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Course Analysis: Championship Grand Prix Semifinals from the Cynosport World Games

Cynosport commentator and internationally known handler and trainer Julie Daniels shares her observations about this course.

The Grand Prix semifinals course commanded the main ring on Saturday, September 29, at the 2012 Cynosport World Games in Commerce City, Colorado. This course (and the IFCS courses) ran on turf and the Team and Performance Versatility Pairs courses ran on grass.

Most of the handlers on this course led out partway to the #2 tunnel and put a front cross (getting in front of the dog and turning in to him to signal a turn) on the landing side of the #3 jump. A few handlers led out past the tunnel or led out laterally to #3. Handlers had to be attentive to the path to #3, as some dogs went quite wide out of the tunnel.

After that inviting opening arc to the #4 seesaw, the handlers needed to be on their toes for a threadle of jumps from #5 to #6 and back to the #7 A-frame (a threadle is a sequence of jumps or other obstacles which are next to each other and taken from the same direction so the dog has to be pulled in between the obstacles to take the next one). Most handlers did a double front cross between the threadle jumps and then pulled to the A-frame with dog on left. Some dogs were off course into the weaves here but most dogs never looked at them. It was equally successful to front cross after the threadle and put the dog on right for the A-frame, with or without a front cross there at the downside contact. Handlers seemed to prefer to keep dogs on the left and push to the #8 tunnel, but it was fine to pull and rear cross (the handler crosses behind the dog) at the tunnel. By and large, there was no trouble here from either side. Any combination was fine and did not affect the dogs ability to get a good look at the #9 jump on exit.

There were some different interpretations of the turn at #9. The jump invited a turn to the right. Most handlers went with that. There were some wide turns back to the dogwalk. The handler had time to get to any chosen control point to manage that line, but we had some off-courses into the tunnel here.

Other handlers chose to turn the dog left over jump #9. After that, some pulled to the dogwalk and others executed a front cross-to-rear cross combination and sent the dog ahead up the ramp. For the downside dogwalk contact, any handler who wanted to manage the dog's performance more carefully was able to be close by. Some encouraged their dogs to all the way to the end and off but that option caused some problems with the weave entry. The dogs needed to come off the dogwalk as tightly as possible in order to make good speed into the #11 weaves. That said, there were some very smart dogs that knew their weave job very well and saved the day.

Some handlers chose to have their dogs on the left through the weaves and push into the angled jumps at #12 and back to #13. Other handlers kept their dogs on the right for the weaves and executed a quick front cross into that next challenge and then back to a tight left turn at jump #14. The #14 jump tended to come down regularly, seemingly more often if the handler chose to rear cross on the takeoff side there. Most of the handlers preferred to front cross on the landing side of #13 and release the dog to #14 already in rotation, which tended to protect that bar.

The closed tunnel at #15 was on the long side of the acceptable 10'-12' range. Some dogs had trouble finding the tire on exit, and there were some missed tires and some tire faults (breakaways) there. From there, pushing to the #16 jump sent some dogs into the off-course tunnel or caused a run-by at jump #17. All in all, this closing caused lots of problems with its uneven line and uneven spacing. Handlers were divided as to where and how to change sides, and every option saw some action. There were front crosses and blind crosses (where the handler gets in front of the dog and turns away, picking the dog up on the handlers opposite side) at jump #17 or #18. There were rear crosses at #17 (bad idea) or #18 (good idea). Some handlers kept the dog on the right for the entire closing, or rear crossed at #20.

There were plenty of bars down in this closing, but there were also some brilliant saves, especially by heroic dogs that were able to clear the double jump from an off stride. Many dogs with handlers left behind turned the wrong way after the double, losing precious seconds. Very few dogs actually went off course over the back side of #9, but some dogs did miss or back jump #20. Certainly there was a lot of drama in the last few obstacles on this course. The dogs who made it through fast and clean became an elite group of finalists!


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