USDAA Announces Expert Classes
By Brenna Fender
On April 1, 2011, the United States Agility Association released its new rulebook, which included many changes as well as new options. One such option are the new Expert classes, which will begin running in January 1, 2012.
The Expert program is based in part on the International Handlers Challenge (IHC) classes that are being run in 2011 as part of the IFCS world team qualification process. (USDAA/USA sends a team to this world championship event which occurs every two years. The 2012 IFCS World Agility Championships will be held in Fort Worth, Texas, on May 11-13, 2012, in the United States for the first time.) According to chapter 12 of the new rulebook, “The Expert level classes are designed to challenge competitors working toward their Champion titles in Standard and Jumping in the Performance or Championship Programs. Challenges in these classes can be found in high-level domestic and international tournament competition, which can vary greatly. Courses may include a combination of technical challenges along with shifts in speed to affect an efficient course path through a sequence of successive directional changes or other challenges as compared with the more fluid style course seen at the Masters level or Performance Level III.”
Expert classes are open to competitors with dogs that have completed the Masters level or Level III in the Performance program. Dogs entered in Expert classes may continue to enter in Masters or Level III classes as well.
The new classes offer the following titles: Standard Agility Expert Champion and Jumpers Expert Champion for the Championship program, and Performance Standard Agility Expert Champion and Performance Jumpers Expert Champion for Performance competitors. Qualifications in the Expert classes are accrued for Lifetime Achievement Awards and competitive placements accumulate points for annual ranking for Agility Top Ten and Performance Top Ten.
Expert courses will be designed using the same minimum obstacle standards necessary in Masters and Level III courses, but the table is not required and use of the long jump and viaduct is strongly encouraged. Combinations are also permitted (a combination is a segment of a course in which two or more obstacles are to be performed and scored as a single obstacle). Course design will have greater variance in spacing and more challenges than seen in the Masters/Level III program classes.
USDAA has added this new program (and another called the Intro Program) to help serve the interests of a variety of different agility competitors. President Kenneth Tatsch says, “USDAA has always strived to maintain the highest standards and to recognize that agility is different things for different people. Our goals at USDAA have been to offer a variety of programs, each with different emphasis in competition to meet the demands of different dog enthusiasts. The Expert classes are being offered to respond to the need of those seeking to go in a different direction that demands more exacting control with higher rates of speed as is seen in some countries. We do not view this as a movement in that direction, but rather as an alternative for those wishing to explore those challenges. By contrast, the Intro Program has been added to help measure progress in training for newcomers and to provide stepping stones to the regular programs (Championship and Performance).”