Here Be Dragons – A Masters Gamble

I told you a couple of days ago that I lost an hour or so of work when my computer hiccoughed. This was a look at a USDAA Masters Gamble that I judged (as a stand-in) for the trial in Nashville, TN a week ago. Here it is:


This gamble had a relatively low qualifying rate. But dogs of every jump height did manage the interesting change of directions, and the qualifying performance. IMHO it was a combination of foundation training for the dog, and canny handler aptitude.


The handling that I liked best was what I call a layered Tandem. Note that the handler works to the landing side of jump #2 in a path parallel to the dog’s; but at a lateral distance so that, at the corner, the handler can show movement to convince the dog into the left turn.

The interesting thing about this moment is that a fairly large number of handlers did convince their dogs to turn to the left. However, after making the turn too many of them simply ran the line (rather back towards jump #1). So by not giving any focus to the #3 jump the dog doesn’t have much reason to want to do it. This explains why I drew the little red man facing and pointing towards the #3 jump.


Some handlers solved the riddle by some “outside the box” thinking; by drawing the dog into a tight wrap with a Front Cross after jump #1 the handler was able to introduce jump #2 at a tight slice with a line that fairly favored the approach to jump #3. I was somewhat lenient about the refusal at jump #2, giving the handler some latitude to draw the dog into the Cross even though the question of whether the dog had started the approach to jump #2 tended to be a bit fuzzy at times.


The handling that failed most often was the raw Rear Cross. An important attribute to the Rear Cross is that it creates a tightened turn on the landing side of the jump. And in this puzzle the handler shouldn’t really be ordering a tightened turn, at all.


I shouldn’t leave this riddle without a discussion of “consequential path”. A significant number of handlers put their dogs on the red-line approach as shown in this illustration. Note that the consequence of the given approach leads to a right turn being the natural turning direction after jump #2. That means the handler would have to fight or be especially compelling to get the dog to turn to the left.

The blue line shows an approach to jump #1 at a fairly aggressive slice… creating an approach to jump #2 that modestly favors a left turn as the natural turning direction.


“When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”

– Franklin D. Roosevelt

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3 Responses to “Here Be Dragons – A Masters Gamble”

  1. Chris Mosley Says:

    Cool gamble. Were there any other approach jumps? I’d have been tempted, although loss of impulsion might cost us, to really set up the approach without either of the jumps on the course you drew, or at least gather (our courage) to set a line for the left lead.

    • budhouston Says:

      There really wasn’t much other approach. Certainly the handler has the opportunity to reset the dog’s path to create an optimum line. The handler is, after all, the architect of the dog’s path!


  2. Chris Mosley Says:

    Well, I must be feeling canny today. I tried it from different approaches (including an Aframe set upstream from the #1 gamble jump which made me try a rear cross) and got it! Thanks, this was fun.

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