Weekend set for trial of the century

Kauana Sheep Dog Trial Club member Rod Coulter pats his heading dog Blue and huntaway Bruce, as...
Kauana Sheep Dog Trial Club member Rod Coulter pats his heading dog Blue and huntaway Bruce, as he and fellow life member Gwilym Anderson (left) and club clerk Bill Cowie prepare for the club's centennial trial in Central Southland from Friday. Photo: Shawn McAvinue
Every dog has its day. About 100 sheep dog triallists are hoping it will be their day at a centennial event in central Southland from Friday.

Kauana Sheep Dog Trial Club life member Rod Coulter, of Centre Bush, said he enjoyed the challenge of competing at dog trials.

Three-month-old huntaway Joe. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE
Three-month-old huntaway Joe. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE
"There’s the human factor, the dog factor and the sheep factor and you keep going back because you know if you’ve got a good dog, he’ll have his day."

Triallists will compete across four classes at its centennial event, north of Winton, on Friday and Saturday.

The winner of each class — long pull, short head and yard, zig zag hunt and straight hunt — will take home $250 and a trophy.

Points are also on offer to qualify for the South Island and New Zealand Championships in Gore from May 17.

Mr Coulter said the skill level of young competitors was "strong", due in part to experienced triallists passing down skills.

Triallists never used to share tips, fearing the student might become better at the sport than the teacher.

"Nowadays it’s all open."

The best triallists were patient and "passionate’ about the sport and their dogs.

"If you don’t enjoy it — don’t do it."

A dog should suit a triallist’s style and the temperament of a breed of sheep they were working with.

Kauana Sheep Dog Trial Club life member the late John Anderson displays his collection of...
Kauana Sheep Dog Trial Club life member the late John Anderson displays his collection of trophies. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED

A dog suitable for working with a "difficult" crossbred sheep in Otago might not suit working with a "passive" merino sheep in Canterbury.

His family had a strong connection to the history of the trials.

His great grandfather Robert Anderson was the chairman of the first dog trial club in the district — Benmore and Fernhills Collie Club — in 1897.

A report in the Otago Witness on the club’s first trial described Anderson and his dog Moss as having a "clean style".

"Heading in quick time, brought back well, under serviceable command; yarded in 7 minutes," the report said.

The club disbanded at the start of World War 1.

When the war was over, Anderson helped launch the Kauana Collie Club in 1921 and trials resumed in the district again — he and his four sons among the competitors.

One of the sons, John, is Coulter’s late grandfather.

The club changed its name to the Kauana Sheep Dog Trial Club in 1967 and the name has remained since.

The trials had been held on many properties in the past century but was held on the farm of his grandfather John, and then his uncles, Rob and Gwilym, between 1945 and 1987.

Kauana Sheep Dog Trial founder Robert Anderson.
Kauana Sheep Dog Trial founder Robert Anderson.
Gwilym, of Winton, said dog trials were his dad’s life.

"It was his passion."

The trial this year would be held on two properties in Otapiri Gorge — the sheep and beef farms of the Grant brothers and the Wadworth family.

Mr Coulter thanked all the farmers who had allowed the club to use their sheep and properties for trials.

"Without landowners you haven’t got a trial."

In the past century, the trial had been cancelled twice — once for flooding in the 1970s and by the Covid-19 pandemic last year.

At the upcoming trial, six descendants of Robert Anderson would be involved — Mr Coulter, his niece Amy Coulter, cousins Mark Anderson and Elspeth Thompson, second cousin Lindsay Anderson and third cousin Paige Clark.

Several female triallists were set to compete and had a "gentle" manner when working with their dogs.

Due to the success of the approach, some of older male triallists were taking it easier on their dogs.

"The girls are kinder but some times they aren’t firm enough and the dog has a victory — you’ve got to be firm because a dog will run you, if you don’t run it."

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