Flyin’ in Fresno

14 05 2011

Last weekend was Bark in the Park’s NAFA tournament in Fresno. The Dogs and I were pleasantly surprised to be able to attend both days at this tournament because originally we could only attend Sunday due to work. But, great things happen when you expect them, and even though I was denied vacation time for Saturday a nice co-worker of mine offered to switch days off that week because of a day she needed…so low and behold, I also got Saturday! I was lucky that my team could include us on such short notice and re arrange teams to include Jet on Saturday.

 

It was scheduled to be a pretty hot weekend, and we were out in the open for the first time this year. Its weird but after running on mats for so long indoors, you really appreciate them when you go to an outdoor tournament on patchy grass. I hadn’t gotten much of a chance to do heat conditioning, so I figured it could be a interesting weekend for Riley at least.  But, there is so much history for us at this tournament. It is Jet’s first tournament site, where he ran on a team for the first time and earned his first titles in his Flyball career.

 

I have to say that one of the things that make a good tournament weekend is being able to stay at a motel that is calm and comfortable. In fresno it seems like every time of year we attend there is a biker rally or something and so it can be LOUD. Most of the motels were sold out of rooms, but I managed to get a place at the La Quinta. It was awesome! I  managed to get a second story room  right next to the elevator and the stairs, and parked right at the foot of the stairs! And the room was huge, with a separate kitchen area which is always good for preparing Jet’s raw food.  There was also a trader joe’s type of food store right next store, so I know I already had dinner plans.

 

Saturday we had 3 teams entered, Loose Dogs which was regular, Stray Dogs which is Multi, and unleashed which is also regular. Jet ended up getting 5 races with 4/4 heats, which is good because I like a worked Border collie! He got to start on his first race, running several 4.2’s and a 4.3.  I had to get used to starting him at 45 feet, because with the new change to the NAFA light system we actually let go on the second yellow light, and so that changes where you start as well. Riley wasn’t running on Saturday but was enjoying relaxing. Jet, on the other hand, was barking and carrying on in his crate between races, which I was trying to discourage so he reserves energy, but I couldn’t do a lot about it if I was in the ring.

 

On his second race he was passing as the second dog  into our little jack russel who was starting, and Jet was so wound up that I knew I had to back him up so I wasn’t early. The first heat I was back at 65 feet, and let him go when Emma was jumping the last jump from the box on the return. He took off so fast I thought I would be early, but luckily I had a 3 foot pass. Jet ran a 4.2 with a pass! Minus that pass and he ran a line to line of 4.1 with a pass, and on grass too! Now, it was harder at this tournament to figure out what to do handler wise, as we had two rings but one of the rings had a issue with the lights and there was no display to track your dog’s time or starts. Also, we didn’t have a pass caller. So I had a good friend hang out at the score table and write down our dogs times. Knowing what Jet ran the last heat, I backed up to 70 feet, but then I was early! Oh wells.

 

Throughout the day Jet ran 4.4-4.5 with a pass and last race of the day ran 4.3 and 44. He was happy and energetic with a full days racing, and I was tired!!

 

On Sunday Riley looked awesome. She literally took off when I let her go! And was soo happy that even after getting into one of our team dogs back at camp she didn’t shut down and wasn’t stressed. She even played tug at camp and was so eagar to fetch. I really wish I knew what she was running the first race, but we didn’t have a time checker on the race so I will never know. But on the second race of the day she ran a 5.6 which is great for my 10 year old girl!! Her box was great and she was happy.

 

Jet seemed a little tired from working so hard in the heat on Saturday, but he ran several 4.3’s on Sunday and was a happy boy. It was a fun weekend, and at the end of the day Sunday we learned that our Multibreed team are the regional Champions for 2010! Overall a great weekend of racing and I am going to take that with us in the next two weeks before Gridley!

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April Championship Qualifier and Tournament

2 05 2011

First week of April was the UFLI championship Qualifier in Fresno. Even though our club wasn’t running in the qualifier divisions, it proves to be a fun weekend watching some of these less seen teams come to race in our Region. My team finds it a little harder to attend the championship tournament because of the distance of travel and the time to get off work, but nevertheless it is something I would love to be apart of in the years to come.

Riley wasn’t running in this tournament, mainly because I was only able to go on Sunday and also because she hadn’t been feeling well lately. I thought it best to give her a break before the May tournaments. Jet was running on our Unleashed team in the pack. And I got to run several dogs this weekend because we were so short handed. I love running as many dogs as I can, so this was great!

Jet hadn’t been doing alot of practices prior to this tournament mainly because he’s had alot of tournaments instead! But I’ve been maintaining his box at home to keep us in shape. He looked great in the lanes, running several 4.3’s in a passing spot with about 2-3 foot passes. Near the end of the day she started hitting lower on the box than I would have liked but that’s just more reason to continue our box regime. He also earned his Top Flight First Class level 2 pin, and it looks like we are headed to his next UFLI plaque at 35,000 points, so we have about 4,000 or more points to go. It will be a fun year!

Next tournament is a NAFA event, first week of May, followed two weeks by a revisit to Gridley!





Fools for Flyball

9 04 2011

Last weekend saw us traveling back to Gridley for Strike Force Flyball Team’s NAFA tournament. Man, what a crazy week it had been! All week was a constant battle of wits against my car, which was having this huge intermittent problem of stalling and not starting. It was a wonder that I got to Gridley at all, and even though I would have found a wag there eventually it was hard not knowing if my car would start from one minute to the next.

After a full Friday off from work and getting to take time to pack and get the car serviced we headed down to another weekend of Flyball fun! I decided to stay at the same motel as last time it was a great room with a quiet location and since I hadn’t had alot of sleep that week I was ready for a good night rest!

Jet was running on Loose Dogs and Riley was getting alot of races on Unleashed. I was a little worried about Riley because she had thrown up on Friday in the motel room and looked a bit Ill. She was starting to have het spring allergies again, shedding like crazy ad getting patchy fur from scratching. I’ve been giving her benedryl so hopefully that helps.

On Saturday I warmed up Jet ad wrapped his feet and we were ready to go. He was supposed to run second but our start dog on that team has started to develop this strange behavior of spinning in a circle when she’s released in start. So the plan was that if she spun we would move Jet to start. On the first race we were in the right lane and running over 10″ jumps. I set Jet up at 52 feet to pass. On the first heat though, our start dog spun and unfortunately I wasn’t far back enough with Jet and so I was early. First race jitters! Jet was so excited, lunging and barking to run. And so we moved him into start as planned. First race was over 10″ jumps and we hadn’t done any work over those for awhile, but Jet flew down the lane and just ricochet off the box an ran a 4.2. The rest of the races he ran 4.3’s and had perfect striding! So happy he was running great.

Riley was trying her best but looked very uncomfortable in the lanes and was bobbling the ball at the box almost every heat. She was still working for me but seemed tired.

Jet got to start the rest of the day on Saturday and ran 4.3’s pretty consistently. His box turn was pretty tight although he was hitting a little lower than usual and so I kept warming him up on the wall to reinforce his turn.

I also was running my team mates two other dogs to keep me on my toes and the teams were doing pretty well. On Saturday all three of our teams got 1st place ribbons, even Riley’s team.

On Sunday I asked to move Jet back to running second and he seemed a little tired on the second day but still ran 4.3 in a pass and 4.5’s into the last race of the day. I ended up pulling Riley from her last couple races as she wasn’t looking very happy and still seemed sick and subdued, so I let her rest the rest of the weekend.

All in all it was a fun weekend and I’m looking forward to next weekends tournament in Fresno for the championship qualifier!





Mare Island in March

15 03 2011

Wow, i never thought we would be going back to Mare Island this year, not after this long and hearing about how the field rental price had doubled. It was a shame when i first heard about it. Flyball teams used Mare Island as a tournament hot spot, having both UFLI and NAFA tournaments 3-4 times a year. It was dry in the winter months, and shaded in the summer months even though it did get hot inside. Plus, the artificial astro turf made the perfect running surface-no one had to lay down matts, it was a solid and straight surface, and somewhat shock absorbing. We missed the sight, even though we sort of gained a new one at the Gridley fairgrounds. So it was great news to hear Bay Racers were hosting a NAFA tournament there begining of March. Although i was wondering what I would do at this sight to warm Jet up between races. Since we were at Mare Island last time, Ive added little warm up excersises before each race, where Jet does some wall work and a few frisbee tosses to stretch his legs and work on some good ol moscle memory. I only do a few reps, because my goal is to just keep his muscles from getting stiff and also because its been proven that dogs that have been warmed up prior to competing actually run better. Makes sence. I’ve been getting used to Gridley, where there is a wooden fence next to a open and deserted field where I can warm up him in peace. No such luxury at Mare island, where all the surrounding buildings are metal sided with ridges and encircled with concrete or pavement. But we would make do.

Jet earned his ONXY last year in August, and since this was the first NAFA tournament since earning the award, he was going to get his plaque! I am so proud of my boy, and when asked by our Region 16 director for a short bio to display at the tournament, I had difficulty in chosing what to write! Ive had such a journey with Jet, its hard to sum it all up in a short bio…he almost needs his own book. So several rough drafts later i sent his paperwork in.

Usually Mare Island is a luxury in that I can sleep in my own bed and save hotel fees. But since ive moved, its actually a longer drive by a considerable amount of time when you are leaving at 4 in the morning. So this time I decided to rent a motel room that was a few miles from the site. It ended up being a good thing to do, since I got more sleep and it was only about 80 dollars for two nights, an amount I was going to pay in gas anyways.

Saturday started off like any other tournament, I lurked around the hospitality table until the coffee was ready and then grabbed a muffin for breakfast. Then while pottying the dogs i searched for a good warm up area for Jet. There was a large patch of grass we normally run around in, which has a tree at the end that Jet is certain contains a squirrel that he saw run up there ONCE years ago and he KNOWS its still up there, taunting him. He always runs to this tree, jumping and barking up into the branches, just daring for that little rascle to come down again. One day, he’s gonna get it! I investigated the building near the grassy area and even though it was around pavement figured it would do ok for some wall work.

Jet wasnt getting to start this weekend, but I was ok with that, rather trying to focus on what we’ve been working on with his box and striding and trying to maintain that for long term. The first race he bobbled once but ran several 4.3’s with a pass and his box otherwise looked great and he kept his striding together. He seemed to be a little wider on his turns but that was ok for now and it wasnt dramatic. Throughout the day he ran several 4.3’s in a pass and stayed consistant aside from a couple times where he did 2 strides instead of 3. Several of his races were far apart and so we got lots of time to stretch and play a little frisbee in between and do some wall work.

Riley was doing well. I’ve been doing ALOT of bring-the-ball-back excersises with her at home with consists of her bringing the ball ALL THE WAY back to my hand. Sometimes she trys to get an easy reward by bringing it just to my hand and then dropping it as i am closing my fingers around the ball. When this happens I let the ball drop when she drops it and then, without saying a word, point to the ball on the floor. I dont repeat the command “Bring it”. she is very good about picking it back up and placing it right in my hand after that. Ive seen a huge improvement in her holding the ball farther past the line. I want her to always bring it at least 20 feet past the line, since she has a tendancy to drop it right on the line which is borderline flaggable and questionable to a clean run. Ive also started setting her up in practice to ignore balls left in the lane and always retrieve the ball from the box, even if im sending her for a re run and there might be a ball in her path. There have been several times ive re ran her and she picks up the ball on the ground in front of the box instead of in the box itself. So ive started scattering balls at random places in the lane, off to the side and directly in her path to try and simulate this for tournaments. She’s doing well and I expect this to help us!

At the end of the day the awards were presented and our regional director congratulated me as he handed me our Onyx plaque. After all we’ve been through and worked hard for, it was hard to believe it was sitting in my hands. A symbol of hard work, perseverance, determination, drive, biddability, loyalty…of both me and my dog. Together, along with my wonderful team mates and friends, he and I are a partnership in this victory. I felt honored to be a part of it. It is an achievement many handler/dog teams work hard at and sometimes never achieve, even after years. Jet and I accomplished it in 4 years, a reasonably fast amount of time, and overcame injury, illness, and different life obstacles to achieve. Im so proud of my boy!

On Sunday Jet’s first race on Loose Dogs was over 10 inch jumps. We’ve not practiced over 10 inch jumps in a very long time, and while I knew Jet really doesnt care either way, I had never done any stride pole work with him over that height and not prop work on the box either. Over tens, the dogs’ striding is affected significantly, then running over 7-8 inch jumps. The dogs are now having to think about jumping, instead of just running over the hurdles.  I shouldnt have worried about him though, Jet ran great. Over 10 inches he posted 4.3 with a pass and did perfect 3 strides and box on each heat. I was so happy about that 4.3 over 10’s and let him know about it!

I’d also been running my team mates’ borderstaffy, and lately he’s been dealing with some bring-the-ball issues so we were mixing up our methods of using the tug with him. He’s a handful but so fun to run and I enjoy every minute I get to spend with him. I think he’s inspired me to get a border/staffy one day! So I was letting him go, throwing his tug to the side of the ring and then showing him both of my empty hands on his way back, telling him to “bring it” all the way back. For Saturday he did perfect and brought the ball back every time, and I would reward him with his tug by grabbing it and giving it to him after it was apparent he had brought the ball back at least 30 feet over the line. On sunday we switched to food after he dropped the ball a couple times but with food he did amazingly well so we just need to figure out how to do that with the tug.

I was keeping up a steady day of warm ups with Jet, having him do his wall work and keeping him limber. I was a little conserned at the begining of the tournament that I had worked Jet too hard the couple days leading up to the tournament. He had alot more treadmill on thursday than I probably should have done, and I was conserned he would be tired. But after seeing how he was running over the 10’s and posting those 4.3’s I wasnt worried anymore.  But the best was yet to come, and on the second to last race of the day, after running the whole weekend, Jet ran a 4.25 with a pass!  Im not sure what my pass was, and so the line to line time was probably an even lower time. Not only that, his turn on the box was so high on the box that I could see the whole strip of white tape on the lower portion of the box when he was hitting.  Woohoo! Nothing like seeing hard work pay off!! I was so impressed with him.

So the weekend ended very well, full of sucess and the company of friends, great team mates, and great dogs. And now I just need to find a good place on my bedroom wall for Jet’s Onyx. 🙂





Fast times in February

15 02 2011

Gridley again this weekend! This weekend was nice because I was able to get both days off from work and so a full weekend of racing. It was a challenging week for me personally, and I was looking forward to a weekend of fun away from normal routine.

First thing I should mention is that I’m still working on a lot of flyball skills with Jet. Striding and Box work, which helps in both speed and precision/accuracy. Usually I can work both in the same training exercise. Jet always gets a two sided prop in front of the box and 2″ slats added to raise the prop height from 7″ to 9″. This helps get his butt up higher on the box. Then, a large gutter is placed directly to the right side of the box. I always place the gutter on the inside of the prop wing and outside of the hole on the box that Jets ball goes. I find this has been the best to get him to over-rotate off the box so he’s tighter off the box. Then I’m working on his stride. I’m talking about the amount of strides he takes coming off the box before he gets to the first jump back. Some dogs because of their size alone, are good with 2 strides, but some, like Jet, should be taking 3. The reason behind this is it sets the dog up for the striding over the jumps on the return. With only 2 strides, Jet jumps higher over the jumps and can therefore be slower. With 3 strides he allows himself to maximize his stride length on the jumps and is able to run low and skim (run) over the jumps versus actually thinking about “jumping”. You don’t want the dog to think “jump” but think “run” as though the jumps aren’t there. So ive also added a stride pole about 5 feet away from the box on his way back, which forces the 3 strides. Its muscle memory. Then i slowly fade out the use or props. He’s been improving more and more in each field. My goals are a 3 stride every time with a 4 foot over rotate box. The over rotate is important because the dog is set up tight off the box so it’s easier set up for the 3 strides. I’ve been setting this simulation at home.

So Gridley again. Jet team was 5/5 both days in Division 1, and was bottom of the division. Team to beat was a southern California 15 sec team. The goal here was to run clean. And the try to beat the only other team, which was seeded half a second faster than us. Before the race I warmed up jet by finding a nice open field with a wooden fence and tossed him a few frisbees and did a couple box turns off the fence. Then i wrapped his 4 feet. Then it was race time!

Jet got to start his first race. We were against the 15 sec team. Jet was racing another fast border collie on the other team. First heat I had a .100 start delay. Dont know what happened but I think I realized too late which light to release on. Jet was pissed the other dog was a tad bit released in front of him. He flew down the lane and ricochet off the box. He ran a 4.2 with my crappy start delay. A true time of 4.1 minus the delay. Good boy Jet! The second heat I got my act together in start and did better with a .34 start delay. Jet blazed down the lane and whipped off the box so fast. He over rotated so beautifully it looked like he was trying to fold himself in half off the box. And strides were perfect. He ran another 4.1! And then the next race, him and the other dog ran an exact time of 4.208. That’s the kind of racing we love, fast and down to the wire! I was so impressed jet was remembering his box and striding. He continued to run 4.2 in addition to the 4.1s and a 4.3 at the end.

Second race he was running in the pack, 3rd spot and ran several 4.3’s with a pass and I had 2 to 3 foot passes. He hasn’t ran those times in the pack since he was sick. His box was holding up all day and I just kept warming him up prior to racing. He had a few races where he did 2 strides instead of 3 but they were minimal. He had maybe 2 re-grips of the ball at the box and 1 small bobble on Sunday.

Riley was running part time and doing a great job bringing her ball back to 40″ each time! She got flagged once when one of our dogs left his ball at the box. Riley went down, saw the tennis ball and hit the box, released her ball, touched the tennis ball and then took the her ball instead! She would rather have her squishy ball than a regular one. The judge doesn’t know this and thought Riley got the previous ball and flagged us for re run. I think we made time with the rerun but not sure.

On Sunday Jet ran 4.2 and several 4.3’s in start and continued to run low to mid 4’s with a pass in the pack. With maybe 2 exeptions on his stride he ran like a well oiled machine, flying off the box so fast and over rotating so beautifully he seemed like he was twisting himself in half. He was launching for the tug and growling and dogs ran by as he had his prize. He was all riled up and very competitive.

Second to last race of the day Jets team ran a 17.6 and amazingly we placed 1st in division 1 both days, even being bottom of our division. We were fast enough to win when we needed to and clean, especially when it counted. Our other teams won 1st in their divisions on Saturday and a 1st, 2nd and 3rd Sunday. I personally achieves a 0.00 start myself!

It was an amazing weekend, I’m so proud of my dogs and being part of this team of great people and dogs and help build our successes as a team. I hope we have the same great time in our NAFA tournament next month!





Gridley again

20 01 2011

So here we begin 2011! so many exciting things to come and happening at the same time!

It’s been a long time since our last Gridley adventure. It was hard not to think of the past when considering attending this tournament. It was afterall, little less then a year ago that I had to pull jet from racing and take him for emergency surgery to remove a toy from his abdomen. I couldn’t help feeling somewhat apprehensive, like the name Gridley was jinxed. It had been such a scary time. But I knew I was just being paranoid. It was on to the first tournament of the season, I had to approach it right!

It didn’t help my nerves that Jet was recovering from a recent bout of “something-or-another” which involved muscle injury and a suspicion of hypothyroidism all at the same time. We had been on limited excersise, which involved treadmill and swimming but no running or fast movements or jumping or basically anything “jet related”. In addition, it had been raining buckets through out the weeks and no one had had flyball practice as well as us. Jet hadn’t seen a box or tug or ball or wall or jump in over a month. We were pretty rusty in the flyball department. So I wasn’t expecting alot from either dog at Gridley. But that was ok, as long as we felt good and had fun it would be worth it. Jet had a chiropractic session set up a week prior to Gridley. After 3.5 weeks restricted excersice he was cleared to resume regular work. With one week until race time, only that Sunday at gridley, I started working him but gradually with no specific goal other than building ourselves back up.

We drove up Saturday night and stayed at motel 6. In the morning Jet and I found a space with grass outside the racing building to stretch him out. He was full of it, normal Jetness, and feeling very good and chasing the frisbee to warm up his muscles. Riley and I got to fetch the ball, trying to remind a certain someone that the ball doesn’t travel to me on it’s own and needs someones help! She was looking good.

Jet was running second in the pack for his first races. He was set up to run 5 races of 5/5 heats, but I told myself I would play it by ear and if he didn’t look right I would pull him. But I shouldn’t have worried, he was full of spit and vinegar and raring to race. Those first races in second he charged down the lanes, whiplashed off the box, and remembered all the striding work I’ve been doing with him. His boxturn looked amazing, he looked so he was barely hitting it before he was off again, flying back.

Riley was bringing her ball back every time. She did fumble a few times, and one time she looked at me from by the box as if asking me if she should go get the ball if it was “over there”. I told her bring it, yes bring it, and she grabbed it and headed back. The ball was far out of the jumps and so she missed the last one, but she did chose instead to do her least favored task, fetching the ball rather then leaving it. I gave her a huge reward for being a great smart miss Riley dog and she considered it a win.

Jets second to last race rocked! He got to race in start position and he was all spit and vinegar barking at the opposing team and pulling so hard I could hardly line him up to face the lane. I got some pretty good starts in and Jet ran several 4.2’s and 4.3’s and was just flying off the box! We actually broke out once. We lost the heat but Jet had a great time!

Starfleet Flyball club did an excellent job hosting and not only that provided hot lunch both days! We are excited for the next tournament in Gridley, which is good since it looks like there will be alot hosted there this year.





Barktoberfest Demo

8 10 2010

Last week Jet Riley and myself joined Sacramento Flyball club to run in their Flyball demo. It was for Barktoberfest in Roseville, Ca an event for the public to see some doggy activities and check out some vendors. I mainly wanted to give Jet some Flyball fun outside of the regular team dogs he runs with and another chance to solidify our Box turn with the new prop set up. Riley went too because she is running in Madera and needed the practice.

We only had enough dogs to run a team race and some singles and pairs and Jet had a great time running with the other team’s border collies. The lanes were placed very close together (He loves that) and i had the Team box and our props. He ran super fast and the prop worked great just as the last time. The only time he had a hiccup was when he hit the gutter designed to make him over rotate coming off the box-the reason its there! 🙂  The run back was super short for us and he kept hitting the tug and crashing into the netting in the back. The crowd seemed to like this and enjoyed watching the racing too. Im super happy with how Jet is working and the sucess we are having!!

Riley dropped the ball a few times but we havent practiced in a long time and there is still time to work on this before the tournament in Madera. Ive already booked the hotel room (Learned from experience!!) and its the same price (if not a bit lower) for two nights versus the one night in Reno! And the room is right across the road from the Fairgrounds. Super excited!

We’ve sorta been getting into a groove with our weekly excersise. Its been hard because I’ve been working so much and then have to work the dogs when I get home, so usually this means early mornings and late nights. Sometimes i’m eating dinner almost in the morning! Anyways, its usually Monday off, Tuesday is Strength work with Wall work in the yard  and then bike work and frisbee at the park. Wednesday is Treadmill both morning and night, with Thursday being light; a long walk (or run) in the vineyards and swimming. Friday is more strength work either biking and frisbee or one of those. Saturday is played by ear but usually just clicker trick games to work his mind and Sunday is Flyball. So far its working and i wish i could do more but right now its doing its “job” while im stuck at mine!!