USDAA trials are structured differently than AKC - with Masters dogs in one ring, and Starters/Advanced dogs in the other. So if you enter in all the offered classes, the trials tend to drag on all day no matter what level your dog is at. It was certainly a very long weekend, and so here's a very long post to tell you all about! :)
The check-in was at 8am on Saturday, so I woke up around 6:30am, and arrived at 8:15am. I checked in and went to get Philip measured. Funny thing here - Philip has been measured twice at the January trial, with measurements of 11 1/2" and 11 3/4". Following the pattern, he got measured at 12" on Saturday - my dog must be invisibly growing!
For USDAA, a dog needs to be measured by 3 different judges, one of which needs to be a certified measuring judge (CMJ). The two measurements we had from January were not CMJs, and the judge measuring on Saturday wasn't either. So that meant we had to get a 4th measurement from a CMJ before applying for a permanent jump height card. Thankfully, the judge measuring on Sunday was a CMJ, so we took care of that then. Now I just have to mail in the current card, and then wait for the permanent one to arrive in the mail.
Alright, back to the trial... As I quickly mentioned earlier, we had a total of 7 runs over the two days, so let's get to all of them at once:
Saturday Starters Standard
First run of the day - I didn't have big expectations, and took Philip nice and easy as I planned. He took off at a nice pace and I went with him, not rushing ahead and not trying to slow him down. Philip hesitated a bit before getting up on the table (maybe because it's a bit taller than in AKC), but got up on it shortly thereafter. The rest of the run was clean and beautiful - he did everything as I asked, tackled the weaves cleanly on first try, and most importantly kept all the jump bars up! The table hesitation would have been a refusal in AKC, but since there are no refusals for Starters dogs in USDAA, we got a clean Q and a 1st place! I should note that the whole weekend Philip was the only dog in his jump height, so our 1st places were basically automatic.
Saturday Starters Gambler
Saturday's Gambler was a nice course - there were several 5-point contact obstacles near the beginning, so earning the 15 minimum needed opening points was a breeze. I stayed away from the weaves just in case, and Philip followed my plan perfectly. We even timed it just right so that we got to the end of my planned route (and near the gamble portion) just a couple of seconds before the buzzer went off. I did flinch in another direction to waste time, but recovered back on track shortly after when the buzzer went off. The gamble portion was pretty nice - a jump right at the line, leading straight into a tunnel about 10 feet out from the line, another jump from the tunnel back to the line at a 45-degree angle, and another jump out from the line at a 45-degree angle. Philip naturally loves tunnels, so he went straight for it after going over the jump. I called him to me over the next jump and easily pushed him over the last one. Overall a very nicely executed gamble, and a Q with 35 points total (20 opening and 15 gamble bonus). Of course, we got the automatic 1st place here too.
Saturday Starters Pairs
We partnered up with Willis for the Pairs run again, just like back in January. We had planned this back when signing up for the trial and I warned Willis's owner that Philip will probably knock bars, so we decided that when time comes Philip should take the half with fewest jumps. Looking at the map in the morning, I counted 6 jumps in one half and 5 in the other - no big difference really. Since Philip has kept all the bars up on the first two runs of the day, I figured we'd let Willis pick the side and then take whichever is left. Willis had blown a couple of contacts earlier in the day and is usually especially bad on the dogwalk, so they picked the first half, which had only the A-Frame for contacts. We got ready for our run, but right as we were about to go into the ring, Willis got stung by a bee in his leg! Poor guy was trying to lick up the spot and wasn't stepping on his leg :( We let the next pair go and I suggested giving Willis some Benadryl. Another dog we know got stung earlier in the day, so her owner pointed to the vendor who they got some Benadryl from. So Willis and his owner took off over there while I contemplated if Philip gets to run at all. While we scrambled to see if anyone would substitute for Willis, I saw them running back. Apparently, Willis saw treats and forgot all about the sting, so he was running happily and they decided to get the run out of the way before any swelling occurs. We quickly got next in line, and were in such hurry that Willis took off before the "Ready" signal - oops, but no biggie, everyone was ready anyway, so they didn't stop him. I stood in the baton exchange area and watched Willis run - he was just so happy to be running, like nothing ever happened! He did his part perfectly, and so we grabbed the baton and took off. Philip again surprised me with great speed, and a very clean run, even getting the weaves right on yet again! We got a Q with plenty of time to spare, and again took 1st place (this time we had one other pair in the same height class (12"-16") who ended up taking 2nd).
Saturday Starters Snooker
The map for this course looked tough, with one of the red jumps being way in the back corner, and the other two in the two front corners - basically lots of running in sight! I thought of a couple of ways to tackle it, consulted with my instructor and settled on a running plan. When I walked the course it seemed easier than it looked on the map, but it definitely promised lots of running space as expected. I watched several dogs Q, and then we went in for our turn. Philip went over the first red jump, and as I took him to the 2-point jump that I wanted him to take, he went wide and took the 4-point jump instead. Being the end of the day, I didn't think quick enough and decided to just call him back towards me as I continued to the next red jump. Of course, as he was running towards me, he took the 2-point jump that I originally intended for him to take, and we got the whistle. NQ for us, but I didn't really care at this point - we already had 3 wonderful Qs for the day, and I was getting really tired and ready to go home. I packed up Philip's things quickly, and we took off for home, it was past 6pm when we finally got back.
Sunday Starters Jumpers
Sunday got started a bit earlier (7:30am check-in) and I was super tired from lack of sleep, so I probably wasn't in the top shape for the first run of the day. The course was pretty nicely laid out, with just a couple of crosses needed on my part. I should note that one of the things I aimed to avoid is crossing while Philip takes jumps, as that can cause a dog to hesitate and knock a bar. Well, seeing as I was a bit out of it, I didn't think that part through and planned a front cross right after a jump in this run. To get a front cross in, you have to race in front of the dog to avoid clashing with them, and that tends to rush them since you are running away. Of course that blew the whole don't-rush-Philip plan when I sped up ahead of him. As I turned to him ahead of the jump, he was coming in fast, flinched at me in his space, and the bar went down. This was 100% my fault - I shouldn't have done a front cross there, and even if I did, I should have given him more landing space. The rest of the run was clean - it's all just jumps and tunnels, so no weaves to worry about. NQ for the bar of course.
An interesting side fact - when the Advanced dogs ran their Jumpers course (which was just slightly harder than Starters), almost every dog knocked a bar or two! Don't know what it was, but they all just kept messing up, and only 3 dogs got Qs in that whole class.
Sunday Starters Standard
The Standard course was a little tricky, but nothing like the Excellent courses we've been running in AKC, so I wasn't too worried. Philip stopped for a split second before jumping up on the table again, but better than the previous time. Then we got to the weaves and Philip did what I originally expected out of him - he entered two poles in instead of one. I took him back, and again he skipped a pole, so back we went a third time. On the third try he started correctly, and went along, but that wasn't the end of it. He decided he would finish after the 10th pole (another Philip favorite to do!) and tried to go ahead. Thankfully I managed to quickly correct him and get him back in the last two poles. I know it's okay to fix the weaves like that in AKC, so I assumed it would be okay in USDAA too, but wasn't sure. So I waited for the results - we had a Q! Guess it's okay after all :) We got no faults since all these mistakes are refusals, and again didn't count against us.
Sunday Starters Gambler
Last run of the weekend was another Gambler. This one looked harder than the one on Saturday. Again, we needed 15 points minimum in the opening. It was a bit trickier to plan, and I decided that I'd give the weaves a try since they were worth 7 points and nicely on the way. Philip went over the first two jumps, and approached the weaves, but unfortunately pulled with pole-skipping trick on me yet again. Somehow I was fast on my feet and decided that I'm going to wing it and do something else rather than waste time trying to fix the weaves. So I turned around and ran Philip back to the chute, followed by a jump and the dogwalk. This was supposed to be the last 3 obstacles in my original plan, but now we still had time and not enough points yet. Again, I winged it and took him to whatever obstacle was in front of me, which was a jump. He jumped over and I called him back for another point. At that point it hit me that this still wouldn't be enough points, so I saw the teeter and ran for it - it would put us in bad position for the gamble, but give us the last needed points. As Philip finished the teeter, I turned back thinking how to get to the gamble and heard the buzzer. I ran fast past the dogwalk with Philip in hot pursuit, and I actually think this played in our advantage since it gave Philip some really good momentum for the closing gamble. The gamble was a bit tricky - a jump right on the line, out to a tunnel that went right under the A-Frame (a couple of dogs took that instead of the tunnel), then out parallel to my line over a tire and a jump, all 10 or so feet away. So with his momentum, Philip plummeted over the jump and into the tunnel. I yelled "Tire!" and pointed to the tire as he came out and he went straight for it - what a good boy! "Jump!" I yelled pointing, and again he went straight for the jump. What a beautiful gamble! So we earned another Q, all with lots of improvisations :) We got a total of 33 points (18 in opening and 15 for the gamble), and our usual automatic 1st place.
All in all we got 2 Standard Qs, 2 Gambler Qs, and 1 Pairs Q - a great end to a long weekend. Philip performed amazingly, and I can't believe he kept all the bars up, at 12" height at that! Hopefully that means we'll see an end to all the bar-knocking in AKC too. I also did some volunteering during the trial, but that's for another post :)