“Nothing comes easy, ever, if you want something, you have to work for it. By working for it I mean work on your craft, learn from people who have something to teach. It’s just like anything else, practice makes perfect.” So says James Lafferty, and we all know actors are always right!
When I take a hiatus from anything then return, I don’t get it the way I did before the break and I sure don’t expect the dogs (or horses) to either. Yes Brody’s agility skills are pretty solid in his own way but I wouldn’t simply arrive at a trial and expect him to run as well as he did the last time we were out.
Sally loves to work, her work ethic is staggering in fact, but I don’t expect her to be at the level she was in the fall . All we’ve been able to work all winter are directional swings, and flat work. The rate winter is leaving us I’ll be lucky to get any weaves or jumping in before our first trial in May. If that were to happen I would not trial as sad as that would make me. I want to know she’s happy and safe on the equipment, fit enough (both physically and mentally) to be eager for the day, and that our lines of communication are working well. Thanks to the early snow this has been the longest agility hiatus we’ve had (no lovely local indoor facility here in the middle of Lake Ontario) and I think it will prove to be good for us – as long as I carefully build back to where we were before adding new layers of challenge.
There is a fine line between over drilling, getting it right, and not doing enough. I’m watching it happen with the horses at the barn I’m riding at too. A horse may sit in a a field for two weeks, be pulled in, worked hard once then tossed back out; another gets drilled every single without ever getting to stretch his top line or have a day off; and then a few seem to have the balance right. So many complexities in these team sports where we have responsibility for a partner.
We had two weeks off from agility class last month. The week after the break the dogs seemed as though they had improved dramatically! Clearly the little break did them some good.
I still feel as though I should do more training at home, but am too lazy to drag out the equipment and set up a course myself! Luckily, my dogs are just as happy playing "red light/green light" as they are doing agility.
We have class once a week and we started trialling in March but I am so ready to get outside. I just can't bring myself to do any more work in the basement.
I think there's something to be said for not having an inside winter practice facility… I'd imagine the break would be good for everyone's spirits and bodies, a chance to recoup and heal up any unnoticeable minor strains or whatnot (though I have a feeling you would notice pretty much anything!). Sure hope the snow finishes melting away for you SOON!
I think that going to a trial after a period of limited (but not zero) training is OK as long as you're sure the dog is physically fit for it, ONLY with a dog that has been trialing a long time (obviously not a Novice dog that might get freaked out).
I'm just coming back from surgery, but made sure that Marge and Arrow practiced at least a little bit before we trialed… jumping full height, doing weave poles, etc., particularly in the week before the trial. With Marge, I also did TONS of running/sprinting/fetching in the field during the duration of my recovery.
We practiced while I was recovering, too, but I wasn't allowed to run, so it was mostly distance work, and some runs with my instructor handling.
My one regret regarding the winter was not getting the dogs on contact obstacles.. which, although is partially my fault for not getting out to a different facility, is also partially the fault of my club, where we don't have all of the proper equipment at our indoor training site.
Still, the dogs had an amazing weekend at our first trial. I had much lower expectations and both dogs shattered them. Dumb luck? Excitement to be back out? Or was our amount of training "just enough" to keep us in line during the winter off? I'm not really sure. Had I not practiced, I wouldn't have trialed (in fact, that's why I pulled from a trial in early March). I'm glad the timing worked out so that they could have a break from agility training but still got some practice in before we went back out in the ring.