This past weekend, Tessa and I went to the Barkaritaville Freestylers competition to attempt Intermediate Musical Freestyle. I knew going in that we are not quite at Intermediate level yet. I was actually rather disappointed that the newly created "C Classes" were not offered at this competition because Novice C would have been the perfect division for us right now. Tessa and I still have quite a bit of work to do on fading hand cues and moves behind me, and those elements are required to qualify in Intermediate.
I also had not done a whole heck of a lot of work on our routine. I re-vamped our routine to "Espana Cani" that we had used for Heelwork to Music in September. I added a jump that had a decorated fabric panel attached, and the pivot platform sat directly in front of it, toward the judges. It is a routine with a lot of potential. Tessa performs it with enthusiasm and flair! But the choreography was lacking quite a bit of . . . something.
So, I went in knowing that if we did happen to qualify on either day, it would be a fluke, and really - I don't want flukes for Tessa! She has the potential to perform at a very high level and I really do want to develop that potential adequately. Therefore, my goal for this competition was not to try to qualify, but to make a respectable effort. I figured that if we successfully made a respectable effort this year, by next June, we should really be ready to be successful at this level.
We met the goal of respectable effort! Even though we did not qualify either day, we came very, very close! We only missed it by two tenths of a point on Saturday and one tenth on Sunday! And while it would have been absolutely heartbreaking to have been that close and to have missed it if our performance actually had met qualifying criteria, it was perfectly fine when I knew that we really weren't quite there yet.
There is one thing that bothers me, though. And it bothers me a lot. While Tessa performed at the level of her training and I am absolutely 100% proud of her, and I agree with the assessment of the judges in not qualifying either performances, I am disappointed in myself for failing to prepare as well as I could have. Granted, I know that my life circumstances right now, which are completely beyond my control, do not allow for me to put a lot of time into this. When I think back on how I was able to spend time training, rehearsing, and preparing with Speedy all those years ago, I long to be able to put in a quarter of that effort with Tessa! I waited a long, long time for a dog with this kind of temperament and now that I have her, it is incredibly frustrating that we have to wing it. She wings it like a pro, but we can't deliver the kind of competent and polished performances that I know she is capable of if I can't put in the time and detail to really do this well.
I know life is life and that there are times when circumstances simply are what they are. I know there isn't much I can do to sneak in more training, and that what I am able to catch as catch can on the fly won't be of the greatest quality. But I really do need to figure out a way to put more into Tessa's Freestyle training. It would be a crime to let her potential go untapped.
And, really, if I am not going to do this right, I am at the point where it isn't really worth doing at all.
I'm not saying I want it to be that way. I absolutely don't. But something has to change, or else we need to give up Freestyle altogether and just focus on Agility, which we can manage to do very well with just weekly classes. Freestyle is not a sport you can really succeed in without a good bit of dedicated and quality work once you get into the Intermediate level.
One competition where I came face to face with the fact that lack of proper preparation will only result in missing the mark is enough. I have no problem with coming up short if we do our best. And Tessa certainly did her part in that regard. But if I can't put my best into it, it is pointless.
So, we are at a crossroads. Figure out a way to put some quality work into Tessa's Freestyle training, or let it go.
I seriously hope a way can be found.
Edited to add - so, I just did something. I am going to try to arrange to rent the training building one evening each week during our break from classes between Thanksgiving and New Years. That's a nice chunk of training time and we should be able to make a plan and get off to a good start during that time . . .