As competitors of any nature, it's quite easy to become caught up in perfection. We can get so caught up in it that we lose the purpose of WHY we compete in the first place! It doesn't matter if we are a pro or a novice, we compete because we love it. And if we don't love it, it won't work. Simple as that.
When adding an animal to the mix, they also truly have to love their job to excel. If they don't have the drive, the will, the love of the game, then they just don't see the point in working for us and it shows in their performance. It equals pure frustration for both human and animal. As a handler or rider, I feel it is OUR job to work WITH the animals desires and needs rather than against them. To instill confidence and trust so that their maximum potential can be reached.
So often you hear from a competitor, "Well...I didn't do this right, or that right, or (insert animal's name here) wasn't listening to me today or cheated me or was being a pill." Whatever happened to going out there and having fun for the love of the game and being grateful for every positive, regardless of how big or small? Do we really think that our animals plot and scheme to make our lives miserable in the show ring? Doesn't that just sound ridiculous? But how often do you hear something of that nature? Whatever happened to accepting what you have that day? Or looking for a reason for the performance problem and doing the homework to fix it? Humans have off days, animals have off days. An off day is not the end of the world. And a bad day doing something we love is surely not the end of the world. In fact, it's a pretty darn good day!
It's not only ourselves that push perfection but we let our mentors and fellow competitors words affect us in a negative way. We take their criticisms (sometimes well intentioned and sometimes not) to heart and in turn, the wheels of self doubt are set in motion. But really what does that accomplishment? Absolutely nothing! I can promise that once you truly let go of all that negative garbage, things will get better, you will have more fun, and you and your animal will perform better.
This quote from top agility competitor, Daisy Peel, struck a chord deep within me.
"..running a Novice dog is a ton of fun, but to prove to people that you don’t have to step in to the ring perfect, or perfectly prepared. To the contrary, there are things I believe that the dogs will only learn in the ring, and so I see no reason to wait til they’re running Master’s level courses to enter them in a trial, provided that I can provide a positive experience that will further growth between my dog and myself as a team."
This, in my mind, is the mindset of a true champion.