Ever wonder what it's like to go to an Agility trial? Looking forward to one of your own some day and trying to think what to expect? Well, let's see if I can shine some light on it :) By the way, I highly recommend you go and watch a trial before you enter one, you'll be much more prepared! I certainly felt more at ease since I have gone to watch a trial before attending the first one for competition.
In our area, the trials normally take place outside, on grass. Arriving on site, you can see a flood of tents being set up, providing shade for the dogs, who are in crates or play-pens.
In the middle, two rings are normally set up. In AKC, one is for JWW runs, and the other for Standard. If FAST is offered, it's usually manipulated into the same two rings.
The trials start early in the morning - set up starts around 6am and the first dog on the line is around 8am. In AKC, it's common practice to start with Excellent dogs first, followed by Open, and lastly Novice. Handlers check-in before their class is set up. At check-in they get their badge number and course maps, as well as have their dog measured if necessary.
Before each class, the handlers are allowed to walk the course and figure out their plan of action, but the dogs are not allowed in the rings at any time other than for their run. Once the class judging starts, no more walking is allowed. The judge will usually give a briefing and answer any questions before judging is commenced. The running order is posted near the ring, each present dog is checked in, and the handlers wait for their turn with the dogs.
Each course normally takes less than a minute to run, and after it's done, the dogs go back to their resting spots, waiting for the next run if they have more. After all the dogs in class finish running, the judge checks the scribe sheets, and the results are posted. This is when everyone finds out for sure if they got a Q and/or took one of the first 4 places. The ribbons are also dispensed here.
One judge trials tend to run as late as 4-5pm. Two judge trials can end a bit earlier around 2-3pm. At the end of the day, the equipment is put away, tents are picked up, and most people drive off for the night. Sometimes an RV or two will camp out near by.
The courses cannot be seen by anyone until the morning of the runs, so they are never set up the night before. Instead, the next day of the trial starts the same way as the first one - early morning set up, check in, etc. The second day does tend to go a little faster since the dogs don't need to be measured again, and not as much briefing needs to be done. Otherwise, each day is like a brand new trial, and just as much fun!