Hitting the Crossdrive Panel, or
"My Depth Perception Stinks, what do I do about it?!"
April 24, 2008
Get on the course before your class and watch someone walk the crossdrive line, picking out markers as well as you can. Don't pick out so many that you get confused while you're running. For me, 3 is ideal. Find something at the beginning of the crossdrive, fairly close to the drive-away panel (maybe 10-15 yards after the turn at the first panel) so you can check that you're online soon after making your turn. Next, find something somewhere around the middle of the crossdrive. Note where that marker is in relation to the fetch panels, so you can find it quickly while you're actually running. Next, and most important, find something fairly close to the crossdrive panels so you can tell if you're online or not going into the panels. I also like to find something behind the field to line up my markers with so I can find them quickly during my run.
Early in my Open career, I spent about a year missing crossdrive panels with my good old Ben dog (pictured at left). I lost count of how many times I ended up out of the placings because of those darned things. And it was my fault, not his. He'd drive a dead straight line, all on his own, letting me make tiny adjustments all the way across the crossdrive, and I would very carefully, with perfect control, pass above those darned panels time after time. So I decided to change my strategy on crossdrives, and over time it's gotten a whole lot easier to line the crossdrive up and hit those panels.
What I decided to do was intentionally bring the sheep low on my crossdrive, in what is called a "banana drive", so called because of the curved line. If you bring the sheep low and then aim back up into the crossdrive panels, it's way, way easier to see if you're going to go through the panels. Think of how much easier it is to tell when you're going to hit the first drive panels. It's the same principle. You'll lose a couple of points for being offline but less than you'll lose for missing a panel.
I found that over time I got a lot better at hitting the panels, and I don't need to "banana" the crossdrive quite so much. One skill you might want to work on with your dog to make this work a little better is a nice fast inside flank, because you'll find yourself needing it sometimes to turn the sheep into that crossdrive panel so you don't miss it low.
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