Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Sheepdog trialing

Corey Perry's Mirk at High Prairie Field trial.
My passion for sheepdog trialing began when I was a teenager and living in South Africa.
(I should one day elaborate on this story)
Here are some bare essentials for now..
Before my step into the sheep dog world,
 I was working and training a German Shepherd Dog in obedience, companion dog, tracking and some man work.
I was sweet 16 and  passionate about my dogs.
I  was finally allowed to get another pup from my parents and decided to get a border collie pup.
His name was Ace.
Little, did I know then where this would take me on my life's journey...

Now Ace was one of those dogs that was in for everything and anything.
I did everything I possible could with him, from obedience trials, to agility, to tracking, man-work, search and rescue and even showing...
He was  a show champion,
and a clown
and my best friend.
He was not equally good at everything,
 but we learnt a lot and had a good time doing it.

However, I felt I did not have a well rounded collie, as  he did not work sheep.
 So, after watching a demo, reading a book and finding some sheep,
 we started on our sheep-dogging adventures.
After fumbling along, Jill Rankin decided to take me under her wing to guide and coach me.
We became firm friends and most of what I learnt, was all due to her.
Every weekend was spent on their farm, learning to run dogs, learning to read sheep and helping out with chores.

I ran a number of trials in South Africa.
I did okay, and the pinnacle of my South African Sheep dog career was that I once won the Top Lady Handler at the South African Nationals.
Those where the days when people felt that ladies needed more encouragement to participate in trials and so had a special prize just for women handlers!!

In the mean time, in between my sheep-dogging, I completed my Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Natal.
I decided to spend a year and travel around Europe with my beloved collie Ace.

On my travels I met Eric and as you know, after 23 years, we still have border collies.
In the Netherlands, I was given another collie, and then bought a third and so got involved in sheep dog trials in Europe.
We traveled far and wide, did clinics, judging, training and trialing and made some lifelong friends.
We spent a lot of time travelling up and down to the UK looking at dogs.

Eric had been fairly successful with his dog Digo at the Continental Sheepdog Championships.
I started having some success with a collie called Djan.
When she was 18 months old we had qualified for the Continental ( this is the top trial on the European mainland, due to quarantine laws in  the UK). Young Djan, qualified for the finals, I went home and spent the evening teaching her a look back for the double gather the following day.
Djan ended up fouth and I won  the Top Lady handler award (again).

She was a good little bitch and a great work dog.
I won the the Dutch National Farm Dog Championship with her.
This is a practical working competition and not a traditional ISDS sheep dog trial.
And, then following this I again qualified with some of my dogs to run in the Continental Sheepdog Championships and,
 once again ended up fourth in the finals.
I never did better than this fourth place at the Continentals!

However, as the years went on and we became more involved with sheep farming, raising kids and not spending enough time trial training our work dogs.
The trailing started taking a second place.
We still had our regular Sunday morning training and we kept working our dogs,
 however the trialing became less of a priority.
I am sure, not having a top trial dog at that time, may have also contributed to  not having such a interest in the trails anymore.
Having a good trails dog does motivate you more, than taking  a rough work dog to a trial;
who then goes out onto the course and grips off because a ewe decided to be somewhat obstinate...

After we moved to Canada, I believe we have run one or two arena trials, two field trials and that is the sum total of our trialing here.
We have hosted a field trial 3 years ago and an arena trial.
So, after a late night beer,  Ken Price and Eric decided it was time to do another trial.
Now, we know that most people who trial do not want to make the long hike up to the north,
nor do they like running on our tough sheep..
but what the heck,
 we do need  a few more trials in the north so we decided to host this one on our ranch.

 We decided to keep things simple,
 have low entry fees, have fun and work dogs on some challenging sheep.
Corey Perry, Wayne Roberts and Ken Price discuss a run.
We had a good trail, 30 dogs ran.
The crowd ( all 6) enjoyed the friendly atmosphere.
 One competitor flew in from Ontario to run her dog ( fanatic?)
the others were all north country folks.
Yes, the sheep were tough,
"sort of like Meeker" some of the die hards suggested.

Your dog needed skill, balance, oversight, power and you needed to sharpen up on your handling skills.
Things looked a bit dismal at the start with a top score of 26,
 however the dogs and the handlers got their act together and had some good runs.
The top score over  the two days was a 90 by Ken Price and his Creed.
 However, Wayne Robert's pretty much cleaned up in most of the classes.

Sheila and I penning.
I ran Lad and failed dismally.
With Sheila I ended up somewhere in the middle.
Running my dogs again made me realize how rusty I had become.
I do not think I will have the same passion for trialing as I did years ago; but
I love watching a good dog work and love working my dogs in everyday ranching situations.

Eric was judge and we did not hear too many complaints,
so that is good!!

The plan is organize another one in the not so distant future.
For those people that intend going to Meeker,
you are welcome to come for some practice runs on our tough sheep.

Wayne Roberts pens sheep with Llangwm Rex (from Aled Owen)

Carl Sneddon working Meg  (she came from Kevin Evans)

Jess from Carl Sneddon marches an obstinate ewe away.
( She is a granddaughter of Serge van der Zweeps Glen)

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