Sparrow’s running contacts have been an ongoing experiment as I have adapted my training to suit her and to re-teach her what to do with contacts. We are reaching a stage of consistency that is very exciting, but I want to push Sparrow’s understandings of her contacts, to discover if she is really grasping what I want or just getting lucky when she hits.
This requires several stages, the first is to try new things that might rattle the contacts. That happened when I tried to rear cross Sparrow on the dogwalk and a-frame. She slowed right down and became uncertain. That demonstrated a lack of understanding for the criteria (that you run and hit the contact even when I do something different).
At the same time, I wanted Sparrow to only drive for deep, fast hits. I wanted to remove high hits from the equation, only deep, four foot hits were now going to earn a reward. As a visual aid for both me and her, I placed my yoga mat on the base of the dogwalk. It is just the right width to create a ‘perfect zone’ the place where a four foot hit is ideal – not too high, not too low. The next task was to ask Sparrow to hit that target and to understand the new criteria.
You will note in the video that barring two attempts, each of the runs was a hit, but only a handful were hits in the ‘perfect zone’. Towards the end Sparrow began to grasp this idea. My hope is that by tightening our criteria I will ensure that Sparrow always hits her contact. While four feet is the ideal – and it would be a very short-sighted judge who would fail to see a four foot hit! – I am hoping that even if Sparrow is a little wrong in her stride she will still hit somewhere in the contact if she is aiming for the ‘perfect zone’.
We still have a way to go, but this new stage is producing some amazing results and I shall also be working on pushing her contacts, so that I can be doing anything while she runs them perfectly.