I thought Belle's days in AKC were over since I no longer want to jump her at 20", and I was unwilling to start over in Novice Preferred. However, beginning January 1, 2013, AKC will allow you to move to Preferred at any level less than or equal to your current Regular level. We had our first Preferred runs yesterday at Scott County Kennel Club's trial.
Like last Friday's CPE Jumpers course, this one was cluttered. However, I feel it was our best run of the day. Belle responded beautifully to my two blind crosses, and it was a clean run at 5.2 yps.
The Standard course had a very low Q rate. Lot's of the usual faults, refusals,
missed contacts, bars, and quite a few table faults. However, the most
difficult section of the course was from the table to the #17 jump.
The course map shows a wingless triple, but the actual triple had wings. Most of the small dog handlers tried to put a front cross in on the take off side of the triple and it wasn't pretty. If you are running close to your dog there is a basic problem with placing the front cross here. Namely, your dog will be strongly influenced on its approach to the triple by the red section of the handler's line. As you can see, from the dog's point of view, the next logical obstacle will be the tunnel under the A-frame. If you manage to redirect your dog upon landing, you are unintentionally doing a V-set and the next logical obstacle after 16 will be the 4/11 jump.
I thought placing the front cross between 15 and 16 would work well enough for those handlers fast enough to get there, but to my surprise, it was no guarantee of sucess. Many of the dogs still wanted the tunnel and/or went off course to 4/11. Also, several of the large dogs handlers who executed timely front crosses between 15/16, got to 17 too early or too late and their dog took it in the wrong direction.
Something that worked for several teams was for the handler to keep their dog on their left and do a rear cross turn at 17. A handfull of the handlers who ran it this way, did it really, really well and it was an awsome display of teamwork. I don't know if Belle could do it or not, but it is something I want to try when spring comes.
When I walked this course, I planned to rear cross 5 and send Belle to the tunnel and then layer 17. However, after watching several teams run, I decided it was a risky
choice since standing to the outside of 17 would probably draw
Belle to the off-course jump. Unfortunately, I never walked into the gap between the weaves and the jump on my walkthrough, and I didn't realize just how tight it was. I basically came to a complete stop and let Belle pass me by before following after her. (Almost every other handler picked their dog up within five feet of the tunnel exit. I don't think I would have opted for doing that even if it had occurred to me, but I would have worked on timing my arrival at inside standard of 17 a little better.)
One other thing I observed on this course was the large percentage of handlers who chose push their dog into the #6 tunnel. I was very surprised that it worked for most who tried it. To me it seems almost rude to do such an abrupt push. Especially when either a FC after 4 or a RC on the take off side of 5 is such a viable option. I must admit though, many of the handlers who tried the rear cross ended up pulling their dogs off of 5, and I don't recall anyone who did the push after the jump having a knocked bar or an off-course.
One last word about T2B. Although I certainly would have prefered for the judge to not have been where she was, she was not the reason for Belle's failure to take the A-frame. I meant to lead out to the winged jump and then release Belle. I made the mistake of releasing her before I stopped and she took her cue from my direction of motion. A wonderful Snooker skill, but not of much help here. I realized after the run it would have been much better to lead out only as far the "X" in the video, so that I could support Belle's path to the A-frame. Once Belle got on the A-frame, I thought the rest of the run rocked.
Our A-frame contacts look a little sketchy on the video, but Sue seems to have a pretty good eye, so I guess Belle put a rear toe or two into the yellow. I was very, very happy with her dog walk contact in Standard.