Sunday, September 03, 2006

Sheepdog Trials

We went to this competition two years ago. It is amazing to watch the Border Collies round up sheep, waltz them around the hillside, and then pen them up at the end. They are fast, focused, patient and smart.

The place where they are held is Soldier Hollow, over in beautiful Heber City. It is where the 2002 Olympic cross country skiing was held. It is a great venue because there are stands for watching, a nice flat area that was the finish, and then a huge hillside where they did most of the skiing. Great for sheep herding trials.

The dog has 13.5 minutes to complete a long series of things. The start is from way down the hill so as soon as the clock starts, the dog wastes no time.

You start to get some sense of how far he has to run. He is still at full speed in this picture.

You can now see him as the little black speck up above the six sheep.

You would think getting them running in the right direction might be good, but in general running is bad. They are too hard to control and at full speed the sheep are as fast as the dog. It is all about pace and control.

The very lasst step is to get them into the pen. The sheep aren't quite as stupid as you might think and they have no desire to get in. Here is a fairly common sight. All the sheep in a stare-down with the dog.

Some of the sheep went in, but one really has an attitude. You notice his head is turned down to give the dog a piece of his mind. In this case, the dog is allowed to bite the sheep on the nose to keep control.

Here is what you aren't allowed to do. This dog just got frustrated at how annoying the sheep were being. They were going every which way and then refusing to go anywhere. This one took off so he chased and gave it a nip on the butt. No can do. He was disqualified.

For practice in the early phases, the dogs get to herd ducks. As with the sheep, the ducks saw strength in numbers and tended to wander around as a mob.

I didn't get to see any of the duck herding demos, but this one dog was in the pen for a minute. He was supposed to move the ducks from one end of the pen to other other so they could fix the shade tent. He did a marvelous job. Actually, he looks pretty scarey.

If you get a chance to see one of these events you should. It is good for about two hours of entertainment, but then starts to get a bit repetitive unless you are really into it. Great show!
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