Running a Trial

What makes a good trial

  • The Judge/s! Obviously very important. Research your judges. If you don't have experienced people in your club who can give opinions on judges, check with exhibitors elsewhere. But don't overlook the newer judges, if you are running two rings and can fit one in. Everyone needs a start sometime. Just be aware of the fact that a new judge will be slower, and also need supervising from the other judge at times.
  • Ring Downtime - one thing that is very frustrating to an exhibitor (particularly when you have a long drive ahead) is seeing a ring with nothing happening in it. Make sure you have enough people to do ring setup...and that they are experienced at reading ring diagrams. Practice before hand if need be. But also, don't waste time fudging with a course before the judge walks it and moves everything around.
  • Gate Stewards - they can be the difference between a smoothly run trial and one that runs all night long. Be sure your gate stewards are prompt at moving exhibitors into the ring and have them ready to go the second the judge is ready.
  • Water - make sure there is a good source of water. Wading pools are nice, but some trials don't have a hose available and the water gets rather nasty. Also, if it is a long way to the pools, be sure there is another source of cool water near the rings (coolers with towels works well).
  • Posting scores - please try to get those scores up as quickly as is reasonable. A lot of handlers are standing around biting their nails waiting for them.
  • Finish at a reasonable time! This is getting tougher as the entries get bigger, but there is nothing more frustrating then having to skip a class you paid for (often
  • Jumpers, which is many dogs favorite class) because you need to get on the road. Especially if it was just a matter of the club doing a better job of keeping things moving. Be sure you have the manpower to do the work and enough rings for however many exhibitors you expect to get.

(Mary Jo Sminkey)

One important thing is the attitude of the host club toward the exhibitors. There are a couple of clubs who really, truly act like they are soooooo glad you came and what can they do to make your day go well -- then there are others who act like exhibitors are a necessary evil that they must put up with! Clubs also need to be aware of their out-of-state exhibitors and make EVERY attempt to get their confirmations out in time and make sure directions to the show are in the premium list. (Jo Ann Mather)

A successful agility event is one where everyone has fun. This starts with the club setting a goal of putting on a quality event when they start planning. When someone first says "Hey, let's do an agility event!" ask yourselves how you want it described after it's over. Pick two or three adjectives as goals (fun, efficient, relaxed, enjoyable, etc.) and remind one another as needed. Good communication between club members is often overlooked as an important factor in successful events. A fun event has a good site, good judges, and good classes. To get an idea of what good is, ask in a brief feedback survey at your next event. Ask for three things they liked best, and three things to improve. A survey gives you a valuable breadth of opinion specific to your area and audience. Advice from a single exhibitor may or may not apply to YOUR event.

A good event starts well before anyone arrives at the show site. The premium list (or acknowledgment of entry) should tell everyone what they need to know to find the site, arrive on time, and what to expect in terms of crating, food, etc. It helps ALOT if the club does a match as a dry-run a week or two before. Workers can be trained and the equipment really checked out while there is time to repair things. And the judge should design courses that are fun, appropriate to the level, and can quickly be changed from one class to the next. Do in advance everything you can think of to make things go smoothly on show day.

During the event the workers and judges are constantly striving to run the event efficiently, but not at the cost of an upbeat attitude. This is a tricky balancing act. Don't expect perfection on the first try, but DO keep trying. When things don't go according to your careful plans - be flexible and improvise, keeping your goals in mind. Those people in direct contact with exhibitors (check-in table, gate steward, score poster, awards chair) all need to keep the golden rule in mind.

Interestingly when the event is fun for the exhibitors it's also fun for the spectators, judge(s), and club members. The judge(s) and club members may be tired, but they should be satisfied with a job well done. Improvement is a continual thing - there's always room for more. (Sally Sheridan)

More things that make a good trial:

  • Good prizes for the dogs. (Ribbons are great, but the dogs like to get something neat.
  • A good raffle.
  • Special fun awards voted on by the spectators and participants. Examples: Crash Dummy Award, Dog having the most fun, etc.
  • A social event with good food. (Handlers are highly food motivated, too).

(Shannon Chenault)

  • A tent when it rains!!
  • A kind word at the exit gate!
  • Being able to keep your "camp" overnight at a 2 day trial.
  • Pre-posted running order - preferably in your confirmation.
  • Good footing.
  • A buffer zone (5-10") for spectators (so popcorn and candy don't appear during your run).
  • A photographer.

(Chris Miele)

A suggestion for clubs holding trials in conjunction with other events, especially large confirmation shows is to plan for and clearly mark access to the agility area for unloading. Separate agility parking, if you can manage it, is a real plus. If the other organization provides the manpower, be sure the parking assistants know there is an agility trial and that they know how to direct people. (Jill Hamilton)

A good announcer can make a lot of difference at a show. At a show with spectators, it's more informative for them. However, even at a show with no spectators, a good announcer can be critical to competitors by keeping people up to date with what's happening in each ring. Of course, besides the announcer being on top of things, you need a decent PA system. It's very frustrating going to multiple ring shows and always having to guess what's going on in each ring. If everything ran according to catalog order and there was a clear schedule of events for each ring it wouldn't be a problem. However, that very rarely happens.

When changing the order of things to expedite the show, make every effort to inform the exhibitors. Most people want to cooperate with the club, so the better you as a club can communicate with the exhibitors, the better the show will run for everyone. It's also important that a club start the show at the posted time. If you say first dog on the line at 8:00 a.m. then the first dog should be on the line by 8. (Monica Percival)

Instead of armbands, with rubber bands which don't fit, cut off circulation, fall off, etc., some clubs around are now putting the catalog numbers on stick-on laser printer labels. These can be stuck anywhere on your shirt -- front, back, arm, etc. Even if it's a two-day show, they are usually good for one removal and re-sticking on another shirt. (Jo Ann Mather)

Here are several things that would be nice at a trial:

Since many people bring their own tents and other equipment, be sure to have an easily available and close "unloading area" where exhibitors can drive up to unload tents, crates, dogs, coolers,etc.

Breed specific trophies, such as highest scoring Briard, are fun. Breed trophies do not pit one type of dog against another as "highest scoring novice" or "high in trial" does. And it gives something extra to compete for. Also, oldest dog, travelled the greatest distance, oldest/youngest handler, and other such nonsence awards are always fun. If you have them on the first day of a 2 day trial, lots of people stick around to see them awarded.

Have fresh water availble for dogs and handlers, especially during summer events. Water is cheap and refreshing. Often only softdrinks or sugared drinks are available for handlers, and although exhibitors usually try to bring water from home, more is usually needed than they can carry with them, especially on weekends.

A recent trend has been to award rosettes/prizes for new titles. This is also extra nice.

In a two or three day event, offering a nice picnic dinner or BBQ on the first night allows show help and competitors a time to socialize if they want to.
(Karin Boyd)


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