Posted Date: October 25, 2013
While Masters Challenge is running at the Cynosport World Games, read an analysis by Julie Daniels.
This course is spread out enough to hang anyone who gets left far behind. The lines are not obvious and the handler is an integral part of the steering at every turn. The best thing about this course is that any style of handling can be equally successful. The course is difficult and technical, and just never goes where you think it should! Good communication and teamwork have been on display in every jump height, and all sorts of dogs and handlers have turned in pretty runs.
The opening two jumps in a straight line are apt to invite enough speed to complicate the right turn to the laterally placed #3 jump. There is a lot of space from #1 to #2, and little space from #2 to the off course #4. At the #3 jump, everyone has wrapped to the inside there and then pushed out laterally to the #4. This is followed by a hard pull to #5 which is a full 25' away. The handler has to set a straight line in order to avoid the inviting off-course #12 which would be the most natural arc, especially for the big dogs. The most effective handlers have done this with a standard front cross and immediate motion in a straight line with direct eye contact to the dog. Any drifting by the handler spells trouble with #12. There have been quite a few bars down in the opening, most often #2 or #3.
Most handlers have sent the dog to the left, in flow over #5, and then pulled and pushed to get #6 and #7. The dogs are doing beautifully with the push-pull line. There have been many off-courses at the #8 back side. It seems clear that in that corner it is better to push than to point! Many handlers have been in position and timely with the information, but if the dog doesn't notice the cue then he comes in for the front side off course. Handlers who actively cue with a push are getting the dogs' attention to go around.
The genius of some of the dogs at the difficult weave entry has been beautiful to see! Some handlers are managing the approach with a carefully orchestrated front cross, and others are using the pull and flip to a rear cross at the poles. Of those handlers, some are taking extra time to pull the dog out before releasing him to the first pole. But others are simply relying on training. Many of these dogs are missing the entry, no doubt in need of more help there. But some weave entries have been breathtaking, with the dog making all necessary adjustments unaided.
Most handlers of all sizes of dog have chosen to rear cross at the poles, but some have chosen to keep dog on the left and front or blind cross at the pole exit or even rear cross at jump #10. The threadle from #10 to #11 has not been a problem. There is plenty of space to handle in any which way, and everyone is happy with the simple pull-through.
Handlers are evenly divided, big and small dogs alike, in whether to keep dog on the right over #12 and push out to #13, or to front cross after #11 and put dog on the left for #12 followed by a rear cross at #13. The rear cross is being read beautifully, which sets a good line going into the closing. Some of the dogs on the right have needed an extra push to #13, and some of those have turned the wrong way, which sets a poor line over #14.
From the beginning it was clear that the smoothest line into the closing would be set with a rear cross at #15, turning the dog to the right and giving the handler a good head start. Everyone is trying for that path, and most are getting it without a problem. A few dogs have missed #16 entirely, but for the most part the closing line has been comfortable and fast with the handler in front and dog on the left.
A difficult and appropriate course for this prestigious event!