Thursday, March 29, 2012

European Course Challenges

Last week I set up an exercise I found in the the 2012 WAO USA Team book available at Clean Run.  The exercise set-up was adaptable to working many skills, but the skill the designer was emphasizing was sending the dog to the back of the jump, time after time after time.  I found the exercise quite frustrating since eventually I was too out of position on each exercise to handle the next obstacle.  I finally decided this was silly, so I looked for a real European course to set up.  This course is an actual course and in her video, Cik, Cak, Silvia Trkman shows how she ran the course at trial.

If memory serves correctly, I've only set up one other European course to try.  Like that European standard course, this jumpers course is actually pretty straightforward -- the only "tricky" maneuver is the threadle at 11/12.  However, like the standard course I set up last summer there are long runs involved in getting from one section to another.  Basically, if you have a dog with any kind of speed, you have to be able to employ some distance techniques unless you are an Olympic class sprinter.

1-3 will allow for a long lead out for those who need to conserve their breath for the rest of the course.  3-7 can be handled from a relatively small area by anyone who doesn't normally run stride for stride with their dog.  (However, this proved to be a bad handling choice for yours truly.)  The first running challenge for the handler is having to get from 8 to 11 in time to handle the threadle, a distance of about 60 feet if you have to go most of the way to 8.  You could manage the run from 8 to 11 and still direct your dog over 12 if 11/12 were a 180.  Unfortunately, it is a threadle, and most of us will have to be at least on the landing side of 10 to handle it.  Additionally, we have to get there before our dog does so that we can show some deceleration to help cue the wrap at 11.  (Any forward motion at this point will cue a 180.)

It took me a while to figure out how to best run this section of course.  Silvia Trkman simply remains near the (65,5) point and uses a verbal to send her dog on to wrap 8 on his/her own while she turns and runs to get into position for the threadle.  Unfortunately, Belle doesn't have a verbal that will allow me to do that.  I finally realized that if I moved back toward the exit of the #6 tunnel exit and paced myself moving toward 8, I could cut 10-15 feet off my path and have enough time to get into position for the threadle.  (It took me quite a while to figure this out since I was firmly wedded to the idea that I didn't want to move very far from (68,3) while Belle was performing 4-8.)

Another problem I had was my insistence on using "wrap" to send Belle to 8.  Her grasp of "wrap" ("take the jump before you and wrap around the standard toward me") is way less than perfect.  Additionally, 8 is not directly ahead of the dog; it is at a right angle to their path.  When I changed my command to "over," Belle had no problem figuring out what I wanted, and my hasty retreat up field created the wrap I wanted with no extra verbal.

In an effort to solve my difficulties with this section, I first tried running along the backside of the #6 tunnel, thinking that I could handle the threadle with lateral distance and be in a better position to get back down field for the closing.  However, there were problems with this tactic.  First, I had a difficult time remembering to get to the backside of the tunnel.  Next, I found myself moving up field before Belle took #8 and this was pulling her off the jump.  Lastly, the one time it worked, it did nothing to tighten up the threadle.  Running between the two tunnels gave me the best chance of getting where I had to be since it was the shorter path for me.

The next distance challenge for the handler is getting from the weave pole entrance to a spot between 15/16 in order to handle the closing.  This is a distance of about 65 feet.  I thought it might be problematic for me since it was coming toward the end of the run, but I left Belle in the weaves, supported the #14 jump with a verbal and an out-stretched arm and managed to do a blind cross between 15/16--yeehaw!

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