"Your life is made up of two dates and a dash. Make the most of the dash."
If I've learned anything from last year, it is that life is unpredictable. More than ever I recognize the brevity of life, and I am determined to make the most of every healthy, living moment I have! No moment is wasted, because you learn something with every breath you inhale. Breathe deeply!
Happy New Year! You know, as a whole, I generally hate New Year's Eve. It always leaves me feeling sad. This year, it is especially sad to know that I am starting a brand new year without my mom, and this is the first time I have ever had to start one without her. That makes it extra hard. But one thing that always helps me is looking forward to checking my goals. Interesting little fun fact: I write those goals every year on January 1st and they are ONLY written on my website, and I never ever look at them again until December 31st. After 12 months, I almost never remember what any of my goals were, at least the ones I wrote down. My head is always swimming with goals, enough so that I don't think about the goals so much as I think about the plan to get there.
So, it's now that time - time to set the 2022 goals. My focus with my dogs has shifted somewhat to more of a performance-oriented plan. My goals with Cadence are still free-floating...I have no idea really what to expect or what to set with her. Without further ado (I've always wanted to say that LOL!), here is 2022:
SHORT TERM GOALS:
1. Finish Noodle's Rally Intermediate title
2. Put HUS points on Cadence
3. Earn Pizza's Master Hunter title
4. Earn Noodle's Master Hunter Advanced title
5. Get at least one Senior Hunter pass on Dolphin
6. Earn Noodle's Retrieving Dog title
7. Earn Dolphin's retrieving Dog title
8. Earn an Open Agility title on Dolphin
9. Compete with Noodle in Obedience
10. Earn a Top 10 with Cadence at the Level 1 Championships
11. Earn at least 5 more double Q's with Noodle in agility
12 Compete with Dolphin in Scent Work
LONG TERM GOALS
1. Earn another Top 10 at Congress
2. Earn a MACH
3. Earn Pizza's GCHB
4. Earn Noodle's GCHB
5. Earn a Top 5 at Congress
6. Put showmanship points on Cadence
7. Earn Noodle's Rally Advanced title
8. Earn Dolphin's Senior Hunter title
9. Earn Dolphin's Master Hunter title
Dolphin and I headed back to Zanesville for another day of agility. I thought he would be really wild because he had been cooped up for days because of the crazy amoutn of rain we have been getting. I will say he was rather energetic, and slightly more distractible than he was on Friday, but we had very similar results as Friday. He did really well in FAST, got the Send bonus, knocked a bar that was 8 points but we snagged a 9 point jump and qualified with a second place.
In Jumpers, he overshot one jump and that put him at an odd angle for the next, and he knocked a bar. After that one, he missed the next jump but I opted to just keep going and let him have a positive experience without any correction. I know he is soft, and so much like daddy Pretzel that I don't want to make the same mistakes with him as I did with Pretzel. Dolphin sincerely wants to be correct, so he does his own correction and I don't really need to give him one when it was an honest mistake.
We ended the day with Novice Standard, and it was a qualifying run with just one refusal, that I corrected easily. He did sort of walk off his contacts on the A-frame and dogwalk. He slowed down and kind of stopped, and then just walked off of them. I chalked this up to energy and distractions as he wasn't really paying close attention to me on either of those, so we will work on that a lot this next week. We need to work a LOT on him nailing his weave entrance in the middle of a course as for some reason he keeps missing them. He's young and inexperienced, so that will come! I'm pretty darn excited about this dog!
Poor Pizza will have to be pulled from next weekend's trial as she is in season, and I am watching Noodle closely to see if she is going to come in this week. We shall see!
Noodle got two agility classes this week since Pizza has to stay home because she is in season. This week we reviewed collection recalls. Noodle does really well at these (once I do a few to remind her about collection!). Dolphin, well it's a struggle for him as his big body finds it easier to extend than collect. In Dolphin's class we had a sequence with a really difficult tunnel bypass (the "wrong" end of the tunnel was staring him in the face and he had to bypass that and take the other end). I learned that by giving him direct, hard eye contact, I was able to get him to go past the wrong end and enter the correct end. I am not sure why that hard eye contact is so difficult for me, but it was a challenge. As soon as I did it, Dolphin nailed the exercise. I guess with the girls, they require much more subtle cues, while Dolphin needs a LOT of cues - motion, arm, voice, you name it.
After Dolphin's class, we got to go field training! Sadly, we ran out of time to work Dolphin, and extra sadly, Pizza had to stay home. Noodle got to train with Josh, who is Pizza's daddy! It was fun to watch him in the field because Pizza has so many similarities to him. Their pointing style, and even their tendency to back from a nice distance. Noodle was stellar the whole time, she hasn't missed a beat after not training the past few weeks. It is so much fun to train her. I can't wait to get Dolphin to this level. Patience!
Agility trial today! Today was only Masters/Excellent level, and Pizza is in season, so only Noodle got to play today. I don't know if she was just exhausted from all the training we did yesterday, but she was rather slow in all of her runs. However, she was darn perfect (other than a knocked bar in jumpers...boo). She never looked at the judge, the ring crew, or other dogs, she stayed completely focused on me the entire day. That's kind of weird, but I will take it! She was slow coming out of the weaves in jumpers, so knocked a bar in the triple. However, she did the exact plan I walked in FAST, got the send bonus, and finished with 67 points...finally earning that last Excellent FAST Q to finish her title! After FAST, she went on to do a picture perfect masters standard run. It wasn't very fast, so her MACH points were low, but hey, I'll take it!
We had an amazing weekend at the agility trial! By "we", I mean myself with Noodle and Dolphin. Poor Pizza is still stuck at home in season, dealing with her hormones. Dolphin just started going a bit crazy around her at home, but luckily at the trial he was all business.
Noodle trialed only on Sunday. She had the most beautiful run in Jumpers, but knocked a bar. She picked up her first Master FAST leg with a beautiful run that had multiple opportunities for her "bad self" to ride to the top, and it didn't. The best part of my day with her was getting a really nice Masters Standard qualifying run, which was Q #10 - this gives Noodle her MX title! She was the BEST girl all weekend - never looked at anything other than focusing on me, and that was wonderful. Because of this, I ran her with so much more confidence! I know it is always dangerous to run her with too much confidence, but it sure felt good.
Dolphin was incredible all weekend. I really cannot describe the joy I have in running him. He is 100% stress-free (both he and I!). We had a heartbreak bar down in Novice Standard on both days. His Novice FAST and his Novice Jumpers were both awesome and qualified in all of those runs. This gave him his Novice Jumpers (NAJ) and his Novice FAST (NF) titles! We only need one novice standard Q for his NA title. It was pretty exciting (and a little scary) to go home and send out the e-mails to move him up to Open Jumpers and Open FAST at our next trials in February. Yikes! He is progressing in his skills little by little each week. I guess I don't really notice our progress because it is so gradual, but when I sat down to watch my videos from this weekend I was actually surprised at how good he looks. These successes tend to sneak up on me sometimes.
Someone told me recently that they "don't believe in goals" because we shouldn't be putting pressure on ourselves. I could have come back with some snappy retort about how pressure makes diamonds, yada yada, but I never think that fast on my feet. I went home and thought about her comment, though. I get it. No pressure is greater than the pressure we put on ourselves personally. I have had to step back in some areas and relieve a little of the pressure I put on myself, reminding myself that life goes on even if my top goals never get realized. Sometimes I have to actually force myself to stop and step completely away from a goal, if only temporarily. You gotta do that sometimes.
I achieved some massive goals last year. I probably should just take it easy this year and cruise a little, but of course that doesn't happen in my brain. I have higher goals. Some are probably impossible to achieve. However, the older I get, the more fun I have in the attempts at these goals. The end goal is not always the best part about achievement. I am typing this as I am reminding myself about what is important. These days are precious. I don't want to waste a single millisecond.
One of my New Year's training resolutions in agility is to do more blind crosses with my dogs. I feel like blind crosses take a LOT of faith in your dog, and I have been sorely lacking in that the past few years (go figure!). I did a few blind crosses at the trial last weekend, and I am doing them more often in classes so that myself and my dogs get more comfortable with them. I have another resolution in regards to agility training, and that's to stop treating Noodle like she is the Noodle from 2018. I am shielding her in classes from getting wound up by not letting her watch other dogs, not being out in the ring while other dogs are running, etc. Well, no more! Today I stayed out in the ring the entire class. This was Pizza's class (yes, she is still in season) and the class has a lot of high-energy, barky dogs which usually gets Noodle wound up. I am really happy with how she did - she is handling her adrenaline very well, and every time she gets a little overly excited, she would check in with me. This is HUGE! No more babying Noodle, I am preparing her so that we can start trialing at big venues successfully. One step at a time...we will get it done.
Dolphin has been a complete basket case because Pizza is ripe in season. Even in his puppy group today he spent the entire hour whining and doing soft little howls, and Pizza was nowhere around. Interestingly, when it was his turn to run the sequences, he was fantastic - very focused. As soon as we had down time and were waiting, back came the howling and whining. It's pure bedlam at home. I think next time Pizza is in season I am going to schedule a trip with Dolphin for a week.
I finally had a chance to go ride Cadence today, in her new barn. It felt SO good...these rides reaffirm why I am still doing this. She is riding so well, it's becoming more and more fun as it gets easier. I don't really know what this year has in store for us. I have had so many grand disappointments in my horse life the past 10 years that I am still not ready to put pressure on myself to do anything grand. We shall see...sometimes the grandest things happen without planning.