After playing catch up on training this summer, I decided to take a chance and enter some Agility trials. Were we ready? Maybe, almost. We wouldn't know for sure until we tried. I entered the most affordable ones I could find that fit in my schedule and planned to treat them as run thrus. Maybe we wouldn't Q, but maybe we would; either way it'd be good practice.
First up was an AKC trial in Amherst, NH on July 3. Agility Club of NH has lower entry fees than other AKC clubs, so I limited my options to their events. I entered Standard and Jumpers. We NQed both runs, but actually did somewhat better on course than I expected. I was bummed that Tripp fell off the dog walk (he was okay), esp. since he slowed down so well on command for a safer entry... an experienced competitor saw the incident from another angle and said he was distracted/surprised by the steward, who should not have set up so close to the dog walk in the novice ring. Too bad, I think we might've actually had a chance at qualifying if he'd run the whole course. But it was still a great learning experience, and the club was super helpful to this newbie, nice atmosphere, friendly competitors, encouraging for a green team. On the plus side of not earning any legs, I have no pressing need to continue in AKC agility... although I am likely to try again once we have more experience competing. That is, when Tripp is not covered in dye for creative grooming.
On July 31 the Aus. Shepherd Club of New England held an ASCA Agility trial in Canterbury. ASCA performance is open to all breeds and mixes, offering an alternative competitive outlet. Trials are downright cheap (but what isn't relative to AKC?) and perfect practice for other venues, and ASCA registered dogs can earn titles while they're at it. What's not to like? Membership/registration (a one-time fee) was affordable too, so I figured why not sign Tripp up for a chance to put some more letters after his name. Yeah, he needs more of those, you know. LOL Just like he needs more silk for the 2/3 full ribbon wall. ;-)
Anyway, it was a super hot day for outdoor agility. I went nuts and entered us in FOUR classes (those irresistable prices, I didn't even think of all the work it'd be for a single day). All things considered Tripp did great. Many of the Aussies were melting out there; Tripp was feeling the heat too but kept his momentum up pretty well throughout the day. The facility offered a kiddie pool and hose for the dogs to cool off in, so I'm sure that helped.
We started off with 2 runs in Standard Agility. While nowhere near perfect (the twerp is developing a pattern of taking off after a couple obstacles, but once control is reestablished he does pretty good, and as long as he doesn't go "off course" we don't lose points, just time - but I'm trying to nip that zoomie behavior in the bud before it becomes a habit) we actually Qed in both runs and earned 2nd place (though I think that was by default - only 1 other dog in our height division as I recall). First trial, Tripp managed to give a "clean" run - at least, no course faults - I got a time fault for taking way too long setting up at the start line. Man, if only I had my act together we could've got a perfect score! Oh well. Good learning experience. That's what we were there for! Second trial we beat Standard Course Time, but Tripp went off course, getting one fault. Still great for beginners. I wish I had video of those Standard runs. I bet my handling caused him to go off course (it usually is the handler's fault). Video has been great for critiquing my handling skills, it's an awesome educational tool for competitors.
I did catch our afternoon trials on camera. We gave Jumpers and Gamblers a shot. Both were NQs but lots of fun, and overall well played. Tripp went off course in Jumpers, which automatically non-qualifies us, but we made good time and earned a respectable 4th place among a decent size class of speedy herding dogs! I didn't understand the time placements including NQs at the time, which seemed undeserving (it's just separate scoring systems, makes sense actually), now I regret not taking a ribbon for our wins, esp. considering we actually beat some competition in those. But like I said, it's not as if he needs more ribbons, seriously. LOL Next time, however, I'm taking everything they offer, just like any other show. Hey, at least it's something tangible in return for our efforts. ;-)
Gamblers was really interesting. I had very little experience with this game so my expectations were not overwhelmingly high, but of course I had hope. It was more challenging than I'd thought - in a good way. Very strategic. Not nearly as easy as one might think. Lots of fun! Unfortuately I was unprepared at the start line and ran in without setting up, which sent Tripp out of control. Regaining focus ate up lots of time, and while we earned plenty of points and nailed the gamble (plus earned another 2nd place), the buzzer went off just as Tripp sailed over the final jump. Missed it by that much! We still had a great time, and I consider it another very good learning experience. (I know I keep saying that. But it's true!)
As much as I enjoy Jumpers, I'm not sure if I will compete in that class again until Tripp is delivering more clean runs. In this sport, it's wise to put your money where your best odds are. Though knowing me in dog sports I'll probably chance it. I definitely want to try more Gamblers; it's a very cool challenge, possibly addictive. I will absolutely be back for more ASCA agility (an infrequent local offering it seems) - after all, we have legs, now we need to finish that title... and maybe go for more! ;-) Meanwhile, I'll be focusing our agility efforts mainly on USDAA, which allows dyed dogs, so we're all set to keep trialing when creatively groomed. Hopefully we start those trials later this fall. If we seem ready, I might throw in one more attempt at AKC before winter closes in. What can I say, I'm a glutton. LOL