I spent last weekend at a freestyle competition. While the routine we performed and the location were the same, this time we competed in a new venue. We typically compete in WCFO freestyle but this time was for the newest freestyle venue: RFE Musical Freestyle. It’s similar in many ways. Enough so that we used the same routine we’re competing in WCFO Advanced in RFE Advanced.
On our way down, we stopped to take a walk with friends we haven’t seen in years. I knew Risa would be excited. She would have a chance to be social with another dog who was “safe” to be with. Lately, Risa has been more curious about other dogs than reactive. This is, of course, a wonderful thing. But I still have to be really choosey about who I let her meet which results in a sad Risa more often then not when I have to tell her “No, you can’t meet that dog.” When we saw our friends off in the distance, I got Risa all excited. “Who’s that!?” I asked her. She got super wiggly and practically dragged me over to her canine companion. Both dogs were wildly enthusiastic by the time they got close (uncharacteristic for both dogs) and still greeted appropriately. Yay!
We went on a nice long walk and took several opportunities to let the dogs get wet. Risa’s friend is an avid swimmer and Miss Ris just enjoys getting her paws wet. It worked out nicely. There was only one super minor “spat” the entire time. Risa simply said “back off” once when her friend was a bit too close. It was a very minor, half-hearted air snap at a distance. What a huge improvement for Risa who used to lose her mind and go over-the-top with a correction even in minor situations!
After a couple hours of fun, we bade farewell to our friends and continued on our journey. The scenery was beautiful. You can’t beat driving through NY in the fall! We arrived at the hotel and were lucky enough to get “our room” again. I love it because it’s out of the way of traffic making Risa less barky. It also has a mini fridge which makes bringing food, drinks, and Risa’s homecooked meals much easier!
We arrived at the competition early on Saturday so Risa could have plenty of time to get acclimated and so we could do a bit of practice. We were one of the final performances of the morning so I got to watch everyone’s routines while the nerves built up. When it came time for us to get in the ring, I rushed Risa in. I rarely do this. I have no idea why I did this time. I really wish I had taken the time to ask her for a couple behaviors before I asked her to dance with me but, for some reason, I felt pressured to just get in the ring. Perhaps that had something to do with her lackluster performance. It was probably part of it but I also don’t think we prepared as well as we could have. It’s not that we hadn’t practiced. We had. A lot. I’d been working on her focus along with several behaviors and sequences that I knew were weak. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. I also hadn’t realized how important practicing the routine in full would be. I have a prop and I need to be within a certain proximity to it for several sections. Without rehearsing in a ring-sized area, I was sort of flying blind in regards to where I needed to be. Lack of confidence and certainty really affects our dancing. It also messes up my timing when I’m not where I need to be at a particular part of the music.
I was pretty disappointed in our performance. I knew exactly why we fell flat. And, as per usual, it was all my fault. I vowed to do what I could on Sunday to make it better. Let’s face it, there isn’t a lot that can be done once you’re at a trial. But there were a few adjustments I could make to help us out.
Even with that lackluster performance, I still enjoyed the rest of the day. I absolutely love hanging out with my fellow competitors and catching up. I also enjoy watching their routines and getting inspired. It was also a very important event: our club was celebrating it’s 10 year anniversary. We showcased some of our older performances and stories. Later on, we had dinner with the judges and most of the club members. We had several discussions, great food, a cake, and champagne (I chose the sparkling cider simply because it sounded more delicious and it was!). I didn’t want it to end!
Risa and I were one of the first teams in the ring on Sunday. This time, I took my time getting her ready. I didn’t rush her and it seemed to help. Her focus was better and there was no stress scratching at all. Unfortunately, she still missed several cues and seemed to just want to go through my legs repeatedly instead of the other behaviors I was cuing. It was still a victory; the performance was much improved. It still wasn’t good enough to qualify. This doesn’t surprise me. Advanced is HARD. We’ll just have to try harder and practice better. We’ll get there!
Even though we didn’t earn any legs towards our title, we did get a couple ribbons (second place on Saturday and first on Sunday) and got Judge’s Choice for “Dog Having the Most Fun.” I also got a comment on my scoresheet from the judge stating that she loved my costume. Since I was so against costuming when I started freestyle, I had to smile at that. Never thought I’d get a compliment like that! Then again, maybe it was just because the judge loves purple.
I am hoping to participate in one of the upcoming video competitions with a more well-practiced version of our routine. After that, I’m going to retire it. I usually don’t retire a routine until we’ve completed the title in the division it was designed for. That usually takes us 2 years. I’ve been performing this routine with Risa for 2 years now and I think it’s time we move on. I feel more like I’m drilling it with her and that it’s getting old and less fun. I have a feeling Risa agrees. Also, in our discussions with the judges, I realized the importance of continuing to teach new things even while we’re working on our routines. I haven’t really sat down to teach Ris anything new in a while and I think she’d benefit greatly from that. In fact, I have started teaching her a couple new behaviors since coming home and it’s really renewed both of our enthusiasm for the sport. I’m really looking forward to continuing work on our current routine and then getting creative and into our next. I can’t wait to see what we come up with.
I really needed some time to renew my drive and love of freestyle. It’s tough when there really aren’t any other freestylers in the area. I am teaching another class in freestyle, however, so hopefully we won’t be living in a freestyle vacuum forever!