Rally - Guidebook Section IX - Course Maps, Courses, Designing A Course
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Section IX. Course Maps, Courses, Designing A Course

I was wondering if the list would mind sharing their thoughts on the course maps. (I am trying to decide what software and/or procedure I need to set up, so that I don't have to do them "by hand".) I have seen some that use the symbol/icons from Bud's book. I have seem some that use little miniature Rally signs. I have seen one that just used little "text" boxes with the words of the exercise, no "pictures or arrows". Do you have a preference? Is there a standard method?

How I wish there was some software. Someone was working on it with a friend but have no idea what the status is. I've tried the little icons and it's too labor intensive for me to copy and paste so many of those buggers. My personal preference is lines. It's easy to use the Draw program and takes me very little time to whip one out. If I'm completely re-doing a class curriculum and want all new courses, I will do them by hand first to see how they flow, then do them on the computer. I have established a grid and have used miniaturized versions of the Straight Figure 8 and Serpentine that I took off the AKC signs. Spirals are a nightmare for me but have managed to come up with an icon for pretty much all occasions and can flip-flop them as needed for different approaches. I tried miniaturizing the sign but it just didn't work well for some reason. Off-set Figure 8 is another nightmare for me because approach and exit can be tricky. But, again, I have created an icon that fits on my grid map and can adjust it accordingly. And, also, I haven't tried using a miniature of the sign - which I just might try sometime. I have a comprehension problem and seeing a map with nothing but those little icons turns me positively cross-eyed and I end up drawing lines between them to enable me to *see* the course. So the lines help me visualize a course and helps newcomers as well as others with the same problem. I never thought of using mini-signs but think they'd be kinda hard to read without a magnifying glass. Still, never having seen one.....

The signs, even shrunk down to tiny enough for a course on paper, are very helpful. I've always done it that way. I reduced Bud's signs to about 1 inch by 3/4 inch. They are "recognizable" so it doesn't matter if the print is a little hard to read -- we all pretty much know them by now. Next to the signs I use the icons Bud has in his book. I use re-stickable glue stick on the signs so I can move, change, or adjust them while designing the course. Most of my courses are designed for a 40 X 70 foot space -- figuring 2 rings at 40 X 35 each, and can be stretched out or shrunk down slightly. I also design some to fit specifically into a 40 X 50 foot ring, for trials where space is tight. Some Clubs just can't offer that much space and I'd rather see Rally in a small ring, than not offered at all.

BTW, the signs are numbered, and to the left of the course is a list with the number of the sign and which sign it is, in case it's too hard to read shrunk down. Most people love this application, and it's like really running the course and SEEING the signs as you do.

Thought I would let you know how I'm dealing with it. I printed the signs off the AKC page then scanned each sign. I then rotated each sign four times saving each rotation in relation to the clock. For example if the sign faces the top of the page it became 1200 if it faced to the right it became 0300 and so forth. This way I don't have to rotate the signs on the page just insert according to the direction I way the handler to go. I created folders on a CD for each type of exercise - ABOUT TURNS, CIRCLES - HONOR - JUMPS, DOWN, FINISH, HEEL, PYLONS, SIT, STAND, & TURN, LEFT & RIGHT. The only thing I have to do as I import it into the document is to size it, which is easy enough by right-clicking the box and changing the size. WordPerfect allows you the option of keeping the size in proportion. Since I have a master list of my folders showing what level each sign is, it really easy to go in and change a novice course into an advance course into an excellent by exchanging a Left Turn with a Halt 90 Pivot Left Halt thereby using an Advance exercise in place of a Novice exercise. Hope this helps. Probably the best way to do courses would be either in Illustrator or CorelDraw. I've got a template in Illustrator with a grid. I then have each drawing of each exercise in a small proportionate file, which I then copy and paste onto the grid. Not the most efficient way to do things, but better than trying it in Word or WordPerfect, which would be like reinventing the wheel. I would think even PowerPoint would be better than either of those two options.

Personally, I use Paint Shop Pro to do my courses. It is rather pricey, though. I have all the "symbols" for turns, etc. in a file. I create my general path using lines, and just copy and paste the turns, etc. into it. It's very easy to turn, flip, mirror, etc. I can easily move a path by boxing it and dragging it. I then add the exercise numbers from another saved file. I save the course design, and import it into Word. I keep a template, with the heading (Rally Course, and the area to put the level, etc), and the exercise numbers on the left. I import the graphic of the course, and then type in the descriptions following the corresponding exercise number. The hardest part is actually designing the course - the rest is easy!

I have scanned all the AKC signs. Saved them as individual jpg files. (There is a bunch, I can zip them and upload to the files if anyone is interested. Email privately or on the list.) Then from Word Perfect, it's inserting, picture, from file. I used the draw tool bar to rotate or flip. Resize by clicking on image, then drag corner to size. I have added the pictures to a Spreadsheet. I have uploaded this to the files area in pdf format. It is 330kb so it will take a little to download it. To do the course map. I use Microsoft vision. I have all the signs entered into a stencil. I have a 50x70template if anyone is interested. Again it's a pretty big file.

Haven't seen this addressed anywhere, but I may have missed it... Who designs and sets up the Rally-O course at a trial? Is it the judge's responsibility or the club offering Rally-O or mutually agreed to by judge and club? Also, if copies of the course are handed out, and the judge designed the course, does the judge bring the XX number of copies or is an original sent to the club and do they make the copies and have them available at the trial? If they are in the new Rally-O rules... please tell me where to look! Thanks in advance.

The judge designs the course. I'm sure that the club would be making copies of the course or they would reimburse the judge for the expense of copying if the (s)he elects to do it. It would be incredible if someone could come up with icons that show all the variations on entries and exits and make them available for us to use on the computer. Mine are pretty simplistic but they work for me and no one has gotten so confused yet that they can't do the course. In the new AKC Rules and Regulations, it states in the first sentence under Description that the judge designs the course.

For the Rally Classes I have judged, I have designed the courses, made the copies and supplied the equipment, but even though it is not clear in the regulations I would assume that, as in agility, it would be the judge's responsibility to design the course and supply the necessary copies on the day of the show. That would be the only totally fair way to do it so that no exhibitor would be privy to the information beforehand.

I have been reducing the signs from the original AKC web site, so that I have tiny little sign that are EXACTLY what the exhibitor will be doing in the ring. Stick them on with re-stickable glue, then I draw the course the dog will take using Bud's icons from the book. Looks great and very clear. I also have them numbered and a numbered list to match printed next to or below the course.

The JUDGE should design the course. When I'm engaged to Judge Rally for a Club, I want to plan my course and KNOW the lay out, as an Obedience Judge KNOWS the heeling pattern and where to set up for each exercise. That way full concentration can be devoted to the performance, and not where the team should be going next.

The Course only has to be posted, but may be handed out. I find it much easier to hand out the course with armbands. Everyone gets a chance to study it in the comfort of their chair and not while crowded around the Judge's table with the stewards trying to prepare. This also allows the Exhibitors to keep a record of the courses, and make notes of any problem designs or exercises to work on, and could help us build a "library" of course designs.

Judges should be reimbursed for all expenses (so the Club making copies of the course design should not be an issue either way), and for my own purposes, I bring my signs, cones, handouts, and everything else I think I will need so I'm comfortable with the equipment, it's FAST to set up, and I know the handouts are with me and not potentially lost on the way to the event (happened once locally). Call me a control freak, but if I take care of it, I know it's done. Our last Rally event took less than 15 minutes to set up -- no measuring since it was drawn out to scale with ring gates and I could "eye ball" everything. Even the 15 minute walk through was fast and efficient, like Rally is supposed to be.

Okay, guys and gals, How do YOU design a Rally Course? And what do you do to make/keep it interesting? A friend of mine said she attended a trial a while back, and found it almost boring. She said it was just a basic square; the Judge did not use all the space available, since the course was designed for a smaller space, and the course was just generally uninteresting.

How do you PLAN the course, TEST the course, and PROOF the course (for odds and ends you didn't expect)? I like to make reduced copies of the signs and cut them out, then apply Post-It Note glue stick to the back, so I can stick and move the signs. When I think I like what I have, I make a copy of THAT, and set up a course to try it out. I have courses set for a 40 X 50 space, and courses set for a 40 X 70 space (2 -- 40 X 35 foot rings), which can stretch or shrink respectively. I find it helpful to design some courses specifically for tight spaces (40 X 50foot rings), using fewer signs. Once I set it up, I want to run it with my dog, and have someone ELSE run it with their dog, so I can look for problems in the "flow." I also want to try it in different size spaces to see if problems pop up when things change. Also, look for anything which might cause problems, say, next to a door or another ring, etc. Sometimes I may want to change a sign to make it more interesting, or to fix a "balance" problem (wouldn't want to do a 360 right out of a spiral -- WHEW!) Once I'm happy with the design, I finish up the course drawing and number the signs, type out the names of the signs to print next to the course, and copy it.

I have some courses which are "thumbed" with rights, or lefts, or circles, and some that are more balanced and steady. Some are very suitable for new people, who have never done Rally before, and some are best for "B" people, who can more easily jump from one training concept to another. There have been courses that, once I actually TRIED it with my dog, left me befuddled and wondering what I was THINKING when I put those things together. This is definitely NOT, in my humble opinion, a sport where you can just design a course on paper and have it work. That COULD happen, or it could be a disaster. The idea, at least to me, should be that everyone has an equal chance to qualify on the course you design, and that point should be kept in mind. Okay, who's next?

Oooh, I like this topic! I have no themes or set ideas ahead of time. I've designed the courses for the training classes and for two show-n-go's so I haven't needed to do a lot of generalization. The biggest problem I have is I put too many stationary exercises in. I have discovered just how darn many stationary exercises there are, tho! Of all the advanced exercises, all but two are stationary. Good thing we're trying to get those numbers increased. I don't know if it helped or not, but I have a course designer for agility and I've designed agility courses. Mostly for my own pleasure, but I have designed for others and have had some practice groupings published in F&F. Anyway, I can get a pretty good feel for what works and what doesn't.

Back in the good ole days when there were 4 cones for the spiral, I actually did do a 270 once after a spiral to *undizzy* my students. I think it was a left spiral and I had them do a 270 right. It really did help, too.

One thing I really must do some time is design nested courses for all 3 levels. I've done it for two levels but that's it so far. Well, for the seminar, I have put one excellent exercise in the second course but I still only have two courses designed. I love the challenge of the nested courses. I have found that I have to check my courses many times because I can find really strange combinations on them that just won't work - after looking at it a dozen or so times. So I draw them by hand on a graph form, check that a couple or three times, make corrections, re-draw it (very rough drawings, too), then put it on paper with the computer. I also draw lines on mine to show the direction the team takes. I find this helps me to visualize it and may help others, as well. I can't make all those little icons like some of our oh so clever and intelligent Listers and trying to copy and paste would take more time than I can do it with the lines. I do have icons for my spirals, figure 8's, and serpentine to copy and paste. Those take a lot of time to draw individually. I probably over-do it by using the lines, but I have a comprehension problem myself so I have to make it easy for me to *see* what will be happening. So far I may just have been plain dumb lucky, but the courses I've designed for show-n-go's locally have worked out just fine.

Since our two clubs are different sizes, I have courses designed for the smaller club (45x35) and for the larger club (~40x60). I have made goofs but not many and they weren't horrendous. I would probably not design a course until I know what size the ring area will be and what, if any, obstacles there might be to contend with at the show site. I can whip up a relatively simple course in about 15-20 minutes (knock on wood) so I have not felt a need to design for all occasions. In other words, I don't plan for all contingencies - which may some day take a big chunk out of my posterior, but I'll wait till it does. I like my courses to be challenging without overdoing it. My first course for the seminar may be too easy for some but I hope it will give them a desire for the more challenging second course. I was afraid it would be too simple but decided to leave it since the dogs will be at a variety of training levels so I didn't want to discourage those whose dogs hardly know how to heel.

For my classes, I start out quite simple with short, easy courses the first two weeks. I lull everyone into a sense of false simplicity. But the first two weeks, we're just barely learning the exercises and there aren't too many I *can* use. Then we begin getting a good number of more advanced moves. After that, I start hearing, "Gosh, I thought this would be so easy!" "This one's really tough!" LOL I think it's one of the reasons we have so much fun in class.

I have been an agility judge for about 4 years - so most of my designing experience comes from there. Most of my rally courses are designed from the 'draw a line' method. I draw the path that I think I want to take the teams and from there, fill in the various turns required to get around the path. Then - I fill in the 'straightaways' with whatever additional exercises tickle my fancy! If I am short - I may throw in a 360 or 2! In this stage - numerous modifications are made to that 'original line' - and often times, the finished product barely resembles the initial line. I use the Clean Run Course Design program. It is similar to Visio Basic. It may not be the best approach, but it is what I have done for years in agility and it gets the job done!!!

Had to try and do a diagonal and the only way I could figure to do it was from the Moving Side Step Right. Then a right turn - a right pivot wouldn't work from a diagonal, would it? Would you/could you just do a diagonal from any exercise at all and just making sure everyone knew it was going to get cockeyed? And how did those of you who tried this change from the diagonal to a line paralleling the ring sides?

You can start a team going off at an angle anywhere you put a serpentine, straight or off-set figure 8 or left or right spiral. When finishing those exercises the path the team assumes is determined solely by the location of the next exercise. I usually include at least a short diagonal direction change in even Novice level courses. (Not all the way from one corner of the ring to the other!) I point it out in the walk through and explain that having the benefit of the walk-through; they should be laying down the "flow" of the course in their heads so that they are not just looking for the next number.

Speaking of designing a course, this is my first step: I take my 40x80 rectangle and decide what pattern or flow will be drawn there. For example will the path describe the shape of an "M" or a "Z" or an "F"? I don't really think in terms of letters, just a shape to fill the space. I was taught this technique for choreographing a freestyle routine. First decide how you will use the space, and then figure out what kind of moves to do where.

One of our previous posters mentioned that a diagonal could be accomplished with a spiral, off-set figure 8, straight figure 8, or serpentine. Sounds like fun, and as soon as I have time (sigh), I'm going to try it!

Don't recall if this has been discussed so thought I'd give it a whirl. What do you all think of putting diagonals in Novice/Rally I courses? I would especially appreciate the input from the people who would be in those classes, not just those who might judge them. Do you feel it would be too confusing for beginners or do you think the challenge would be interesting as long as it was carefully explained prior to or during the walk-thru?

I've put an Advanced/Rally II course in the files with two diagonals. While I was doing it, I kept wondering why I'm continually doing the Advanced/Excellent courses and not Novice/Rally I. It didn't seem fair. It's not that I don't *want* to do the beginning courses, it just seems like the Advanced/Excellent are more challenging to design. That got me to thinking about the diagonal in the beginning courses.

In the Rally workshop I took earlier this month, or maybe last month, they did have a diagonal in Novice and Intermediate. Since we do walk the course, it seems okay to me I kind of like the variety.

Hmmm Diagonals in Novice interesting. I think I'll modify Pat's course some... replace exercises with Novice ones and give it a go. I'll let you know how it goes.

I have done a Rally 1 course that had diagonals. (Think big figure 8 with cones down the middle used for several exercises.) The diagonals flowed very logically and there were less "off courses" than the previous day's course. I looked at the course described above and the diagonals where not "intuitive". (The course looked like fun -- but I bet you get a significant number of people who get lost.) Diagonals, themselves, are not difficult but I think the course needs to flow in a "pattern" if you want the novice level to be successful.

I have designed courses with diagonals, and they CAN be difficult for new handlers. You'll know in the walk through if a newbie could handle it. I wouldn't rule it out, but I would design it very carefully. Diagonals are great in the B classes where the handlers are a bit more seasoned.

I thought we'd touch on nested courses, and designing them. For the ones I've designed, the path has stayed relatively the same, but that could change with a couple of different signs too. In Advanced or Excellent -- technically, all you'd have to do is add one jump for Advanced or two jumps for Excellent to make the course for that level. However, I don't believe that would be an appropriate test of skill for the next level.

For those of you who are designing courses, how many exercises do you change to make an appropriate course for the next level? Three, five, a couple added and a couple changed? For the Excellent level, the Advanced exercises are included in what's available to use (the advanced exercised may be used for both levels), and I'm thinking that 3 to 5 Advanced exercises to make it an Advanced course, and another 2 exercises that are just Excellent to make it an Excellent course. Any input on this?

As Rally becomes more popular when it's a titling event, the nested courses will become more important to save time. I really like the idea of designing the Excellent level first, then remove or change signs for the other levels, and I hope that's how the classes will be scheduled. Also, it would be possible to nest the A & B class courses too. For those who plan to slightly change the course depending on whether the handlers are completely "green" versus those with some experience who could handle exercises that might be a bit more challenging when paired. (Again, I'm not talking super easy versus nightmare courses, but exercises that might be a bit more challenging to more experienced exhibitors in the B classes.)

All of the trials I've been to have had Novice first, followed by Advanced if offered, followed by Excellent, if offered. Few trials have offered Advanced, and only one offered Excellent. Personally, I would like to see the advanced courses go first.

I've only done true nested courses once, and that was for our AKC seminar. As I discovered, I think it'll be easier to do the highest level first, and work down.

I think it would be much easier to actually set and change nested courses if your sign holders have removable numbers. Ours don't. So, when adding exercises in the middle, we'd have to move the sign holders, anyway, thus negating much of the advantage of nesting courses. If you can just move the numbers, then you can add things between what's there, and not have to move quite so much. For example, in Novice, you have exercise #5 as a 270 left, and exercise #6 is a HALT - "something". For Advanced, you could change exercise #5 to a 360 left, add an about turn as #6, a Moving Down as #7, then a left turn as #8, with the HALT - "something" becoming #9. That sign and holder could remain where it was, and all you'd have to do is to move the number. Taking the sign out of sign holder #6, placing that holder at the about, taking the sign out of holder #7 and moving it to the moving down and on and on, becomes rather time consuming. Where, if you can just leave the sign in the holder, and leave it where it was, and move only the number, you've saved a significant amount of time. I hope that made sense.

I just wanted to thank all of you for helping me with my first match. It went very smoothly. We knew we would not have much time to set up the course because they had Open and Utility before us in the match. So we went to the club the day before, set the course up and walked it several times to work out the kinks. Then we put down tape that was close to the color of the mats and those were numbered with the number of the station. Then we took all the stations and put them in another room in chronological order. When it came to setting up, we would grab the stations, put them with the corresponding number taped on the floor and in no time we had a course set up and people walking it. The people really enjoyed themselves and I really enjoyed judging it.

I didn't spend much time judging the dogs, more on the handlers. We don't have classes yet and I thought it more important to let the handlers know what they were doing wrong, because it would then be easier to train the dog. I got some new people hooked. They really enjoyed it. So I was happy. Thank you all.

Way to go! Love the idea of the tape. Since it was the same color as the mats, it was no distraction to the previous classes. Did the other judges have any problems with it?

I didn't have a chance to discuss it with the other judges. The organizer of the match knew about it and she said if there are any complaints, they would just pick it up, no one said a word. It worked so well and saved so much time the day of the match. We were pretty proud of ourselves. VBG

This is a pretty time consuming event for set up, so I think any way we can come up with, to use our time more efficiently, is great. What really helped me by doing it the day before and doing it so many times, I not only knew it was set up to help handlers to move through it pretty smoothly, but I had the course memorized and that really helped when I had to judge it.

Magnetic Course Design Set

I have come up with a Rally course designing system that I am currently testing. It consists of small (1 inch sq) magnet signs and a small lightweight metal board. The extra signs just get stuck to the back of the board until I need them (handy storage system) the board is the size of a legal piece of paper so it can easily be put into a standard copier machine and I can make course handouts in record time.

The magnet signs can be rearranged on the fly, won't fly away in the wind, doesn't require the use of a computer/printer (so it can be used out in the field) no hand drawings need to be interpreted. For these reasons, I can think of no better system to design courses.

Well, I spent a good 2 days working on it, but I now have a magnetic course design package.

The finished package consists of a complete set of magnetic signs (including extras of those signs that are allowed multiples), a board to store them on, and 2 small magnetic dry erase boards to draw the course on. I am thrilled with how it turned out.

Here's what I did.... First, I bought all the materials:

1 package of magnetic tape with a sticky side, 1" wide x 10 foot strip
1 package of clear packing tape
1 8 x 10 metal board (I used one designed for use with counted cross stitch patterns)
2 8 1/2 x 11 dry erase boards, with pen
(I was able to get all the materials at an office supply store and Wal-Mart)

Then I got to work using my graphics program (I use Paint Shop Pro - PSP). I opened the file of signs in Adobe Acrobat. The newest version allows you to select sections of graphics. So, I outlined each individual sign, copied it (either right click and choose "copy" or use while in Adobe, then switched to PSP, and pasted into a new file. I reduced the size of the graphic so it was 1" wide and about 3/4" tall. (In this case, I used a resolution of 72 pixels per inch and had the picture 72 pixels wide.). I then *cleaned up* the graphic. When you reduce, the image gets blurry. This is what took the time. In most cases, I had to "fix" the lines around the arrows, then remove and add the text so it was readable. I ended up having to do the "Halt" on the tiny little stop signs manually, pixel by pixel. I did this for each of the 50 signs.

For my use, I made the arrows light blue. I was concerned that, looking at all those tiny signs in bright yellow might be too hard on the eyes. Light blue arrows and boxes, black lines around, with medium-dark blue lettering is very easy to look at. I saved each sign as a separate file.

To make printing easier, I then opened MS Word, imported each of the signs, in multiple if I wanted them, into a new document. With each one being 1" wide, I was able to get 5 across, with space in between. It took about a page and a half. I printed on good, bright white paper. I then cut them apart. I put each one on the magnetic tape strip. With the sign being 1" wide, and the tape being 1" wide, it was easy then to cut the tape to the height of the sign. Once they were all done, I took the clear packing tape, laid it down sticky side up, and laid the signs on the tape, upside down, so the sign image was on the sticky side. That, then, got cut apart. The reason for the tape was to prevent the image on the sign from getting rubbed off during use.

It probably took me about 20 hours to do. Over 3/4 of the time was spent doing the signs. I think it only took me about 2 - 3 hours to put the signs together. I think I spent less than $15 for all the materials, and had enough to make a second set of signs for my assistant instructor.

So, how I envision this working, is to take the magnetic dry erase board, and permanently marking it into squares that equal 5' intervals. I can easily get 40 x 50 feet on one. By having two, I can then design courses for larger rings by putting them side by side. I'll use the dry erase pen to draw my pathway, and then put the magnetic signs on the line where I want the exercises to be. If I want to shift one, all I do is pick it up and move it. If I want to change the location of part of the path, I simply erase it, and re-draw where I want it.

Almost makes me wish I hadn't designed all my class courses before doing all this. I might have to go ahead and work on my run-through courses now for March.

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