Many times, when trialing, we short change ourselves by not pushing and trying to get the most out ourselves through our dogs. As it’s often been said "nothing ventured-nothing gained.” Recently at the Jacksonville trial, the judge presented the most difficult snooker course any of us had ever seen. We speculated that she would not be able to keep up when things started moving quickly. You see, there were 4 “reds,” each one placed on one of the 4 outside corners of the course, making it a challenging running course. Four of the numbered obstacles were combinations, and those combinations were comingled. The highest 7-point obstacle was comprised of 3 jumps which, in effect, could only be realized if the dog jumped one of the corner “reds,” successfully meandered through the mine field of distracting obstacles and then completed the 3-jump combination. If a handler wished to attain the highest number of points by completing the four 7’s, he would have to complete a total of 25 jumps (including the closing) in addition to 2 tunnels.
There were 51 22" dogs competing, with Circe as #24 in the running order. When it was Circe’s time to run, none of the 23 dogs before her had successfully completed four 7’s and the closing. The majority of the handlers did not attempt this, either for personal reasons or because it may have been an unreasonable request of their dogs. When we stepped up and looked at the field, I knew it was important to give Circe a chance. To get to the 1st jump in the #7 combination, Circe would need to avoid a number of inviting obstacles. She was running like a champ and, by the time we reached the #7 obstacle for the 4th time, you could hear a pin drop in the arena. She completed the #7 combination and we headed for the closing sequence. We were taking it home, but as she approached #7 for the fifth time, I prematurely moved to the right and Circe moved with me as though she was glued to me. There was a gasp from those watching; however, I caught myself and moved back into the proper lane and Circe moved with me and completed the course for a perfect score of 59 points.
Unfortunately, I once again did a “Randy” as I often do when Circe and I have such a spectacular run. I must have paused, taking in all the excitement and let Circe take a “stroll” to the finish. Circe earned another Super “Q,”, but my excitement may have cost her 1st place, as Stuart Mah and one other handler running afterwards also achieved a perfect score of 59.
This reinforced my belief that I must always push myself and that I must never hesitate to try new things – even in trialing. This is the way I can learn. No one will ever hit that home run unless he steps up to the plate and takes a swing. I have failed many times and will do so many more times, but the satisfaction of running a perfect run is worth the effort and the risk. Many times you need a Q for a title and you do not want to take a chance – this is understandable. All that being said, I believe it’s important not to push your dog to do something that is physically impossible. By way of example, I did not ask Justice to attempt the four 7’s on this course, as he no longer has the speed needed – he still got his “Q” and I still try new things with him and will continue to do so as long as he enjoys the run.
I love this sport and my single complaint is that I did not start 30 years ago. Maybe by now I would understand a little more. Keep practicing and you will have a great run.
One final thought - It’s important to put in the time on the practice field and listen with an open mind to those who have more experience - you will not be disappointed with the results and then Go For It.
Justice and Circe