05 August 2013

Not EO related - jump heights - big sigh

Hi there. You're probably sick and tired of it already (if you live in the USA), but I wanted to at least give an opinion on USDAA's jump height "changes" (additions, really).

So here is what the regular jump heights in the USDAA used to be:
(all inches to cm conversions are approximate, not exact)

Dogs under 12" jump 12" (30cm.
Dogs between 12 and 16" jump 16" (40cm).
Dogs from 16" to 21" (40 to 53cm) jump 22" (55cm)
and dogs over 21" (53cm) jump 26" (65cm).

In the USA we have no "range of heights" as FCI does - you can never enter 26" at a show and when you show up the jumps are set at 22 or 24". This is not allowed. Every single jump is always at 26", with a 24" (60cm) tall table, a 60" long/broad jump (152cm), and occasionally the large spread jump (up to 24"/60cm wide, I think).

So in general, I don't have a big problem with those heights. But for some classes of dogs, these are unreasonably difficult. Now Europeans will say "wait a minute, those are already much easier than we have in FCI". And they will be correct. However, USDAA is not FCI, is not based on FCI, and has a very extensive program of collecting titles, many classes in which to run to collect titles and compete in at the National event. USDAA touts themselves as being agility for all, for fun, while still containing challenges. Just as there is a move in Europe to add a "4th height" (probably 55cm), we here in the USA are pushing to change our current heights.

I would have loved to have seen the heights shift to 10" (25cm), 14" (35cm), 18" (45cm), and keep 22" and 26". This will not happen though. Why? Because USDAA stubbornly refuses to allow ANY dog of ANY height or body type to jump below their shoulder height. Even if that dog is a corgi, or a Rottweiler. Those dogs must jump in the "Performance" program, which is the 2nd string program for dogs who can't jump full height. Most people use "Performance" for dogs who are aging, and so often times people who move younger dogs into it get funny looks and talked about negatively (been there, done that).

Here's what I would have liked to see as jump heights, personally.
10" jump height - cutoff of 11"
14" jump height - cutoff of 15"
18" jump height - cutoff of 18.5"
22" jump height, cutoff of 22"
26" jump height - dogs over 22"

Why? Because dogs under 11" already jump 8" in AKC, and to me that seems like a nice cutoff, it breaks the really small ones away from the slightly larger small ones.
I would put the 14" cutoff at 15" because I think the 14-15" tall dogs look a bit rough at 18" (from watching FCI) and I'd like to give them a shorter option. Dogs who are trying out for FCI events will probably choose to jump 18" anyway. The cutoff for 18" I would make fairly high, at 18.5", because it is MY opinion that all the border collies I see at about 18.5" and under are usually squat, squarely built dogs, and often they struggle at 22". I would happily also keep the cutoff at 18" here, though. For 22", I think the current cutoff needs to go up to 22". Why are the 21-22" dogs the ONLY height of dogs who have to jump 2 heights over their shoulder? I think that class of dogs often looks uncomfortable being forced to do 26". Leave 26" for truly tall dogs, and it will be always filled anyway with dogs who are trying out for the various WAO, EO, FCI world teams.

This scheme will, of course, NEVER take off! Why? Because of course the 11-12" and 15-16" tall dogs are being asked to jump a little higher, and the complaints would go crazy. This scheme probably would have been a great height scheme if we hadn't already established the 12/16" cutoffs as they are currently..... so here's a thought. Keep the same cutoffs. Be generous! Very generous! with jump heights.
10" cutoff 12"
14" cutoff 16"
18" cutoff 19"
22" cutoff 22"
26" dogs over 22"

of course, now you have LOTS of dogs jumping less than their shoulder height! Oh no!!! This would be almost like having those horrible non-athletic Performance dogs (like, say, my Kiba??) running in the Championship program!

So what HAS the USDAA actually done? Well of course they added weird little extra heights into their program. So now instead of 12/16/22/26, which at least is simple, they have 12/14/16/18/22/26, where you have these tiny little slices of dog heights in each one until you get to 22, and where 14/16 competes with each other and so does 18/22. That's just such an outrageously bizarre solution that it defies logic for me. Why anyone would think this is a great idea..... not to mention the ridiculous cutoff for 18" is 17.5", like a slap in the face to all 18" tall dogs who are already running in Performance 16". And instead of raising the cutoff for 22", which would logically solve the issue of 21-22" tall dogs having to still jump 22" in Performance, they've changed the Performance height to 20"... so there is now a THIRD jump height to be added to the jump wings, for just Performance. Meanwhile Performance dogs do not even get to jump 14 or 18 at all, and the tiny dogs continue to get nothing. A ridiculously complex and quite empty-seeming solution that pleases about 1 in 80 people I've seen on Facebook so far. Yes, USDAA changed SOMETHING but it really has the feel of a bit of a spiteful "well you wanted change, so here, take this" to it, rather than "oh yes, we're listening, this is what everyone wants".

OK, rant closed ;) Here is Kiba enjoying the lovely cool weather on the porch yesterday! She is apparently unaffected by the jump height change, and even if I managed to get her remeasured to say she is under 17.5", and ran her in Championship, she would still have to get on a 24" table, go over the 5'10" aframe, jump very large spreads, and compete against dogs who are Strafe's size.

Of course you can never make EVERYONE happy, and there will ALWAYS be dogs at the bottom of the jump height cutoff complaining about the dogs at the top of it, but with how difficult and challenging the courses are becoming, and a program structured on collecting clear runs and titles that encourage a massive amount of showing (Top Ten, Lifetime Achievement, etc), is it so much to ask for fair jump height cutoffs?

These dogs are NOT the same size.


Anonymous said...

I have several 18-18.5" BCs who do quite well over 22". Also know several of their littermates who also do quite well over 22". The working lines I get my BCs from tend to produce very athletic dogs. I don't think most of the handlers with dogs in the current 16" class would like to see a large influx of BCs.

Rosanne said...

so... YOUR dogs are fine, therefore the jump heights are fine? I see that argument all the time. It doesn't make sense. What about the non-athletic dogs of that height? What about the 18" dogs with jumping issues?

I strongly oppose splitting heights according to breed. It's a sport. Fastest dog wins. That doesn't mean other dogs the same height shouldn't get a fair shake at jump heights. Just because my BC is 17.75" shouldn't keep a 17.75" tall sheltie from jumping an appropriate height.

MJ Smink said...

Your comments are all very astute! First, this stubbornness in USDAA about ANY dog getting to jump below shoulder height, as well as the fact that changes that would make dogs that have all the advantages now switch to no longer being at the top of their height class makes for lots of (unjustified IMO) complaining. These are indeed the biggest forces that continue to make USDAA particularly unfriendly for small dogs

Anonymous said...

No, wasn't making that claim at all, just providing more information in regard to your comment that every 18" BC is a certain way. ;)

Rosanne said...

ok so MOST 18" tall border collie I see are fairly square, and while MOST are also capable of jumping 22" for a while, I think 18" is a nicer height for them.

There's certainly nothing stopping anyone from choosing to jump up at 22", if they like.