agility: then and now

I was thinking, as I drove to the trial today, how I was looking forward to meeting the challenges of the courses I would run – maybe more with Lumen, in Masters, than Loki in Novice, but even with him there are challenges. I was looking forward to looking at the lines and the angles. I was looking forward to visualising where Loki would land based on the approach from the jump before. I was looking forward to making Lumen’s run as flowing and as smooth as I could, on the courses we would run.

And as I thought about all those things, I remembered how it used to be – at least with me. When I would run Mallei. I would drive there wondering what would go wrong, maybe, what he would do wrong (or right), with little thought to how my actions on a course would influence him. I was just steering the ship around in a fairly general and haphazard way and hoped he would understand what I meant. Didn’t we all? Relying on rear-crosses and big shoulder pulls and just yelling their name, a lot, when we didn’t want them to do an obstacle. We (or I, anyway) never looked at or considered the lines, only wanting to make our path easiest.

I quite enjoy the technical-ness of course walking now, in a way I never have. I enjoy looking at a part of the course from the perspective Loki would have upon landing a jump and consider the need to call him, to rotate my shoulders, to avoid the sneaky tunnel trap that didn’t seem obvious from MY perspective, but was like an inviting vortex from his. I really enjoyed walking the two Masters courses I got to run with Lu – the 2nd in particular, as there were multiple options for handling multiple sections of the course, and moved from somewhat technical, to big and open, and back again. A nice balance, I thought. Talking to the judge of that course later she told me that many competitors had complained about the first part of the course. It looked like this:

Heather's course

There’s about 9ย ways you could choose to handle that (in fact I worked out 9ย just then, for fun)! Trying to think of the best way to run it with Lu (we did forced front-cross, Japanese and lateral motion, but I could have possibly done another Japanese or K-turn type thing after 3 to bring her in tighter) was fun! It should be fun! It should be fun to try and strike a balance between convenient running for the handler and what will work for the individual dog. I will always, if plausible, try and choose a route that keeps Lumen in extension, for example. But maybe most competitors don’t think this way. I watched one team – with a small dog, not quick. The handler ran up to a bar – well ahead of the dog, and came to a stop. Waited for the dog to catch up, and then she rear-crossed. For me, planning and running feels like such a fun little technical exercise now, and with Lu, getting to know her more and more, I try and make it as smooth and effortless as I can. I know it’s not like that for everyone, but it’s interesting that despite the increased technicality in courses, some people are stuck in the ‘drive the ship’ kind of mindset we used to have.
My camera went flat today so unfortunately I have no videos and Lumen and my cool runs together (she brought down a bar in each), nor Loki’s one-bar-only run. Next time!

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