Running a Trial

Setting Courses

Building courses is as much a matter of preparation and training as scribing or scorekeeping, or any other job in a trial. The first thing to do is confiscate all of the course maps wondering around and chase off anybody who is wildcatting, rather than working with the team. You can also chase off a judge or two. Course builders need to keep their attention on the master course builder and not do their own thing.

The master course builder will set an anchor for the course (usually a contact obstacle), and build outward from there (jumpers courses are far more difficult to build. A keystone arrangement of jumps often must become the anchor for the course). The idea is to get everything in place as quickly as possible. Then the course builder will tweak the obstacles, in running order, to ensure that the flow is comparable to that on the course map. Failure to look at the course in performance order will result in missing something obvious. This can all be accomplished quickly.

It's time to chase away all of the course builders except 3 or 4. Someone has to put up the numbers. The judge should be summoned at this time to tweak the course. The remaining 3 course builders will follow the judge around and move anything that needs moving (and do NOT allow the judge to do his own moving).

As soon as the judge is satisfied with the placement of such things as tunnels, weave poles, and so forth... ask if you can secure them (sand bags, stakes & so forth). This commits the judge to stop tweaking. Also, lay the jump bars perpendicular to the jump standards so that the judge can immediately measure the course when he's satisfied that everything is set.

Course building time should take no more than 15 minutes. Getting the judge to move is often the wildcard.

Mark off the rings using either strings of flags (like car dealerships use) or 2" event tape (like police use to mark off crime scenes). To support the tape or flags, purchase electrical fencing posts -- they're fairly thin (but strong) "wires" that have sliding brackets that you attach your flags, or whatever, to (as their name suggests, they are normally used to string electrical fences). These work really well, aren't very expensive, and are very sturdy and tough. Use these posts to set up a grid. Using a very long tape measure or a surveyors wheel, the posts are placed 10 feet apart around the perimeter of the field (set the corners first to keep your lines straight).

A trial field of 100' x 120' works out to be 10 posts by 12 posts (minus the corner posts which do double duty). A 10-foot span works very well as an exhibitor entry/exit! Once the grid is set, it's easy to set up the course -- if your judge uses a 10" grid on the design sheet (most do). Just start with a large piece, such as the A-frame or DogWalk, get it placed on the grid and use it as a reference point. It's easy to change your reference point as you move out from the first one. The grid system really makes course building easy and fast.
(Julie Clarke)

Here is a method that improves on Dave Hanson's Baseline method which makes course building much faster:

For maximum efficiency: You need

  • Person A - for spotting the measurement on the tape and directing person with wheel
  • Person B - person for the wheel
  • 2 people on each side to put obstacles in place (the 4 can move A-frame and Walk together)
  • 1 person carrying survey flags (optional, but a boy scout works well for this task)

The tape is pulled and you start at ONE END, moving down the tape. Person A spots the measurement on the tape and points Person B in the proper direction telling them how many feet to go.


Person A moves on to find the next measurement on the tape, while Person B measures out to where the flag goes... as soon as he stops the person carrying the flags puts one in place.

Simultaneously now:

Person B moves on to where Person A has spotted and starts the next measure. The 2 people who work that side of the course placing obstacles are moving the previous obstacle into place (if it happen to be A-frame or Walk, they get other team to help). Person A moves on to find the next measurement on the tape.

Guaranteed - by the time you put the last flag in the ground, and walk to the start line to walk the course and look at obstacle angles and position it'll be ready to walk.... and only 1 person has to know ANYTHING about agility (the one who ultimately walks it) and NO ONE has to have ANY spacial talents cause it'll be just like on paper. This works great for when you have plenty of people, but they don't know what they are doing - the small beginner club problem!

Of course, you don't do this EXCEPT in major course changes..... if only a couple of obstacles change position, you wing it... AND you don't have to measure every obstacle if you have a section with very good visual spacing such as a jump box. Common sense goes a long way in using this method, but it definitely eliminates the too many people moving things problem.... PLUS leave the flags until the end..... anything out there without a flag comes OFF the course.... a quick way to see if obstacles are "left over".

This works best with three copies of the course... one for the person finding measurements on the tape, and one for each team moving obstacles. (Carol Burt)

The first day of the trial will be a bit rough, since you have no idea what type of course building method the judge will use. If there is any way to mark your agility field in 10' grids that will help. Have your crew set the contact obstacles first and go from there. Trying to divide the course area into areas with people for each area often does not work with a less experienced crew.

The method that works best is having the Judge and Chief Course builder walk the course, with 2 other people following and dropping poles, setting tunnels and chutes. Then the other course builders set standards and staked equipment. By the second day, the course builder will be familiar with the judge's course plan and should be able to set the course. Then the judge will tweak and and measure. Course building is done in stages. What ever you do don't stake anything until the judge blesses the course.

  1. Set contact equipment.
  2. Lay poles on the ground for jumps. Judge may tweak angles.
  3. Set wings, and standards after judge has blessed the course. Stake if necessary. Make sure bottom and top poles fit, but not tightly.
  4. Lay poles aside or on the ground so the judge can measure distances.
  5. Stake all equipment which the judge requires.

You may want to also prepare a description sheet on what obstacles need which hardware (tunnel, chocks). A cheat sheet for table heights and broad/hogs back jumps is helpful. Also the course builder should compare one course to the next and red line any obstacles that did not have to move from class to class.
(Terri Campbell)

The first course built in the ring is placed on white paper.

Each additional course to built in that ring is printed on a transparency. This makes the overlay easy. Use a clip board to hold them down.

Divide the ring into quadrants. For course changes each quadrant is assigned a team. By simply looking at the overlay, the NW team knows they need to pick up the collapsed tunnel and take it into the SE, etc. Then the SE quadrant team puts tunnel where it is assigned.

This really speeds up the course changes. All your chief course builder does is to make sure each team is clear as to which pieces will be moved into and out of the quadrant. If you assign each individual on the team a specific job before the course change begins, no one will be standing around without a job, and you will be amazed how fast the course changes go.
(Ann McQuillen)


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