Dogs, masters show teamwork

Wakatipu sheep dog triallists and judges (from left) Alister Ward, of Balclutha, Nick Fraser, of Mt Linton, Grant McMaster, owner of Closeburn Station and Robin McKenzie, of Clinton, take a breather. Photo by Olivia Caldwell.
Wakatipu sheep dog triallists and judges (from left) Alister Ward, of Balclutha, Nick Fraser, of Mt Linton, Grant McMaster, owner of Closeburn Station and Robin McKenzie, of Clinton, take a breather. Photo by Olivia Caldwell.

Those from the land will know a farmer only gets a sheep dog's best work out of it through the hard work put into its training.

Well, at least this is what Wakatipu Sheep Dog trial judge Alister Ward says.

More than 100 farmers have gathered in the Wakatipu Basin since yesterday for two hard-case and hard-working days in the heat at the 85th annual sheep dog trials held at Closeburn Station near Moke Lake.

The hard work is of course predominantly undertaken by the dog itself, but make no mistake the pressure is still on the farmer.

''This is like having Steve Hansen watching over your shoulder,'' said Closeburn farm owner and sheep dog triallist Grant McMaster when it was his turn to take the stand in front of the zig-zag course.

There are four categories for the dog and owner to gain six points over the two-day event; the long pull, the short head, drive and yard, the zig-zag hunt and the straight hunt.

If successful the partnership can qualify for the South Island trials held in Blenheim in May, then the national trials held in Taupo in June.

Mr Ward describes sheep dog trialling as a ''disease''.

''It [the dog] is one of the tools of the trade that you use every day. If you've got a good dog it makes work easy and if you get good at it, it is quite fun to compete.

''You only get out of a dog what you put into it.''

Competitors this weekend have come from as far as the North Island, though there is at least 17 competing as locals from within the boundaries or Arrowtown and Glenorchy.

Mr McMaster assured there are female entries among a field of competitors.

There are 13 trophies to be given out at today's end, with the highest prize kitty of $75 going to the open section winner.

Each contestant agrees the competition is not about the money, it is about the fun, the social side and of course a ''man's'' best friend.