Oops there goes my excuse for not sheepdog trialling

Kay was a little star at Powick Sheepdog Trials today

It's one of my regrets that in recent years I have not taken part in sheepdog trials. In the early part of this century (goodness, that makes me feel old) I was out with Glen or Dot on most weekends if I could find a trial within sensible driving distance, but as making videos and running a website demanded more and more of my time, I found I was unable to spare the many hours it takes to drive to a trial, wait sometimes all day for a run, and then drive home again.

Little Kay is an excellent sheepdog
Kay did well in her first sheepdog trial

An exception came two years ago, when I spontaneously decided to run Mel in the Local Novice class at Evesham Trial, and but for a massive handler error, she would have won! We had the sort of run that you see someone else having and wish you had a dog which was that good. Mel was magnificent, her lines were straight and every sheep went through every gate - until I completely forgot that when there are five sheep, you must shed two away from three. Mel had actually turned onto the two, and I called her off them and onto the three.

Mel - the greatest sheepdog in the world
Mel (to me the greatest sheepdog in the world) with her grandson Reggie

Needless to say, the judge didn't accept the shed, so we had to do it again. Inevitably, we were timed out, but the person who won the trial told me afterwards that up until that point, she'd come to terms with the prospect of coming second, rather than the first place she previously held. Of course, I was "rusty" having not run a dog in a trial for several years (...and they say it's like riding a bike).

We ran Mel in another trial at Kington a week or so later, but at nearly ten years of age, and with arthritis from a ligament injury she sustained when she was a year old, she clearly wasn't up to it. So my "sheepdog trials comeback" was extremely short lived.

I've been aware that Kay's really good when she doesn't get too excited, and I kept promising myself that I'd run her one day, but I wanted her to settle down before running her in a trial, so until today I hadn't got around to it. Now that she's six years old, I think it's time to accept that she's going to be excited when she goes to work, until the day she can't work any more - and probably even longer. Let's face it, none of us are getting any younger either, so finally, I took the plunge.

Setting off early to avoid the hot weather that was forecast, I took Kay to our local sheepdog trial at Powick. I wasn't expecting much. First attempts at trialling rarely go well for a dog, especially the sort that let the occasion go to their head as Kay's inclined to do. Calm and patience are vitally important for dog as well as handler when competing in sheepdog trials.

Of course, I was fairly nervous myself too, having not competed regularly since 2005

I needn't have worried. I'm sure the trial organisers, Alison Smith and Alice Potter will forgive me if I say the sheep were less than cooperative, but Kay handled them extremely well. After a small re-direct because she was convinced the shiny black silage bales in the next field were the sheep, her outrun was excellent and she picked the sheep up well. (They were in fact, cantering steadily towards the exhaust pen at the time).

Lovely portrait of sheepdog Kay lying in the grass
Kay, watching and waiting

Kay brought them back onto line, and under the circumstances I was satisfied when just one of the four went through the fetch gates. Kay brought the sheep up to, and around me tidily but unfortunately they missed the first drive gates. Not to worry though, the crossdrive was near perfect and they all went through the second drive gates.

Shedding was next, but sadly, that's where the run ended. We were unable to shed the sheep, and Kay was exhausted, so I retired. The sun was blisteringly hot (for the UK) and under working conditions she's not used to, Kay had done extremely well with sheep that several dogs failed to control at all. She did everything I asked of her, stopped immediately, and gave the sheep plenty of space at all times - I was proud of her.

Thanks to Alice and Alison for putting the trial on - I hope the sheep settled down for the afternoon runs. Now where's that sheepdog trials fixtures diary?

Results of the 2013 Powick Sheepdog Trials

Morning session
Novice

  1. D LLoyd, Tom, Down 24
  2. D LLoyd, Jill, Down 40
  3. L Bowden, Mirk, Down 43
  4. J Atwell, Alice, Down 44

Open

  1. E L Morgan, Flyn, Down 20
  2. R Lewis, Crystal, Down 23
  3. D LLoyd, Tom, Down 24
  4. A Smith, Lil, Down 25
  5. B Pugh, Jack, Down 32
  6. T Griffiths, Sam, Down 35

Afternoon session
Novice

  1. T Griffiths, Rob 70
  2. A Williams, Spot 67
  3. J Atwell, Alice 63
  4. D LLoyd, Gill 62

Open

  1. T Griffiths, Rob 70
  2. J Atwell, Snip 68
  3. A Williams, Spot 67
  4. E L Morgan, Glyn 66
  5. J Atwell, Alice 63
  6. B Pugh, Jack 62 ORLF
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