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Defining Success

Posted on 05/31/10 8 Comments

This past weekend I ran at our Ontario Provincial (Regional) Championships. My girls both did pretty well. Between Encore and Feature they won both Standard classes and both Gamblers classes. We got around Jumpers but sadly had bars in both rounds. In the end Feature won the event and Encore came third.

The weekend was a success for me not because I won but because my goals where met. Going into the weekend I wanted to carry on the high of the recent World Championships.  I wanted to keep a good connection with the girls on all rounds (I think with the exception of Feature’s Steeplechase I met that goal). I wanted to run aggressively but not recklessly– being sure enough to have no off courses. Again I met my goals.  That is what made the weekend a success for me. I had to leave the event early in order to pack my bags for an early morning flight so I left without knowing the results. I  learned of our “bonus” placements over the telephone, it didn’t change my feelings of the weekend at all.

Being a local event I had several students in attendance. I am dedicating the rest of this blog post to them because of how proud they made me in their success.

To my students.

I am so proud. It isn’t  due to any individual placements, although there where some. It had to do with the way you all carried yourselves both in and out of the ring over the weekend.

Each of you showed great grace and loved up your dogs at the end of every round regardless of how many bumps the weekends’ extremely challenging courses threw at you. You constantly smiled, and if you where embarrassed or frustrated it didn’t show. It was as if you where joyful just for the opportunity to compete with your dogs.

You inspired a new mantra in me over the weekend to “lead with my heart.” My wish was that at any point over the weekend any on looker should be able to tell by my actions, how important my dogs are to me. That is what I learned from watching all of you.

Many of you have extremely fast, raw, young dogs. But you where not the only ones there with this “type” of dog. As I watched the weekend unroll I saw many other young speedsters being handled by other people. These dogs where just flying around the courses leading their handlers at will; broken start lines, the creation of their own courses, diving in and out of weave poles, skipping poles, leaving poles, missing contacts or worst– handlers ripping young dogs from contacts with barely more than a noticeable pause (pardon the pun) in the yellow.

Sadly in the end, many of these teams, as well as some of you, did not accumulate the required points to qualify for nationals. The courses where challenging for the those of us that are experienced handlers, let alone some of you with lightning fast dogs, just getting started in your agility career!

The difference between what I saw in each of you and the rest of these handlers is what I hope you realize you are taking home from the weekend. It is this difference that makes this weekend a success for you and why I am so proud of each of you.

Regardless if you qualified or not, you are walking away with dogs that have a greater understanding of what it is like to be in a charged up environment and still respond to you while maintaining their self control in the face of great temptation.  With these highly charged over the top dogs I did not see a single broken start line, missed or self released contact and few if any weave errors.

These dogs made great strides towards coming together with you as a team this weekend. When that day comes. The time when body awareness exercises, toy drive, shadow handling & jump grids meet; positional cues, front cross timing,  threadle execution and quick handling decisions. When all of this comes together, you will be moving forward with an arsenal of well preserved foundation skills. 

That is a bright future. For it is one that will allow you all to step into many future Championship events thinking only of your handling responsibilities and not wondering if your dog is going to; hit his contacts, stay out of the tunnels, nail the tough weave entries or allow you that three jump lead out.

When that day happens, I want each of you to look back and remember this weekend.  The belief you showed in your young dogs is what develops a positive ring experience for each of them.  But then the hard part. Know that all of your future successes get their fuel in the moments of your decisions while these young dogs are building upon these ring experiences. You stood up to these tests, demonstrating patience when your training was challenged and responding appropriately proving your willingness to “not give up what you want most of all for what you want right now.” It is all of this that will allow your future agility dreams to come true.

So even if an outcome goal was not met for you this past weekend, the successful completion of your performance goals has me sitting at my computer still grinning from ear to ear and beaming with pride.

Today I am grateful for my students who inspire me.


  1. Mary M says:
    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 5:44pm

    Sounds like a very nice weekend for all…..great job!

    Also, Lynda you posted a great quote (one close to my heart), this quote was on my mother’s sewing table and during her time with us on earth, she lived it to the letter.

    “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.
    –Norman MacEwan”

    Since losing her I have posted it in my office at work along with another saying she had on her desk, by Mother Teresa, which I think also fits in for both students and Susan regarding this event and their lives with their dogs both at home and competition…so I thought I would share.


    People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

    If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

    If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

    If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

    What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

    If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

    The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

    Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

    In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

    – Mother Teresa

    We can get so caught up in trials I think we forget the reason we are there in the first place, and the reason had four legs and much fur and usually can be found looking longingly at us waiting for our next request, it is great when we can remember how to share half the love back to our dogs, who share theirs daily!


  2. Kelly says:
    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 1:58pm

    This is a topic I would love to have on a podcast! I have been ‘retired’ from agility for 4 years and will be starting again with my 14mo old when we are ready. I am very concerned about being able to resist the uber competitive side of this sport I enjoy so much. Things have changed, I have seen people be down right mean to other competitors and people quit the sport secondary to the treatment they received when successful (= winning). I am hoping not to fall prey by sitting with my ipod on listening to Tony R, With Winning in Mind and relaxing music. I would love to add your soothing and supportive voice Susan! Reminding me its all about our relationship and the goals we set for ourselves on each run! Today I am again grateful for your blog! In a time when a past trainer told me I need to take her class so she can keep an eye on me, so I don’t mess up my dog….You are here to bolster my self confidence and remind me that a sound and methodic training plan will take me where I want to go! Thank you!

    Kelly & puppy in training (who has amazing weave pole entries thanks to 2×2 training!)


  3. Andrea says:
    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 11:14am

    First of all congrats on your 1st and 3rd place finish at Regionals. Love the red dog sweep! 

    I am always amazed by how much I have learned and grown as a person in the past year and a half since I started the Say Yes program and I don’t mean in just my dog training skills (which are also immensely improved). I have learned to celebrate the “small” successes and have faith that they will help me continue down the path to realizing the potential in both my dog and myself. I believe in our abilities to be able to compete with the best as we develop as a team but the best thing is that I know absolutely without a doubt that if that is not our path to walk together in life, I will still have a profound love and appreciation my canine partners and their willingness to step to the line with me each and every run. I don’t know that I really understood the depth of connection possible or truly appreciated the genius of our canine friends until you opened my eyes to it and for that I will be forever grateful to you, Susan.



  4. barrie says:
    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 9:48am

    What a great post and great attitude to have about dog sports! I am, unfortunately, an unattractive shade of green reading it 😉 When I did agility I would have criteria I established when walking the course for what would be a successful run for us on that course. The criteria did not include ribbons or placements although I did get those once I established this system and stopped trying to get the ribbons and placements. One of the reasons I quit agility was that it was too hard to hang onto my own system with everyone else only worrying about ribbons and placements.



  5. Jodi says:
    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 8:46am

    Having trainers and peers to help guide your plans, congratulate your successes, help re-direct your failures, and just plain be there for you is an advantage that having a family gives you. 2Do got to celebrate his 2nd birthday at the Regionals with a qualifying score in the embrace of his loving agility family. Now that’s an advantage I wouldn’t trade for nothin’.
    Thank you


  6. Mary Lou Hanlon says:
    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 7:45am

    Congrats to you Susan and all my Canadian friends. Sounds like I missed an awesome weekend.

    Doing my best here in the U.S. to carry on these wonderful beliefs.


  7. julie says:
    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 4:16am

    Wonderful post! And showing me that I still have a loooooong way to go…


  8. Lynda Orton-Hill says:
    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 12:58am

    Coach Garrett always giving – this past weekend and with this great post…

    We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.
    –Norman MacEwan


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