What to expect at a sheepdog trial
The more prepared you are for your first sheepdog trial, the less nerve-wracking it will be; it’s reassuring to know what to expect, and what will be expected of you.
It seems unbelievable now, but when I entered my first competition (oh, so many years ago) it wasn’t until I stood at the post that I fully realised the sheep were now MY responsibility.
Whatever happened, however much of a mess my dog and I made of the run, those sheep weren’t going anywhere if we didn’t take them. It was a sobering thought, and I wished I’d thought it sooner!
Sheepdog trials demand control and precision, but are founded in the practical everyday work of the shepherd. Trials can be a hugely enjoyable, if sometimes frustrating, opportunity to see how your dog, and your handling, measure up.
But whether your interest is as competitor or spectator, our two-part Introduction to Sheepdog Trials will show you how a sheepdog trial works.
Part One covers what to do when you arrive at the field, studying the course, what a typical course looks like, and how to plan your run to your dog’s advantage. We also tell you how points are most often lost, and what the judge will be looking for in a good run.
There’s lots of great sheepdog footage to illustrate the Outrun, Lift and Fetch, with further explanations using clear animations.
Part Two takes you beyond the Fetch, through the Cross-drive, to the Pen. It will also help you understand how a sheepdog trial is run and how to prepare your dog for your first trial, as well as what to do when you get there, and what to avoid (if you can).
At my first trial I learned to take responsibility for the sheep, and to take responsibility for my dog’s training and be more realistic about our progress. I also learned that if, finally, it all falls apart and you have to take The Long Walk (all the way up the field to the letting-out pen to collect your dog, and together drive the sheep to the exhaust pen with what feels like the eyes of the world on you) you won’t be the first, and you definitely won’t be the last. It’s happened to every competitor at some point in their careers.
And if it’s any comfort, hardly anyone will be watching you anyway – especially if there’s a half-decent tea tent. Well, no one except your trainer, your partner, your parents, your children, and anyone who already knows you, of course …
We’re sure that An Introduction to Sheepdog Trials will interest potential spectators, as well as encourage potential competitors. Remember, to watch the tutorials you’ll need to be logged in as a paid member, and if you need more help, leave a comment or question on the tutorial page.