Posted Date: November 2, 2008
Commentary on Thursday's course by competitor Ellen Levy Finch
Thursday's Team Snooker course provided an opportunity for creative planning because the seven-pointer was not trivial to get to safely or to perform correctly. The course contained only three red jumps, which was a wise decision with strict 10-minute walkthroughs because it somewhat limited the options for running plans.
The seven-pointer presented three major challenges. First, it combined a jump with a challenging entry to six-pole weaves. Second, the rules for the course specified that the jump must be taken before the weaves, and both directions of approach to the jump presented tempting off-course tunnels only about 15 feet away. Last, access to the seven from two of the reds required running between and around obstacles, which at the very least consumed time.
As a result, many handlers avoided trying a 7-7-7 opening, although in the end, the perfect 51 points were required for placement in most jump heights. Not many dogs beyond the placements earned 51, however.
The other main challenge to the course was the #2-#3 sequence in the closing. The #2 was a bidirectional tunnel threaded under the #6 A-frame with the ends very close to the A-frame ramps, so obstacle discrimination came into play. Furthermore, the line from the side of #2 closest to #3 ran right along the runout line to #3, so a misstep between #2 and #3 could easily cause an elimination.
For convenience, let's call the red to the left of the start line #1A, the red to the right of the start line #1B, and the red on the far side #1C.
Many people found the sequence of 1-5-1 handy for moving around the course at a rapid pace, in either or both directions. For example, one common strategy started with 1A-6 or 1A-7 with a lead-out, to 1B-5-1C and wrapping back to 5, which positioned the dog for a good entry into the south end of #2. For teams who wanted a fast and safe course, #1A-#3-#1C-#5-#1B-#5 worked well. #1A-#7-#1B-#5-#1C-#7 also worked well for some people.
Ending the opening on the A-frame proved popular because it gave easy access to the #2 without having to fight the obstacle discrimination challenge, which caught several teams.
To handle the possible #3 runout, people seemed to be roughly evenly split on whether to run between #7 and the A-frame and try to keep ahead of the dog to push them out over #3, or running on the start-line side of the A-frame and pull the dog with them to #3. Some chose to end with the A-frame on the side nearest #1A and turn into #2 going away from #3, then take the dog around past #1A/1B to #3.
For those attempting three 7s, a common path was a lead-out pivot from #1A to #7 (essentially front crossing between #7A and #7B), pulling the dog between #4 and #5A to #1C, attempting to get ahead of the dog again for another front cross between #7A and #7B, to the #1B and then keeping the dog on the left around the #1A side of the A-frame to #7A again, pulling into #7B, sending the dog to #2 and running between #7 and the A-frame to #3.
Common faults were missing the #2/#6 discrimination in the closing or forgetting which was the #3 and which was #7A in the closing, along with the usual knocked bars and missed contacts.
The nicest aspect of the course was that there were no blatant "best" ways to run the course, and the odds were good that many people attempting three 7s would either eliminate attempting it or run out of time in the closing. This opened up the course for people to be creative and to find paths that were most comfortable for their dogs.
Ellen Levy Finch runs an agility blog at http://tajmutthall.org and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.