Friday, April 3, 2015

My inexperience costs us again

Today we ran a Qual in southern Virginia.  Here are my notes:

21 dog entered, of which Laddie was the only Golden and the oldest dog. The field also included a Chessie and 19 Labs, including one owned and handled by the property owner.

Temps in 60s and 70s, cloudy, very windy.

Series A. Land triple

First throw was on the right, thrown RTL at 180y.  Second throw was in the middle, thrown LTR almost straight back into cover at 160y. Third throw was a flyer, thrown RTL all over the place, typically 160y. The first gun retired while the dog was picking up the go-bird flyer. Strong wind toward middle gun.

Laddie's performance: I gave him plenty of time to check out each of the three guns. Although the go-bird was RTL, I ran Laddie on my right to increase odds I could influence him to watch middle bird rather than swinging around to watch flyer after first throw. During the throws, he appeared to get a good look at all three, and he remained steady. I ran the marks in reverse order of the throws, taking a little time to get an accurate lock-in on the two memory birds, and Laddie nailed all three. After he picked up the retired mark, judge behind me said "nice job" and applause came from gallery. Later, after Series A was completed, I happened to walk past the judge airing her dogs and she again said, "Your dog did a nice job."  :0)

Laddie had good pickups, his returns were a bit meandering at times but reasonable, he didn't air on any return, and he delivered all three birds without a drop. His line manners were OK, although he tried to visit the bird rack after he completed the series.

On the strength of Laddie's excellent marking, in a series hard enough that various dogs were picked up on all three marks, I think he had to be in good shape on the scoring for Series A.

After we ran Series A, I realized I had forgotten to wear my white jacket. :0(

19 dogs ran
12 dogs called back

Series B. Land blind

The land blind was run from nearly the same start line, but on a line to the right of the field used for Series A. As a result, we had a strong wind RTL.  The marshal told me we'd be the second dog (we actually ran third), so when the test dog couldn't do the test, I went to get Laddie before watching the test dog finish. From the distance, I saw that they had the test dog run it a second time, something I've never seen before. I ended up seeing only one dog run the blind before it was our turn. This turned out to be a major disadvantage.

In this series, my inexperience both in competition and  training with knowledgeable field trialers, really hurt us (I have to train alone or with my assistants, who know less than I do, 99% of the time). I knew my job was to figure out what the judges considered to be the primary criteria for passing, but I saw the blind as pretty open and therefore figured what they primarily wanted you see was that you put the dog on a good line rather than sending the dog way right and letting her drift back on line with the wind. Accordingly, I ran Laddie straight at the blind. He drifted a bit left, requiring some handling, and he had a couple of slipped whistles, but it looked like a reasonable Qual-level job to me.

As Laddie was coming back, I suddenly realized that a bridge to the left of a road crossing was visible in the picture, and that the judges may have had as a criterion that the dog would stay to the right of the bridge. Until then I hadn't even noticed the bridge! My heart sank as I remembered that Laddie was still left of the line as he crossed the road and no doubt had gone past the bridge on the outside.

If I'd had more experience, or if I'd seen a few more dogs run the blind before it was our turn, I think I would have seen the bridge as the other dogs were running and would have been careful to keep Laddie to the right of it. We challenged the wind, but we weren't on line at that crucial point.

Eight dogs were called back; Laddie was not one of them. A wasted opportunity, since I think Laddie was well positioned after the first series.

I have been told I should always stay to watch an event even after being knocked out, since it's a great way to gain experience seeing competition setups, dog tendencies, handling techniques, judging standards, etc. It does not however take into account how devastating being dropped is, and how much of an outsider you feel under those circumstances. I would love to stay and run Laddie, but I'm already hurting deeply, though this may be difficult for the reader to comprehend. To stay and watch the remaining dogs, while Laddie must remain in his crate, is more than I'm willing to subject my emotions to. I'm so sorry to disappoint those who have given me that excellent advice.

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