HRD/RLF Courses

HRD and RLF courses

  1. Ranch/farm courses should be laid out in as natural a manner as possible in a ranch or farm setting. They should be kept reasonably simple and should provide accessible views for the judge throughout. These courses may not be held as arena courses with all elements in one arena (arena is defined as areas suitable for HTAD use). Multiple arenas, multiple pen and arena combinations, and field/pen/arena combinations are acceptable, but a course using only one arena for all elements of the course or an arena with the addition of only a take pen and/or repen is not acceptable. Safety of stock, dog and handler is an important consideration, and the course must be free of potentially hazardous obstructions or areas.
  2. HRD classes must use at least 5 head of stock, with larger numbers preferred. RLF classes must use at least 25 head for sheep or goats, 15 head for geese, and 10 head for cattle. An organizer planning on using groups of animals that are large enough to meet the minimum numbers for RLF may still choose to designate the classes as HRD rather than RLF, but this must be clearly indicated on the Sanction Form and the premium list. See General Requirements for Trials, above, paragraphs 3, 4 and 5, for specifics regarding stock requirements in mixed stock classes.
  3. Wherever “HRD” is mentioned below, it is understood that it also applies to RLF.
  4. Distances for courses and times allowed should be well thought out, with practice runs used to determine the design. Distances should be suitable to the stock being used, well within their physical abilities, with ample time allowed for completion. (A sample HRD course with diagram and description is available from the AHBA Sanction Coordinator.)
  5. The sanction application must include: (1) a step-by-step description of the course, (2) a diagram of the course, and (3) a score sheet set up in the format of the HTD score sheet. The description and diagram are to include dimensions of arenas, pens and obstacles, distances, time limits, starting and ending points for each scoring section of the course, and may include any additional information desired such as draw points of stock. If applicable, any areas that are to be considered “off course” must be indicated. The course designer shall specify which scoring section will be used for breaking a tie, with two sections listed in order, followed by time. The course design must have been seen and approved by the judge before being submitted to the AHBA. (Sample HRD course descriptions, diagrams and score sheets are available from the AHBA Sanction Coordinator. If needed, assistance in creating a score sheet master using the provided scoring is available from the Sanction Coordinator upon request.)
  6. Score sheets must have no fewer than 5 and no more than 10 scoring sections. Point totals must be 90 points for HRD I and II, 100 points for HRD III. The additional 10 points for HRD III may be set up as a single section of 10 points for an additional task, which is the preferred method, or may be included within a section or within two sections (divided evenly) and figured into the total for those sections (with a variation, a task may be given more points in level III than in levels I and II). It is preferred that fewer than 10 points not be used for a scoring section.
  7. All courses must include: A gather; a wear/drive/cross-drive (according to level of class); a minimum of three obstacles; a sorting exercise (required for HRD III, optional for HRD I and II); penwork, including repenning at the end of the course. Optional elements may include such exercises as a designated narrow road or path on which the stock must be kept, stopping and holding the group in place, keeping the group within a designated grazing area, etc. At least one-half of the course must be more than 20 ft. away from a fence.
  8. Elements may be judged separately or may be combined into a scoring section, e.g., a series of chutes or pens (other than the final pen), obstacles with a section of the course leading up to that obstacle, etc. The gather may be judged as one section or divided into outrun/lift and fetch. Beginning and ending of sections must be clearly indicated for use in scoring.
  9. As a result of a sorting exercise, a smaller group of animals may be used on part of the course. In such a situation, fewer than the minimum number of animals required for the course may be used, but on no more than 1/4 of the course; fewer than three animals may not be used.
  10. It may happen that due to the nature of the course and its requirements, the performance of a particular task will be of such importance to the performance of a subsequent task that failure to perform it will result in the halting of the run and consequent non-qualification. If this type of design is used it must clearly be indicated on the premium list or flyer for the event.
  11. The approved diagram and detailed description must be provided to entrants well before the trial, and copies must be available at the trial site on the day of the event.


The gather may be done either in an arena or pasture, and may be done either at the beginning or somewhere along the course. For instance, the stock may be taken out to a location in the pasture, settled, then the handler and dog may move back to a specified location. There must be a distance of at least 120 ft. between the location of the stock to the location of a designated handler’s post.

For HRD I, whether in an arena or pasture, the dog may be taken to a point halfway between the designated handler’s post and the stock, and the handler may go to within 15 ft. of the stock. For HRD II, the dog is set at the post, and the handler may go halfway to the stock. For HRD III, the dog and handler both are at the post.

If the gather is at the beginning of the course, the dog may be positioned on lead in the HRD I class, but there must be a pause after the lead is removed, before the dog is sent to gather the stock; in the HRD II and III classes, the lead must be removed just inside the course limits. If the gather is later during the course, the dog will be off lead in all classes.


For HRD I, the handler may fetch and/or drive throughout, with the handler in any position. For HRD II and III, the handler’s movement will be restricted by the use of handler’s posts and limit lines in certain areas. HRD II must include a drive or cross-drive of at least 60 ft. HRD III must include a drive and/or cross-drive of at least 120 ft. which may be divided into two sections of at least 60 ft. each. No more than one-half of the total drive length may be alongside a fence. Drives should be related to meaningful ranch tasks such as taking stock to a different location or pasture or moving a group away from the main flock.

On the score sheet, the wear/drive segments may be set up separately, or set up in conjunction with an obstacle and scoring included within that obstacle (e.g., for an obstacle such as a bridge, part of the course leading up to the bridge may be included in the scoring for the bridge; a section of the course may indicate “drive through second panel”).


At least one of the obstacles in HRD I and HRD II must be freestanding and at least two of the obstacles in HRD III must be freestanding (a freestanding final pen may be counted for this requirement). Obstacles may include panels, chutes, alleyways, pens, bridges, trailers, or natural obstacles such as a passage between shrubs or trees. Any obstacle must be suitable for the number of stock being used. The course designer will indicate whether specific obstacles may or may not be entered by the handler or at what point an obstacle may be entered. If entry of dog and/or handler is allowed there must be ample room for the dog and/or handler to maneuver and solid sides should be avoided for narrow obstacles; the handlers’ meeting should include discussion regarding safe negotiation of any narrow obstacles. Freestanding obstacles must be at least 20 ft. from any fence. Openings of freestanding obstacles may not be more than 12 ft. for sheep, 16 ft. for cattle, except that actual bridges or natural obstacles may be somewhat wider.

Chutes may vary from 2 ft. to 4 ft in width for sheep, up to 6 ft. for cattle, and may or may not have a floor; handlers should not enter chutes unless necessitated by the course design, but dogs may enter chutes. A bridge may be an actual bridge crossing a gully or ditch or may be an obstacle set up for the course. In the latter case, an obstacle designated as a “bridge” is distinguished from a chute in that the bridge has a floor and may be up to 12 ft. in width; handlers must cross bridges, but it is up to the course designer and judge whether the dog must cross. Actual bridges may have any surface and may be somewhat wider than bridges set up for a course. Chutes and bridges set up for the course may have entry wings with an opening of no more than 12 ft. for sheep, 16 ft. for cattle. (For trials using very large groups, permission may be requested for use of somewhat wider wings proportional to the number of animals being used).
Dimensions of obstacles are to be given on the sanction form.

Sorting Exercise

A sorting exercise may consist of removing a ribbon from a marked sheep, a shed or splitting off one or more head of stock, gate-sorting stock into a particular area, using a sorting race or chute to sort stock, and/or briefly and gently capturing and holding an individual sheep. Certain sorting exercises may allow use of a crook. Sorting may require only a certain number of animals, or may require the sorting of specific animals. A particular area to be used may be designated, or any area allowed. The course designer may choose among these options. Details and specifications must be clearly set out. A sorting exercise is required for HRD III classes. If desired, sorting exercises may be used in HRD I and II level classes and may be graduated according to class.

Pens, Including Repen

Pens may include a take pen at the beginning of the course, sorting pens, a series of pens to be negotiated during the course, and a repen.

Apart from a take pen and the repen, the course designer will determine which, if any, pens may be entered by the handler and/or dog. Smaller pens which are to be entered by the handler and/or dog should not have solid sides. Larger pens may incorporate solid sides (such as the side of a building). Any pen must be suitable for the number of stock being used and, if entry of dog and/or handler is allowed, must give ample room for the dog and/or handler to maneuver. Take pens should not be less than 12 ft. x 12 ft. for sheep (16 ft. x 16 ft. for cattle), and may be larger. When stock are removed from any pen, the gate should be closed afterwards unless specifically required to be left open.

Take pens are differentiated according to class. HRD I handlers may enter the pen and may move around to assist the dog as needed but may not touch the dog or stock without penalty. HRD II handlers may enter the pen but must remain just inside the gate. HRD III handlers may not enter the pen. If the course begins with a take pen, in the HRD I class the dog may be brought into the pen on lead if the handler chooses, but there must be a pause after the lead is removed, before the dog is sent to collect the stock. For HRD II and III classes, the dog must enter the pen off lead.

The repen may be a freestanding pen, fence line pen, trailer, barn, corral or pasture. Classes may or may not be differentiated by required positioning of the handler at the pen. Holding a rope tied to the gate may or may not be required. The final pen, trailer, barn, corral or pasture may not be entered by the handler without a significant penalty (other than to remove the stock if necessary after the run is completed).

Dimensions of pens are to be given on the sanction form.

NOTE: Although HRD courses should conform to the above, under certain circumstances certain courses may be approved which, while including nearly all of the above elements, may vary in one respect or another. Special approval for such courses will only be given in the case of established courses used by recognized herding authorities such as the Société Central Canine of France, Working Kelpie Council of Australia, and similar organizations. Judging will be in general accord with the criteria outlined by such organizations so long as those criteria do not conflict with AHBA criteria. The scoring system of the relevant organization may be used as practicable, but qualifying scores will be determined by the standard AHBA percentages and the total score available for the advanced class must be at least 10 points more than the total score available for the intermediate and started classes. Complete information must be provided to AHBA Sanction Coordinator and to the prospective judge or judges at the time sanction is requested, and the flyer or premium list must include relevant information for entrants.