Routines should cover the majority of the ring area. This is to ensure that no-one stands in the centre, but is aware that the routine is a structured performance. Therefore, one of the most useful preparations to be carried out before an event is to map out exactly where you need to be within the ring throughout your performance. There may be nothing worse than finishing one move and realising that there just isn’t enough space for your next move – or that you are facing the opposite way to where you wanted or needed to travel. It also helps to ensure that you don’t become in a rut for moving only clockwise or only anticlockwise throughout the whole performance.
Routines are usually planned and actually “worked” in a very confined space during training – listening to the music very carefully, over and over again – and when that finishing pose has been reached – only then would I think about fitting the “performance” into a competition sized ring.
Always check the schedule for the size and shape of the ring for each particular event and especially check where the judges will be seated. You then need to mark out a ring of the exact size to be used. If working on grass, you could use send-away markers/sticks – or if on a hard surface then use cones for the corner markers. Decide where you would prefer to start – but always take into account which direction you need to go from your beginning stance. Place a marker for this starting position, be it the centre or otherwise. This is also a good time to mark where you intend to finish the routine and decide which direction you need to face to give the judges the optimum view of your finishing pose together with any moves.
Although it is easier to do this initial part of the planning without your dog – you must then try out the routine with your partner as you will cover a different distance once working with your dog. You may find you travel a much shorter distance with the dog and when changing direction, you need to be able to instruct the dog where you want him to be – which could utilise valuable bars of music for the transition.
At the end of each phrase within the music – pause the music and jot down on paper where you have moved from and to – if necessary place a maker on the floor so you know where you are starting the next phrase from. Wait a while and think about a change of route and eventually you will be able to map out “where to go” next. It soon becomes quite obvious if you are “over using” one part of the ring or moving in the same direction all the time. Try not to hug the boundary – always keep a good distance away from the edge as both you and dog can soon be out of sight from the audience and more importantly the judges.
Back at home – time for a cup of tea and to write out on a clean sheet of paper what you have just practiced and jotted down. Use different coloured pens or use varying lines to signify the change of steps or moves – from the start position begin drawing your plan – when drawing lines, use arrows to show the direction of travel. Again, make sure your best moves can be seen clearly by the judges and/or the audience.
Once you are happy that the majority of the ring space is used – in varying directions – then play the music and draw the routine out again – see if you can remember where you are travelling to and which move is next. Once you have this plan set in your mind – back to the open area – mark out your ring and try again – you will soon realize that by adding an extra link – you can change direction more easily.
It seems like a lot of extra work – but on the day of the event, I’m sure that knowing where you are going in the ring prompts your memory for the next move and builds up confidence between you and your dog.
By Kath Hardman, England