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.