Over the weekend, Tessa, Dean, and I attended the first ever eastern Rally FrEe competition. Being at the first one on this side of the country was a really special experience. I love that both Dean and Tessa got to be a part of it.
Rally FrEe, for anyone who does not know, is a new sport that has been developed as a hybrid of Rally Obedience and Canine Musical Freestyle. As in Rally, there is a course of signs, and each exercise must be performed within a certain proximity to the sign according to specific guidelines. The similarities to Rally really end there. There are very few actual exercises that are taken from Rally - 270 degree turns, a sit-stand, and pieces of other exercises, such as the call front. Most of the actual skills required are taken from Musical Freestyle - spins, circles around the handler, etc. One of the biggest pieces taken from Freestyle is that the dog must work on both the left and the right side. There are places on every course where the dog transitions from one side to the other. There is only one type of Rally (Cyber Rally) that I know of that incorporates this. Other similarities to Freestyle: music is played, festive attire can be worn (including decorative collars for the dogs), and Freestyle moves, and/or tricks, can be performed at the four "Free Choice" stations that are included on every course.
It was a strange thing for me to go in feeling "blind" in a sense. Of course I knew the exercises that would be required, thanks to being in class since December, but I was almost completely in the dark about the scoring. And I didn't know the answers to many of the "what do I do if . . ." questions that always come up when preparing to compete in a dog sport. The last time I felt this way going into a competition event was when Maddie and I went to our first Agility trial in 2007!
But I was very excited to go. I felt that Tessa was ready enough to possibly qualify at the Novice level, and that Dean could do well if he was comfortable. I was also looking forward to seeing some of the other people run their dogs to see how they had interpreted the guidelines for this brand new sport.
Saturday morning I packed up the car, and off we went. It was just about a 2 hour trip up to the Altoona area and it was a sunny, although cold, day. Perfect for traveling.
I did get just a little lost very near the trial site, but I managed to find it and I got there in plenty of time to set up my crate, turn in music, attend the judges briefing, walk through, attend the judges meeting, and prepare Tessa to be the second dog in the ring!
I was very glad that Tessa and Dean share a crate nicely. There was just enough room left to set up one crate for the two of them!
Tessa, as always, was very happy to go into the ring. She pranced right in with me, behaved impeccably as I set my prop for one of her Free Choice signs, and then sat at the start line. After the judge greeted us ans asked if we were ready, we were off on our first run!
By and large it went well. Tessa was very excited and happy to be out there doing this. There were some blips. She did a full sit pretty - paws high in the air - when she was supposed to lift a single right paw, she bowed as we started a 270 degree turn, and she sat before she bowed at the end. Also, for some inscrutable reason, she schootched her rump on the ground at one point! She never does that in the ring. She didn't blow her sacs or anything - I thinking it was displacement of excitement. I wasn't sure if that would incur any penalty or not.
Beyond that, she was awesome! Of course I had to use hand signals as much as I normally use them - one thing that she and I will be working on now is making those much more subtle.
This is our video of our first run ever! I am hoping to actually edit out the butt schooching part at some point, but for now it's still in there! LOL!!!
I had no idea, coming out of that, whether it would qualify or not. I was thrilled that she had a blast, and I was pleased with her performance, especially after I went back and watched the video. But I had no clue how it would score.
I was able to watch some of the other competitors for a while, and then it was Dean's turn.
Dean came into the building happily and he enjoyed a Kong in the crate while I was waiting to take him over to the "on deck" area. While he was "on deck", we warmed up with some heeling, sits, etc.
Finally, it was our turn to go in, and he ate the last of the meatball, and in we went.
He was very clearly aware of everything around him. I guess it was somewhat overwhelming to him. He had never been in this building before - I didn't get there early enough to take him into the ring before the whole thing started. There was a judge in there, there were people watching, and music was playing. There were mirrors on the wall and stuff on shelves back in the corner.
He started off well - stayed right with me - until the first sign. Then he ran to greet the judge! He came back and sat, but then did exactly what Tessa had done - he sat pretty instead of giving paw!
Next sign was a Free Choice and I had set out a pole for him to go around. He did, although he checked himself out in the mirror as he went around! I knew he needed some help, so I picked my pace way up for the 270 ahead. He ran out ahead of me at the next sign, but came right back and did his leg weaves! Had to check out the stuff in the corner before circling around me for the next turning sign! His next Free Choice was supposed to be a twizzle, but he didn't twizzle. We ended up making a large inside circle turn together. That worked, though. It looked nice and the judge didn't know what it was supposed to be! Sometimes it pays to use odd words like "twizzle"!
The rest of the course went much as the earlier part did. Some things he did well, some he struggled with.
I didn't see the level of enjoyment that I've seen from him when he does Rally, though.
Even though we got through the course, I was sure he hadn't qualified and I decided to move him into non-titling for the rest of the event, so he could go out with food and have fun.
Dean was close to last, so it wasn't long before it was time for awards. I was pleased, and not too surprised, when Tessa qualified. I was absolutely floored when I found out that Dean qualified! Tessa had a 144 out of 200 and Dean had a 130. You need a minimum of 125 to qualify.
When it was announced that he had qualified, I decided not to move him to non-titling. I knew there were things I could do to help him enjoy himself more, and I was pretty sure he could get through the rest of them.
To help him reset, I put him and Tessa in the car while we had lunch inside. It was the perfect day for it with temperatures in the 40's.
Lunch was good - pizza and caesar salad. I enjoyed having that time to talk to some of the other people. I knew a good many of them from Freestyle. Afterward I started to gear up for the afternoon . . . .