SUMMARY: Several courses were interesting in their challenges this weekend. Here are some.
Steeplechase, both rounds
Round 1 of the Steeplechase on Saturday I enjoyed because it had a pleasing sort of symmetry to it and it also ran fast and smooth.
Round 2 on Sunday was more challenging. In particular, the broad jump tucked up into the corner of the ring gave a lot of people problems, in part because they were starting their motion for the turn early, pulling their dogs too soon, and in part because it was aimed straight into the corner, where dogs don't usually like to go (although there was no solid wall there). Many dogs hit the spreads in the broad jump, and a few went between the side poles.
Round 2 seemed to invite knocked bars, and people also dealt with the 16-17-18 sequence in various ways, and some had trouble with it (going from Aframe to #10).
The entry to the weaves also proved to be a time-waster for a number of people whose dogs missed it, and it was handled in several ways: Running from the start with the dog on your right and pulling, starting with the dog on your right and doing a front cross between 3 and 4, leading out to the right side of #3 and treating #3 as a serpentine (which I did with both of my dogs and had no trouble at all with the weave entry).
This course provided a tremendous number of off-course opportunities and less dire handling challenges, and I believe that nearly half the dogs eliminated on this one.
The 1-2-3-4 sequence gave some people problems; there were offcourses after 3 both to the Aframe and into the tunnel. Most people had no trouble with the 4-5-6, although Tika (on my right) almost went into the RIGHT end of #6, which I hadn't anticipated, but somehow she stopped before putting a foot in the tunnel, leaped OVER the dogwalk (gulp!) and ducked into the correct end of #6, earning only a runout for 2 faults. I think I saw a couple of other dogs hit the end of the dogwalk instead of going into the #6.
The spot that had the largest clot of people standing and discussing during the walkthrough was the approach to the dogwalk. Most people saw that taking your dog to the right of jump #7 made the approach to the dogwalk extremely difficult, which also made the tunnel to its right extremely inviting (and many dogs ended up there), so most people opted to turn the dog left around #7. That left the question of how to (a) avoid the #20 as an offcourse--which not everyone avoided--and (b) how to get them up the dogwalk instead of into the tunnel, where an unmanaged turn would take the dog. Many people did a front cross between 6 and 7, which wasn't impossible to get to but many people just barely got into place in time and some missed, resulting in various other problems. Some put in an additional front cross between 7 and the dogwalk and then rear crossed the dogwalk, putting them way behind for the push to #9.
I opted for the front cross before 7, did a hard RFP after 7 to be sure the dog came in right next to the upright, then pulled way back to give them a lot of room to the dogwalk and gave the "climb!" command. Both dogs executed perfectly.
The next problem area was 9-10-11-12. Some dogs missed #10, some missed #11, some hit the Aframe or the tunnel on their way through. With Tika, I front crossed between 9 and 10, sent her to 10, and basically serp'ed 11, rear crossing 12. With Boost, I was concerned that she wouldn't catch the 11 if I were on that far side and that she'd then get confused and skip the tire. So I also put in a front cross between 10 and 11, which I had no trouble getting to (and several others also did), but didn't work #11 well and she just skimmed right past it full speed and into the tire. (I drew an incorrect line on the course map above; she did take 10 and went straight to 12.)
16 to 17 gave a few people problems, although most anticipated that you had to call your dog a bit coming out of the tunnel to get to 17.
This was an interesting one to watch, and we all got to do so, because the trial ran only one ring at a time. This was a rare, cleverly designed course where the plan wasn't obvious (although many people did variants on the same thing) and, furthermore, where the course was challenging enough all the way through that people's scores ranged fairly smoothly all the way from 0 to the highest of around 54. The crowd cheered for almost every success within the course, or whenever anyone made it through the opening, or certainly for the few who made it all the way through the closing (some ran out of time, too).
Most people started with the red in the lower right followed by the Aframe, although occasionally they opted for the weaves, to the red in the lower left. A few people went from the lower right all the way to the #4 tunnel. I don't remember seeing anyone starting on any other red, or going counterclockwise around the course.
Next was either the #4 tunnel or going around the back of #4 and picking up 6b and 6a.
The path varied among 5s and 6s depending on the dog and whether the handler was doing 3 or 4 reds, usually involving doing either the 5s or the 6s and then running outside past the 5a or 6a to the other red. For example, you could do: red-aframe-red-around the 4 to 6b, 6a, turn left to the upper left red, do 6b 6a again, go around to the upper right red, and do 5a-5b-2.
Most people ended the opening on the 5a (from either side) to 5b and into the #2 tunnel.
My planned path was 1-7-1-4-1 (upper left), around the outside of 6a, to 5a/5b/2 with Boost, and to 5a/5b/red (upper right)/5a/5b with Tika.
Tika, however, went 1-7-4, although I thought I had plenty of time and room to call her away from the tunnel by pulling, rather than by front crossing after the Aframe. Apparently I was wrong. She did hesitate and look at me, and then I moved, thinking I had her, and she was gone. She was far from the only one who bit that.