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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Course Analysis - 4-5-2009 Casper, WY

Today's trial ran great! Our FAST timing difficulties from yesterday were history, course changes were almost immediate and we finished 2 hours earlier with almost the same amount of dogs - thanks to everyone for jumping in to make it a great day!

Okay, so here are the courses.  The first I'll talk about was the Exc. JWW course. There were were two areas that really caused teams a problem. 

The first was between jump #4 through #6 and I have to say that I'm not surprised.  The sequence wasn't tough, but I'm beginning to think that one of the main mistakes handlers across the country tend to fall victim to is NOT supporting an obstacle. In this case, several handling teams failed to support jump #5 as they were focused on achieving a front cross between #6 & #7 and so they pulled away before the dog was committed.

Another part that played a role in dogs not seeing jump #5 was where the handlers did their front cross between the #3 tunnel and the #4 WINGED jump. If a handler went down to meet the dog at the tunnel exit, the wings extending the #4 jump prevented them from providing a clear path for their dog to show the number #5 in the sequence.  I've got the handler's path marked in green and the dog's path marked in red.

Now for the surprise challenge for today's teams! The turn from the #13 to #14 jump dashed many a teams' hope for a Q on this course. Surprisingly, there were quite a few dogs who ran wide and ended up moving past the #14 jump and curling in toward the handler between the #5 & #6 jump. Several factors played a role in this.

First, dogs were moving FAST and handlers never gave a collection cue which resulted in dogs not being able to turn & pull up to take the jump safely. Second (and probably most important), handlers didn't realize until it was too late, that they were moving parallel to the dog in an attempt to get a front cross in at the landing side of #14. The handler path is in red and most dogs were ahead so the front cross cue had almost no impact. 

Bottom line, handler motion continued to push most dogs past this jump and only those handlers that recognized early enough and stopped their movement, were able to pull their dog over the #14 jump before the runout line came into play.


Next is the Exc. Std course. Today's teams really stepped up to the plate and put in some incredible runs. It was a nice, fast flowing course (my favorites to judge) and there were just two things to comment on.

First is the handler path in green going from obstacle #6 through to the #9 teeter.  Most folks went up and did a front cross between #8 and before the #9 teeter. Some of the dog paths weren't as 'efficient' or tights as they could have been, but this option certainly worked.

For those looking to save some yardage, I really liked the path were the handler pushed up to the #8 jump and then pulled down to the teeter and executed a front cross at the END of the teeter. I think the 'landing side' front cross is a skill that is often overlooked, but could have tremendous benefits when used in the right sequence.

The only place on this course that caught me by surprise was the number of missed dog walk contacts on the down side. After doing a full sprint up to that point, quite a few handlers changed tactics and were stopping or slowing down during the dog walk while their dog continued to blast forward. Those with solid contact expectations had no problems and continued to move forward with their dogs to the end.

I'd be interested to look at this more closely to determine if handlers and/or dogs were treating this area differently because it was heading toward the ring barrier and there was no obstacle ahead to aim for....


Last, but not least, is the Excellent FAST course. 

On a personal level, I'm not too keen on judging AKC's FAST, although I readily do it. My beef is that the AKC rules for this class are inconsistent with the Standard & Jumpers rules and quite simply, the AKC has made it a habit to change the FAST class rules every few months depending on the issue of the day.  This is frustrating for someone like me who likes to provide a consistent, fair and intuitive competition experience for those teams who compete under me.

Regardless of my personal feelings, I REALLY enjoyed watching the teams run this course. There were a ton of options for teams to take to get around the course and the Bonus itself moved along very fast and smooth.  I also liked that teams had a choice as to which side they could handle this challenge on.  As expected, most teams handled it on the left so that they were able to pull their dog into the correct side of the tunnel.

Thanks go everyone for allowing me to live through your experience on this course - it was a great way to start the day!

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