton and she left with her dog, who promptly ran through the first jump, knocked several more jumps and the last time I looked at her, he wouldn’t go up the A-frame. Oh well, better luck next time. Gel and I worked on weaves all last week and our hard work paid off as he was hitting his entries and weaving with speed.

The topper on Saturday was the Steeplechase run. Steeplechase is a tournament event instituted by USDAA in 1997. According to USDAA, this tournament event was developed to demonstrate the competitor’s ability to work with speed as they feature their skills in training and performance of a special jumpers course. In addition to numerous jumps and hurdles on course, the A-frame and weave poles are included as a special demonstration of the two most dynamic obstacles in the dog agility, for which difficulty of performance increases with speed. The tournament’s “time plus faults” scoring method accentuates the importance of speed combined with accuracy in performance.

Here is the course we ran.

The cool thing about Steeplechase is that any dog can run in it, no matter if they are running at the Starters (Novice) or Master (highest) level of competition. So Gel and I were running with the “big” dogs. Gel and I ran the course clean and only bobbled once between obstacles 3 and 4, he tried to go on the A-frame rather than in the tunnel so we lost precious seconds there. Even though he came out of the tunnel at speed, he still nailed his weave pole entrance. We were just two seconds off from qualifying! For our first USDAA trial, I think that’s pretty darned good. Even though we did not qualify, we were able to run again on Sunday. I came off that course so pumped I could have run it again. I can’t wait until the trial this weekend which is USDAA as well.

Sunday’s run was more difficult and we didn’t do so well, but that’s okay. As one of my instructors, Meagan says, it’s only a girl and her dog running circles in the dirt. I get so serious about my runs, I need to lighten up. I want to be perfect, and it is me that screws our runs up, not Gel.

On Sunday we qualified in Standard (again) and Snooker (by the skin of my teeth). Jumpers was a bomb again. As we were running I met the judge’s eyes and almost stopped there and said to her, this dog is so damned honest it isn’t funny. Even though I was handling him terribly, Gel cleared every jump. Out of nine total runs that weekend, he only knocked one bar which was in Saturday’s Jumpers run. We ran the Jumpers run clean, but we were three seconds over time so we didn’t qualify. In AKC we would have. I’ve been told before that AKC rewards slow dogs and I didn’t understand why until now.

I elected to stay overnight on Saturday and brought both Midge and Fern with me. Except for having her hackles up a few times and alarm barking very briefly twice, Fern did very well with all the new people and dogs. She enjoyed the attention she got from the exhibitors. Midge was her usual self, not at all bothered by the strange surroundings or dogs. That’s the beauty of my dogs, they are the same dogs no matter where they are. One exhibitor commented on my tugging with Gel prior to a run. She said she wouldn’t want to do that with her dog because it would get him too ramped up. I don’t know how much more ramped up I could get Gel prior to a run, he comes into the arena wired for sound. I told her I tugged with him because I enjoyed his excitement and fed off it myself. As soon as I set him up for his start line stay, he’s clear and focused on me. Gel has never broke a start line stay in competition or any where else. There was a time when Gel was extremely obstacle-focused and quite frequently made up his own courses, but those days are past. He does what I ask of him even if it’s dead wrong or really hard to do.

The dogs all seemed to enjoy the hotel room. Agh! It was awful having to take them out on leads for potty walks. I am so used to being able to go out with them off-lead. I couldn’t imagine living in an area where I had to walk my dogs on leash. We’ll be staying overnight for the trial this weekend too. After this weekend, we won’t do another trial until the end of January which is a good thing. They are expensive and exhausting, but so darned much fun I don’t know how I stand it!