Today I headed up to Ridgefield, WA for an AKC agility trial with Heffner. I was a little nervous since this is the first time that we've trialed since October and he's had the intervening pelvis issues. Otherwise I felt like we were ready. He's been strong in practice and as long as I didn't handle him like he was going to break, things usually went pretty well. I was taking a couple of precautions that may not have been entirely necessary, but they made me at least feel a little better! I decided to keep Heffner in the truck so that he could fully stretch out if he wanted to and so that he would also be away from the noise and commotion of the trial. I also packed along a ramp for the first time ever. I had him entered in all three classes and that was a fair bit of jumping in and out of the truck with the resulting impacts felt predominantly on his shoulders. The ramp was quite the success and is something that I will probably pack along from now on.
Our first run of the day ended up being Open Jumpers With Weaves. I am incredibly proud of how well Heffner did on the course!! We successfully did TWO rear crosses. His weave pole entry was mostly good, except that he kind of stared off into space a wee bit after nailing the entrance. Thankfully he came right back and we didn't get a refusal. I was so elated with how the run had gone that I pulled up short on the last jump. Our clean run ended there with a knocked bar and an NQ. D'oh! Regardless, I was so incredibly happy with how it went!! More importantly, my friend Kennedy was there and watched the run. Since it's kind of difficult for me to pay specific attention to how he's moving (aside from anything that is overly obvious), she was able to watch him and reported that he looked good out there!! Yay!!!
Next up was Excellent Standard, the course map that's at the top of this post (I didn't end up picking up the maps for the other two courses today; I'll be better tomorrow). There were a couple of trickier spots that I wasn't entirely sure of how we were going to do. I didn't like the entrance to the tunnel at the beginning and was debating whether to start on the left or right of him, pretty much all the way up to the start line. I decided to stay on Heffner's left and go for pushing him into the tunnel. And it worked! The rest of the course went pretty well, including weave poles that I was really pleased with. While our time was a little over course time, we still ended with a clean, qualifying run and our very first Excellent Q! Yay!!
Open FAST soon followed the Standard run. The send portion didn't seem too bad, but after two tries, I just couldn't get Heffner over the first jump in the sequence. Thinking back now, the judge did say that the handler didn't have to be behind the line until all four of the dogs feet were about to hit the ground after the first jump. I should have used that little bit of time to get in closer to the jump and nail the send. Ah hindsight! After two attempts that didn't work, I decided to just let him stretch out and really run around the course. We took off in a big loop around the ring until the buzzer sounded and then we headed for the final jump. He was a happy boy and definitely deserved that last little bit of play!
Overall I am REALLY happy with how today went. It felt so good to be back out there with Heffner! And no disrespect to Bess, but it was also really nice to be able to run a full course. Heffner's had his stuff together for a while now and it was just a matter of me buckling down and actually working on my handling skills. I've finally paid attention to that and things are really starting to come together. And it just feels so good! Here's to a weekend with more fun runs!