Jump cups are an essential part of any style of bar jump, but one that is often overlooked. Rather than just another piece of plastic, these bases that hold the bar in place can make a huge difference when it comes to your dog's safety. You should always pay careful attention to them, whether you are purchasing a jump or building one yourself. Having the proper cups and installing them correctly is crucial to using this piece of equipment.
As its name implies, a bar jump is a frame with a bar stretched between it for your dog to jump over. This is the same basic principle that is applied to equestrian jumps and the two main qualities for any jump are the ability to adjust the height and the ability for the bar to have some give should your dog not clear it cleanly. Both of these can be attained with the use of good quality cups.
So what exactly are jump cups? They are support pieces that clip onto the uprights of a jump frame and include a lateral shelf on which the bar itself rests. They can be made from PVC pipe or molded plastic and can be attached to the upright poles using various methods. Some simply clip on while others require the use of a hole and a bolt to keep them in place. Individual cups are designed to be easily movable so that you can vary the height of a jump.
Some manufacturers also sell the cups in strips that contain a series of cups at regular intervals. This way you only have to install once and you can simply lift out the bar and move it from one height to another as your dog progresses through training. You can achieve the same end by attaching several individual cups at different intervals; just make sure that you measure correctly to ensure that you have the cups positioned properly.
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Seen here, the bars rest on jump cups so if a dog fails to clear the bar it falls easily without causing injury.
There are several different manufacturers that produce cups and many retailers that offer them, usually in bulk quantity to save you money. In general, they are sold in sets of 10 or 20 and costs vary depending on size and material. As with any type of agility equipment, you should shop carefully to make sure you are getting a good quality product for your money.
While ease of installation helps with the ability to move cups, the design of the shelf itself is all about the safety of your dog. Some shelves are rigid, to help hold the bar in place, while others are flexible, allowing them to bend if your dog hits the bar so that the bar will give easily and not injure your dog. The style you use is entirely up to you; usually, you'll learn by trial and error which style is the best for you and your dog.
For the more handy dog owners out there, it is possible to make your own jump cups using PVC piping and a piece called a "snap on saddle" used for irrigation systems. With these two pieces and a few simple cuts, you can fashion a basic cup that will fit on your jump poles and will cost just a couple of dollars to make. You can find helpful instructions and instructional videos online if you want to try the DIY approach.
Whether you buy or build, make sure that you pay close attention to the quality of your jump cups. A little attention to detail now can save you and your dog a lot of heartache and let you breathe easier as you enjoy your agility training experience.