Welcome to Rabbit's world - 2014 edition!

Follow my journey through the twists and turns of 2014 - training my horses, training my dog, attempting new things, attempting to improve on some old things, and attempting to have bucketloads of FUN!

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Sunday, February 2, 2014

CPE Agility Trial - Columbus, OH

Well I knew today might possibly be a bust - heading to an agility trial with hardly any practice this week other than our Wednesday night lessons. I have been very sick all week, plus working a LOT. But, entries were paid and I need the practice before next weekend, so what the heck...

Well, what can I say other than class after class, Pretzel was a complete nut. He pretty much ignored my cues, did a few things and then ran around and made up his own course. What bothered me the most was how many times he went off and smelled the corner, investigated the crowd, and one time he ran out the gate! These are signs that he really wasn't paying any attention to me. I don't mind the enthusiasm and energy, but when he decides to go off and do his own thing, I realize my training has some huge holes in it.

I got some good advice from a few competitors there that watched my epic failures. I need to get Pretzel's focus back on ME. This was lacking all week since I was sick and working so much. I need to get busy with training exercises at home - just the simple silly stuff that forces him to constantly watch me for cues as to what to do. This will get him back into the habit of focusing on me. I need to do this also when I have him out of his crate at the trial preparing to go in the ring - get his focus off the other dogs and on me. I see I am going to need some really tasty treats to bribe that focus.

Starting off decently, with a nice jump

Our first run off of the morning

He did stop on the table and didn't jump off right away...yay!

We had two good sets of weaves today.

What a jump (and what a weird running stance I have!)

Pretzel is so excited about the tunnel he leaps on me afterwards! We are not lacking in enthusiasm.

*Sigh*...another run off.

At one point I had to just grab him and call myself off of the course because he was so out of control...

A nice jump...

Our final jump of the day...even though Pretzel went his own way a bit we managed to squeak out a "Q", our only one.

Video of our agility bloopers

Monday, February 3, 2014

Although I am still sick, I couldn't stand it any more so I went out to the barn to ride Tango. Tango and Corky both had a lot of energy when I free-longed them. Once again, after over a week off, Tango rode like a champ. I am thinking maybe this time off is doing him good - allowing him to rest and grow and stay fresh. I am really happy with where we are right now. I would love to take him somewhere with a big arena and see how his canter is holding up on long straight paths. When I rode him this summer outside, I had to work a lot to get him balanced and upright after a winter of riding tight turns in the indoor. I might have to look into finding someplace to ride, or at least hauling him next month to ride around at one of the indoor shows.

I carried a container of dog treats in my pocket as I rode, and I would occasionally call Pretzel over to me and treat him. I also went through sit, down, and stay commands while on horseback. I love that he will obey me without me having to get out of the saddle. This will be very useful in the future!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Zanesville, OH AKC Agility Trial - Day 1

Let me start by saying this weekend was full of dramatic lows and highs. I can honestly say I did all I could to make sure this was a success. Every evening this week I worked on brain games and focus with Pretzel. We couldn't go outside and work on obstacles (the 10 inches of snow we got on Wednesday really hampered things!) so we worked inside on training stuff - getting him to watch me and focus on what I was asking. I sent him to my friend's house for the day on Friday to play with his dog buddies - they wear him out faster than I ever could! So I covered his mental exercise and his physical exercise. I even went to a special agility class on Thursday since Wednesday night's class was cancelled due to snow. Now all I could do was study the course maps, walk a good path, and try my hardest to get Pretzel to cooperate.

The first class of the morning was Fifteen And Send Time (F.A.S.T.) - which is a lot like jackpot in CPE Agility. Basically you took whatever obstacles you wanted for points, and there was an area taped off with two jumps that you had to "send" your dog over, while standing behind the taped line. I knew that would be tough for us since Pretzel is a bit too new at this to understand my commands when I am not close to the obstacle. What I didn't expect (or at least what I hoped would not happen) was that he would act like he did last Sunday and run all over the ring, ignoring me, and then run out of the in gate to visit the dogs waiting their turn. Embarrassed? Yes. Frustrated? Hell YES. No matter what I did, he just ignored me and did what he wanted - went exploring and visiting. I felt like all that work I had done all week was for naught. I was very down about it...really regretting entering Louisville next month....really really regretting it.

Next was Jumpers With Weaves (JWW). It was a nice, easy flowing course with straight lines. I kept him in his crate by himself until right before our run. Good plan, as he was less distracted going into the ring. The class actually went decently. we had a couple run-outs (where he ran past the jump and I had to bring him back around), and we had some trouble with the weaves (but we did get them completed successfully). We did miss a jump near te end, but I was MUCH happier after this class because he actually listened to me and came back on course when I called him. We had a couple really nice moments also, and one halfway decent rear cross (risky - but necessary when I can't keep up with my dog!).

Last for the day was Standard - the course with ALL the obstacles in it. This is our first time doing a broad jump, and also the pause table. Unfortunately we fell victim to the great sucking tunnel - Pretzel got sucked into the chute several times even though I was directing him elsewhere. After that, he did his next favorite obstacle - the A-Frame - out of order. Then another tunnel when he was supposed to take a jump...etc., etc. Each time when I called him, he came right back to me. but we probably set a record for the most off-course penalties!

Try, try again tomorrow, I guess. I feel a little better because although the day started as a disaster he made small increments of improvement. At least he has started to listen to me...after he makes his mistake LOL!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Zanesville, OH AKC Agility Trial - Day 2

We started the morning off with Jumpers With Weaves. It was a course with several loops in it. We had a bunch of run-outs where he missed jumps, he took a couple tours of the neighborhood, but was MUCH better in coming back to me each time I called. He did really nice on the weaves. Still improving over yesterday...so I am keeping positive thoughts!

Next was Standard. I walked that course a million times, I swear. I analyzed every problem spot, figured out my path, figured out alternate paths in case things didn't go as planned. I was very scientific about it. I was really worried because the first jump pointed us right at the entrance gate where we came in (and the next dog would be waiting to come in). There wasn't an actual gate, just an opening. I was so afraid Pretzel would dive out of that gate to go visit. Amazingly, I managed to keep his focus (although he started a fraction before I cued him) and he went right over the first two jumps without even looking at the entrance gate.

The course was very nice and flowy with straight paths. He did really nice on his dogwalk contact, everything was really going smoothly! I approached the pause table with a little too much speed and Pretzel jumped on to the table and momentum carried him right off, but I got him back on and we did our 5 seconds. So there was one table fault for us. we did have to re-start the weaves, but at the novice level you are allowed 3 attempts at the weaves without penalties. I didn't get myself into the correct position I had planned after the tunnel and he ended up running past the tire and I had to call him back around - that was one run-out fault. The rest of the course went like clockwork...I was thrilled! With me being new to the sport, I wasn't sure if I had racked up enough penalties to knock me out of qualification. They had the results up really fast, and yes, I had qualified!!! Score of 90 and a good 10 seconds under the course time. Our first AKC "Q"!!!! I went into this weekend fully expecting NO Q's because this was a learning experience for both of us, and we are both new to everything. What a thrill!!!

Last class of the day was Time To Beat (T2B). Basically a full course was set up and everyone runs the same course. The fastest time for each height without any off-courses or faults (run-outs are allowed) wins. This would be a good practice for us...I felt pretty good until I saw the course map. Ye gads...check it out:

I waled this course over and over and over again. By the end of my walk, I felt pretty confident that I knew where to go. Pretzel started off bad - he broke his stay at the start line, I went with it but I know this is going to need to be corrected! The first part of the sequence went really well, I executed another rear cross that worked perfectly. We had some trouble with the weaves (he kept wanting to check out the wall next to the weave poles) but did get them completed successfully (since this was a course everyone ran, we had to do 12 weave poles instead of only 6 for novice). Things went a bit haywire after that, missed a bunch of jumps, had to circle around a lot, then the buzzer went off meaning we were out of time and I ran him to the exit trying to get him to at least take the last jump. He bypassed the jump, and jumped the ring fence - a big no-no!!!! Ugh, a crappy way to end the weekend.

So, I feel bad and good about my first AKC agility experience. The courses are a LOT tougher than I am used to, and my number one concern is my dog's focus. I had it together for moments, and then it fell apart. Normal for a young dog, I guess...but it's a lot to think about in the coming weeks. I have to train and get his focus better than it's ever been before our trials in March.

Our Standard run on Sunday - our first "Q"!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

I got brave enough to head out to the barn in the cold. The temps reached 20 degrees, so I put on a bunch of layers and headed out there. The horses, of course, were wound up and full of play. I felt bad taking Tango's blankets off to ride, but we soon worked up some heat by long-trotting around the arena. I don't think his canter was as good as it has been. I am sure this is a result of being out of shape. We had a pretty good ride, only one small mishap when someone outside started shooting a gun. It was pretty far away, but Tango is ultra-sensitive to noise and he reacts in a very sudden manner...which can really throw you off guard. we worked through it and ended on a positive note.

It's still amazing to me how I can have a really rotten day, go out to the barn, and for an hour or two life is good. Then...back to reality! Thank goodness for the horses - there is always a bit of happiness just a short drive away.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Freezing temperatures aren't stopping me from riding anymore! My friend's daughter Came to ride with me. She has been riding Corky off and on and does really well with her. Our plans are to get them both whipped into shape and have her show Corky in some walk-trot classes this year. That will be interesting...Corky has not been shown under saddle since 2010. I hope she will be OK, I am fairly confident she will be fine after this long break.

Both of us had good rides. S. did great with her diagonals. She had never ridden a horse before last spring, so this is all new to her. It is beyond fun having someone who loves horses as much as I. She shows signs of being addicted like myself...I am such a bad influence LOL!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Yay for a day off for President's Day! An ice storm was predicted to roll in during the afternoon, so I went out early to ride. I tossed a pole on the ground to walk and trot over. Tango has zero issues with the pole, but he isn't the most careful. I found that if I push him into a really big trot, he trots over the pole without a nick. Slow equals sloppy with him, in all gaits.

I worked a little bit on sidepassing with him. Tango does really well with leg yielding, so now I upped the difficulty by asking him to go directly sideways. He was a little confused, but he got a couple steps in each direction. that's a good start for now.

Monday, February 24, 2014

I got a chance to ride Tango several times last week, he rode great every time. My friend hopped on him on Saturday when I was done riding and she trotted him around. I was pleasantly shocked to see how GREAT he moved under saddle. I haven't seen him go in a while. He looked really flat. I think he is going to be a lot like Taylor - the older he gets, the stronger he gets and the better he looks. I think Taylor looked her absolute best when she was around 8 or 9.

Tonight, when I got him out of his stall I could tell he was in one of those moods. He was NOT wanting to cooperate with anything. He was worse under saddle - really acting up and working against me. Nothing major, just annoying. I knew this could (and would) escalate to a battle I just didn't want to fight in the 15 degree barn, so I got to a successful stopping point and quit for the night. No sense in battling what doesn't need to be battled.

Friday, February 28, 2014

I headed to Columbus (Reynoldsburg) this evening to a training facility that was offering agility practice run-throughs. This was probably one of the most valuable things I have done recently. There were a bunch of other dogs there, and the facility and equipment were very similar to what we encounter at trials. This, of course, got Pretzel all geeked up just like a trial. Just what I wanted - a chance to train him while he is wound up. I was able to bring treats into the ring, so I went in and did some made-up courses focusing on the obstacles that we needed the most practice with - the tire jump, A-frame, Teeter, and Pause Table. I did have a bit of trouble at first with the tire jump. He wanted to avoid it by going around it or going under it. Eventually I got him through it, and our second and third practice rounds were much better without any tire incidents. we worked on stopping at the bottom of our contacts. The best thing was I noticed that Pretzel never once took off running on his own. The few times he went off, he came right back and didn't go far. This is a big improvement over our last few trials. I hope it holds over to next weekend - trial in Zanesville, and especially the next weekend - the big one in Louisville, KY.

On to March, 2014...