How about this, 2 posts in one week?! Okay, i'm sitting here feeling a bit sorry for myself that i'm not out west, suffering through Meeker. Yes, it seems the sheep are winning out there, but i sure wish i was there to give it a go. Next year, for sure. I'm just not good at sitting on the sidelines watching. I'm pretty sure the "reload" button on my browser is about to go on strike after being hit 7,659 times this last week with both Soldier Hollow and Meeker posting scores. Okay, that's probably a low estimate. Whatever did we do before the instant gratification of scores being posted on the web? Did we ever actually wait on results to appear in magazines, weeks after the events? And now, we cry and fidget when more than a handful of dogs have run and no scores posted. Are we spoiled or what?! So, i'm distracting myself with a second blog posting in less than a week, how about that.
Preparations for running the dogs at the Finals are going along fine. I can't say that i have much experience in getting dogs ready for something like this, but i'm winging it and feeling okay about it. I've only ever actually run 3 times at the finals. In 2003 at Sturgis, I ran Jet in the Nursery and Spottie in the Open. I have almost no recollection of Spottie's run though i do remember a lot about Jet's. It really was mostly a "just happy to be here" experience for me then. At Gettysburg, in 2007, i again ran Spottie in the Open (Zac was hurt) and i do remember a good bit about it, but again, we weren't competitive and i didn't expect to be. But things have changed with more time and experience, and i hope we will be competitive this time around. I know i feel more competent and have a lot of faith in both Bill and Zac. So, i'm taking preparations pretty seriously as i feel it's knowledge and experience we'll be needing this year and in future Finals as well.
It can be tough to do enough physical conditioning in this area of the country in August, as it's just really hot and humid most times. But i've been jogging and trotting the dogs pretty regularly for the last month, several days a week, for 30-60 minutes at a time. There are lots of dips in the pond as we circle past it and the dogs seem to never get bored with the same circuit, happily trotting along with tongues and tails wagging.
Another thing i've done in preparation is buy in a dozen fresh lambs to work the dogs on. These sheep react nicely to the dogs and are fun and interesting for them and me as well. I'm not working the dogs for long sessions, but we've been doing some shedding and penning, and also just gathering and feeling these sheep. I'm trying to get the dogs flexible in their work as much as possible but not doing a lot of drilling or even very long sessions. Both were very well tuned when we got home from Canada a month ago and i want them to be fresh and rested for the next few weeks of trialing. The new sheep will hopefully keep them sharp. I also have to be careful to watch how the dogs are taking the physical stuff. Both of them have had muscle injuries in the past and i don't want to push it too hard too fast and end up with them tweaking something. Bill has looked a little off to me once or twice since Canada so i'm being especially watchful of him.
With about 10 days to go now, i'm thinking about dietary considerations. This is where i feel most like i'm winging it, for sure. I started using K9 Energy Edge about a week ago after each working session. I'm also switching up their kibble just a bit. I've been feeding a mix of Diamond Naturals Chicken and Rice with a better, more "high power" food (Red Paw or Evo) for quite a while, but now i'm increasing the percentage of the better food. I usually feed once a day, just an evening meal, but will be adding a breakfast meal now, of a premade raw food. My reasoning for this is that i'd like to add a bit more fat to their diets. Also, i've drawn up all 3 times in the running order towards the end of the day. I'm thinking it would be better to not be running them with no "fuel" added to the system for like 18 hours before they run, and want to get them used to the new feeding regimen.
I think that's about all i'm doing on the dogs, well, except for just being extra careful about things like playtime in the backyard and such, where they might get hurt. I call it "bubble wrap time"! As for preparations for myself, i'm trying to get good sleep as we run up to the event, and thinking about places where i might fall down in my handling and making lots of mental notes. Actually, i'm also making some real notes, since i remember things i've written much better. I'll review both kind of notes and hope to be on my game when we actually get on the field. I know there's a lot of luck when it comes to a trial like the Finals, luck of the draw on the sheep, time of day, weather, etc., etc. I don't mind that, i know it's just part of it. But i really hate it when i come off the field thinking "if I had //fill in the blank// things would have gone better". So for me the biggest part of Finals prep is trying to figure out all of those things. I know experience is the best teacher for those things but i'm hoping the Finals this year will be less of a learning experience than in the past!