Today, on a sunny day with temps in the 80s, three assistants came with Laddie and me to train at Cheltenham. Here's how it went:
Series A: Water blind
Since Laddie had slipped whistles in Friday's trial on the water blind, I wanted to run him on a blind this morning that had pretty good distance and that he would be likely to need some handling on.
The blind I set up was water all the way, except for the start line on shore and the blind (2"orange bumper) planted on the far shore. The distance was 160y, and it was a channel swim the entire length. However, the shoreline was not straight on either side, so at various locations, the line to the blind approached either shore fairly close. Most challenging was a point at 70y on the left. The line to the blind passed within two yards of that point. To increase the challenge, while the birdgirls were planting the blind as I watched from the start line, I had William, our lone birdboy, place a lining pole with a ribbon attached on that point at 70y, with a 3" white bumper in front of it, lying on the face of the embankment so that it was visible from the start line. The white bumper was a diversion. Laddie would not be retrieving it.
My intent was to let Laddie roll as much as possible, with minimum handling, till he got near the point. Then, if he want already on the left, I would handle him over the line toward the point. Then, before he got to the point, I would handle back into open water to the right off the point and send back the rest of the way to the blind. The idea was to make sure we "challenged the line", including crossing it.
As it happened, Laddie veered too far right early on, so when I handled him back toward the left, he crossed the line at that time, taking care of that objective. I then let him swim toward the white bumper without further handling until he was a few yards short of it. I blew the whistle and cast him on a right over, which he readily took. I felt we had fully at that point met the "challenge the line" requirement.
It was not entirely clear sailing the rest if the way. First, Laddie acted a bit reluctant to enter the big water I was casting him back and into, and ping ponged laterally a couple of times before finally taking a cast back toward the blind. Secondly, near the end, I thought he had spotted the bumper since he was swimming straight at it, so I took my eyes off him to chat with the assistants, and when I looked back, he had veered and needed to be handled back on line and to the bumper.
In summary, I felt it was an nice blind for a Qual dog. Laddie never slipped a whistle, never popped, vocalized only a little early on, and mostly took and carried his casts well. Most important, I guess, from a judge's viewpoint, was his successful maneuver near the point.
Series B. Water triple
For Laddie's first big water triple in more than a year:
The first mark was on the left, 210y thrown RTL. The line was down a mound, across variable terrain on land most of the way, then a 10y swim across a channel to the bumper, which was not visible till the dog was almost to the water. This was not intended as a difficult mark, but rather for building confidence as the final mark of the day.
The second mark was in the middle, thrown LTR on an angle back into the water behind a strip of land at 110y. The line to the mark was the most difficult of the day: down a mound, past a tree, across a small inlet with a easy cheat around the left, over the strip of land, and into the water to pick up the bumper. From the start line, the gunner was visible on one side of the tree, whereas the mark was thrown to the other side if the tree, which I've found to be a confusing concept for Laddie. Adding to the difficulty, it was not a good throw, and disappeared below the embankment while still visible on the gunner's side of the tree. The dog would have to assume the gunner was strong enough to have thrown the bumper further than was visible.
The third mark, the go-bird, was on the right, thrown RTL up-the-shore at 120y. This was also a difficult line: down the mound, a long land entry, an angle water entry, and a swim past the gunner to the fall just up on land, with an easy cheat around to the right as well as the risk that dog would enter the water but bail out early and come to shore behind the gunner.
For that go-bird, Laddie took a great line almost to the water, then started to veer right. I did not feel it would be productive to watch and see if he darted further right, because he's so fast that by the time I would then blow the whistle, he would be clear of the water and I'd have to cast him on a left "over" rather than to the fall. That wasn't the point of this mark. Also, the gunner would not be able to help, because Laddie might still run the bank: after all, he knew where the fall was. So rather than wait, I immediately blew the whistle and cast Laddie into water. That allowed him to take exactly the right line, with no inclination to bail out early. OF course, because of the handle it would have scored badly in a trial.
Next Laddie ran the indent middle mark. He ran past the tree on the wrong side, so I knew he would need to be handled, unless he veered right into the inlet rather than taking the cheat. When I saw that he was unlikely to do that, I again blew the whistle and cast him into the water, again allowing him to run the correct line though of course again requiring a handle.
Laddie then nailed the final mark easily as expected. I was relieved to see that he did not pop despite having to clear a ridge without being able to see the bumper, a situation that sometimes produces a pop.
Though I rarely run Laddie on the same retrieve even months later, with modifications this seemed like a good setup to run Laddie on again immediately, to cement the lessons. So I moved the stay line off the mound and forward forty yards and brought in Liza, who had thrown the long mark. That left us with the two shorter, more difficult marks as a double. It also took the tree out of the picture in what had been the center mark. It also changed the angles into the water a little, making the cheats a little less tempting. Also improving things, we had good throws for both marks.
Laddie nailed both of these marks, showing no inclination to run the bank or bail out early on either one.
I thought it was a great finish for the session. We packed up and headed out for the hour drive home.