Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Blackdown

I had been really excited about Blackdown all month until the night before, when I was feeling tired and like I really didn't fancy the early start - this feeling didn't change when I got up at 5.40am. I was annoyed with myself for not being as excited as I had been earlier in the week.

It meant I was running on a really short fuse all day but I was really lucky to have some great company around to perk me up. I got to meet the Engelbrecht's new addition - Wink (so cute!), caught up with Jane and Jill who I haven't seen in what seems like an age and got to spend time at lunch nattering with Mel, Neil & Colin; Colin has so many interesting stories about the work he does with his beardies, it was great to hear some.

So what did we go home with? Well I was really pleased with Hex's corners, still room for improvement, but such progress from last month, unfortunately I took a risk I felt I needed to make in order to get myself ahead of Hex, just 3 obstacles from the end and it didn't pay off. But here's the vid of her corners:

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In her Agility she misjudged the 2nd bounce and ended up underneath jump 4, this threw me for the rest of the run so we just focused on solid contacts and 2 good wind wraps.

Hex came 2nd in the Large Steeplechase and Stitch came 2nd in the Medium Steeplechase. Here's the vids:
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They were really unlucky not to win the Agility, Mum is still kicking herself, she pulled him off the last jump after a really fast tight run - have a look for yourself:
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Take a look again at Stitch's double bounce - outstanding control and use of his muscles:

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Also we must congratulate Mel & Lucas on their 3rd in G3 Agility, I am so pleased for Mel that the hard work she is putting into Lucas is paying off.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Vogue!

Well being the diva she is, Hex decided to starve herself for 2 days the weekend before her photo shoot, we thought she must have heard that the camera adds 10lbs, but then she got quite sick and just 48hrs before the shoot she was in the vets for some jabs and medicine to fix her, luckily these worked within a couple of hours and she was ready for her first bit of promo work!

I wasn’t really sure of what to expect – all I’d been told was to bring some of her stuff (bedding, bowl etc to make her feel at home) and a hi-viz jacket so they could dress her as a builder, this would also entail wearing a hard hat so we got practicing with next door’s riding hat balancing a solid hat on her head (thank you Lucy for your hat!). We got there nice and early and met the photographer, he showed me the brief which was that Hex was to be photographed in each room to form a tour of the ‘Hex’s Home’ (still not sure if the brochure is for handouts or the internet but I will let you know when I see the end product). Any ways then we met the Taylor Wimpey reps and an Ad company rep and proceeded to the show home. First we shot in the Kitchen, Hex was a little natural, she was so comfortable with her new found friends and the house, and pulled all the poses required to make the Kitchen/diner look like it was her Kitchen/diner where she ate breakfast every day. Then we shot in the living room, the photographer said it would look nice if she could put her front legs and head over the arm of the sofa whilst laying down, I said if he gave me a minute I could teach her that position – She did it straight away! It’s such an unnatural position for a dog, she kept wanted to rise into a sit but she got the shot and we then had other shots of her ‘watching tv’ and also head on paws curled up on the sofa all of which she did no problem, she then had a drink and got some fresh air before going up to the bedroom. I taught her a ‘flat’ command a long time ago and she remembered it – hopefully she looked chilled out/asleep and not dead! And then we did some of her just lying on the bed, a couple of the shots had to be re-photographed without the throw on the bed because she blended in so well with it.

Then we had the hardest shots – outside. Kids were out of school now and playing football behind us which Hex thought was interesting AND one of the little treasures thought it would be a great idea to shout ‘cheese!’ – Which made Hex VERY interested in what they had to offer her, but she stayed seated and we started trying to balance a hard hat on her.... no chance – unlike a child’s riding hat, the width of a hard hat is just not suitable for a dog. So we decided to put it next to her and try and place her foot on it, the hat was slippy for a paw, but she again, learnt this new position and held it as long as she could – so cute. At this point she’d been photographed for nearly an hour and a half, I could see she was flagging, she was very sniffy and lacked focus so although she sat in front of a door for a final shot, she struggled to look interested – I hope we got at least one without her frowning!

I’m really looking forward to seeing the end result and was so pleased with her that I am currently looking into what I can do to get her more modelling work, I wasn’t sure she’d 100% enjoy modelling but she totally saw it as work and was very eager to please not just me but the other 4 people involved – she’s such an attention seeker! Easy, breezy, beautiful; Covergirl.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Each day learn something new, and just as important, relearn something old

It’s a bit late for New Year’s resolutions but in the sleepless nights I’ve been having recently I’ve been thinking about my goals and aspirations for this year and the deadlines set by the start of the show season and Hex’s future litter and I realise that if I’m going to make G6 before August I have some serious work to!

Hex has sped up in the last 6 months and I’m glad, I’ve been pushing for the speed and I’ve got it but I’ve lost our effective turns. Hex is definitely fast enough to win a class, but she’s not fast enough that she can afford a wide turn and still win a higher graded class. Over the past couple of months I’ve been helping her stride and learn when to bounce as well as speeding up her contacts and pushing for more difficult weave entrances, but wide corners are still getting the better of us.

I know that I haven’t had the time to do anywhere near as much I’d like to but it’s difficult when you haven’t got someone about to watch you, there’s a risk you’ll fall in to bad habits and not even realise you’d done anything wrong. As far as I was concerned I had put all the ground work in, she knew it all, why isn’t she doing it now?! I’d been working on deceleration with Anthony Clarke with some great results, but I can’t always be there to decel and this is when I’m still having problems. But what else could I do with a dog that barks non-stop at me? I’ve been saying to myself she can’t hear me, so what is the point on me commanding her when she’s just going to drown me out? But as the April show season looms I have been forced to make some decisions and my decision is that she should LISTEN!

I have been running my thoughts through with Mum, Sarah, Abi and Toni and I am so grateful for having these people around me, sometimes it just helpful to talk your thoughts through and justify them, if you can’t justify them then there’s something wrong.

Both Toni and Abi have brought to my attention that when things aren’t going to plan I have a habit of using commands out of context and that my timing has become pretty poor. So now that I’ve decided to revert back to my original verbal commands, it was time to re-cap my Hex dictionary. This didn’t take long as it was pretty much a case of going back to basics and relearning what we already knew and did, a group lesson last night and a private lesson with Toni this morning confirmed this – it’s not Hex which is the problem, she knows it all and has retained everything I taught her, it’s bloody me which is the problem!

Last night I made a real effort to use my verbal commands in a course situation (I think I walked the course 8 times and was saying the commands aloud to help them sink in), I only used the wrong command a couple of times when I ran it but my timing was still out. This morning out of a group situation Toni set a number of sequences to test Hex’s ability and see how much work we would really need to put into this, I had given Toni my Hex dictionary and before each exercise we made sure I knew what I was going to say and when I was going to say it, everything we set Hex did right (unless I panicked), it was so great to feel in control of her turns again – reverse turns, shoulder turns, decel turns, rear cross turns and turns around a pin wheel. I swear we just went through the lesson going ‘can she do that?’‘yup’, ‘okay but can she do that now?’‘yep’, ‘okay but you can tighten that up by doing this’‘So I can! Awesome!’. Toni did a grand job of keeping me calm and consistent (thanks Toni!) and I was really, really pleased with the results. I cannot believe that we have had it there all along and I’ve just been throwing it away by not practicing and making excuses for us. Hex actually got faster when I cued her with her directions and I could hear myself think and command which could only mean one thing – Hex wasn’t barking as much as usual, so she must have been thinking or maybe it’s that she’s not as frustrated with me so she doesn’t feel the need to swear at me all the time? Only time will tell but I really am pleased with the progress we have made this week and my new year’s resolution is to keep up the good work! – Ensure that I stay consistent, don’t praise her for my faults, stick to my dictionary and set time and special exercises aside to achieve my primary objective which at the moment is tighten up our corners to shave our times down.

I read a Chinese proverb recently ‘Learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back’, I have dropped back and it’s time to start rowing again.