October 7, 2021

Episode 291: Fall Agility Update

In this episode (32:14)

In this episode, Jennifer, Sarah, and Esteban highlight recent and upcoming events in the agility world.

You Will Learn

  • When and where USDAA Cynosport, UKI’s US Open, the AKC Invitational, Westminster, and the European Open team tryouts will be held.
  • Where Jennifer was last weekend.
  • How COVID affects these events.


Welcome to bad dog agility podcast, helping you reach all of your dog agility goals, whether it's competing under the bright lights of the televised finals at Westminster or successfully navigating a homemade course in your own backyard, we'll bring you training tips, interviews and news about the great sport of dog agility. Are you ready? I'm ready. I'm ready. I'm ready.

The show starts with your hosts, Jennifer Esteban and Sara. I'm Jennifer I'm Esteban and I'm Sarah. And this is episode 291 today's podcast is brought to you by HitItBoard dot com and the Teeter. TeachIt an easy to use tool that controls the amount of tip on your Teeter. So you can introduce motion to your dog in a gradual way, go to HitItBoard dot com for the new teacher,

teach it and other training tools and toys use discount code BDA tend to get 10% off your order. That's HitItBoard dot com. Fall is finally here and with it, cooler weather agility is on everybody's mind, and there have been a lot of events while there are a lot of events coming up. We just had a big event this past weekend. And so in this podcast,

we're going to do a state of agility and take a more macro wide view of the agility world. Talk about these events and what's going on and where we see agility heading for the end of 2021 with 2022, really just right around the corner. I'll go ahead and say right now that the focus of this podcast is, is really about the upcoming events here in the United States.

So we're going to talk about several events, but they're all here in the United States. So just putting that out there, but yeah, we're looking at what's going on. And as you mentioned, there was an event this past weekend. And so Jennifer, why don't you tell us where you were this past weekend? Yeah, this past weekend, I was able to head to St.

Louis, which is then kind of the middle of the United States for the Purina pro plan, incredible dog challenge. This was the finals that 20, 21 finals, how the event is situated as they do kind of like west coast, east coast regionals. And then we come to St. Louis in the middle for the finals. So in April, I was in Tampa for the east coast regional and was fortunate enough to actually win that event,

which guarantees you a buy to the finals in St. Louis. So we are just headed home from that event. Yes. And it hasn't been a broadcast yet, so we're not really going to talk about the event or who won or how you did or anything like that, but we just wanted to bring it, you know, start there, start with what has just happened.

And we'll all be on our, we'll all be on the lookout for that televised broadcast. Do you happen to know when that is? I do not know because it is for my understanding kind of understanding it as a syndicated event, which means it plays them different channels at different times in different parts of the country. So the incredible dog challenge is kind of an interesting agility event just because it is one that is televised.

We don't have many of those. It's kind of a made for TV event. So when we know we'll post about it, but it certainly is a, a fun event. If anybody ever gets the opportunity to go. I, I say yes to it. Yes. And I will also put in the show notes, a link to a podcast that we did several years ago on the event where we did go a little bit in depth of like how the events structured and things like that.

So if you want more information on that event, you can listen to that podcast. So that's kind of what's happening. Like, you know, right now, just this past weekend. And then as we look forward in the fall, the next big event here in the United States will be USDA sign of sports. That's October 20th to 24th. I was going to say,

that's like two weeks. I was about to say, it's like, you know, a month away. And then I looked at the calendar and was like, oh wait, no, that's actually right around the corner. Yeah. Yeah. So that event, what do you know about that event, Jennifer? So that event is going to be held in Murfreesboro,

Tennessee. I will be attending that event. The plan at this point is to attend as fault or as Esteban as talking about fall, I said, oh, fall's my favorite season. You know, here in Ohio, it's just so pretty. But it's also a super busy season as we're getting ready to go through all of these events. And for me summer has been prepping for these and it kicked off with the incredible dog challenge.

And as you said, I've got like two weeks lined up between all these events. So USA nationals only about a couple of weeks away and it is a big five day event. So it's a big event for agility competitors. One of our longer events starts on a Wednesday and goes all the way through to Sunday because there are kind of cuts along the way.

So it starts with quarterfinals. Then you're going into semi-finals then you're going into finals. You have individual events, you have team events. So it's a pretty big, pretty complex event. I think the numbers this year are down from what they've been in the past, based on what I could gather. There's just under 600 entries, 5 94. I think if I did it correctly,

which seems smaller than what it's been in the past. So I don't know what's affecting that. Could it be COVID could it be the fact that it's only two weeks before the U S open? So people are starting to pick and choose events, you know, so there's a lot of different factors I think, going into play there. And, you know,

I do want to touch briefly on what we do know about the COVID precautions that these events, because you know, each of these events is run by a different organization, has different rules. And then on top of that, you have to layer in like the location. So for USDA, what are their COVID precautious that they're doing for that event? So USDA Is requiring masks anywhere inside the Coliseum.

So it's kind of a indoor horse arena type facility. They've got big doors, you know, opened up on the ends, assuming it's not raining, but anywhere on the competition floor, warm-up areas, walkway seating areas, vendors, mask at all times, if you would like to run without a mask. So we're actually talking in the ring. When you go run your dog,

you have to take a negative COVID test within 72 hours. And they've put a very specific type. It is an at home test, but it's one that you like log on and you do in front of a Proctor and they, you know, monitor that you do it correctly, you have to show ID and then they'll like, send you like a PDF print off with your name,

verifying this. You, you can't just go into CVS, grab a test, take a photo and say, here you go, it's negative. You have to do this certain kind. And then what will happen? You'll get a wristband. So when you run, you can take it off. And then right, when you come out and like, you're putting your leash on your dog will have a little area to put it back on.

If you don't do that, you have to run it in your mask. All right. I really like that. They're putting those precautions in place and really making it very clear for the competitors and as safe as we can, you know, in, in today's, you know, COVID environment. And I think that kind of, as we look at the fall schedule,

we're figuring, I think everybody's figuring out the competitors and the organizations are kind of figuring out how they can manage things more long-term as it's not something that is just completely going away. And then everything goes back, air quotes to normal, like, you know, there's kind of a new normal. Yeah, definitely. So, you know, we, haven't talked a lot about COVID some,

you know, a big, broad view basics. If you haven't been vaccinated, go and get vaccinated. If eligible for the booster, get a booster. I expect over the next several years, that new updates to the vaccines will happen and there'll be various drives to get vaccinated. I think we have a lot more data than we had a year ago.

So we know, you know, that it's better to be outdoors and indoors, for example, right. We know that proximity matters, things like that. So as agility organizations plan these events, you can kind of look at all your high risk points and really do a lot to minimize it. Right. And I think agility is definitely among the safer sports that you can actually do because it's not one where you are getting face-to-face with your competitor,

right? It's not football where you're lining up across from each other. It's not basketball, it's not wrestling. You know, you really don't have to be around other people and, and we can manage events in that way. I think it's going to be largely a pretty safe, especially if you're vaccinated. Of course, if you have risk factors, you have to make a,

make some decisions of your own. But for, for those folks, I definitely highly recommend using a high quality mask, like the, the that are widely available right now, as opposed to just a cloth mask. All right. So next on the list and we're going chronologically here is the us open November 11th to 14th. So I'm just kind of eyeballing that at like two weeks after the USDA Sino.

And I agree with you. I think that, I think that people are now having to choose between a large group of people are having to choose between those events being so close together. And so you're going to get some overlap, but not huge overlap. So I think that is probably affecting sinus sports numbers. So a U S open, you will also be going to that,

Jennifer. Yes. That is the plan I'm entered in planning to go to that. And as you just mentioned that as a four day event, so I think a big part of why people can't do or won't do both events is just the length of time. You know, you gotta be there on Tuesday to check in, compete on Wednesday for USDA and be there on Wednesday,

start showing on Thursday. So we're not talking weekend events. So, you know, when you talk time off work, travel, all that it is kind of picking and choosing. So the us open just announced today that they have their entry numbers, they're having a 20% increase in their entries and therefore are going to eight rings, eight rings. I think that's like the biggest event here in the United States.

I think that at least I've attended, I think eight rings is a lot, but I that's what helps to keep it to four days. So we're USDA does five days because they do, if I am correct, five rings, UKI is going to eight rings, eight judges, eight groups, but they are able to keep it to four days. So Wednesday being a check-in day and then start running on Thursday morning.

So the entry there, if I did it correctly, 736, roughly. So don't hold me to that UKI. But I think that's what I gathered from your stats. That is super interesting. I think of it as an event, typically that has between two and 300 people. So this is a big increase and I wonder what effects is going to have on the agility ecosystem here in the U S are we talking about a new rising power?

Is this something that is going to be able to challenge the AKC, even though the AKC now has these fat contracts with the television networks to produce their big events. And is this going to trickle backwards down to local events for UKI? So it's people focus a little bit more on the U S open. They're going to attend more local events put on by UKI and choose those events over,

say an AKC trial that weekend. So I'm pretty interested in seeing where this goes. And I wonder what led to the, to the spike, the spike in interest, you know, because they've been around for awhile and they did some stuff, COVID the COVID at home stuff, you know, that, that they AKC decided they weren't going to do anything like that.

And yeah, I just, I just wonder, it's pretty interesting. There's a couple of things that affected and their numbers have been steadily growing year after year after year. I mean, it's been a while since they were down in the two or three hundreds, but it is an open it's a U S open. You, you don't have to qualify to attend.

So I can literally have not gone to any trials because of COVID or whatever reason and go to a national. So I think that is a huge appeal to people. The other thing that I know for me, that I like about the U S open is there's multiple events run individually from one another. So, you know, UK, or excuse me,

AKC nationals, you know, when we talk big events, AKC nationals is such a tough one. You hit the first bar of the first course on the first day in. You're pretty much out of there. Okay. We have the back door through challengers and everything, but UKI has like seven or eight different events that run. So I think, you know,

you can mix and match, oh, my young dog can do this class, but I won't do this class. Or I can do this song here. Or if this class goes real poorly, that's okay. I still have a shot in this. So I think there's a whole number of reasons that we're seeing the growth in UKI. Maybe we'll save that for a whole nother podcast,

but I do think without really getting into it, I do think we're seeing those shifts. The numbers notice USDA numbers are down, UKI numbers are up. And I don't think that is just this year. I think we're going to see a trend that way. Well, I was going to say, yeah, because I think that, I think that there's a more direct competition there,

I would say, because those events are so much more similar to each other in that they do have lots of different outfits. USTA is getting squeezed out. You have two very different styles. Right? Right. So us, so when we'd say two very different styles between AKC and then USDA and UKI have similar styles, they both have things like gamblers and Snickers and games.

And they have these national events that are multi-event events. There's not like The biathlon winner. You can be the grand Prix winner. You can be the steeple chase. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. UKI, you know, they have like a similar structure. You can be the games when, or you can be, you know, and so I think that they compete with each other and,

and it certainly looks like UKI is winning that heads up comparison. Now, does that mean they're taking on AKC? I'm not sure about that. That's like a very different kind of agility. I think there's a lot of people who do both, but there are a lot of people that are very happy to continue to do AKC agility, to maybe focus on their pure bred dog and the,

you know, things like invitational where they get to a patient Has that one winner, right? You got to be invitational. There's one winner. And you know, when you go to events and there's like five different winners, you know, I know some people think of it as, oh, borderline participation trophy. There's so many ways to win. And I'm like,

well, you know, the different events, different targets, different goals. Right. So I think exactly what Sarah said. There's, there's a percentage of people who are doing both, but I think there's a lot of people who are doing one or the other, meaning they're either doing UKI or in USA or AKC. I know for my personal experience,

I have a ton of students who only do AKC. I have a ton of students who are only doing UKI. So you, and then there are some that are, that are doing both in that crossover. I also think looking at the popularity of UKI in the U S open the U S open keep in mind is the tryout event for was world team.

Right? So we, we do an TRIBEr for me, personally, it, as a national event has a little less draw just because it's, it's such a big event and it's so long and it's Florida and it's far away. Doesn't mean I wouldn't go anyway, but where I have all my draw and my focus is it is the trial event for WVU.

So that is my main focus when I go is not winning any individual class or winning into any round per se. My goal is in what are the rules to try to win my spot on the team? Because the rules to win on the team are different than the, the rules for the individual, you know, the event itself and the UKI event itself.

So I think that draws some people into is if they want to try out for that team, they gotta be at this event. Yeah. All right. Next on the list after us open, we have EO tryouts, December 3rd. Oh, wait, sorry. I've got to go back real quick. Cause I don't think we talked about the COVID precautions for the U S open,

which I thought were really great. Yeah. The us open actually put in their premium that anyone attending the open, whether you're a competitor vendor, friend of a competitor, you must present proof of COVID vaccination. So with our entry, I actually had to scan in and send in my proof of my vaccination. Now, if you are not fully vaccinated,

then what you must do is you must present a clear COVID test within 72 hours before the event. And you have to wear a mask at all times. Now, if you did submit your COVID card and your proof of vaccination, you still need to wear your mask when social distancing isn't possible. So walkthroughs, awards, hallways, that kind of thing,

but you are allowed to take it off when you run. So at the U S open of eight rings, I think only two are inside. They're like big indoor arena type. The rest are all outside. So it will allow us to take them off when we run and then keep them on for when we can't distance. If you are not vaccinated,

you must keep it on at all times. I like it. And given the big numbers, I think this is a little bit of a proof of concept here. Right? Right. Yeah. Competitors are willing to do that. You know, I would say probably a majority, given what I know about the demographics of agility in this country, both gender and age,

you know, are, are going to be vaccinated more than half are going to be vaccinated. And they were giving you a, a route. If you're one of the people who cannot be vaccinated or choose not to be vaccinated as well, you can still participate. And it seems pretty reasonable. All right. So then we go to EO tryouts, December 3rd,

through the fifth, really close together. This is like every couple of weeks I know right now that we haven't mentioned this, but Jennifer, you have a child. I know we've got two kids. And the other big fall event of course is school right on top of everything else, all of this. And I feel like, even though we are a junior in high school,

he's practically an adult. We're getting practice. Right? So once the kids can drive, it's like, you get to minus a kid. And in fact, they can even help out with the other kids. Right. And take out the dogs or whatever. So it's like almost we have an assistant if we really needed it, but you've got that kid.

He can't drive yet close, but not yet The golf cart. I mean, as, as we are right now, the list of all these events starting with this past weekend, who I took my kid to, by myself, my husband stayed home. I took my son with me, just me and him in the RV out to St. Louis.

I'm like this list is just like my false stress list. All the events I got to prep for, get the dogs ready for work on the travel arrangements. Which ones is he coming to? Which ones is he staying home for? So, yeah, he stayed busy with school. Cross country is almost over. So that will help a little bit.

He has cross-country three days a week and then meets on the weekends. So it's balancing that out. So yeah. And then we got throw Thanksgiving in there and the holidays granted the year, holidays, Christmas and all that. So yeah, EO tryouts, the best part about EO tryouts for me is it's only about three hours from home. So where these other trips are,

are big endeavors, sinus sports. I will be taking Ethan for part of the trip because my husband works weekends and he's out of school. Ethan is out of school on a couple of those days. He'll be coming with me, but IGA tryouts, a nice easy three hour drive. And it's only a two day event. So Saturday, Sunday to run Saturday to run Sunday,

much easier to just slip away, go sho come back home for now. Friday is a practice day, right. But potentially with like an afternoon practice time, I don't need to leave home until, you know, late morning and still make it over there. And where's event being held this year. It's in Latrobe at the BNB sport. It's the same facility it's been at the last several years.

So it's over, I think Pittsburgh is the nearest airport, but it's in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Gotcha. Okay. All right. So that's December the weekend of the fourth, fifth. Okay. And what's up after that? I mean, we're right into Christmas Now, The invitation, And it's always right there near the holidays. I think that's a,

a big LER for a bunch of people is kind of going to Florida right before the holidays or getting away. I know a lot of people that go to the invitation, I'll make it a little vacation as well. Right. It's like, especially from, I guess, from where y'all, where it's like really cold, you know, it's like a nice,

like temperate, you know, 60 degrees or something like that in December in Florida, that's kind of like the same weather we have here in Houston. So that's December 18th and 19th. And of course, that's only for those who were invited and that's all been, you know, set in stone in the early summer. So people know whether they're going, going to that event or not.

But that's, that's a one. So that's, that's, you don't have to do that one, Jennifer. Right? That's your, The last, last year was the first year I didn't attend for the first time in a while now. I've never been to the invitational with my own dog. I competed many years ago. It's now, but the last two to three,

three to four, I went and coached last year with COVID and the uncertainty I did not go. So I missed it last year and I missed net this year as well. So I get that weekend off. All right. So, and then we'll, we'll go ahead and talk about this one, even though it's now we're going into 20, 22, but I want to mention it because this is an event that has not opened yet.

And so competitors still have the opportunity to decide if they want to do this. And that is the Westminster masters agility championship. That's going to be January 22nd. So historically it's usually been like the first week of February, except for last year where it moved to July because of COVID they've they moved it, moved it up then. Right. So it's, it's,

it's moved up a little bit, but the big thing about this is it opens November 17th and this is a trial which has always filled on opening day. So anybody who is considering about doing it, you have that day marked on your calendar. You have to get your entry in on that day, November 17th. So even though the event itself is in 2022,

I wanted to highlight it for those who are looking at their fall calendar. That, that November date is coming up here, November 17th for the Western Westminster agility championship. And I would say, I mean, just a general state of things, I would say that I would expect all of these events to happen. I personally, this is just my personal opinion.

I think we're, we're kind of past the days, especially here in the United States, we're past the days of things getting canceled, like everybody's puts precautions in place, and then they continue to have the events that they have planned. But I think for things like the us open and trying out for the team and the EO tryouts, I think there, you have to,

you have to understand that nobody really knows international in terms of international travel and events happening internationally. And then even if they happen internationally, those places allowing, you know, a country, all the countries to come, I still think that part of agility is up in the air, right? We have, we haven't seen these, these big major events come back yet.

And so we're holding tryouts on the hope that these big international events will be able to happen in 2022, but I don't think anybody can give any guarantees. And so people have to expect that they could go make it the EEO team and then never actually be able to go. But I think the events themselves are so exciting and gratifying. Like if you go and you smack down some amazing runs at EO at the EO team tryouts,

like that's going to be a fun event for you, even if it never goes beyond that. The idea of using a lot of these trout events as end points, right? So you may be someone who's like, well, even if I made the team, I wouldn't go because I don't want to, for example, maybe fly my large dog in cargo over whatever 14 hours,

16 hours, you know, we're simply not going to do that. And so this, this becomes your championship event. Courses are really great. They're big. Maybe you, you don't normally compete on, on those kinds of courses and it would be great for your, you know, whatever your really fast dog or your large strata dog or, or,

or whatever. So I, I think it's fine to treat those as the end point type events. You know, I, I, 100% agree. I mean, even before COVID, there's a ton of people that will go to these events, knowing that they're not actually going to go, you know, whether or not it's canceled by the organization or not,

they're going for the experience to run on those courses. And I think you're right, that it's a great way to set some goals and set that in point. So whether or not the events happen, they're very exciting events. And I think you'll see a lot of people going, regardless of the outcome of those international events. Yeah. There are a lot of fun I can say for AKC folks because I'm,

I'm pretty much exclusively in AKC competitor. I have not done a UKI trial and it has been well over 10 years since I ran it a USDA trial AKC, a lot of our big events were on dirt. AKC nationals every year is on dirt. And when you go to the tryouts, they're indoor facilities. And so the traction for the handler is different,

right? It's one of the few places where your speed actually increases a little bit relative to the dog's speed because we're getting you off on dirt and onto the surface and the course of yardage for all these courses really increases. So it's a very different style of writing and handling. It's a lot of fun, get some variety in your diet and your agility,

your diet. So I really enjoy that. I had one other random thought about COVID and seasonal patterns, because there's a question from a scientific perspective, like what is going to happen to COVID and five years, 10 years, 20 years. And does it become a seasonal thing like the flu and which version of the flu, and at least in our very,

very small sample size since COVID has been here, it looks like we're getting two peaks a year, right. That's just right now. And I think it would be pretty solid for these agility organizations to notice that right. And maybe plan some of your events to happen in the valleys rather than the peaks. Right. So rather than ha knowing the cases are going to spike at a given time,

pretty consistently, maybe let's move some of our events off of that. Right. And let's get your, most of your trialing and qualifying done. I think they they've been very good about being flexible. They're lowering the requirements and standards. I think that's why you're going to see, you've seen this, like you were mentioning to me, Jen, about us open qualifying it open event.

I mean, that's obviously going to be a much more popular. And if you put that event and you have really good precautions and it's happening at a time when cases are not through the roof in 2000 Americans are dying a day or a week, or what have you then, you know, I, I think people are more likely to attend. Do you think that's a factor that Westminster took into account to bumping up their events?

I, you know, I have no personal, no personal insider knowledge, but this is a very, in my opinion, savvy move by Westminster based on the available data, but who knows what's going to happen this year, who knows how it's going to respond to a vaccination and the boosters. And if there's going to be a new variant that, you know,

rips through the unvaccinated population. So yeah. Westminster moved up two weeks. I think they used to be, as you said, February, now they're January and they changed their location and they first act to the MOC. So they've changed quite a few things. Yeah. I mean, this is the first I've heard of this and I am super interested in the reasoning why,

and I don't know. Yeah. So I don't think we can read too much into too many of these things, because I would say they moved the location because like a ship literally like crashed into the period And the fear needs repaired. Yes. Get a couple piers down, which is probably what affected the date. So then they change, you know,

so then they moved to like last year was the big change that was strictly due to COVID. Now this is really just kind of moving it back to the way it was. And the same with the mock, they had been requiring the mock, they lowered the requirements because I think they were really uncertain. How many people would be willing to do an event like Westminster in the,

in the COVID era, especially because when they put out the information on it that we're talking about, the one that happened this past July, they had to kind of plan it several months before the event. And so then there's all this uncertainty about are cases going to go up or down and how many people are going to enter in then pull and, and all of this stuff.

And so I feel like this is pretty much a return to the, the original idea of this is an event of champion dogs. That's why it's a mock right. Champion of champions sort of thing. So, yeah, I don't read that much into to those changes, the mock and the, and the, the peer and all of that, but We'll see.

We'll see. All right. Well, I think we have covered the very jam packed calendar that we have coming up here in the fall in the United States and kind of where we see things going, Everybody be on the lookout for the great pumpkin. Oh, I was thinking the other day, you know, there's an entire generation kids of kids who have no idea what we're talking about.

Wait, Jennifer, you understand the great pumpkin reference. Yes I do. Yeah. Like we all grew up with, you know, brown. Yeah. But my son would have no idea of our kids too. Like Hannah tried to watch it and she thought it was too boring and slow. The only part she liked is when the teacher goes, she thought that was hilarious.

She's like, oh, that's so true. But otherwise it was, it just wasn't for her. Oh, well that's all right. That's all right. All right. Well, happy fall, everybody and happy training. Thank you for listening to bad dog agility. We hope you enjoy today's episode for more information, updates and links to all our socials.

Just check out our website, www dot bad dog, agility.com. If you haven't already signed up for our email subscription, we would love to have you join the BDA community until next time, take care.

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