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COURSE ANALYSIS: Steeplechase/PSJ Finals

Clair Lofthouse reports on Saturday night's event.


The stadium stands for this year's Steeplechase Finals and Performance Speed Jumpers Finals were packed as everyone crowded in to see the best of the best compete. The two classes ran the same course, which seemed a lot trickier than the qualifying rounds had been.

Many handlers started this course running with their dogs rather than with a lead out. Some of these handlers really revved up their dogs at the start line, even turning in circles with them to make their dogs even more excited. This was quite effective in making their dogs go pelting off, and also helped the audience really get into it. It was fun to watch!

The first real challenge was from the #3 weaves to the #4/15 tunnel. Jump #8 was very inviting for dogs. This was particularly a problem for some of the handlers that chose to push their dogs into the tunnel (with the dog on the handler's left) instead handling from the other side of the weaves and pulling their dogs into the tunnel and then crossing behind. The latter seemed to be the most effective move for this segment.

The following section was a really fun-looking figure of eight through the #4/15 tunnel over a jump in the center and through another tunnel. Surprisingly, many people sent their dogs off course here. Dogs continued after the jump to the end of the #6 tunnel farthest from the A-frame, instead of the entrance closest to the A-frame as they were supposed to have done. After that tunnel, the course continued back over the previous jump to jump #8 (which lured some dogs off course earlier). However, this time instead of the jump being a distraction, the #4/15 tunnel was.

Closely following that trouble spot was a heartbreaking area. So many people rushed too much, trying to cut the corner to get ahead of their dog, and ended up pulling their dog off of the chute. There were no faults for this, but it was a severe waste of time. When each placement is separated by under a second, even a wide turn will made a difference. Those handlers whose dogs missed the chute just continued to have fun in the spotlight with their best friend.

The #17 A-frame led to a tricky line through three more jumps to the finish line. These jumps were placed at crazy angles to each other, which meant handlers had to be creative in order to get their dogs through. One of the most effective methods was a front cross at the bottom of the A-frame, sending the dog over the #18 jump, pulling him over the #19 jump, crossing behind on the flat and pulling the dog over the third and final jump.

Everyone at home should practice parts of this course. It was not only difficult, it actually seemed really fun! The crowd enjoyed watching dogs run this course, and the handlers and dogs seemed to enjoy running it too. The lucky eight winning dogs really adored getting to run loose on their victory laps!

Clair Lofthouse is currently enrolled as a junior at Westlake High School in California. She loves running her Shetland Sheepdog, Rugby, in agility, plays guitar, and writes her own songs.  She also rides horses in dressage and jumping. Clair would like to someday write a book and become independently wealthy. Contact Clair at clairsmusic@live.com

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