This past weekend I headed to Jacksonville, FL to be a full-time volunteer at the 4-day UKI Open. I anticipated that I would enjoy myself while giving back to the sport, but what I didn’t expect was the heaping dose of rejuvenation and the even larger shot of inspiration that the UKI Open is actively providing to the United States dog agility community.
What’s so different? Well, here are 20 reasons the UKI Open is the place to be:
- You don’t have to pre-qualify to participate in the UKI Open. Just sign-up and show up. There were several people who entered, earned their way into the Finals and then onto the podium without ever having attended a UKI trial during the year. (FYI, do consider going to that local UKI trial as well since participants are able to also earn a bye into the Finals at the local level.)
- Fully equipped warm up/practice rings available. Want to practice that contact performance, weave pole entry or put a dog over a wall jump? No problem! For a nominal flat fee, participants had unlimited access to 4 practice rings from Thursday – Sunday with the proceeds going to WAO Team USA to compete oversees. Yes, practice is encouraged and allowed at this event (both entered and non-entered dogs)!
- Junior National Championship. For those dog agility handlers who are 17 and under and who participate in the UKI Open, there is a special and separate event which is geared toward advancing the participation of junior handlers in the sport of dog agility. They are the future of our sport after all! Click HERE for details.
- Bring a toy into the ring. On the first day of the event, one of the rings had a Not For Competition (NFC) option which meant that before beginning that run, a handler could declare NFC and bring a toy into the ring and reward/play with the dog as desired. Handlers rewarded dogs for things like start line stays, contact/weave performance and following handling cues.
- Ring size on steroids. The average ring size for this event was approximately 16,800 – 20,000 square feet or approximately 120′ x 140′ to a full 140′ x 140′. When compared to the average large ring found in the USA which is 100′ x 100′ (this equates to 10,000 square feet), the difference means that dogs were never jumping into or around walls, ring gating and longer obstacles like the dog walk and weaves were never pressed up against a solid surface. There truly is nothing like the luxury of open space.
- Amazing courses. There was a lot to admire about the course design. Dogs had room to maneuver themselves physically, all handling systems or skills were applicable, both close and distance handling is used and teams needed to interact with each other throughout the entire run to get through each course successfully. There was plenty of room to negotiate each challenge and both European and traditional USA handling styles could be used.
- 3 nights of Finals competition. Why wait until the end of a competition weekend to enjoy the Finals? The UKI Open has 3 days of Finals competition and each of them is incredibly exciting! Imagine it, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the crowds chant, cheer, yell, clap and encourage those who made a mistake to finish in full glory! The concession stand served a catered dinner and adult beverages are available as well. It’s one of the best agility parties around!
- They are obsessive about having a great surface to run on. Mike Padgett is proud to call himself the dirt guy and it shows in the quality and care of the surface the dogs and handlers run on. While each ring was lovingly prepared before the start of the day, the UKI Open went one step further by pulling all equipment out of the ring and Mike could be seen riding the tractor and redoing the entire surface prior to each Finals event that was held in the afternoon. Talk about attention to detail!
- Punctual with a capital P. The UKI Open uses a group and ring rotation system that is P.U.N.C.T.U.A.L. Without getting into too much detail, this means handlers (and workers) have a pretty dang solid start time, even when mid-day ring rotations occur. Plus, all rings start at the same time (even mid-day) so if one ring has more dogs to run and is the last to end, ALL of the rings will wait until the last dog has finished (plus a minimum of 5 minutes) before moving on to the next rotation.
- Workers are not only paid, but appreciated. Being a full-time worker of the timers, scribe or computer scoring responsibilities gave me a front row seat, not only to each dogs’ run, but the judges, the ring captains, the worker/event coordinators (Jan & Mike Padgett), the behind the scenes office and Greg & Laura Derrett. Throughout my 4 days each person made it known, every single day, how much I was appreciated. They smiled, had a worker’s hospitality area full of beverages and filled a bucket up with candy and healthy snacks for our enjoyment while we were working. We joked, we problem solved and I made new friends in each ring I worked. The bonus was the worker bucks that could be used at either the concession stand or with the vendors at the event. I saw folks cash their bucks in for things like new agility equipment, toys, harnesses and training treats.
- Easy to navigate website. Have you checked out the website!?!? It’s organized, informational and makes sense! Whether it is pre-planning the details, information needed during the event or results and maps after, the website is spectacularly useful! Click HERE to check it out.
- Computerized scoring. Along with traditional scribe sheets, each ring at the UKI Open had a dedicated person to transcribed times & scores into a computer so that exhibitors could view their results on a monitor ringside. No more asking the scribe or wondering “Did I qualify?”
- Preliminary results online. Throughout the day the UKI Open posted preliminary and then later, final results on their nifty website. That’s pretty handy when sitting down to eat lunch or hanging with your dog in the crating area and you’ld still like to know what’s going on. Check it out HERE and click on a class, such as Power & Speed or Winner Takes all Sweepstakes, and then click on the Final Results check mark under that class to see an example.
- Texting live updates. Whether attending the event or watching from home, the UKI Open offers text updates straight to your phone! Brilliant!
- Top notch equipment. Max200 delivered the beautiful, safe and consistent equipment for all 4 competition rings as well as the 4 practice rings. When it comes to the evolution of dog agility equipment, Max200 is a big reason the quality of equipment we have access to is simply spectacular. Thanks Max200 for all you do for our dogs!
- Livestream. Thanks to 4 Legged Flix, dog agility enthusiasts from around the globe have the chance to experience the amazing runs and exciting atmosphere of the UKI Open from their home computer or mobile device. Why tell your fan club how things went when they can watch it live instead! Thanks 4 Legged Flix! P.S. Competitors can also purchase their runs from them too.
- Plenty of stadium seating and all with a view. No need to bring a chair if you want to watch the majority of the agility runs, especially in the Finals because the Jacksonville Equestrian Center has plenty of tiered seating available and all of them with a birds-eye view of the action.
- Rent your own private crating area. No need to crate on a hard cement floor, in a car or busy hall way. This location has loads of horse stalls and the UKI Open allows you to rent a stall from setup on Wednesday until the close of the event on Sunday. It’s a great place to hang out with your dog, plop your stuff and it’s close to potty areas, practice rings, outdoor rings and indoor arena.
- Loads of RV Parking with full hook ups. For those of us who prefer the Glamping way of life (a rolling hotel room called an RV), this facility has plenty of space for rigs of all shapes and sizes. Full hook-ups with water, power and sewage make life very comfy and all spaces are just a short walk away from the action.
- The best reason of all to be at the UKI Open is because it was a friendly and FUN environment!
Whether it’s to compete with a dog or to come volunteer and to have one of the best seats to watch the sport of dog agility, you NEED to attend this event.
Thanks again to the UKI Open participants for a great weekend and especially to ALL of the UKI Open organizers who put in 20 hour days to make this event such a huge success.
See you next year!
Check Out the UKI Open Courses for 2017