Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tempus Fugit

Loosely translated from the Latin as "time flies". It is a very appropriate name for the height dog on our flyball team, and a succinct description of my weekend. Today Willow and I played in our first tournament since November and our team placed first in the S2 U-Fli division.

I have been captaining this team for three years now, and I suck at the job in some important ways. Beyond forgetting to set my alarm this morning (unprofessional at worst and embarrassing at best) I have never, ever cared about winning. What makes me happy is seeing our dogs running cleanly and our humans having fun -- end of story. I understand that winning is important to the rest of the team so I force myself to take an interest, but I can't bring myself to believe that it matters if we ran our best and had a good time.

Several horse bloggers have been posting answers to an enormous meme over the past week. In considering my own responses I have been forced to acknowledge how much I have changed since I was riding competitively in my teenage years. Winning was everything back then -- in school, in sports, in social life. I was never an unkind person or driven to cut-throat tactics, but beating others was my quiet motivation right through university. I can't say whether my attitude changed as a function of age, experience or relationships (probably all three), but sometime over the past decade my benchmark became entirely internal. While I love reading eventing and dressage blogs, the thought of doing anything competitive with my horses is completely abhorrent to me now. As with my flyball team, I just want them to be happy, healthy and doing their level best. Given the skinny, neurotic mare who showed up at Farcical Farm one year ago, I'm as happy as a clam.


Grey Horse Matters said...

Looks like you were having great fun with the dogs. As for your previous life, I can relate to that too. But as we get older I think our priorities change and we realize what's truly important.

Jean said...

A day of fun and good form takes high priority over who wins, in my book. I used to be competitive, too, but not any more. There are so many more important things in life than "winning".

Funder said...

I truly believe that "wanting to win" is how animals get hurt. Horses and dogs don't want to win (except maybe in races, when it's just adrenaline and running fast), they just want to please their humans.

Before I ever got Champ, when I was still riding Big Mama, I was hanging out with Big Mama's owner. Another woman, Sharon, came out with her new show Walker. Sharon said yes. My friend asked if Sharon was going to pad the new horse. My friend asked why, and Sharon said "Because I want to win!" I've never forgotten the sound of her voice, her total determination to do something so crippling and inhumane and UGLY to a horse, just to win a ribbon.

No thank you. Not interested. I do not want to win. I want to have fun with my animals.

The Border Collies said...

On the flip side, wanting to win isn't always bad. I am BEYOND chuffed with Tweed's ATCh achievement and our goal this year is to make it to the podium at Regionals, hence why I'm training under Gerhardt now. While I ultimately enjoy the experience of playing with my dogs, my motivator is the possibility of "winning." It's hard for me to come up with the cash for classes and trial entry fees, so knowing that the sacrifices I make to do that will amount to something that approximates success is how I motivate myself to keep it up!

I have just as much fun with my dogs at the beach as I do at a trial, and I know they do too, but competing in sports is how I measure the progress my dog and I have made.

dp said...

I think all FFF readers can agree that wanting to win isn't cool when the welfare of your animals hangs in the balance. If people are driven to win by working hard and playing fair, I have no problem with that -- it just doesn't motivate me any more.

Anonymous said...

Temmy loves to compete, and I'm sure in some sense he knows when he 'wins'. But if he's not having fun, he'll flip the middle paw finger and leave.

I feel the same way. I enjoy pushing to improve, and I enjoy doing well. But if I'm not having fun - forget it.

Funder said...

Oh, TBC, I didn't mean to imply that everyone who competes will do so at the expense of their animals. Just... that story is what I think about when I think about "winning."

I still want to show, one day, to the best of mine and my horses' abilities. But I don't want to win. I want to do as well as we can... but I won't be heartbroken if we lose, as long as we had fun.

Carole said...

I decided in my early twenties to completely quit team sports. I'm not naturally athletic, and while I try hard and like to run around and be active, I'm just not particularly coordinated or graceful (read: klutz). And it doesn't seem to matter how "casual" or "just for fun!" the baseball or curling or ultimate frisbee team claims to be, it always ends up as this cutthroat, ultra-competitive, high-school-gym-class-all-over-again experience. I've never competed with any of my dogs or horses so I'm not sure what that would be like - but if it got to be all about the winning, it wouldn't be much fun for me.

It sounds like you'd be an excellent captain, actually. :-)

dp said...

Carole: Flyball tournaments start early, and the captain (when she sets her alarm) has to be there even earlier than the rest of the team, so it's not a easy job to pass off once you've been suckered into it. And the whole team pretty much shares my attitude...that's why we play together.

But flyball can get surprising ugly considering that it is supposed to be a fun thing that you do with your dog. You see teammates SCREAMING at each other sometimes over an early pass or a late start. Just like you see some parents SCREAMING at their kids at hockey games. Not my cup of tea, and I find it difficult to watch.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'll try flyball with Copper eventually. I've been thinking that Freya would enjoy having a flyball box here at home, but jumping the hurdles is out for her old self.

I got a mini-agility kit for Christmas. I'm just waiting for the back yard (read- postage stamp) to dry out so Copper and I can train with it a bit for fun.

I do think dog sports need to be all about the dogs and not about winning. After all, it's socializing and good fun for them and the humans!