Thousands of Kennel Club registered and unregistered dogs of what are described as Working or Pastoral breeds and crosses are owned, shown and worked in various competitive disciplines around the UK. A tiny proportion of these have owners interested in handling stock with them. Places prepared to help such people, especially Border collies, are not uncommon nowadays, though all prefer to work with people who have stock and a genuine need to improve their handling skills.
Over the last twenty years a small group have persevered with the handicaps of a. having no stock, b. having another herding breed with which they wish to learn stock management. Originally these people were ‘Beardie people, as the keenest member of this group breeds and shows this breed. Over the years, the breeds working sheep included GSDs, Polish Lowlands, Pyrenean Sheepdogs, Vallhunds, Australian shepherds, kelpies, Welsh sheepdogs, border collies and boxers. ( Yes, boxers) There is some interest from these folk to have some more formal recognition of their efforts, perhaps a qualification recognised by their Breed Club, or Certificate to mark a certain standard reached.
Many find regular training at Glebe farm, North Yorkshire, with a very strong emphasis on considerate, effective sheep handling. Having an unusual breed is no excuse for bad dog work!
Four fairly regular members own Australian Shepherds, a breed with a very strong following in USA, and last Autumn an ASCA trial was requested… That’s ‘sanctioned’ by the parent club, the Australian Shepherd Club of America, under, I as the proposed host discovered, several inches of regulations, paper work and rules. Fortunately they were encouraged and led by a Swede called Mikael Hageus who managed all this paper work through the Swedish branch of the ASCA, or it would not have gone as smoothly as it did! A highly recommended judge, Roy Sage, from America was coming to Sweden, and Mikael included North Yorkshire in his circuit. He delivered Roy to our door on the 14th of June, and group with 9 dogs between them gathered the following morning to work with Roy towards gaining the first formal qualification for sheep work, albeit a very basic one, as there are several more, becoming steadily more demanding.
ASCA trials are open to a wide range of dogs considered to be of herding breeds, so we had 5 aussies, 3 border collies and a working beardie.
Roy Sage was inspirational with both people and dogs, and his kind, enthusiastic and attentive handling of his group relieved their nerves, tidied up some handling techniques and was a joy to observe. This sort of thing is always nerve wracking to a host, who worries for the people, the dogs and the sheep until they see the clinician in action!
Mikael ensured the course was set up as the rules required, decisions were made as to which sheep and how many were to used in the trial, people were instructed as to trial etiquette, and we were off!
It was just marvelous how it all went! Each packet of sheep was ready at the start , and calmly reappeared after completing the course, to be replaced by the next group for the next handler. There was such calm and quiet! In fact, all nine competitors completed the trial with a qualifying score, something to be proud of. Roy told us that he has never qualified a whole class before, and the group had all proved themselves very good learners!
For me, as host, this was a very useful experience, as we ran an All Breeds Trial, an ambition of mine, with the guidance of two very experienced professionals. This gave a feeling of importance that is lacking from a progress test type set up we have done in the past. I understand that this the first time a sanctioned ASCA Started Sheep has taken place in the UK, so it was quite a triumph for the Australian shepherd ladies who kept me up to the mark on the lead up to the event, and a source of satisfaction they have well earned!
Present were … Course Director / time keeper, M Hageus, Judge R Sage, Sheep steward J Goulder
John Verity with Fleck and Oscar, Border Collies
Vikki Wong with Bandit and Blanche, Australian Shepherds,
Hugh Emmerson and Bess, a Working beardie,
Mandie Gibson and Kanga, Australian Shepherd
Jenny Smith and Brodie, a working sheepdog
Liz Hulley and Pitch, an Australian Shepherd
Sue Beavers and Roosta, an Australian shepherd
Also working in the clinic, but not entered in the trial, were an Australian Working Kelpie, Zandie,a K C registered Bearded collie, Talraz Supertramp and Mandie Gibson's Cooper, Australian Shepherd, who all completed the course well the previous day.
There was an a.m and p.m trial with the Most promising Started Aussie going to Sue Beavers and Roosta in the first trial, and to Mandie Gibson with Kanga in the second trial.
I am so proud of all the handlers today who have earned their successes at the ASCA trial. Congratulations. A wonderful, memorable day
Thank You Jackie Goulder
Topeka Huron River Blues "Roosta"
Topeka River Sunset "Blanche" and Topeka Justasilver Storm "Bandit
owned and loved by Vikki Wong
Mandie Gibson and Bachero Raw Wood Cara
Topeka River Styx aka Pitch owned by Liz Hulley
Trial results and ribbons. 1st leg towards her STDs title
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