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USDAA President Kenneth Tatsch takes a look back on Keystone Agility Club's early years, and more.


The road to Cynosport® 2015 ramped up this month with the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic Regionals, and the Rocky Mountain Regional soon to follow. Canine Capers hosted the largest ever regional in the southeast with more than 400 competitors and 4,000 rounds of competition, Keystone Agility Club held the Mid-Atlantic Regional while celebrating its 25th anniversary in a big way, and Wasatch Agility of Utah has received large entry for the Rocky Mountain Regional this coming weekend. 

Keystone Agility Club is one of a number of USDAA groups celebrating their 25th anniversary this year. KAC has a unique history. The role played by Keystone founder Alaina Axford-Moore (just 23 years of age at the time) in the mid-Atlantic region in the early 1990s proved to be an important part of USDAAs history.

Anita Weiss, President of KAC, holds a crystal plaque commemorating 25 years with USDAA. Club founder Alaina Axford-Moore is fifth from the left on the front row.

Having been a finalist in the second Grand Prix of Dog Agility® championships in 1989, Alaina was asked to help by providing equipment and participating on a national team for conducting dog agility demonstrations at a series of equestrian events in and around the Philadelphia area. Alaina took on the challenge, and with the help of her father, built her first set of equipment. Her participation at the Radnor Hunt Three-Day Event in October 1989, along with a little prodding, would lead her to start Keystone Agility Club the following year. A true pioneer in the sport, Alaina earned the first USDAA Agility Dog® title in May 1990 with her Portuguese Water Dog Cooper.

The story doesn't stop there. From 1989 to 1992, Alaina served as part of the core USDAA national demonstration team sponsored by Pedigree® Food for Dogs, visiting more than 15 major equestrian shows up and down the east coast, as well as westward. Through these opportunities, USDAA forged relationships with leaders in equestrian sport.

Volunteer team member assists a public handler and dog between USDAA national team demonstrations.
Why is this relevant? Aside from reminiscing about the good times, it showed that dog agility sport could stand on its own outside the age-old framework of the dog world. This period of USDAA history had great influence on USDAA programs and more specifically, its tournaments. These opened doors into the equestrian world would ultimately lead to a three-year run of the Grand Prix of Dog Agility® Championships at the KeyBank Hunter Jumper Classic in Cleveland, Ohio, from 1997-1999. It also led to the development of the Dog Agility Masters® Team event and the Dog Agility Steeplechase® tournaments, both derivatives of equestrian concepts developed during this time. 

The Team and Steeplechase championships were actually held at the Fair Hill International Three-day Event and Driving Championships for almost 10 years before formation of the Cynosport® World Games, when all USDAA tournament finals were brought together in 2003. The development of the Spring Festival of Dog Agility® at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event was also a derivative of this era, and the Dog Agility Steeplechase tournament, incidentally, was originally designed to entertain the stadium jumping crowd at the Three-Day Event. Regrettably, due to space and cost issues, the Spring Festival was discontinued after several years, but the tournaments gained popularity and continue to this day as part of the focal point of USDAA programs.

Demonstration Team at the 1991 Essex Horse Trials. Handlers, left to right: Hazel Thompson, Alaina Axford, Elizabeth Blanchard, Kenneth Tatsch, Laura Yarbrough, Beverly Franklin and J.C. Thompson. Dogs left to right: Rick Rack, Cooper, Duncan, Cody, Buccee and Robby. Over the years, many top dogs and handlers participated on the national demonstration team.

USDAA's titling program has taken shape in a similar fashion, not only recognizing individual class titles, but versatility titles that reflect the "eventing" nature of the sport practiced by USDAA enthusiasts today. 

Attention from cable television, which telecast USDAA competitions from 1999-2001, was certainly a by-product of these activities. This helped to propel the sport into the limelight for the general public, resulting in tremendous growth over the ensuing decade. 

USDAA thanks Alaina and the Keystone Agility Club, along with all the other clubs that have offered USDAA agility for so many years, for the great memorable moments and for their continued support. 

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