December 19, 2023

Episode 325: The UKI North American Invitational

In this episode (48:22)

In this episode, Esteban and Sarah are joined by Greg Derrett, CEO and Co-founder of UKI, to discuss the inaugural UKI North American Invitational.

You Will Learn

  • The concept and logistics behind the UKI North American Invitational.
  • Who gets invited to the event.
  • How this invitational differs from other agility opens.
  • The growth and future plans of UKI and the US Open.

Mentioned/Related

I'm Esteban. And I'm Sarah. And this is episode 325. Today's podcast is brought to you by hit aboard.com and the new 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 hit aboard.com For the new Teeter TeachIt and other training tools and toys,

use discount code BDA 10 to get 10% off your order. That's hit@board.com. Today we're gonna talk about the upcoming inaugural UKI, north American Invitational, and we are joined by the CEO and Co-founder of UKI, Greg Det, welcome back to the podcast, Greg. Hey guys, thanks for having me back. Good to see you again. Yeah, absolutely.

So this inaugural implies the first, and it implies the first of more than one. So we wanted to bring you onto the podcast to talk about this event and kind of what it is and who it's geared towards and what the, you know, the purpose is, how it works, all those nitty gritty details. And we love to go straight to the source.

So let's just start with, you know, Greg, you've got a new event, UKI has a new event. Tell us about it. Okay, so I guess the, the idea behind it was several factors coming together. The first one is we've now got the US Open on the East coast, west coast, on the west coast, and then the Canadian Open,

obviously in Canada up north. And it was looking for a, a more central location for a new big event. Sort of a demand from people to use a different location, not just the two coasts, because everyone was having to travel long way to each coast, obviously. So there was that kind of feedback we were getting, but also, 'cause we had the three opens,

it was kind of looking for an event to bring the three together. So almost like a super event, if you gotta call it that the, the champions from the three events come together and, and fight it out to be the best. Also, one thing that I've always wanted to do is, is run an AstroTurf event, event over in Europe.

Now that's getting really popular services have got so much better recent years in AstroTurf. I'm sure we'll call it AstroTurf, you guys call it, don't call it, you just call it turf, I think, don't you? Well, it's kind of funny that you say that because I believe I could be lying, but I'm pretty sure, and its may know this too,

I believe it's called AstroTurf because it was created for the Astrodome, which is in Houston, which is where we're recording from right now. And it's like Kleen, everybody just started calling it AstroTurf because of that. But yes, turf, Yeah, we call it Astro in in Europe, but yeah, in America it's maybe like putting turf and natural turf and so it's slight different definition.

But yeah, it was so that, that was one of the, one of the thoughts to run a, an event on that surface would be different. The West Coast is on grass, the US Open is on mainly, so a different you structure to the event with different surface, different location, a slightly different format with the invitational, but really trying to bring everyone together and also feed it through to the wa.

So we've got a win on spot there at the Invitational for, for the following years, wa where people could either use that win on spot to represent their country as an additional person for their country, or they could use it as a wild card, just be there as an individual. So it's down to that individual that wins it. So it's kind of feeding it all through together,

joining everything up, bringing the W into it, and then all feeding back together. So yeah, that was the initial idea. And then the qualification of it was trying to reward those that have, have done well at the, the three opens so that we're trying to bring the best of the best together. It's a long-term goal of the event so that the best in North America come together and we then throw in ability for 50 people living outside of North America could apply to come.

That's sort of just a, a throw out to see whether there was any demand for that. But also, you know, some of the big seminar presenters traveling around maybe in March, April would be in the country. So we'd bring another level of, of quality to the event you wanna call it that. Excellent. All right. I have a couple of questions right off the bat.

Well, and, and a couple of things that I just want to throw out there for our listeners who may not be as familiar with UKI or with the US Open. So the, the West Coast Open, we have a podcast on that. So I'll I will link to that as well because that's a relatively new event and the US Open and the Canadian Open,

as the name implies, those are open events so anybody can go and compete in them. And so I think that's one of the things that really sets this apart is that anybody can go to the open, which is really exciting for people, especially people. It it, like I think of a lot of advanced competitors who have a lot of personal skills and have brought along a lot of dogs and they don't have to kind of wade through all of the opening classes with their young dog who,

who may be extremely skilled. They can just go straight into the open. But this event is, is not that, it's not you, you know, you have to, it's an invite event. So there's a, a big dichotomy there. And then I guess one question that I had when you said that you wanted to do something central and on turf,

so is that for this year or is your thought that it is going to continue to be at this location like year after year after year? We've got a two year deal with the venue, so we're definitely there for 24 and 25, but it's a brand new idea and you know, it's from my experiences running events year one and year two are massive learning potential and where we go with it from 26,

I don't know at this point. Right. Ideally, ideally I would like to keep it on an AstroTurf. So it is a different, it is a different surface so that we, we, you know, we're catering for whatever your preference for Surface. We've got an open event for you kind of idea or big event for you, I should say more than open event.

So yeah, it's definitely there for two years. We'll be looking at feedback, looking at, you know, what people think the signup for this year is, is we've got more dogs, some we can cater to for, so we'll definitely be able to reduce it down with the lottery. And then obviously seeing what the feedback is after this year will be,

will be quite tall I think to to how we structure following years. So 25 will be the same venue, but whether we keep exactly the same format, the same qualifications, that's really up in the air, just just, you know, analyze what happens by the end of, by mid-April, I guess once it's all, all the qualifications that happened and also the events run itself.

So yeah, that's, that's a bit of an open-ended answer to that one, isn't it? It's basically next year we've got a venue booked, but that's about as much as we've got for this, This Point a name and a venue. Right. Well let me, let me summarize the timeline then for myself. So you have the West Coast event,

you've got the US open on the east coast, then you have the Canadian event, and so all of these take place before the new year, right? So the season kind of starts in the fall and winter and then Yeah, that was one of the ideas with this as well, is they, they all happen Canadian Open and the West coast are in September and the US Open,

it's, it named mid-November, but was early November. We've had a change of date of that because of the venue that's a affair coming to the, the venue two weeks before. So we've moved back a week or so. But the idea with this as well is to do it different time of year. We didn't want big event in the middle of a season.

We kind of want the big events at the start of the finish. So that was one of the reasons for sort of March, april time was to get the seasons going. And also one of the ideas with it is that the US and Canadian team got a nice big event to go to before they would go to wa. So that was another idea for this is a sort of five,

six weeks before they're gonna be traveling, they get to run on some of the top judges in the world on, on courses that are gonna be very appropriate to, to what they're gonna face at the world. So it should also hopefully help the, the two national teams just before they travel. Mm, got it. That was gonna be my next question.

How, how, how's the timing compared to wa a o? So you're saying there's about a five or six week? Yeah, it's about a six week build before, so it, for me, from my own experience competing internationally, it's a nice, you've got six weeks, anything goes wrong, you've got a little bit of time to fix it,

but also you can find out where you are, you know, within three or four weeks before you actually need to start tapering down and, and getting ready to travel. So that was some of the idea behind that date as well is definitely to, to, to allow will two will teams to be prepped, so to speak. Gotcha. And also get together and maybe compete together at a big event.

Gotcha. Well let me ask also about the timing relative to Crufts because I know that there's not a lot of competitor overlap, if any at all, but I know that you're like a a an annual fixture at Crust. I can't imagine crufts happening without you being there. So how, where, where's the timing for that? It's pretty close, right?

Yeah, yeah. I got about, I got about three weeks between, so not too bad, not too bad. It's Cruft is always the second Sunday in March, so we're, we're about three weekends later. So yeah. Not, not, it's, it's pretty good for me. Yeah, I mean that, that's obviously also when we bring events,

that's always one of the, the other things we have to look at is what international events are there, what events are we also at, you know, and, and try not to clash too much, but it's just getting more and more difficult now in the world not to clash with something. I mean, that is the huge problem with agility worldwide now is it's opened up,

it's, it's, there are events everywhere and every weekend there are big events, you know, in different opens, especially in Europe now, there's a lot more of these open events that are happening. So yeah, it's, it's, it's a complicated weekend selection nowadays, that's for sure. Right, right. And I think you bring up a very good point that I wanted to talk about a little bit here.

You know, it's both a good and possibly a, a bad thing that agility number one continues to grow, right? So I think that's, that's great. Number two continues to have multiple offerings, right? Different venues, different organizations that gives people more opportunities to show up on a given weekend and compete, you know, something that'll fit their schedule a little better or their personal likes better as far as like what kind of courses they're getting,

you know, what kind of training they need to engage in to qualify for those events. But oh, and it's good that the, the different organizations are pushing each other, right? I I think back to like how we all got rid of the shoot that happened like in a week in a, it was a domino effect and it just went bang,

bang, bang, bang. Right? And I don't think that happens necessarily if the entire agility world is just one organization, right. Or two organizations. But I think when you have this very healthy competition between organizations and you're, you're competing literally for competitors to show up at your, at your events, I think that can be a very healthy and good thing.

Okay. And now we get to the, maybe the, the con part. There are so many things. How is somebody supposed, how is somebody supposed to choose? Oh, I have an answer. Okay, go ahead. You Don't, yeah, I mean, like, like you, you or, or actually you do, you do choose,

like I think we, we have another podcast that I'll put a link to that's one of my favorites that we ever did called Choose Your Own Agility, adventure. And the idea is that, you know, everybody chooses their own path, chooses the things they care about, chooses the events that they wanna be at, and you have to get away from the 20-year-old mentality of I can go to all the big things.

I, you know, I take, you know, four big trips a year and I can go to all the big things. You cannot go to all the big things and you, you ha like, everybody has to become okay with that. And I know that there are people that really struggle with missing something and then when they see everybody else go,

they, you know, they're like, ah, maybe I should have taken vacation and gone to that one. But you just have to realize that you literally cannot do everything right. And the person that you see that went, they're skipping something else to go. And so, you know, I think is just a, a change in mindset that the whole entire community has to go through,

especially people that have had a history of going to, you know, you know, nationals every year for the last 20 years, you know, and now they may have to choose between this national or that national or nationals or an international event that they wanna do or something like that. Right, right. That's interesting. I'll say I agree definitely nowadays.

Yeah. Yeah, there's so much, I mean just, you know, obviously North America's more organizations, but in Europe now where we're getting a lot of sort of big open events that are unaffiliated almost, and they're not, they're not really, they're, they're following kind of similar rules, but they're kind of not really licensed by an organization even so they're getting quite popular as well.

So last week it was Gold Rush Germany, for example, which is, is literally, it's, it's not affiliated to any organization, but it's what those guys want to do. So of course difficulty and all that stuff is, is there that the organizer's a choice. So there's, there's so much more variety coming in and I think it's, it is down to people now is,

I think we found with UKI, post Covid that people are far more, I wanna do the agility I wanna do. And that's, that's kind of where they're going now. They're, they're getting out of their old habits of this is what I've always done. They're actually saying, actually, what do I wanna do? And it's something that we've noticed quite a lot of people talking to us.

It's just like, this is the type of agility we want and that's what we've decided now we're gonna do and we're not gonna do X, Y, Z that we used to do, so. Right. Yeah, I think it's an interesting change of attitude that Covid has caused because of, you know, I think people lost two years and they don't wanna lose any more time.

So they're now gonna focus on actually the agility they want. And it's down to us as organizations, I guess, to put on the agility that we think they want and, and hopefully hit it on the head if we can. Right, absolutely. And we're gonna get back to the invitation in a minute. Okay. 'cause I still have some questions there,

but you've taken us directly to another question that I had for the podcast. So you talked about how these open events in Europe have become very popular. Well, I would say that there's an open event in America that has become very popular too, and that's the US Open. So we just had the US Open and the, the Estevan was there commentating on,

on all of the final events and just the size and scope and number of runs, but also number of individual dogs has grown so much in the, you know, the past four or five years. Yeah. And just kind of back of the envelope, like I'm looking at it as the second biggest national event in the United States. You know, I believe that that is true behind the AKC Nationals and not behind by much.

So can you tell us a little bit about the growth of UKI, especially in the last couple of years and, and the growth of the, the open event the US Open as a national level event that's attracting, you know, all of the best competitors? Yeah, I think I, you know, just referring back to what I said minute ago with,

with Covid, that's something that we certainly found is that people have come outta Covid and they've decided they want UKI style of agility more obviously, you know, behind the organization. This is the type of agility we think it, the way agility going and the way that we're steering it with UKs is, is similar to what's happening in Europe. Challenges are slightly less still in,

in North America, if I'm being honest. You know, I think that similar level of courses we're seen in Europe is a, is another another level. It's, you know, some of the courses that we're currently seeing are, are just, just a brand new level of difficulty that we haven't seen before. But yeah, that, I think since Covid,

we've, we've definitely grown in all aspects of UK from the home trials that we started to get through Covid help people and keep business afloat through covid. Those are still proven extremely popular. They're running every two weeks. They keep growing the number of trials, normal trials we've got has, has grown again las and festivals. And perhaps we've got a great demand for those from trial managers more than,

more than we cope with. So we added the festivals to try and help with with that idea. And yeah, the US Open just, we keep thinking we've, we've hit a maximum and then the next year we grow another 10%. We just keep growing with 10% every year, which is, which is lovely. It's, it's great to see that people are loving the US open.

It's, it's not the easiest thing to run now because it's, it's so many runs to try and get in, in, in the number of days and, and number of rings and, and make that manageable. But yeah, I think we're nearly 1100 dogs this year, which is a, a, a long way from where we started in 2012,

where we had about 25 dogs. So it's a, a massive growth in the 10 years I think. I think it's, it's an event that both Laura and I love. So it's something we're both passionate about, about the event. We, we think it's, you know, it's, it's, I'll call it our baby, but it's kind of,

you know, it's that event that we've really put a lot into, a lot of thought into. We are constantly trying to make it better. We're constantly trying to keep it fresh with new ideas. We brought a team in last year, for example, was a new idea which people might opt into or, or they don't have to. So it was,

it was bringing team was a very love hate thing. Lots of people wanted it, but lots of people didn't want it. So we brought in the idea of, you know, you can do your normal runs, but they count towards a team if you wanna be in a team and they Gitchi into a team final. So those, that hate team doesn't affect 'em at all.

Those that love team, they've now got a team event. So we are always trying to, you know, we we're trying to keep it fresh and look at how we progress. Next year we're gonna try and get all six rings indoors so that we can get away from the November weather, which sometimes is beautiful. And in other times the rain is,

is coming into Florida. So yeah, we're trying to do undercover next year to make it another step forward. We're working on logistics of that at the moment to try and make it work whilst keeping the, what the US open is about, which is the, the, you know, the hundred 40 foot rings and keeping the courses in, in the star that we want the style of the beef,

the event. Yeah, Sarah mentioned, I, I did have the privilege of providing the commentary for the four-legged flicks live stream at the US Open this year, along with Kama Rutenberg. And so Kama and I were able to see, well Kama competed in the event, so I did not compete in, in the event. So she was there for all the preliminary rounds and then for the evening finals.

So the event ran from I think Wednesday through Sunday, is that right? Wednesday through Sunday, and then Thursday through Sunday at, at the end of the day. So Sunday was more, you know, late afternoon, but Thursday, Friday, Saturday, there was like a featured event, right. Whether it was team or the, the biathlon agility round,

right? So there would be something that we were providing commentary on for, for several hours that night, and we got to see all the best teams running. And so one, the competition level is really high. You have a lot of the top handlers here in the United States coming out, you know, the, the Jessica Jus, the Perry DeWitts all showing up with their dogs.

And in talking with competitors, there were several things, and I think Greg has hit on some of them here, that people really like about UKI in general, but the US Open specifically. And a big one is the responsiveness of, of the organization. Right. And I remember your tagline very early, I guess this would be about 10 years ago,

you know, it's an organization for the competitors, you know, by the competitors, right? As opposed to like this big monolithic, you know, kennel club or an organization maybe that also is focused on the registration of dogs or confirmation other dog sports aside from agility rather than being an agility only type sport. Yeah. So I think that's one thing there.

And, and you had already, you, you just mentioned that you're gonna try and move everything indoors because one of the, one of the few complaints that I heard this year about the event, I guess there was a field, one of the fields out there that, you know, it, it's Florida at this time of year, so the weather's a little bit spotty.

And so they had some rain and you know, competitors are always talking about footing and, and, and weather conditions. And so for these finals, it's indoors covered on dirt, beautiful dirt, and they rework the dirt like, like constantly, right? When they break down the course, they're bringing in the, these huge machines and leveling everything again and,

and then rebuilding the course. So I feel like the, the conditions are, are really, really good from what I saw for both the human and the dog. But you're constantly, I, I guess, responding to input from the competitors, right? Yeah. I Mean, yeah, I guess that's key. I mean, that's any business really,

if you're not listening to your, your clients and what they're telling you, you're not gonna survive in the market. So, you know, it's, it's, and the other, I think the other thing is the big thing, the, the, the way we look at UKI as a whole basically is, you know, we're competitors and what would we,

what, what, what would we want as a competitor? What would I want, what do I want this organization to do if I was the person running the dog? And, and this year, I mean, sadly the grass in the, in the Florida venue, the outdoor natural turf, it was, it was beautiful. Before Covid, it was our best rings.

The outdoor rings were, it was this lovely grass that the dogs worked brilliantly on. But now we've moved, two weeks later, the weather's not as good and, and unfortunately the, the addition of the grass has also deteriorated a lot over the last two years. So, you know, that was definitely of this year, as I looked at it,

it was like, well that's, it's not given an even playing field for those guys that were running in the dry at 10 o'clock and it was raining hard at three o'clock and beating against each other. It's, it's not an even playing field now. So that's something that, you know, as a competitor, I would've been, I can see why they're annoyed.

You know, it's, it's, it's part of sport is that the, you know, the environment gets involved, but also there's something that we can do to negate that in future, then I think we should try. So that, that is, that is our next big step for next year is to try to eliminate the weather as a, as a factor to competitors.

So they're all on the same playing field as much as we can get them. Again, One of the big things that I hear, heard from competitors that they love so much about the US Open was that the courses were challenging. So there are a lot of first time competitors there who had never competed at the US Open, but they are regulars at the other big national events,

whether by U-S-D-A-A or the American Kennel Club. They've been to those big events and the courses are so much bigger than they're used to. We're looking at like 250 yards. The course design is much more international, right. At least for the finals. And they really enjoy being challenged. So I think they liked showing up and it was something a a little bit different,

a little bit new, but it was still agility. And then they were like, Hey, you know, yes, I, I struggled on some of these courses. Yes, they weren't all perfect for me, but they liked that because there's some sense of, well, we kind of, we, we kind of know the drill, we know how it runs in these or other organizations.

We kind of have it figured out. And I think people, there's a, a large group of people amongst agility competitors that really like challenges. And so I think the US Open was very attractive to them. You know, the, the everyone that I talked to, they're, they're definitely going to come back if they're able to and, and compete again next year.

Yeah. Having said that, there, there is one thing though, and I've, I heard this from several different people. There was a split between large dog people and small dog people as to yardage and like size of course. Because essentially, and, and I, and I saw this as, as the, as a commentator for the livestream, you would see these courses very,

very well designed courses in my opinion. And there would be one set of challenges for the small dogs. You would start small and then go tall, right? And then as you worked your way up in the heights, those challenges kind of went away. They weren't challenging for the big dogs, but then suddenly new challenges would open up. So that,

I thought that was kind of a genius in design, but e even even have, even given that there were small dog people in particular who were like, Hey, that's a lot of yardage for our small dogs, for dogs running in the four inch, the eight inch. And maybe we need courses that are maybe just a little bit shorter, like,

don't insult us, don't make it easy, but maybe something a little different from the large dogs. Is that a possibility? Is that something that you can be headed for? Or, or the logistics of such a big event simply too, too tight, too demanding to, to accommodate that? Yeah, I mean that's, it's, it's one of the ideas we've been throwing around and I'm not sure we're gonna try it just yet,

but it is an idea in the head about how a can to judge design a course where there's two sets of numbers on it and then we can, you know, and it might not, maybe all the obstacles aren't used between the two. So there's some obstacles come in and out so that you can keep the, you know, the, the, we we're already working a pretty long schedule at us Open mean the,

the, the crew that are working the event. We, we we're in the arenas at half four in the morning. We're, we're kind of getting out at 11 o'clock at night. So we're doing sort of 20 hour days on in the arenas anyway, so we're kind of at a maximum time with that. So we, if we, we are to look at different courses,

it needs to be in a way that we don't add time to the event just because there isn't time right. On that one. So there is that idea that, I mean, certainly this year we brought in a couple of judges that people, you know, we, we try and bring in judges that people are called in for. So this year Thomas,

Trey came, came in from, from Hungary for us, he's probably, if not the best judge, one of the top five best judges in the world or his reputation is that it's your opinion on, on what makes a great judge. But, you know, I certainly think he's one of the, one of the best judges we've got in the world,

but his, his course design is, is challenging, but it's, it's also big. So people, you know, people called for Thomas, we brought in Thomas and Thomas built big courses. You give him some space, he's gonna run with it. Yeah. It was also, you know, you kind of wanted say to people where you wanted Thomas,

now you've had Thomas, do you want 'em again? Sort of thing. So, and I think some do and, and there are other people that maybe felt the course of this year got a little bit too big. So that is certainly something that we are looking at and discussing with the judges and, and, and maybe trying to have a little bit of variation.

I think a lot of our courses this year, were all technically tough as well as big. And so maybe we need to, over the whole event is looking at, well that particular class maybe just be a little bit tighter and that particular class may be a bit harder and you know, for example, make the master's difficult international level, but make the,

we've just got a one out standoff fragility class, which is just kind of like a warmup run or maybe that should be more of a feelgood, if you wanna call it feelgood signer of course. So that, that we we're discussing those kind of things about whether we should be maybe saying to specific judges, this class, this is what we want. We want it a little bit easier,

we want this one a little bit harder. This one you've got the space probably because we're gonna bring the six rings indoors next year for the classes throughout the day. They're all gonna be squished a little bit there. You know, those, those, those ring sizes are coming down from a one 40 foot square to a one 40 by 90. So it's gonna change the shape for those.

But the important thing for me is that we've, they've still got that variety. We've got the evening events where we can then go back to one big ring for the evening. So again, whatever your preference, you're gonna be challenged in different ways. You know, in the days they might be slightly different just with a long thin course you're gonna get different type of course designed to a big square course,

you know, and that's one of the big difference with the FCI agility for example. They're always long within arenas that they run. So you get a very different start of course to the Great Britain and probably North America, which traditionally we have a square. So I think, I think by what we are doing with bringing indoors, we are gonna bring in a bit more variety to our course design,

which I also think helps them make sure everyone's tested. You can't just be good at big, you've gotta be good at technical and you can't just be good at technical. You've got, so we're actually gonna be testing the dogs and handlers on a variety of more skills. I think next year obviously that's gonna play out and we'll see. But that's my initial thought is what we're doing is not only to sort the weather out,

but it might also, so a couple of the other little, little grapes that we had about this's got too big and we can maybe discuss that with judges as well. Course design is such a difficult one when you're talking about an event, it's, it's how much do you get involved with the judge? How much do you control them? How much do you give them free reign?

Especially some of the international judges that, you know, they're not, they're not in American agility, so they come in once or twice a year design something can disappear so they don't see the standard week in, week out. So that's also difficult whether you, you know, you get involved, but then people want these international judges because of the designs that they see on Facebook,

right? So you also Absolutely, you don't wanna, you don't wanna control 'em too much. So it's, it's always such a difficult balance. And I think some courses we got right this year and a couple of courses possibly got a little bit too technical and people struggled to clear round rate got really low on a couple or under 5%. So that's,

that's probably something we, we've wanted just a bit above 5% clear round ratio because it's not getting a competition nearly, especially it's a cumulative runs where you've got two together. Mm. Yeah, you want double That's good point. You want, you want a double clear on, on the first place podium. You don't want a, you don't want somebody that's at fault.

So it's a, it's such a difficult balance, but you also wanna progress North American agility. You don't wanna control the judges. Exactly. I was just going to say that it's, people are going to get better, they're going to have gotten Yeah. Destroyed here and they're gonna spend the next year getting ready for the next one and yeah, exactly.

Teaching Themselves the challenges that they need to be successful. Yeah. Yeah, I think we just need that variety maybe a little bit, maybe just a couple of the, that the lower level classes are actually designed lower level maybe, or not lower level, but not, you know, not a world cut level. It's, you know, maybe just a,

a high national level. Right. It's kind of balancing it like that a little bit. Whereas I think a lot of our courses this year, they were all international level, right. So yeah. Thoughts and its discussions so I know, so interesting. So I have one more UKI open question unless it's not the last last one unless it's not the last one.

So do you, are you already thinking ahead to a time when you like, well first I should say, are there limits on the who can i, I know that there's no limits on who can go to the US Open, but are there caps on the number that could go to the US Open right now? Yeah, that's, that's what we don't wanna do,

right? If I'm, you know, we, we really want the US open to be open. So if you've, you know, UKI competitors with us competing out, they can get their buys so they can progress into further rounds later rounds. You know, for example, the national final is three rounds, round one, round two and round three,

if you win a cup, you go straight into the final. So you, you bypass the first two rounds and if you have certain number of clear rounds each year, you can go into round two. But we want that, that anybody in the world can turn up and enter round one and running that, that event. So it doesn't matter what you've done previously,

you can turn up, enter and you can be in the competition. So that is a goal at this moment, you know, how, how big the event gets. I guess if we keep growing we need to start looking at more rings. I mean now that we've gone six indoors, potentially if we grow again way bigger, we could go back to the two outdoors and go back to eight rings for five days.

You know, it's, there's, there's there's scope at the, the venue. You know, personally, I, I love the venue. It's a really easy venue to manage and they've got a great team on site. So you, you mentioned the tractors, you know, some of these venues, if you don't have groundsmen that are immediately ready to drive a tractor when you need them to,

to get that arena ready in right six minutes, it, it can be an absolute nightmare. And the guys at Jacksonville are brilliant. They sit waiting for half an hour before I want them in, in a tractor. So the minute I, I put my hand up, they drive into the arena and they get it ready and they're a brilliant team there.

So that's just one of the reasons it's, it's, it's a venue that works really well because it's got also a limited RV spots, not just, maybe not all have power or facilities, but they will allow any number of RVs. So again, we're not restricted with that. And so many other events, they have X number of RVs and that's it.

And that does control your number, which, so there's lots of benefits and there's lots of disadvantages with all venues. But yeah, long term we don't wanna cap it whether we have to or whether we have to put some form of more qualification onto the lower rounds. You know, once you start getting to the size of a British event with 23 rings,

we won't be able to run it in the star that we like, you know, so with with the, you know, everyone being treated the same with strict running orders, there's a certain size of our rings where that starts to become absolutely impossible to do so. Right, right. Yeah, it's kind of funny how, how your perspective coming from from Europe,

you're like, I mean yeah six rings is a lot, but you know, it's not 20 and we're like, we've never even six that we can't Yeah, we can't even Imagine. Yeah, I mean it's the, the obviously we, we, we run the opens differently, you know, the, the the 20 ring events in, in Great Britain,

you know that it's all different classes. It's not strict running order, you know, it's an open course walk in the morning for everybody gets an hour and you just go to wherever ring you're in. And so it's, it's a very, I don't wanna say unorganized, but it's completely different organized way. Right. It's run. Whereas, whereas with strict running orders and everyone gets exactly the same course walking time,

so it's completely fair, but everyone's in every event obviously. So it's, it's a very different, so yeah, I think we can probably go to, we can run eight rings on this system quite easily. We've done that before, eight rings for five days. It's just a, it's a long of days or so. Yeah, I bet it's more judges,

more, more ring crew, more everything, you know, more, more for four-legged flick for example, you know, the more cameras he has to get involved, it's everything grows and becomes more problematic once you start. But yeah, but the, the short answer is we, we, we definitely wanna where we possibly can is keep it an open event.

Alright, Excellent. Alright, so back to the invitational. Okay, so, so is there, so there's a set of competitors that are invited based on their performance at the West Open, the Open and the Canadian Open. Is that a, a set group? Like can you go to the US Open and then know after your run or you know,

after the end of the class I just made it into the Invitational or like how, how, how defined is the invitation process? Yeah, so the, the system we used this year, it's sort of got a little bit mathematical, but we basically decided that we'd have four 50 dogs could win their way in so that you, you win your way by place.

So what we did from 22, we added up all the number of dogs that were at the Canadian, the West coast and the US Open and worked out the percentage at each each event. Okay. And then divided that four 50 number by that percentage. So for example, from the Canadian Open 70 dogs were gonna get invited from the west coast, it was 90 and from the US Open,

which is much bigger, there was 290 dogs being invited. Oh. And then we picked four events from each of those and we divided those spots between the heights and between those four events. So pretty much, yeah, we announced before the event what you had to do to guarantee a spot at the invitational. So when you stood on the podium you basically got the invitation letter.

So that was all, all sorted. So yeah, everyone leaving the open, the three opens would've known Yes, I've definitely got a spot, or no I haven't. And then obviously from that we, the thing that we opened up was a, a seated lottery, so those that then didn't get the automatic pace everyone can apply to, to come to the event.

And then you basically, from your results from the open, you are in a certain group. So even people that got a hundred percent eliminated, they would be in the bottom group to the people that were just outside of the qualifying places that were in the, in the top groups. And then this year we've opened up a group which is, I have no results,

so I didn't go to an open, be it a young dog, be it a dog that'd been, you know, off injured, be it just people, you know, life got in the way and they didn't make the open this year or one of the opens. So we've got that last group that is a, I have no results, but I'd like to come sort of thing.

So the idea is gonna be that what we have found out, which we kind of thought would happen, but it's actually a percentage, nearly half of those have been worn by a double dog. That makes sense. So eight dogs won two spaces. So we've got a huge, a much bigger number going into the lottery than we, we really anticipated.

I thought about 20, 30% maybe would get two spots, but it's pretty much, most dogs have got two spots that's, that's decreased the number of automatic win ons as in number of dogs, but massively increased the lottery that we've got. So the lottery's still open. We, we, we don't close for another few days, but we've already got more dogs in that than we've got spaces for.

So we're still gonna have to go to a lottery. And the idea is that, you know, we work our way down the groups until actually there's 2 million in that group, the number of spaces we got and that's where it becomes a lottery. So we've, if there's, Sorry. So I, I was gonna rephrase that and tell, tell me if I'm understanding you correctly.

So there you've got these groups, lottery groups based on pla on placements at the big events and so that's like A, B and C or whatever. And so you'll take all if, if you can accommodate all the A's you'll take all of them. Correct. And then if you can only accommodate some of the B'S, then it'll be completely random among the B'S.

So you won't get all the way down to the I have no results unless there's enough. Unless you have already taken all the A, BS, css ds and then you finally get down there, right? Yeah, basically we just keep, we, we keep taking the whole group until there's a point where actually there's more in this last group, then we've got spots for,

and at that point it'll just be a completely random draw from that pot of people. Oh, so, so the, the, the idea is, the theoretical idea was that we would have all the best dogs, right? So that, that, that's really the idea. Is that the best of the best at, at getting it running at this event?

So, and, and they proved it. You for now, I think probably because of the number of dogs that won double spaces, there's a very good chance we are gonna get down to dogs that may have not, you know, they haven't got results. So there'll be some young dogs getting there, which I, which I think is quite nice in one way.

'cause you know, there's certainly young dogs that might be, you know, two and a half by March, but we're just too at the, the open and you know, we're, we're, we're too young, we need to compete at that level. But that six months time, you know, you can see quite a big jump in, in,

in dogs' improvement in that time. So that could be quite nice to see we, we get some nice young dogs coming through as well. And that could be then an idea. We look at the future that is maybe we have a young dog lottery group that, you know, we take 30 young dogs that, you know, didn't manage to run open but are two and a half years old or whatever.

And, and, and and, and they want their first exposure at a big international event like this. So there's all sorts of ideas for the future to look at and how the numbers worked. But I said yeah, one, one thing we've definitely learned is that the, the good dogs win multiple spots. So that, that's something for us to analyze and look at whether we wanna keep it the same or whether we,

we didn't do any rolldown or went on, so if if somebody won a spot it didn't move down and they'd already got one just because we felt that would be a, a logistical nightmare to manage as well. But that might be something we do have to look at the rolldown effect, but the lottery should really Sort and it does that. Yeah, Yeah.

So that, that was our thought that we don't need to roll down because the lottery will roll them down because they'll be in the top group, the people that just missed out, they're in the top group anyway, so they're likely to get called in first. So Yeah, very Interesting. Yeah, it's, it is all, you know, it is all a theoretical idea of a glass of wine and,

and then Right. How it sort of expands and how we can actually manage that and, and the idea we came up with and you know, and who's to say that's the right way? We might find that actually next year it's, we need to look at a completely different way, but at this point I think it's, we are gonna, it's gonna achieve what we were looking for as in the number of dogs and also the best dogs that wanted to come will be there.

So. And so this event, I was kind of reading between the lines on some stuff you said earlier about wanting it to be on turf. So I'm assuming that you just can't, like, you can't find an eight ring turf venue, right? So it, the, the idea that you want it to be on turf is going to limit your venues and is going to limit your size,

right? Yeah, so we've got a, it's in can, it's an indoor soccer, which gives us four nice size rings, so I think they're one 50 by 100. So they, they're all really good size rings. We, you know, we want this event to be international style definitely. So, you know, the courses and, and everything about it.

So obviously we needed those size rings, we didn't wanna go down to smaller rings. So yeah, there's, there's venues we, we were looking at where there was potentially outdoor AstroTurf arenas as well being being quite blunt. Some of them were just getting way outside of the agility price leak once we started look for eight ring astro turf, you know, venues that are that size arena,

you know, is just, that's just not happening for double agility. So yeah, we found this place. I haven't personally been there, but we've had to get guys go there for us and and, and check it out and everything and, but it looks beautiful so I'm excited for it. But yeah, that's why we've had the limit to 600 dogs and that's also something we've learned this year.

Is 600 the right number, can we get in more, can we get in less so with everybody does every run. So, you know, it's each, each ring has to, or each class has to do 600 runs, so we, you know, it's managing that in a day basically. So you class run in a day. So I I think possibly we can expand in the future,

maybe make it a little bit bigger. My brain tells me from my other events that we can probably run more than 600, but we, I just want this year just to make sure that, you know, we actually can, so we, we've played a little bit saved by going 600. Right. All right, maybe the last question here we'll see.

Right, and that is, so will you be sure to announce, so I know that you said there's a massive learning that you're gonna have have happen when you actually run your first event, but will you figure out what changes you wanna make before the first of the three opens? Absolutely. So that people know Absolutely. Yeah, Yeah, yeah. My anyone that knows me knows that next year's us Open is always,

and we, we, we pretty much do it fresh so that everything's fresh in our brain and once we finish, because otherwise you roll on for the next event that we run. And when my next event, I've got two or three big ones in February, March early, so the US Open, we wanted to brain dump now put all the ideas together and that's what we'll do after that one.

It'll be probably by the start of May before WA starts, we'll have decided how the want TTC will work next year, the invitation next year. So yeah, I mean already we're looking at the numbers of of, of who's applied and who won double spots and where they won those double spots. So we've already started that analysis. But yeah, most definitely before they enter the Canadian Open,

the rules for next year's invitational will be out so that everybody knows where they stand and you know, it'll definitely be the results in those three opens anyway. And cups and classics, we, we've actually, the winners of the cups and the classics have actually got into a group seeded group as well so that we'll keep the same events definitely for the following year so that everybody knows they need to target those events.

But yes, the numbers we take from those events might vary, but again, they'll definitely know before we, before entries open for those opens, right? So that everyone is fair for everybody to know what they're getting involved in. Perfect. Alright, well thank you so much. I'm excited about how much we got to go into both events, the US Open and the Invitational.

I think there's a lot of exciting stuff going on there and we're looking forward to seeing how this all shakes out in the spring for the Invitational. So thank you so much for joining us. Thanks having me. Thanks for, for questions. Good questions and hopefully, you know, people's interest in, in what they're doing. So even if they don't come along this year,

they, they get to watch it on four-legged flick and, and you can see what we're doing and, and also, you know, just, you know, those that are coming along, you know, we always welcome your feedback on the event. So especially on a, on a brand new event, you know, we will be wanting people feedback to us what they thought on the process of getting there,

but also the event itself. So. Alright. Perfect. And that's it for this week's podcast. We'd like to thank our sponsor, hit aboard.com. Happy training. I.

Thank You for Listening!

Thanks so much for joining us this week.

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