- Minimum and maximum (7m) distances between obstacles - In GB we just have a minimum distance between jumps. The 7m maximum ensures sensible pacing for dogs and the course isn't a test to see who can run the fastest. I saw a UK judge set up a G4/5 course which had a 12m run between a hurdle and a tunnel. This serves no purpose whatsoever except to see which handler would make a good 100m sprinter (not me, see earlier blog!!). Designing a course with min & max distance is hard, believe me I've done enough of them, which brings me on my second point.
- Judges Training - In many European countries it can take up to 2 years to qualify as a judge. The process involves course design, shadowing another judge for a year, then having a qualified judge shadowing you, tests, assessment etc.. The result is a very experienced person at designing courses and accurate judging. We need to give our judges more help, feedback, assessments and support to help them with what can be a difficult job.
- Course Design - Because of the two points above courses are generally designed to a very high standard. Flowing, fast sections, technical sections, testing sections and above all very, very rarely ridiculous. The technical section is often quite subtle. At the KC Fest I saw two courses, set by GB judges, where you did the same hurdle twice!! not very subtle. The judge may just as well stuck a big sign up saying 'Beware Dog & handler trap' what is this trying to prove, if nothing else it's putting unnecessary pressure and strain on our dogs bodies.
- Considering the Bigger Picture - Now I don't suspect for one minute that these international judges are considering their countries international team when they set out a course, however their course design encourages speed and quick dogs over the ground (metres/p/sec). I ran a G7 course set by a GB judge at the KCI which had three pull-throughs before obstacle No. 9. I watched dog after dog having the speed knocked out of them on this course. And the effect is.... at the EO's apart from our podium placed handlers, our clear round dogs were between 4 and 6 seconds behind the winning times. Our top dogs are simply not used to running fast flowing, technical courses.
All is not lost.... Lesley Osbourne and Marc Saunders set up some fantastic courses at the KCI (there may have been others that I didn't see). Not every bit of their courses were international style, no, I'm not suggesting we have to rip up our course design book (is there one??) and bring in the European one, however their courses were cleverly designed, fast, testing and had different handling options which shows handling skills, dog/handler combinations and technical ability.
Good work guys.