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USDAA News and OVERview Newsletter

A letter by USDAA President Kenneth Tatsch and update on the recent Board of Directors meeting, as well as a link to our January newsletter. 

The sport of agility is defined in part by the obstacles and what they represent in demonstrating the agility of dogs. By its physical nature, there are inherent risks. Thankfully, the sport's innovators got it largely right with the obstacles when it comes to safety, and historically, our incident of injury has been quite low compared to other sports. Nonetheless, we must continue to monitor performance rules and equipment specifications with safety in mind as the sport evolves.

In the past year, we've seen a new type of injury involving hurdles, the most prevalent of obstacles on the course. A number of incidents have occurred where dogs have been cut while jumping a hurdle, from leg injuries and belly scrapes to eye injuries. Fortunately, we have not had any crippling injuries reported, but action is needed to assure that there are none. Why has it happened? Some have suggested the increasing use of tighter and more controlled elements in courses that encourage precision of placement and movement around hurdles, while others have blamed the metal jumps themselves. The reality is that the course elements have simply identified a condition that already existed, and the attack on metal alone as a construction material would appear to be unjustified. When it comes to hurdles and jumps, there are a great many other factors worthy of scrutiny, and a cautious eye by purchasers and manufacturers of equipment is the first line of defense.
At the USDAA Competition Rules Advisory Board meeting earlier this month, much time was spent discussing details of obstacle construction, with focus on hurdles and jumps. No one element was identified as defining safety. The issues span a wide range of attributes in construction of a hurdle, including displacement force for poles and wings, attributes of pole supports or "cups," such as size, thickness, shape, material, and depth, and pole or rail attributes, such as length, diameter, and material (including its density). Whether all of these attributes need detailed specifications remains to be determined. Taking a measure of displacement force and translating that to cup and pole attributes is a likely direction for establishing better specifications for hurdles and jumps.
In the short-term, groups, trainers and manufacturers should be alerted to more critically evaluate construction of their hurdles for sharp edges and unnecessary protrusions that when hit by a dog with (or without) speed, could cause injury. The use of single jump cups removes any protrusions above or below bars that are set, and obviously reduces the likelihood of impact with a cup. Having wings that are not coupled with ground poles, and having wings with sufficient (but not excessive) weight so that they do not need to be anchored to the ground are other measures that need to be considered. Where thin metal or plastic cups are used (which may act like knives when hit), measures should be taken to replace them, coat them with rubber, or otherwise modify them to eliminate the potential risk. This type of review should extend to other obstacles as well and should be done periodically to ensure that obstacles remain in a good state of repair.
In the longer term, the Board is drafting new regulations that should address construction concerns (they are below, along with other potential changes). David Hanson, a long time judge with background in engineering, has agreed to work with the Board in drafting additional specifications where safety may be impacted by construction. Anyone else with an engineering background who would like to work on this project is welcome to contact the USDAA office.

This most recent series of events highlights the importance of competitors sending in Injury Reports on incidents when they occur, whether at an event or in training. A form for this purpose is available online in the Forms & Documents Library.
As the 2013 competition season gets underway, I wish everyone a safe, exciting, and successful new year.


A number of regulations for tournament consideration and other decisions related to equipment specifications have either been decided or are in the works for 2013, with final regulations to be published later this year.

The 2013 IFCS Championship of the Americas eligibility requirements were modified to require four of five criteria to be met for entry. As modified, the regulations provide:

To be eligible for entry, a competitor must meet FOUR of the FIVE requirements as indicated below in events held during the period beginning October 1, 2012, and ending March 20, 2013.

Grand Prix of Dog Agility® (Local or Regional Round 1)1 Qualification
Jumpers Titling2 Qualifications in Masters or
1 Qualification in Masters Challenge

Standard Agility Titling

2 Qualifications in Masters or
1 Qualification in Masters Challenge
Snooker Titling 1 Super Q in Masters

Gamblers Titling

1 Qualification in Masters

IFCS regulations have been amended to include weave poles with 60cm spacing (approximately 24") when measured from the center of one pole to the center of the next. This spacing will also be used at the 2013 Cynosport World Games.

The Competition Rules Board has outlined a process for which specifications on equipment may be field tested, as the Board seeks to better define specifications for the obstacles. Specifications on key elements of all obstacles are to be outlined and presented in the regulations with diagrams and text, to adequately describe the characteristics of each obstacle for performance and safety. The Board's goal is to have a complete list of specifications in place by the end of 2013 so that manufacturers have more detailed guidance when designing equipment.

Approved for field testing is a bright orange color for use on contact zones, in place of yellow. In deciding to permit field testing, the Board recognizes that white is unacceptable due to the potential for glare in certain lighting conditions. The Board noted that the contact color must be a significant contrast to the color of the ramps, and consideration to color formulas is being made. The Board's field testing procedures generally require that

1.alternative obstacles meeting specifications be available should the judge deem the obstacle to be problematic or otherwise unacceptable,
2.they be approved in advance,
3.they be announced in the test schedule, and
4.a report and video (when appropriate) shall be submitted following each event in which the test is conducted.

A field test is also under consideration for a pipe tunnel with 6" pitch, using a heavier fabric that does not sag. Also on the horizon are a complete set of jump and hurdle specifications, to address safety and to introduce some standardization into the construction of these obstacles. Under review is the displacement force to be required on poles and wings,a 36" minimum height of the pole support portion of the wing, and the weight and density of poles, as well as the design of cups using different materials. Also being tightened will be the regulations on the length of poles, which in 2011 was required that a majority of poles be a minimum of 54". This is to become the minimum standard in the near future, with 5' poles encouraged on spread hurdles, which also must be winged.

Another field test has been approved on use of a 3/16" deep jump cup with width less than the diameter of the bar. Other specifications are necessary to fully outline the characteristics of a proper hurdle, including the jump cup. The Board is anticipating a 3-5 year implementation period once final regulations have been established. Along with the specifications will be a refinement in jump heights to better balance the playing field. Announcements are expected no later than July 1 this year.

Modifications will be forthcoming in the Intro Program by mid-year as well, providing organizers of Intro Program events more flexibility in selection of the obstacles in the Intro course to suit the needs of their training programs and competitors in their areas.

A new tournament is being introduced to the Cynosport World Games in 2013the Masters Challenge Biathlon, consisting of cumulative scoring through two rounds, one in jumping and one in standard, featuring the elements of the Masters Challenge. The events are to be seen this year at the Regional Championships leading up to the finals at the Cynosport World Games. Qualification for entry is provided on in the forms & documents library. Also, Masters Challenge titling classes are now open to competitors at all levels.

Finally, to be introduced this year will be the Lifetime Achievement Diamond Level Award, featuring 100 qualifications in each of the five core classes, with a total of 1,000 qualifications overall. The award will be first awarded at the 2013 Cynosport World Games. Those who have previously met these standards will receive the award.

This info and more articles are available in the January 2013 edition of the OVERview, the official newsletter of USDAA. Click here to read it!



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