Sunday, March 4, 2012

First Freestyle Competition

Yesterday Tessa and I went to her first Freestyle competition, and it was a success in every way!

We enjoyed the long drive out to the competition together.  We had gone a bit late because we were scheduled to perform later in the competition, so when we arrived, I went in to see where they were at.  We had plenty of time.  There were still a couple more performances before the lunch break, and then we were the 4th team after the lunch break.

So, I brought some things in and then brought Tessa in.  I elected not to crate her because I wanted to watch the performances, and the crating was in a different room.  Instead, I let her hang out on her mat at my feet.

Later in the day I would take Tessa's traditional "Tessa on her mat" photo.

During the lunch break, I took her into the ring to let her check it out.  That is allowed in WCFO Freestyle.  During any breaks, handlers can go into the ring - with or without dogs - to warm up, practice, etc.  No food is allowed.  Toys are, but Tessa doesn't play with toys in that context yet.  So, I walked her through some pieces of her routine and then we ran out together for her to get a treat.  After a bit of familiarization, we went and hung out by my chair again.

As the lunch break started to wind down, I started to get ready.  I went in the back and got my costume on.  After that, I took Tessa into the warm up ring in the other room to have her practice her leg weaves with my skirt.  We had been doing that all week, and I didn't anticipate a problem, but I figured it would be smart to run through it once in the new setting.  Food is allowed in the warm up ring, so I had her do the weaves and reinforced her well for the.  She had no problem.

I also set her jump up in the open area and let her practice a few of those.  All was good.  I got her purple bandana on her and we were ready to go!

Ready to go perform!  This was before I put her purple bandana on her - those are the uprights of her jump behind her.

I was very interested to see what was going to happen in this performance.  Tessa and I had never actually done the whole routine in an open ring before.  We had been practicing the pieces at home for a couple of weeks, but we had never done the whole thing, complete with jumps.

In the end, I was very happy with how it went.  I can tell that it was an unrehearsed performance, but taking that into account, it went extremely well.  Tessa did an excellent job.  The only moves she missed were moves that I knew she was still rather weak on to begin with.  And she did make some things up herself in a few places, but she didn't know the routine completely, so that wasn't really a problem.  In fact, I am happy about the fact that she was making things up along the way.  It shows that she was thinking about what we were doing.  She is trying to get a handle on what this game is all about, and she is enjoying that process thoroughly!!

Here is the video of our routine:

I love, love, LOVE Tessa's attitude!  She has her whole head and heart in it.  She really has potential to be an excellent performer!  I love the way she moves, the jumps were lovely, and she nailed the ending!!

And her attention is phenomenal!!

Some things I'm taking away to work on:
  • We need to practice more duration heel and side work.  Honestly, we haven't done very much.  Tessa is not really lagging per se, but she is often a bit behind me because she hasn't quite worked out where she is exactly supposed to be.  Now that warmer weather is coming soon, I plan to start to work with her on that out in the yard.  When she gets the idea it is going to be gorgeous!!
  • We need to continue to work on the switches.  I am going to start working on putting them on verbal.  I think that will strengthen them for both Freestyle and Agility.
  • Apparently Tessa wants to start hind leg work.  And so, we shall!
  • Start a regular Freestyle practice schedule. 
  • Add something concrete in that little section of music where I kept losing her because we didn't have a clear game plan (just before the Figure 8 jumps). 
  • I need to practice with Tessa to develop a smoother, more elegant handling style that brings out the best in her.  My handling in this performance was choppy - partly because I hadn't rehearsed this routine enough, but also because I haven't found my handling style with Tessa for Freestyle.
Of course, we also need to continue to work on new moves.  In particular, I'd like to get backing, laterals, and pivots going.

I was very happy after the performance.  I didn't even remember that it was a judged performance and that we actually had a score coming until about 15 minutes later!!

There was still a bit of the competition to go, and we hung out and watched most of the routines.  I also picked out pictures to order from the photographer who was there.  Unfortunately, those are prints only, no digital files were available.  But I ordered a few prints for Tessa's scrapbook.

I put Tessa in the car while I picked out photos, and when I brought her back in, I think she thought we were going to do another "run", as we do in Agility!  She seemed very eager to get back out there.  I was sorry that we couldn't!  Maybe by fall she will be ready to do both Freestyle and Heelwork, and then we could do two performances.

Shortly after the competition ended, we got our scoresheet, and the results were very, very good!!  We scored 7.9 technical and 7.8 artistic!!  To qualify in Beginner, you need 7.3 in each category.  Those are the highest Beginner scores I've ever gotten, and I don't think I've ever scored higher technical than artistic!!  The comments were good, as well.

So, Miss Tessa has her very first Freestyle Q!!

And, at the end I found out that we also got first place!!!  Out of four dogs (it was a pretty small event) in our class, all qualified, and we got first.  That was very exciting - for Tessa to do that well on her first time out is just perfect!!!

Our Q ribbon.  I used Tessa's bandana as the background for these.

And our First Place medal.

That wasn't even the best part, though.  We also got an award - one that means more to me than the Q and placement ever could.  We got the award for Most Bonded team!!

Remembering where Tessa and I started and every step by step by step by step that it took to earn both her affection and her trust, that we could get to the point where we would be chosen for a Most Bonded award is incredible!!

She is definitely a very special girl.

And here she is posing with her first place medal in a classic Tessa pose, offering me both a front and back paw!!

Congrats to Miss Tessa on her very first Freestyle Q!!!


  1. Nice job! Love the sit with the lifted paw, and the ending pose, and really loved the wagging tail. You might want to be careful about the target you are giving her -- maybe I'm getting the wrong impression from the video, but it looks to me like you are holding your arm out so that it goes behind your shoulder, which could be creating the "lagging." Just a thought.

  2. That's definitely in my plan. If I move my arms to another position, she cuts behind me, as she did after the Rally Move jump around the middle of the routine. We are going to be working on her holding moving position as my arm changes locations - behind my back, on my hips, out straight, etc. I did that with Dean and Speedy quite a bit, but haven't with Tessa yet. Watching the video really made me realize that it's time to do more of that with her. I loved the ending, too - she nailed it!!