Steeplechase agility courses are a fast-paced race against the clock for both dog and handler. The steeplechase course is a two-round competition based on a basic jumpers-style course, with at least two spread hurdles, a long jump, weave poles and the A-frame with either the A-frame or weave poles being used twice. The emphasis on a steeplechase course is on speed, with dogs being scored according to speed and faults. Steeplechase is one of the few dog agility events that actually offer a prize purse and winnings divided among the top dogs.
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Things you need
- Water Bowl
Pack all of your gear a few days in advance, so that you do not forget anything the day you leave for the trial. You can prepare all of your necessary items in advance, and double-check to make sure you have everything you need. Be sure to include your entry conformation as well, since you will need it to check in at the show.
Arrive at the show grounds a few hours early. This will allow you plenty of time to set up your dog’s crate and supplies, as well as your own items. There is typically a wait between the time you arrive and the time you are scheduled to run, so take this time to check out the show grounds and relax a bit.
Check in with the ring steward at your assigned ring a minimum of thirty minutes before your scheduled run time. The ring steward will present you with your number or arm band, so you can put that on as well. You can also ask the ring steward any questions you might have at this time so that you are clear on everything before your run.
Allow your dog time to potty and stretch now. A limber and warmed up dog will run much better than one who has been sitting, so let him exercise for a few minutes. If there is a practice course or obstacles set up, you can run your dog through these at this time.
Report to your ring for your walk through on time. A walk through is your chance to become familiar with the course and to plan your strategy for your run. The obstacles will be numbered and you will need to perform the obstacles according to the numbers and the judge’s pattern. The steeplechase course is designed for speed, with the majority of the obstacles being hurdles. Look over the course carefully and see if there are any areas in which you can gain speed with your dog. Pay close attention as you will have to perform either a set of weave poles or the A-frame twice, so it will most likely have two numbers. It is essential that you complete them in the correct order, as any deviation from the pattern will result in a disqualification.
Upon completing your walk through, retrieve your dog and return to the ring. When the ring steward calls your number, be sure to enter the ring promptly and remove your dog’s collar and lead if required. Place your dog in the starting area and wait for the judge’s signal to begin. Remember, steeplechase courses are judged heavily on time, so any delay on your part can affect your overall score.
When you are finished with your run, gather your collar and lead and exit the ring. You can offer your dog a treat or a drink at this time, as rewarding her for a job well done is important to keeping her excited and interested in agility. You can either recreate her, or keep her with you while the rest of the competitors in your class run. Just be sure to keep well back from the ring, so that you do not cause a distraction for any of the other competitors.
Once all of the competitors in your class have finished their runs, the scores will be tabulated and awards handed out. The steeplechase division of the agility courses are usually run on a regional level and then a national level, so scoring well in your local area can get you into the national steeplechase tournament. Steeplechase winners are often awarded cash prizes, which is an additional bonus to the possibility of qualifying for a national run. If you and your dog performed well, you should be called for an award. Be sure to accept your award and thank everyone, as putting on an agility trial is a lot of work. With a little hard work and practice, you and your dog can become very successful competitors on the steeplechase agility circuit.
Tips and warnings
- Make sure you are on time for your run. If you are late, you will most likely not be allowed to compete.
- Remember that speed is a factor in your steeplechase run. Encourage your dog, and try and plan for shortcuts to eliminate extra seconds from your time.
- Do not allow your dog to run loose. Your dog might be friendly, but other dogs may not be.
- Never discipline your dog in the ring. Agility should be fun for your dog, not a chore.