Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Biathlon Jumpers Course from IFCS CCOA

Steve Schwarz, the Agility Nerd, did a Chalk Talk on this course from last weekend's IFCS Championship of the Americas.  I decided to set it up and work on it for a couple of days.  The biggest physical challenge for me was getting from 7 to 11 in time to indicate which side of the jump Belle was to take.  I tried a rear cross in my first efforts because I didn't think I could get in either a blind cross or a front cross between 8 and 9.  However, with a little bit of hustle the blind is certainly doable.  Much to my surprise though, Belle turned left after #10, both after a rear cross and the blind, despite the fact I was on her right side.  I must have been pressuring her line ever so slightly to get her around the wing of 11.  Note to self:  Run at the wing or standard when I want Belle to take a jump from the backside.  Don't run at the bar and don't run at a spot 6" from the wing.

After I watched our complete run, I also watched video from the actual trial.  For our next session, I wanted to do the following:

1.  Do a running LO and do a FC on the landing side of #3.  Worked on this, but I wasn't able to consistently get far enough ahead to do a FC between 5/6 and get 6 from the backside.

2.  Don't run so fast at the gap in the threadle so I can keep moving instead of having to wait for Belle to catch up so I can push her into the gap.  This one I was able to remember and do.

3.  Try a BC between 8 & 9.  Worked better than a RC even when I was late.

4.  Be a little quicker with my FC at #12 to tighten Belle's wrap.  (I don't have to get to the wing, I only have to get to the line between 12 and 13.)  Not so much.  By this point on the course I'm starting to suck wind :(

5.  Don't outrun Belle to #19 and head toward the left wing, not the bar.  Yep.  And I was even able to take off for the final jump before she cleared the bar.    

We ran the complete course a second time, but unfortunately I forgot to turn the camera on.  The most memorable thing for me was that I got too far ahead after the triple and added a heck of a lot of extra yardage to my path.  To add insult to injury, the course is uphill at that point.  So maybe another thing to try would be:

6.  A FC after the triple.  Yeah, right.  Like I could even get there in time.  A well-timed RC cut my yardage and made for a nice turn into the weaves for Belle.

The video shows our "first" and final attempts on this course, plus some bloopers.  The final run is almost three seconds faster, and the only substantive change in my handling of the final attempt was using a BC instead of a RC between 8 and 9.  Most of the difference was due to tightening up Belle's path at the back of the course (9-15).  Interestingly, she still faded left after #10, but not nearly as much as the first time.  I think the only way to avoid that fade would to run faster, which is easier said than done.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Distance and the International Course

A couple of days ago, the Agility Nerd posted this course designed by Eduard Bonet and some exercises that he designed that were inspired by Bonet's course.  (The original course was in meters and oriented in landscape format.  I took the liberty of orienting it so that corresponds with the angle I planned to shoot from.)

1-9 wasn't too bad for this old body, but from 9 to 18 there is an awful lot of running to be done.  Since I'm still working on a running DW, I wasn't about to stop Belle in a 2o2o so I catch up to her for the back side of 18.  That only left me with one option. I had to start running along the DW while Belle was traveling from the weaves to 16.  Since this sprint comes at the end of the run, I decided to send her to the broad jump and the chute, and then call her over 16 and do a post turn to the weaves.  The first time through, I forgot myself and ended up scooping her across my feet into the weaves.  It worked, but I think a FC followed by post turn would have been more efficient.  Other areas that could be improved:

3-4:  Do a post turn.  I finally decided the post turn was too boring for me, so I did a Ketschker.  The K was no faster, but at least I felt like I was doing something.

8:  Slow my stride sooner.  Belle went way deep because I was still showing extension in my stride.  Once I realized I had made this mistake, I was very good about showing collection soon enough for Belle to make a nice wrap at #8.

9:  Go to the tunnel with Belle so that I don't have to stand still or slow down to let her pass me on the way to the teeter.  This turned out to be an exceptionally bad idea.  If the handler is running, the logical obstacle from the dog's point of view becomes the weaves.  I also tried doing a FC on the landing side of the panel jump.  It certainly takes the weaves out of the picture, but it makes it a little more difficult to send Belle on to the chute and pick her up for the weaves.

The best approach for us was handling from the TOS side of the panel jump.  I just had to make sure to bring Belle into handler focus so she didn't have a loopy path to the teeter.

14:  Stop moving before she exits the chute.  Get her attention and move toward the weaves for my post turn.  Actually, an even bigger problem was that I never remembered to give her a verbal cue while she was still in the chute.

Here's the video of our first run, some efforts to improve a few sections, and our final run.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Mix and Match

Belle and I have been working on the running DW at full height for a couple of weeks and she still isn't getting it.  Tuesday, I finally decided to add a PVC box to the contact zone*, and it seems to be making a difference.  The big question is once Belle is doing the DW in 6 hits (five strides) again, will the behavior hold up when I fade the box?

*Note:  Silvia Trkman does not advocate using a box.  However, I began shaping 2o2o with Belle when she was three months old (she's 7 now), and when there are several reps in a row with no reward, she begins to slow down.  At it's worst, she will actually stop and offer 2o2o.  Since Belle is familiar with a PVC box from my efforts last year to teach her a running A-frame using Rachel Sander's method, I figured I really had nothing to lose.  Certainly, when it comes time to train my next dog, I will train running contacts first before even thinking about training 2o2o.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Happy Hurdle Day!

This is the first time Belle and I have attempted one of AnnCroft’s Happy Hurdle Day courses.  I had a great time working on different options, but in the future, I will be sure to work without bars until I have worked out my handling.  No need to make Belle jump while I trying to perfect different options.

My original plan was to lead out to (30,5), run a short way with Belle and send her into the tunnel off my rightThen I'd do a BC between 4 and 5 and push her over 5.  The distance between 6 and 7 is quite great so a shoulder pull should be sufficient to pull her to the correct side of 7 which puts me in a good position to execute a FC.

I had several options for 9 and 10.  I could keep Belle on my left from 8 to 9, RC 9 and take Belle over 10 on my right.  Or I could do a FC between 8 and 9 and either do a post turn at 9 to keep Belle on my right for 10 or do a BC or FX after 9 and send Belle over 10 from my left side.

FC on LS of 13 to push Belle to the back side of 14 and another FC to send her to the tunnel.  Then my grand plan was to do a totally unneeded Ketschker at 17 and dash to the finish.
My first reality check came when I discovered the first tunnel entrance was not all that easy.  I quickly discovered that trying to run with Belle on my right to the correct end of the tunnel was problematical at best.  Running with her on my left was a much better option, but I had to make sure I had her attention or 4 became a very viable off-course option.

Doing a BC between 4 and 5 was successful about 50% of the time.  I had to make sure I started moving as soon as Belle was in the tunnel.  Additionally, I had to make sure I brought her to hand between 4 and 5 to avoid her taking 5 from the wrong side.

I pretty much just let Belle find her own way around 6 so I could position myself to handle 8-10.  I did do one run where I tried to manage that turn but it put me too far behind to handle 8-10 efficiently.

The first video shows Belle and me working on different handling options.  The second shows us running the course in its entirety.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Belle and I have been working on the DW at full height for six days now, and the mini-sessions seem to finally be bearing fruit.  Today, she hit 5 out of 6 timesAt our next session, I will start Belle from a sit stay off the DW and see if she can hit.  Once she can do that reliably, I will re-introduce opening sequences, exit turns and me actually running while she's on the DW.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Time for Some Jumping Sequences

The ground was finally dry enough for Belle to do some jumping.  I downloaded a set of four exercises that Daisy Peel made available to her subscribers a few days ago, and spent a few days working on them in between DW practices.  In addition to the course maps and handling suggestions, Daisy provided a video demonstrating her suggestions for running the sequences. (You can become a subscriber by going to Daisy's website.)

The exercises provide practice for blind crosses and Ketschker turns.  The first time, I tried Exercise #1, I wasn't far enough ahead to get in the blind cross.  The second and third times, I put it after the wrong jump.  When I realized my error, I went out and did it the way Daisy suggested.  It was ever so much easier to do the blind cross where she suggested, and it was as fast as our first run where I didn't do any change of sides.

In the first exercise, Daisy is able to go into the pinwheel and get in a blind cross two jumps later.  However, the only way I could get the blind cross in was to stay out of the pinwheel pocket.  Daisy wrote an article for this month's issue of Clean Run in which she discusses location cues.  One of the location cues she writes about is for a pinwheel and the slippery slope of stopping on the take-off side of the first jump.  Hmm, but I do that all the time, and Belle seems to understand when I want the pinwheel, when I want a wrap of the first jump and when I want her to do a 180.  So I must be doing something that lets her know what I want.

The article really got me to thinking though and I decided to try Ashley Duncan's "Turn and Burn" course at Agility U.  I may or may not agree with how he trains and/or cues his dog for turns, but it should provide a logical progression with which to work out my cues.

Just a little note about the exercises in the video.  I wouldn't necessarily handle these sequences as suggested in a trial setting if for no other reason than if I tried to run so aggressively, I probably wouldn't make it to the finish line.  However, the point of practice sequences is to try things that I wouldn't think of on my own and/or that are out of my comfort zone. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Hitting The Wall

Now that my dog walk is no longer adjustable, Belle and I are tackling the problems that the full height DW presents.  I know this is the stage where a lot of people give up, and I can see why.  It's like the weeks of work we did at lower heights never happened.  I had hoped to go to a NADAC trial on the 20th, but if we can't make some definite progress by late next week, I won't bother to enter.

My current plan is to do 6 reps two or three times each day.  I'm not filming these sessions, but I am keeping detailed notes so I know where to resume at the next session, and so I can see if we're making any progress.  So far we're stuck at a starting point about 8" from the beginning of the down ramp.

Wish us luck.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A New Dog Walk Base

Last year, I really, really wanted to buy an aluminum dog walk with wheels.  However, I just couldn't justify spending $1,200+ on it.  My email friend, Bill in Minnesota, sent me photos of the dog walk he designed.  As Bill describes it, it is basically just an over-sized sawhorse.  Here's one of Bill's photos:

The middle section of my dog walk was supported by two sawhorses that were easily put together using pre-made brackets.  The only problem (other than schlepping the board and the two sawhorses around for mowing and course changes) was that the dog walk was rather unstable from side to side.  In the video, the end planks aren't attached, but even when they are, the instability persists.

Ed went to Menard's on Monday and bought the lumber we needed.  Tuesday, he brought the center plank up from the field and we began work.  I went with a standard sawhorse angle of 20° and let the web do my computing for the leg length.  I decided to make BC = 46.5" to allow for the 1.5 inch thickness of the cross plank.

The first step was anchoring the short pieces of 2x4 to the ends of the plank.  Ed used three big bolts to secure them.  While he was doing that, I used a miter saw to cut the top of each of the legs.  Then I measured 49.5" along each edge and used the miter saw to cut them to the correct length.  Because Ed was a tool and die maker and I'm a quilter, we couldn't help ourselves and we also put a 20° on each end of the pieces to which the legs would be attached.

This actually was helpful when it came time to attach the legs since it gave us a little more of a guide to eyeball the leg angles.  Ed insisted on using two bolts on each leg.

Once all four legs were attached to the plank, we put the whole thing on the ground upside down so it would be easier to put on the two stretchers.  Then we put the whole thing back up on the sawhorses for Ed to work on the center braces.

Fortunately, we had leftover truss brackets so Ed didn't have to put anymore bolts through the DW plank.   Instead he used two truss brackets.

Cutting the cross braces was the most tedious part of the job.  There is no easy way to determine the angles, so it was trial and error.  By the second brace, I discovered that I had to cut the piece about two inches shorter than the line I scribed with the cross braces resting on the 2x4 leg stretchers.  To make a more flush joint, I changed the angle by a degree or so.

We completed the job after lunch today, and then were faced with the daunting task of getting our Paul Bunyan sized sawhorse out to the field.  It weighed quite a bit because I opted for green-treated lumber so I wouldn't have to paint the legs or worry about them rotting.  But a green 2x4 is really, really heavy.  Surprisingly, we were able to carry it the 200' feet or so to the field without injury or heart attack.  However, we will be adding a set of wheels in the future.