After one of my first trials with Rush, I lamented to Debbie that I’d found him very challenging to run that weekend, because there was no place for him to run off some of his energy. Her reply?
Sometimes you just have to ride the horse out of the stable.
I mulled that one over for a while. At the time, it just didn’t seem to be very helpful advice. I went on giving Rush a long running warmup, if possible, on trial mornings, in an effort to tire him out. That worked, right up until I was back at that arena, with no time and no place to spend half an hour getting his ya-yas out. I took him into the ring, so excited he was bouncing at the end of his leash, I left him in his start-line-stay–I was fully expecting him to explode off the line the second I walked away from him–and I pretended I was fully confident he wouldn’t break his stay. Pretended. Actually, I was listening for the beep the first jump makes as the dog passes the timer lights, and watching Rush out of the corner of my eye. (I don’t like the kind of leadout where the handler checks back every third microsecond and keeps repeating “stay, stay, stayyyy” so I trained Rush and I trained myself to just walk away.)
I got out to the third jump–novice jumpers, so it started with a long straight line of jumps–and then glanced over my shoulder and released Rush as I started to sprint that line of jumps. Rush had held his stay–but he exploded off that line with an energy that astonished me. His intensity awed me.
I don’t remember if we Qd on that run, but I do remember the experience of trying to trust my training, even though Rush was insanely excited.
I just got back from a ten-day trip, cycling down the Oregon Coast while Rush and Dancer stayed with friends (and our son took care of the house). I took the beasts to the barn this morning, and Rush as so excited that he started play-bowing to me as soon as I took off his leash. He was every bit as excited as he is at trials. I find it hard to get that level of excitement in training–but not today. While the dogs waited in the car, I’d set up a contact speed circle around the outside of the barn–dogwalk on one side, a-frame on the other, a set of six weaves on each of the other sides, and a spiral into the teeter with a serp off the teeter over to the a-frame.
Rush sat in front of the tunnel, I raised my arm, and he broke his stay and flew into the starting tunnel.
It’s been a long time since that happened. I stopped, he sat again. I led out. He trembled, but he held his stay–and I rewarded his stay with a release. Stop on the contacts at speed? Yep. Complete the weaves while I go elsewhere? Yep. Finish the contact while I stop? Yep. Check in after the weaves instead of going into the tunnel ten feet away? Yep.
With the exception of the one mistake at the beginning, Rush was great. He was so thrilled to be there after his vacation that he gave me everything he could.
When I gave him a break and ran Dancer, same thing. She was so excited! Fast, focused, happy to be there.
Apparently, ten days off from training, lots of rest and relaxation are good things.