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The Grand Prix Classic

The 20th anniversary of USDAA celebration.
By Leona Hellesvig

In honor of the 20th anniversary of USDAA, a classic Grand Prix course designed by Ken Tatsch for the 1988 Grand Prix was used.  Things have changed a bit since 1988.  This course predates the time when USDAA issued titles.  The class in 1988 was judged by Advanced rules.  Today's class was judged by Advanced rules with the modification that a wrong course was an elimination. 

Hazel and JC Thompson, who ran in the first Grand Prix in 1988, said that everyone in that first Grand Prix wore bibs with numbers for the event.  They also said that today's courses are much faster now.  The course times that day were 57 and 54 seconds.  The first Grand Prix was won by Joyce Zmeck and her Shetland Sheepdog, Trooper.  Joyce was in attendance at today's event.

The course was simpler in design that many courses seen today, yet still held some interesting challenges.  The opening obstacles #1-#4 were seen again as the exit obstacles #14-#17.  Several competitors commented that they liked these fast sections.  A few with long-strided dogs found that the spacing was a challenge at 16 feet instead of the longer distances we see today. 

The most treacherous and problematic section of the course was a sharp angle approach into the weaves.  It was complicated by the fact that the previous jump was a spread, and a dog jumping the center of the jump would land facing the second or third weave pole.  Many dogs early in the day experienced refusals into the weave poles, which were not faulted, but they lost precious time.  Some dogs earned a wrong course by running through the weave poles before the handler could call them back.  Later in the day, handlers became more cautious about how they handled that section.  Some successful strategies were to cross somewhere after tunnel #5 and before spread jump #8 to handle jump #8 with the dog on the left.  A few handlers tried a V-set after the see-saw so the dog would not see the weaves and attempt to cut into them prematurely.  Many competitors handled the section from #5-#8 with the dog on their left and just pushed out, pivoting in place to the weave entrance.

The next dangerous spot was from extended spread jump #10 to the table.  The issue presented here is that the tire was a very inviting off-course option.  Most dogs and handlers were successful at this portion regardless of which method was used.  Many handlers chose to cross in front between the weave poles and the extended spread to solve the issue. 

Another lesser challenge was to get a straight approach onto the dogwalk, but that was handled quite well by the majority of handlers.  A fourth challenge was the entrance to the A-frame from the collapsed tunnel.  Most handlers handled this well by pushing their dogs out for a straight approach.  A few refusals were called as a dog would run by the A-frame rather than over it on the first approach. 

There were a good many calls for not clearing the span of the long jump today.  Perhaps this has a lot to do with the long jump not being used as frequently now as in the past.

A good deal of fun and reminiscing over "old times" was had today.

More information coming soon!

Leona Hellesvig has been engaged in dog sports since toddlerhood.  She is very involved with junior handlers and 4-H in Minnesota.  When not participating in dog activities, Leona is an elementary school music teacher.


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