2021 GOALS Short Term Goals
1. Put Amateur HUS points on Cadence
2. Finish Pizza's Open Agility titles
3. Qualify Pizza for NOHS Top 10
4. Get a futurity placement
5. Finish Noodle's Excellent Standard Agility title
6. Finish Noodle's Senior Hunter title
7. Get Dolphin's Junior Hunter title
8. Get a scentwork title on Pretzel
9. Get Noodle's Rally Intermediate title
10. Get an NSD or NRD on Pizza
11. Get an NSDD or NRD on Dolphin
12. Get Dolphin's CGC
Long Term Goals
1. Earn another top 10 at Congress
2. Get a senior hunter title on Pizza
3. Win a Futurity
4. Earn a MACH
5. Earn a Master Hunter title
6. Get Pizza's Grand Champion Bronze
7. Get a top 5 at Congress
8. Earn Dolphin's grand championship
Whew! That's a lotta goals! I'm probably good if I managed to hit 50% of them. My long term goals are goals I don't expect to finish this year, but will be working towards them. They adjust a bit year to year as I change direction or reevaluate what I am doing. So, here we go 2021, let's do this!
If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.
Slowing down? Me? Never! However, I am taking a step back, evaluating everything I am doing, and spending more time enjoying the moment. Too much time is spent working and worrying about what I am trying to achieve in the future, and I am missing the daily moments that make life so special. My goal is to focus more on today and what I do have, and not solely on what I am trying to achieve. Goals can be a wonderful thing, but they can quickly turn to poison if left unchecked.
"You are not what you’ve done. You are what you keep doing."
Friday, January 1, 2021 (later)
Rough day of agility
Well, Pizza and I headed to an agility trial in Zanesville today. When we were here back in November, we had some incredible success and finished our Novice Standard title here. Today, however, was a total bust.
We started off with Novice FAST. I only need one more Q for her title, but today was not the day. She did OK, and even got the send bonus, but she got a bit out of control running around, and I had to sit her to get control so we ended up going 7 seconds over time and not qualifying. That was the highlight, it went downward from there. Jumpers was really out of control. We actually started off pretty good, with a few mistakes, but then she caught scent of a sandwich left under the chair in the ring by the judge (yes, is that not INSANE??? The judge left a box with a half eaten sandwich in the ring!) and it was really hard to get her away from that. After that, we had a major oops where she came running towards me and decided to launch herself at me, and hit the ground and knocked the wind out of herself. It was really scary for a moment. Once she caught her breath again, we did two more jumps and finished.
Standard didn't go much better. She didn't sop on her A-Frame, instead she came down and jumped on me. We had a bunch of off-courses, missed obstacles, you name it. Train wreck.
I put together a video compilation of the day, because there were a few good moments to celebrate! We will try again on Sunday...fingers crossed.
Today I finally got to do some field training again, first time since November! Today was just the girls - Noodle and Pizza. Noodle trained with another experienced senior hunter, and she was wonderful (after I had to really get after her for chasing a bunny right at the start of training!). Noodle was spot-on perfect, had a couple beautiful backs without a whoa, and I was able to have her stand on her honor while the other dog worked the bird without holding on to her collar...training UP!
We worked Pizza with another dog that is just starting to train for senior. We had check cords on both of them so we could control the dogs during the flush. I am amazed that Pizza held her point even while I flushed and then shot my blank gun! Her heeling away from the bird needs a lot of work, but her self-control was far better than I had ever thought. Plus she is pointing so dramatically, it is beautiful to watch. I am hoping to have her ready to test for senior next fall, but I am definitely NOT rushing into it until I feel confident she is ready.
Try try again at the agility trial today. If I thought Friday was bad, I was in for a surprise as today was far worse. Every run was a wreck. We even got whistled out of FAST (after we managed to get the send bonus!) because Pizza ran to the bar setter and was climbing all over her and wouldn't leave her alone. Jumpers was all over the place with 3 off courses, 5 refusals, and 3 missed jumps. Standard was the worst, she blew her A-Frame stopped contact, blew her weaves even after 3 tries, missed obstacles, and went into a tunnel FOUR times 9and it was only on the course once).
I left the trial in a very low place in my head. Nothing worse than feeling like a total failure as a dog trainer. How did the wheels come off so fast? The drive home was long as I started second guessing every single decision I have ever made...and you know that never does anyone any good!
Thank goodness for video, because I went home and forced myself to watch all three runs. And you know what? I actually found quite a few things that were pretty good. Granted, they were sandwiched in between disasters, but there were short moments when Pizza focused and our timing was good and it looked wonderful. This is the stuff I need to hang on to, and start to work on having MORE of those moments. We are still a work in progress and we are very rough around the edges. I am going to work hard on focus and working through her adrenaline all through January, and hopefully our first trial back in February we will see big strides in improvement. Stay tuned...
We arrived in Venice, Florida yesterday, and Cadence and I were reunited. Man she looks good, and I think she has grown! Today was my first chance to ride her in a month. I was amazed at how well she rode for me. We rode in the show arena and there were a ton of people riding every direction, and she handled he traffic really well. I actually felt like I rode decently and had a pretty good handle on her. This ride was a serious confidence-booster for me, because I have really been feeling inept
These show grounds are really packed tight. Not much space to do any sort of dog training like I had hoped. The most I can do is walk them around, work on focus, and being around TONS of loose dogs with no manners. That's OK, my focus this week is Cadence.
My ride today on Cadence wasn't very good. I just didn't feel like I was in sync with her. It all felt off, and I had to work really hard and felt like I was riding like a sack of potatoes. I love potatoes, but not in the saddle. Tomorrow I will ride in the English saddle and I expect things will get worse before they get better.
I feel so intimidated here. Do you realize I haven't ridden at a quarter horse show since 2010? That's like eternity! The competition here is unbelievable, and it was really crazy of me to make THIS show my very first show with Cadence under saddle. What was I thinking?
Today I made my entries for tomorrow - Darla in the 3yo open and me in the 3yo non-pro. Thank goodness Darla shows first, and I am immediately following her class. Dolphin and Pizza had a fun day today playing with a couple of the kids at the show. I feel bad that they are mostly trapped in the motorhome while I ride. I guess it's better than being left home.
I put Darla's English saddle on Cadence today. Man, I LOVE her saddle, so much more than mine. Yeah, then I looked up the price. Ouch. I hate that I can't afford one. I feel that old inadequacy hitting me - it's hard to compete when money divides the competitors. I shouldn't complain, I am doing better than most. But still...being at a horse show is a lot harder because the divide between the haves and have nots is MUCH greater than any other sport I am involved in.
Well, my ride today was an absolute dream. Seriously. I would have never expected this, but it was probably the best feeling I have ever had in the saddle - it was amazing. At one point I was cantering and I could feel the tears in my eyes (so embarrassing LOL!)...here I am cantering at a show on my second generation baby that I went through hell and back to produce. It's pretty surreal. I have really tried to distance myself from the whole emotional involvement in Cadence's training. I know it sounds weird, but I really felt like I had to protect myself and my mental state after everything that has happened. I am still cautious, but my excitement is growing and I am feeling much more positive. I actually cannot wait to show tomorrow, I pray I have as good a ride as I had tonight.
Today we finally had sun, and some warmer temperatures, Cadence's 3 year old Futurity classes were in the morning - Darla was showing first in the Limited and Open 3 year old Hunter Under Saddle, and the 3 year old Non-Pro HUS was immediately afterwards. Darla went in on Cadence and had an absolutely beautiful ride! Cadence was so smooth and calm, and the ride just looked fluid. It was so exciting when they called out the placements, and Cadence was reserve champion in the open HUS futurity, and champion in the limited open HUS futurity! For her winnings, she won some decent money, a bottle of champagne, a plaque, and a couple neck ribbons (so cool!).
Darla came out of the ring an it was my turn. It was a little disappointing to find out that I was the only entry in the 3yo non-pro. Apparently, there weren't any other non-pros ready to show their own 3 year old horses (can't blame them, it's a bit daunting!). It was a great chance to get my feet wet showing my horse for the first time under saddle, but my biggest goal was to make her (and I) look good, and as smooth and fluid as Darla's ride looked.
After a short warm-up, the class was on, and it was a bit unnerving to ride in that big ring and know that every eye was on me (because who else were they gonna watch???). The ride was a complete dream. I won't say it was totally perfect - my canter transitions were not the best and she did start getting strong the second direction, but overall I was so happy with my ride. First one in the books...check! For my ride, I also got a bottle of champagne, a plaque, and a neck ribbon. Sadly, no money, but the ride was worth every penny of that entry fee!
Today was cloudy and cool. We got Cadence out after the show was done so I could practice for tomorrow. For some reason, I was kind of a mess and we were not gelling. Everything just felt a little "off" - nothing was super bad, but Cadence and I just had trouble staying together for some reason. Well hopefully tomorrow we will get it together.
Today was a very chilly, cloudy day. Last day of the show! I am happy and sad. Darla showed first thing in the morning in the L2 Junior Hunter Under Saddle, with a decent ride earning 6th under all 4 judges. I had a bit of a break and then my class was in - Select Amateur Hunter Under Saddle and Novice Select Non-Pro (a class within a class). Well, we warmed up pretty good, but the class was very crowded and it was a lot harder to show in and out of the crowds. Cadence and I started off pretty well, but the canter first direction went on and on and on and....on. At one point, she was exhausted and broke but I got her right back into the canter after maybe one stride.
Second direction was where the wheels started coming off. She was really tired and dull to my cue, so she picked up the wrong lead at the canter...I fixed it within 2 strides and we went on. She was struggling to canter slowly, and the rattley golf cart that went right by the ring fence as we went by was enough to make her kick out in a little buck. After that, our canter was kind of fast and it was hard to keep her collected. It was the trifecta of mistakes - a break, a buck, and a wrong lead!
We did place 5th under one judge who was apparently napping and missed all of those mistakes. In the Novice non-pro select there were only 4 of us eligible and she ended up 2nd under all 3 judges, so that was something. It was a disappointing ride to end our Florida show, but it could have been a LOT worse!
When it was all done, we packed up, and Mark, the dogs, and I headed south to Goodland for a few days. To add to the bummer of the day, we found that the red tide is SO bad down south, there is no way we can take the boat out or take the dogs to the beach. Lots of dead fish, terrible stench, and burning eyes. Ugh. That's Florida for you, it can be paradise sometimes, and other times it is "someplace else"!
We made it home in a white-out snow storm on Sunday evening. It was so good to be home, and especially wonderful to see Noodle again. I miss her so much when we travel without her. It's weird, the bond we have. We have been through so much together and I have agonized over my training of her, but we have forged through all of that and have this incredible connection together.
Today we went field training...we as in Noodle, Pizza, and Dolphin. I started with Dolphin first since he hasn't been field training in such a long time. He was rather disappointing...ran around the field like a mad dog, bouncing and having a good old time and trying to dove on to the birds. I should have known that the 2 weeks these dogs spent cooped up in the motorhome not being able to run would affect him the most. It will take a little while to get him back into his disciplined mind.
Noodle was stellar. She stayed close to me like she always does when we train, but she backed three different times on her own without any "whoa-ing" from me. That always gives me chills...it's so cool to watch.
Pizza was the big surprise - held her point on three different birds through the flush and shot! Her backing is not happening without a whoa, but neither was Noodle's at first so I am not worried. We blew the 4th bird and that was totally my own fault. She went on a beautiful point and as usual I could not find the bird. The wind shifted and she lost her point, moved about 10 feet and picked up the scent again, but this time it was right under her head...and before I could make it to her she picked the bird up. She did hand it right over to me and it was completely unharmed, so that is a good thing. I know I took WAY too long trying to find the bird on her first point, I think she gave up on me. I don't blame her! We will do better next time.
My field trainer talked me into doing something brand new for me - entering a field trial! It is a walking field trial next weekend down in Kentucky. Unfortunately the gun dog stakes were full, so Noodle will have to stay home. I entered Pizza in the open derby and amateur derby, and entered Dolphin in the Open Puppy. Not sure how he will do, but this will be a fun experience. We will see what it is like. I like new experiences, I want to do it all!
It's back to agility today! Dolphin had his puppy class first thing in the morning, and he did surprisingly well for not having done much in a month. We got to do the lowered A-frame for the first time. I noticed since we have come back from the horse show he is a lot braver about things. I even got him across the lowered teeter on my front porch a few times yesterday without hesitation...that is big!
My good mood came crashing down with Pizza's agility class. She went completely feral on me. Wild, out of control, acted like she had never been trained to sit or stay again, overreacting to the other dogs, it was a mess. This new class we are in is very LOUD, lots an lots of barking dogs that bark when they are crated, bark when they are walked, bark when they run the course, it is non-stop. It bugged me and it really rattled her. It's good for her to get used to this because the barking really rattled her at our last agility trial. But working through this is going to be hard and very frustrating for a while. I have to remind myself to be patient!
Pretzel had scentwork class tonight. We have been taking class since November (with a break during December/January) so we haven't been at it that long. I am not sure he is really "getting it" yet, but he is loving the work so we will keep on keepin' on. It's nice to be working with my boy again.
This morning Noodle had agility class. It's been over a month since she has had class. She was doing wonderful, so focused, and accurate. I laughed to my friend saying it must be the apocalypse since Noodle is my "good dog" this week. Yeah, next time I make a comment like that, just slap me. Right after that Noodle lost her brain and went a little bananas. I got her back, but it was a crazy moment and I had a horrible feeling that all these months where she was being so good and I was feeling so confident all went up in a puff of smoke. I am the world's greatest sucker, because as soon as I start thinking I have been a successful trainer, something like this happens to make me feel lower than low.
To top off an already bad couple of days, the check engine light came on in the van. It is a BIG repair of several thousand dollars. Thank goodness we have a bumper-to-bumper warranty up to 60,000 miles. Yeah. Too bad the van is at 61,000 miles right now. Such is my life this week.
Today I had an agility seminar all morning, and this time I had both Noodle and Pizza enrolled. Kind of interesting how they fed off of each other while in their crates. I had them crated side by side, and in the beginning they were super reactive and barky any time another dog walked by and made eye contact. It was hard to tell who was feeding off of who, but they both were obnoxious. Interestingly, they settled down after about 30 minutes and didn't react when dogs came by.
The seminar went well, and as expected. Noodle was super accurate, doing her collection recalls with beautiful finesse and tight turns. Pizza was a slightly out-of-control bull in a china shop that did everything with speed and power, and the collection recalls were hard for her to execute (we ended up breaking them down to control her collection when approaching the jump). There was improvement, however. The seminar left me with a much better feeling in my head about the two of them. I have so many emotions tied in to agility and my training that every little setback just consumes me. This is probably not very healthy, but I can't help it. I wonder why I am not this emotional about conformation or field training? Is it because I want this more? I don't think so. Maybe because this sport has been the biggest struggle for me since the very first day I put Pretzel over a jump. The rest of the world really has NO idea the level of training involved when you do this sport and want to to it right. I need to work on my emotional response when things go south...getting overly upset with myself and my outcomes doesn't do any good.
25 degrees and sunny, perfect day to layer up on the clothing and take 3 dogs field training. Mark got to go with me, which was nice. We have the van back from the shop temporarily while they wait for the parts needed for the $2,000 repair to the fuel injectors...grrr.
Noodle was stellar, as usual - several beautiful honors without command, a nice point, and very obedient. I think she was on her best behavior to show off for Mark. Pizza, likewise, was wonderful, while she doesn't really understand the concept of honoring yet, she had some very nice points and great self-control through the flush and shot. Dolphin, well, he is still a work in progress. He was running around so happy, when he did encounter a bird it wasn't until he was right on top of it before he pointed. He is slowly learning to use his nose, but he was slow to figure it out today. He, of course, has zero self-control around the birds, so we used cages and brush today to make sure he didn't pounce on them before we got up to where he was at. Patience...work in progress, and today was a little better than last week so that is moving in the right direction.
Our field trial is next weekend, I am looking forward to it. It's kind of nice to do something with zero expectations. I don't really care how we do, as long as we don't look embarrassing and my dogs behave. Low expectations = easier success! LOL!
Today I took Noodle and Pizza to some agility run-throughs. It was good because it was set up just like a trial, with a timer, judge, and ring crew. Noodle was the star (at least, she was MY star). I had a guy that was there go out in the ring and play judge (since Noodle seems to feel the need to investigate all male judges). Sure enough, she ran up to him during our first run. I made her lay down, then we went on about the course with no more issues. She had several more runs, and never gave that guy a look again, running perfectly clean.
Pizza was wild and a little out of control. Her 2 on 2 off contacts kind of fell apart, but since it was just run-throughs I was able to correct her and make her repeat them until she got it right. She paid zero attention to my body cues, and deceleration? What is that? I could come to a dead stop and she still barreled forward with no shortening of stride or even attempt to collect. This is a big big big issue with her. Although she has great weaves, they come apart really fast when she has to enter the weaves from a lot of speed, like after a tunnel. That's something that is hard to work on in my basement as she cannot get up enough speed to practice that.
Overall, it was a good experience. I am working hard to temper down my frustration with Pizza as I keep reminding myself that she is not even 18 months old yet...still very much a baby dog with a baby brain. Sure, we took some big steps backwards in our training, but I am confident we will get past this eventually and make some forward progress.
Today the three crazies (Noodle, Pizza, and Dolphin) did some field training. Dolphin showed some decent points, but zero self-control, as one quail met his maker thanks to him. Patience...I remind myself...patience!
Noodle was stellar - did 3 honors at a distance without a cue (one of them was from waaaay across the field!). When she does this, it gives me chills. So proud and amazed with my girl and how far we have come in just a little over a year. She made one big boo-boo mistake when she went on point with the bird literally right under her nose...of course the bird flushed and about hit her in the face and she took 4-5 steps to chase. This bird did this to literally every single dog, so it was worth it's weight in training today!
Pizza did wonderfully. While she doesn't really have an honor yet on her own, she is holding beautifully for the flush and shot (though that renegade bird managed to get her to fail also!). Pizza is has such a nice big run in the field, I think if she can hold her brain together this weekend she will at least look respectable. The jury is still out on Dolphin. I am totally looking forward to this weekend, though the forecast of heavy rain had me heading to the store to buy new rain boots as mine seem to be leaking water (as evidenced by my wet socks today).
Traveling with two puppies...I need my head examined
Call me crazy, yep! I hit the road this afternoon with Dolphin and Pizza, headed to the field trial in Kentucky. Traveling with two young dogs all by myself makes me deserve to have my head examined. Let's just say staying in the hotel room was a slight challenge in keeping them occupied and quiet (they've never been known for liking to play quietly!). Dolphin was enamored by the handsome pup he saw in the mirror and spent the first 10 minutes gazing at himself. We settled down for the night and it was fairly peaceful UNTIL 4:00 am, which Dolphin apparently thinks is the perfect time to wrestle on the bed! We will be up bright and early for the field trial, and I have tons of rain gear packed for the weekend...we are READY!/p> Back to Top
Saturday, January 30, 2021
My first field trial!
It was a cold cold day in Paris, Kentucky - the temperatures hovered around 25 degrees all day. The field trial took place on a gorgeous horse farm, complete with the signature black board fencing and stone walls out front.
Pizza was first up in Open Derby. The course was set on some rolling hills, with fields and woods. Pizza looked wonderful as she hunted hard, but I was crushed when time was up and we came up birdless. That's never happened to her before, she has always found birds at our hunt tests or training that we did. Not sure if it was the frigid cold temperatures, the 15 mph wind, or both? Or maybe we just chalk it up to bad luck.
Next was Dolphin, in open puppy. Kind of weird - for the puppy class they don't even plant any birds, the puppy is just judged on how well he runs and hunts (or appears to hunt). Dolphin gained confidence the farther we went into the field, and started looking like a genuine bird dog! I was pretty happy when he ended up with a 4th place in the puppy class.
There was a BIG snowstorm headed our way, so the trial committee decided to go ahead and run the Amateur Derby today instead of waiting until tomorrow morning as scheduled. This was a good choice, as it meant I would be able to head home early (and not another night in the hotel with the two crazies!). Dolphin was first to go in the Amateur Derby. He had two nice bird finds, though he held his point for maybe a few seconds before busting the bird. It's kind of what I expected from him since he hasn't had very much experience. I was happy he actually found birds! He also looked a LOT more confident and had nice range on this second run.
I had one brace off and then it was Pizza's turn again. This was my 4th brace to walk, and I could feel my legs burning from all the hills. It was a good feeling though! Pizza had beautiful range and speed, and it was beautiful to watch. When we got into the bird field, I took her to the places where I thought the birds would be, but we were not having any luck. She was hunting hard and covering a lot of ground. At one point we came out of the trees and her bracemate was on point, and she stopped on point also. We also had one wild flush as she was running, and the judge mentioned that it was wild and not her fault (good!). Oh, and I also tripped over a tree root and face-planted in the mud. Yay. Right in front of the judge. Yep.
Time was running out and we only had a minute or two left in the brace. I was starting to feel a little panicked. Pizza went back over where I had taken her initially and hunted, but didn't find anything. Then she took off to the left towards the woods and BAM she slammed on a beautiful solid point. Fo once in my life I was able to see the bird right away as it was kind of out in the open between two trees in the woods. I used my toe to flip it up and flush it, it went about 2 feet and it started walking away. I fired my blank gun, and Pizza held steady through all of that. YES! I walked her away, and set her loose, and dang it if she didn't double back and go pick up that bird that was on a walk. She did bring it back to me, and it was completely unharmed. Luckily, this sort of stuff does not count against her in derby. Time was up, so I re-planted the bird for the next brace and we were finished.
We waited for the results and the snow started coming down in earnest. You could have knocked me over when they announced that Pizza was the winner of the Amateur Derby out of 10 dogs! Holy cow!!! A win at our very first field trial! This little girl just keeps surprising me every day with what she can do.
We headed home in one of the worst snowstorms I have ever driven in. The 3 hour drive took 7 hours (averaging 20-30mph on the highway the whole time) and we didn't get home until almost 2:00am. It was a white-knuckle drive, but I am thankful we made it home safely...and I'd like to go on record in saying how much I hate January! Yeah, and February isn't much better. How soon until spring?