This is my first attempt at writing on an assigned topic on my blog. I feel like I am back in school with a paper to write and true to form here I am waiting until the last minute to complete the assignment.
I have a ritual when walking any type of course. I go through my ritual during each walk through regardless of they type of course. I don’t differentiate between a jumpers or standard course although I do understand that jumpers courses may have the potential to be confusing although I don’t really like to label all jumpers courses as being “confusing.” I also use visualization while walking courses. Usually when walking a course one of the things I make mental notes of is what each jump looks like. My criteria for knowing a course is being able to shut my eyes and visualize each individual jump as they come up in the sequence of the course. I recall the color, whether the jump has wings, if it is a panel or spread, the more details the better. Along with visualizing the physical characteristics of the jump I also visualize my path throughout the course and how I will be handling each challenge. Sometimes there may be a couple of options on how to handle a particular challenge so I will walk both options. Sometimes after walking it a couple of different ways, one way will seem more natural and comfortable for me and that may sway my decision on how to handle something. Other times creating the straightest, clearest and fastest path for my dog makes the most sense so my handling will be decided on this. Most times it is a combination of both these factors.
While competing at the World Agility Open Championships in Belgium earlier this year my visualization skills were put to the test. All the jumps in all the rings had wings and were the same color. Initially when I looked at the jumpers ring before the walk through all I saw was a sea of red and white jumps. As I started to walk the course, I knew I needed to pay special attention to all the details of the course. I could not just say “it’s the blue jump to the black jump to the green jump.” If you really paid attention, each jump was in fact unique. Some had a panel on the bottom, others had just poles. Some were single bars others were spreads. I did make small mental notes on these differences but I knew I also had to use other skills in order to feel confident with knowing the course. I had to recall specific details of each jump and what would be happening at that location. There were sequences where we had several single bar jumps in a row with no real way to differentiate between them. Under these circumstances, I really relied on recalling my handling decisions during these parts of the course. Instead of relying on the physical attributes of the jumps I focused more on how I was handling that particular sequence. For example, was the sequence a threadle, a serpertine or maybe a 180? I also would chain together my sequences, for example, in my mind I break up the course into little clusters, the course may start with a threadle and backside to a pinwheel to a serpentine. Instead of trying to just memorize numbers 1-20, I think of a course in terms of these clusters. Truth be told, I usually never even look at the numbers on course unless I have not had a chance to see it on paper first. I am attaching a video from the Individual Pentathlon Jumpers course from WAO. Unfortunately I caused a refusal at jump #3, but this is a very good example of a course with similar jumps. The best advice I can offer for not getting confused on a jumpers course is to not let the possibility of become confused get into your head. Have a course walking ritual and stick to that ritual regardless of the type of course you are walking.
Good luck and happy training!