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Sheepdog Trials

The first sheepdog trials were in the United Kingdom in the 1870's. They arose from the natural admiration of the great dogs working the flocks, and a natural desire to prove one's own dog against the fine dogs from neighboring farms. Early trials in the United States were mostly auxiliary events to agricultural fairs. Over the years the trials became more organized and well attended.

This event will have trials on the main field for the national champion, as well as a separate field with competition for very talented young dogs.  In addition there will be vendors for both food and mechandise.    

The preliminary round will consist of the gather, drive, shed, then pen.  The gather further breaks down into the outrun, lift, and fetch.  In the Outrun the dog is sent from the handler's side with a single command.  

Outrun - 20 points
The job of the dog is to cast out wide and get behind the sheep in the perfect position to bring them straight to the handler.  The dog should not disturb the sheep until it is in position to bring them in the correct direction.  Since this job belongs entirely to the dog, any commands are penalized.  

Lift - 10 points
The lift is the moments when the dog makes contact with the sheep. This is not physical contact, but rather the time when the presence of the dog begins to effect and move the sheep.  Though brief, this is very important.  The best dogs present with confidence so that the sheep do not question their authority, while also presenting with control so the sheep do not feel physically threatened.

Fetch - 20 points
The fetch is a straight line from the point where the sheep were lifted, through the fetch panels set on the field, then on to the handler's feet.  Any deviation from the straight corridor of travel will lose points, as well as any sheep that do not travel through the panels.  

Drive - 30 points
The dog will take the sheep around the handler and post, then in a straight line to the first set of drive panels.  All sheep must go between the drive panels or points will be lost.  The sheep are then turned and taken across to the second set of drive panels (cross drive panels), again straight lines and all sheep through the panel for full points.  Finally the sheep are brought back to the shedding ring.

Shed - 10 points
At the direction of the judge, the dog and handler will separate the sheep.  Usually it is to remove two sheep from the group.

Pen - 10 points
After the shed the sheep are gathered into a group again and taken into a freestanding pen.  The pen is completed when all sheep are in, and the gate is closed.  Neither handler nor dog can touch the sheep, and the sheep cannot be pushed into the pen with the gate.

Single - 10 points
In the Semi Final round the sheep will be removed from the pen and a single ewe will be removed from the group, as specified by the judge. 

Preliminary Course DiagramFinals Course Diagram
©Alta-Pete Photos

The Judges

The Judges are as follows:  
Suzy Applegate

I am fortunate to live in the Sierra-Nevada Foothills above Sacramento in Northern California with my husband John and son Bryce. We run black angus mother cows in addition to feeders part of the year on dryland pasture. Also, I have 130 sheep consisting of Commercial Whiteface and White Dorper ewes, primarily used for training dogs and accommodating students.

I have been trialing almost 30 years. My most treasured winnings and awards are winning the Overall Champion at Zamora Hills with Hap twice, and winning the Sonoma Wine Country trial 5 times: twice with Bet, twice with Dot, and in 2016 with Gus. Some of my most noted accomplishments include winning the 2008 National Nursery Championship, in addition to getting the Most Promising Young Dog Award with home bred Buzz, and Winning the Double Lift Finals at Meeker in 2010 with him. In 2011, Buzz came in 3rd in the US National Finals Double Lift, winning the Best Gather Award on Colorado's tough sheep. In 2014, I won another National Nursery Champion award with Buzz's home bred son Gus, who like dad was awarded the Most Promising Young Dog Award. In 2015, I was Reserve Champion National Nursery Champion with another home bred dog, Bliss.

I primarily breed my own dogs; my passion is training and running young dogs in Nursery trials. I am looking forward to running again this next year in the upcoming trials.

Norm Close

Norm Close is an accomplished Judge that has earned the reputation of being professional, fair, and accurate. He has Judged numerous trials in the U.S. and Canada including the 2011 USBCHA National Finals, the Big Willow Double Lift twice, Old Chatham, North Carolina State Championships, Hilltop, Phantom Ridge Classic, Sterling Acres and more. Norman is also accomplished on the trial field, winning many open trials, including the Canadian National finals. He is a successful clinician and travels throughout the US and Canada, teaching and training. Norman was raised on a mixed farm in Lancashire, England and has been working with livestock all his life. In 1980, he immigrated to Alberta, Canada to work as a herdsman and now resides in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, with his wife Vickie, together they have a very reputable breeding and training program, Handhills Border Collies. Norman's commitment is to run and breed strong dogs that work well on farms, ranches and also make successful trial dogs.

Kevin Evans

Kevin Evans is a 15 time member of the Welsh Team and has won the Welsh National twice (2011 with Greg and 2013 with Jimmy). He has qualified for the Supreme Championship 7 times with 5 different dogs, winning the event in 2008 with Mirk and Reserve in 2011 with Greg. Kevin qualified two dogs for the final of the 2008 World Trial - Mirk and Spot - and was 6th with Mirk at the 2011 World Trial. He once again represented his country at the World Trial in 2014 with his two dogs Jimmy and Greg.

Not only has Kevin been successful in singles competition, he has also won the Welsh National Brace Championship twice (the first time when he was just 18 years old with Jess and Dave)and in 2005 with Jaff and Zac. He's also been the Reserve International Brace Champion in 2005 with Jaff and Zac. In 1994, at the tender age of 13, he won One Man and His Dog 'Young Handler' with Maid - his first trial dog given to him by Mostyn Isaacs when he was 10.

Kevin grew up around dogs. His playground was the family farm (Penclyn Farm) in Libanus under the Brecon Beacons, a part of Wales that contains some of the most spectacular and diverse landscapes in Europe. Kevin's life revolves around dogs. Kevin's father, David or Dai as he is known, is a top handler and trainer in his own right and has represented Wales five times. Dai has had a huge influence on Kevin.

Bevis Jordan

I am a farm manager on a 4,200 acre hill farm in Northumberland, England. I breed and train my dogs for everyday work with 1450 Swaledale ewes lambed outside in April/May and 125 Limousin/Saler cross beef cows calving in Feb, March, April. I have successfully competed in trials for over 30 years and have bred and trained dogs that compete at National level and have exported dogs to USA, Canada and Europe. As a council member of the ISDS and a member on the Judges panel, I regularly judge trials in the UK, (English national judge in 2016,doubles Judge in 2017), National/Double lift trials in France and the Netherlands, Iceland & USA, (several state trials and championships, National Finals 2012, Meeker 2013,) and will also be judging at 2017 World Trial in the Netherlands.

As chairman of the Northumberland Sheepdog Trials League I help organise 25 open trials and 10 nursery trials every year. With my experience and knowledge gained over the years I now enjoy helping new handlers and hold regular training clinics to encourage beginners to train and handle dogs for work and competitive trialing.

©Derek Fisher  

The Sheep

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The dogs and handlers will be tested by the wiley members of the T & E Farms flock.  Dave and Jen Shoemaker have provided some background on their flock:

Our farm is owned by myself and my wife Jen.

We are located in the central western part of PA, in Cambria County. Our operation lies on the eastern edge of the Appalachian Plateau at an elevation of 2100 to 2300 feet. This area is characterized by very distinct seasonal weather patterns from cold, wet springtimes, to hot and dry summers, beautiful autumn days and sometimes very intense winters.

Our farm lies at the headwaters to the Chesapeake Bay. The soil types range from rocky ridges to low, heavy clay bottomland. Most of this area is covered by southern tier Appalachian hardwood forests, with a mixture of oak, maple, black cherry, beech, ash, and eastern hemlock. Early successional species include blackberry, pokeweed, locust, poplar, pin cherry and hawthorne. With forest covering 50 to 75% of the land area, most of our pasture and cropland is 5 – 50 acre parcels.

We acquired our first 150 head of breeding ewes in 1983, they were predominately Dorsets and were intended to be used in an accelerated lambing program and managed as a totally confined flock. From 1986-1988 we were involved with a company that was trying to contract sheep producers to supply lambs from company owned sheep. This lead to an expansion in flock size to around 700 head of Polypay type ewes. During this time, we began to use intensive grazing and Border Collies to reduce costs and labor. I also began doing custom sheep shearing of 3500-7000 head per year.

By 1988, the contracting company quit the sheep business and we purchased 250 head of their ewes that were on our farm. We gradually expanded sheep numbers and acreage for pasture by renting additional ground, (some areas were 3-4 miles from our home farm). At the same time we had gradually changed our flock from a confinement system to a zero confinement, total forage flock that were lambing one time per year on total forage fed operation.

From 1996 until now we have continued to expand and refine our farming operations. Our current ewe flock of 950 head is managed on 600 acres, of which 180 acres of farmland and 145 acres of woodland are owned and 275 acres of cropland and pasture are rented.

The ewes are a commercial crossbreed consisting mainly of North Country Cheviot, Scottish Blackface, and Texel. They are selected for hardiness, mothering and pounds of lamb produced.

We would like to thank the USBCHA finals committee for selecting our farm to supply the sheep for this trial. It is our hope that we have been able to provide a uniform group of strong, healthy ewes and wish the best of luck to all handlers.

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