I was supposed to be trialling this weekend, far far away, but due to various interconnected reasons I wasn't :-(
Next weekend I'm leaving for a week-long agility camp in the Czech Republic with Jirina Strnadova who is a well known judge and retired competitor (she used to run Shelties and Belgian Sheepdogs).
But since I wasn't trialling this weekend, I had some time to write more about Lesley Olden's methods for contacts and jumping drills.
Her contact methods are basically the same ones I use, though I guess I first learned about them through Susan Garrett and I've always thought she was the original inventor of the 2on/2off taught through targeting of a plexi square. Lesley says she first trained a 2on/2off contact through targeting (of a clear plexi square) in 1991. That's years and years of experience in doing this! She starts off with a clear plexi square (VERY small, like 2 square inches, no more) and basically goes through all the stages Susan Garrett describes. She emphasizes the need to fade the target very quickly. It comes back in if the dog is having issues with something new. When I was recalling Uma over the dogwalk from a tunnel and she just couldn't put the brakes on hard enough, she had me put the plexi target back for a couple of repetitions. Amazingly, it worked. Two reps with a target and she was able to put the brakes on without one.
Lesley prefers to teach a down as her contact position and constant targeting (not pecking, but "put your nose down and keep it there") which differs from what I do. She says the down position is natural for most border collies (not Aussies though), so that's why she uses it. She doesn't use it for other breeds. On the other hand, I would think it might also encourage crouching in BCs.
There aren't many people in Poland who teach a stopped contact with a 2 on/2off, usually people, even the really top competitors, have some form of a running contact that's pretty much dependent on the position of the handler.
Obviously, Lesley puts a lot of emphasis on independent performance of a contact obstacle and does lots of work on independent angled entries onto the contacts (something I have to work on). She teaches the dog to go under a hoop on commaned or around a pole/cone and uses that skill when practicing angled entries. Somebody asked why she doesn't believe the hoops don't work for down contacts and work for up contacts and she said "just because" :-) I am still wondering what I should do with Uma's up dogwalk contact for which I have assumed the attitude of "don't fix it if it isn't broken" but I'm being more and more concerned that it might easily get broken. She sometimes misses it in practice, though she hasn't missed it in competition yet. If I'm worried about the approach, I'll do a quick RFP to shorten her stride a bit. But maybe I should actually teach her the damn thing...
Lesley has a horse background, so she knows a lot about jumping and showed us some jump grid exercises she uses with her own dogs. Basically, she admits to doing this more by instinct than by plan - analyzing what the dog is good at and what it needs work on and progressing on the basis of that. In general she set up grids of 4 jumps, experimenting with the spacing, the height of the jumps and finally offsetting them a bit. She does her jumps grid exercises as a send (different from Suzanne Clothier's Jump Chute method in which everything is done as a recall), especially if she's working on the early stages of collection exercises. And she does have a point there, a recall exercise certainly invites a dog to flatten out and extend, while in a sendaway the dog is not focused on getting to the handler. Of course, the same collection exercise should later be done as a recall as well, but she says it is easier for the dog as a send.
As she brings the jumps closer together, she never puts them at less than 2 meters apart for the big dogs (to quote her loosely: "not like them bloody Americans"). She also set up turning drills with three winged jumps set up in a U pattern with the wings touching. For this one she starts the dogs off from a standstill and then adds speed to the drill by adding jumps before the turn.