Old-Shoes and Good Tread

Do you know that feeling when you put on a good pair of new shoes?  They often feel different, and you THINK about how they feel.  Then, over time, as you wear them, they gradually seem to mold to your feet and no longer take up any part of your conscious mind…they feel comfortable and are worn without restraint…almost like they become part of you, and you trust they will do their job.  When I run 8 yr old Breeze, that’s how it feels.  At our last few trials, we had some spectacular, dare I say, near perfect runs.  If you’ll permit me to switch to another metaphor…We ran as a finely tuned, well-oiled and efficient machine and it felt great!

With 2 yr old Tai…even when things go well, I don’t yet have that comfortable old-shoe feeling.  This is not surprising when running a 2 year old,  fast dog.  But the bigger issue, is that Tai is, well, so much bigger than Breeze.  With a MUCH longer stride length, it changes the timing of all cues, let me tell you!  It means I have to be very conscious of how quickly I may need to cue a turn or be conscious of  how much distance I will need to get to where I need to be, of how fast he will take a line and how fast I had better get moving!  Way to much thinking going on!

A few weeks ago, I was working on a very difficult, international style sequence with Tai.  You really needed to hustle to get into a difficult front cross position.  I started out with a new pair of shoes I was testing out for running.  Here is how it went with each try:  1) Send and run to get into position; 2) Send and run harder to get into position 3) Get more lateral, send and run really hard to get into position.  Not happening.  I paused, thought about it and before trying again I changed into my old trusty Ditas and sure enough…I got lateral, ran hard into position and made it…Success!   Just that little bit more trust along with a bit more tread made all the difference.

Tai and I are winding down on our first trial season together.  We’re working together to develop that old-shoe feeling of trust and sub-conscious connection and timing.  No time to THINK on course.  Just FOCUS and DO.   We’re also polishing our skills into better tread for those old shoes.  A little more independence on the contacts and weaves; a little better timing and  footwork on my part.

I just re-watched video from our trials from July through October.  Some great stuff!  His jumping at both 24″ and 26″ looks great.  The few mistakes were an occasional bar (you want me to go where??),  a refusal here and there (what??), a missed weave entry here and there (you want to to SLOW DOWN while you are running REALLY FAST???), a few self-releases from teeter and dogwalk and the dreaded A-frame misses.  He is way too comfortable with a one-stride running A-frame…which has often been too high.  Despite a number of attempts, and months of training, to encourage 2 strides with approaches and a variety of stride regulators, he reverts back to one stride.

A few weeks ago I made the decision to switch to a 2 on 2 off behavior on the A-frame.  Fortunately I had all the  foundation in place as he stops on both the teeter and, since the Spring, on the dogwalk too.  I lowered the A-frame a bit, sent him and as he hit his first stride on the frame, said “Target!”.  He came to a very nice 2 on 2 off position…like he had been doing it that way all along.  So, after over a year of running the A-frame, he has since been perfect in 2on 2off, with all kinds of handling, except for a couple of self-releases,  including at a trial just 5 days later.  Amazing.  Criteria is a wonderful thing. LOL.  Now if I can just remember to give the command since all of my shelties have had beautiful running A-frames.  So, for now, our running contact adventure is over.  No regrets…learned a lot!

Here is a video of some of our runs from late July through October.  You’ll see what I mean about the A-frame.  Enjoy!