Yesterday I went to a USDAA trial but only entered Lil in 2 classes: Jumpers and Snooker because I have decided to stop running my dogs over different height A-Frames and the USDAA A-Frame is higher than the other venues we compete in. I was taking a risk entering Snooker because the A-Frame can be included but I figured if I’m driving 1:30 hours anyway I might as well take my chances since the only real risk is losing my $13 entry fee for that class.
It turned out that the A-Frame was the #4 obstacle in the Snooker closing so my only option to earn enough points to qualify (and not run Lil over that higher A-Frame) was to go for four #7s in the opener and get through #3 in closing. Lil aced it and we Q-ed.
Here is why I stopped running my dogs over the higher USDAA A-Frame:
Jake has a 2o2o and so running over different height A-Frames is not a huge issue with him, although he looks better running up and down a lower one. Lil has a running A-Frame. Once the A-frame got a few inches above 5′, her striding really started to change. She has only been called twice on a 5’6″ A-Frame but the issue I have is that her descent looks off-balance to me on 5’6″ A-Frames. I believe the structure of an Australian Terrier comes into play in a much greater way when the A-Frame is raised to 5’6″. Lil’s striding starts to change a bit at 4′ 8″ but it still looks good and more importantly, it looks like she is in control during the descent on 5′ A-Frames.
Here is my analysis: 🙂 An AT’s short-ish legs make it difficult for them to shift their centers of gravity back far enough when running 3 strides down a steeper A-Frame to stay in control as momentum builds during the descent because their shorter legs don’t offer the same “breaking power” as longer legs (like Border Collies have) which extend further forward. I liken a dog having longer legs when running down an A-Frame to a person having walking sticks when hiking quickly down a very steep hill. So I now think that last leaping stride that ATs like to take off an A-Frame is not due to an eagerness to get off the A-Frame, but rather it’s a reaction to the powerful forces of gravity and momentum that have built up by the time an AT takes that third necessary stride down.
I think it takes an incredible amount of effort and strength for ATs to hold themselves back against forward momentum and gravity when they drive hard over an A-Frame (like Lil does). I have compared photos of Border Collies and Lil descending an A-Frame and Lil’s overall body position, shoulder angle, forward reach, and tucking under of back legs looked similar. The big difference is that Lil’s legs are significantly shorter so her nose extends beyond her front feet. I can see why she looks off-balance when running fast down a steeper A-Frame.
Since I stopped training on both 5’6″ and 5′ A-Frames, Lil is striding comfortably up, over, and down the A-Frame and her 3rd stride lands well inside the contact zone of 5′ high A-Frame. It looks easy and natural vs. WHOA! This is what prompted me to stop training both heights and to stop running both heights in trials.