Sunday, March 13, 2011

Shoe leather and despair

First, if you're interested in Laddie's training sessions and haven't tried following @LindsayRidgeway on Twitter, you can still see all our tweets here:
For example, here's a compilation of our tweets (edited) this month:
  • 3-1-2011: Last few days, have run big, tight blinds and poorman multiples, plus a new configuration we've never used before, poorman remote singles: leaving Laddie in a sit, I walk out in white jacket, fire pistol, throw, and call "Laddie" from my throwing position.  Laddie runs mark, then delivers to me at the throwing position. Then I leave him there and go out to a new throwing position. This is a fast way to run a battery of big, difficult non-retired singles, though one risk is that dog learns to deliver to thrower. Today: Zion Park, 46 deg, sunny, snow all melted. Six big remote poorman singles. Excellent marking by Laddie.
  • 3-2-2011: Cheltenham. Sunny, 64 deg. First chance to train with a group in weeks, first water retrieves since fall. A) Land triple, xmas tree config, using Bumper Boy for big mark in center. Laddie nailed first two retrieves, needed handling on long one, which I doubt he saw. B) Triple with one poison-bird blind and one water blind. The long mark also required a short swim. C) Long retired water single, with short throw to side while long gunner retired. Included wide channel crossing plus short ditch crossing. D) Similar to C, but only one water crossing. Laddie's performance today: Some excellent marking, handled well, needed help on BB mark in A (which he didn't see), mark in high grass in B (all the dogs did), and retired mark in D. Most important, never stalled on any return, including returns across ice-cold channels. Yippee!
  • 3-5-2011: Remington, VA. Club training day, flyers for the short mark in first series, both series on land. Lumi ran three singles in each series, did fine both directions on all, even on her 200+y final retrieve. Laddie ran a triple plus a land blind in each series, and honored a triple with a flyer on first series. Laddie had good performance all day, including outstanding marking on second series.
  • 3-7-2011: Rolling Ridge west. Sunny, 49 deg. An in-line-triple (ILT), all throws in cover, two big blinds, three big poorman remote singles, and one more blind (tight keyhole thru brush). Laddie did great on every retrieve today.
  • 3-8-2011: Riggs Road Farm. No obstacles, just distance. Double land blind: A) 310y, intentionally wrong-lined a few degrees to the left to assure opportunity to handle at distance, then whistle sit & hard right cast at 310y. B) 390y.
  • 3-9-2011: Riggs Road. Overcast, 42 deg. Black bumpers, pistol. A) Big poorman xmas-tree triple B) Big poorman indent triple
  • 3-10-2011: Oaks Area 3. Torrential rain produced areas of standing water. We used them for a dozen skimming retrieves, that is, dog needs to take straight line thru water rather than run the bank. These were poorman marks with pistols, black bumpers.
  • 3-12-2011: Mt. Ararat Farm. Laddie & me training with Gaby & Gus, her Senior-level Chessie. We ran the dogs in similar series, modified as appropriate for each dog. Laddie's series: A) Long water blind past points on both sides, with blind in center of a clump of cattails B) Long flower-pot water double, hidden thrower (in retrospect, not appropriate for long marks, since Field Trials never use hidden throwers) C) Long double land blind, featuring one very tight keyhole requiring leap over fallen tree trunk on down-slope after getting thru keyhole D) Long single land blind, very tight diagonal keyhole combined with diagonal road crossing at 100y.
  • 3-13-2011: Rolling Ridge. Sunny, 59 deg. A) Water triple, all retrieves requiring 100+y swims. B) Uphill indent land triple. C) Big xmas-tree land triple over rough, hilly terrain, thorny in places. Training alone so all poorman marks. Pistol, black bumpers.
I might add that those tweets are a somewhat incomplete record.  In reality, Laddie and I rarely miss a day of training, even in bad weather.  But since I don't know whether anyone actually has any interest in the tweets, sometimes I don't bother to post them.  Other times, I think that given Laddie's level of performance, especially for a 2Q dog, a record of his training might someday be of interest to someone.

Meanwhile, for any reader interested in what the biggest challenges of field training might be, I'll add a personal note.  My single most difficult challenge turns out to be finding anyone who is willing to train with me.  Granted, I've met a small number of people that I don't want to train with, but those can be counted on one hand (two individuals, I think).  By contrast, at this time, other than club training days, no one seems willing to train with me except on rare occasions.  I have no idea how to fix the problem.  I hope you have never been shunned in this way.  It's crushing.

I watch Laddie's enthusiasm for the sport — his all-out sprints on every retrieve, year after year — and I feel despair that he'll be at such a disadvantage in Field Trial competition. Our first entry is less than three weeks away, and at this time I know of not a single individual, much less group, willing to train with Laddie and me.  I wish that I could give him the kind of experiences he needs to reach his potential, with courses designed by experienced trainers, human throwers, birds, the occasional flyer, and the simulated ambience of an event. Yet no matter how hard I am willing to work, no matter how much I reach out, I cannot give him those things except on those rare occasions.  Poor Laddie, he picked the wrong owner.

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