Couple go above and beyond for dog trials

Jo Prouting, of Oamaru, and Jo Binnie, of Leeston, watch the action at the Southern Indoor...
Jo Prouting, of Oamaru, and Jo Binnie, of Leeston, watch the action at the Southern Indoor Charity dog trial. Photos: Sally Rae
They say behind every good man is a good woman.

When it comes to dog triallists, the same mantra could be applied, particularly in the case of Canterbury’s Jo Binnie.

For 50 years, Mrs Binnie has accompanied her husband Peter to dog trials, despite having never run a dog.

Last week was no exception; the couple attended the Southern Indoor Charity Dog Trial at Waimumu, near Gore, where Mr Binnie and Kate finished sixth in the open.

It was the third time the event has been held in the CowHouse Construction Agri Centre at the site of the Southern Field Days.

Mr Binnie (73), who manages a property at Leeston, has been dog trialling since he was 17, and his wife has been attending trials since she was 19.

Not that she has ever run a dog, despite a love for them — "but I think I know everything", she quipped, referring to watching numerous runs over the decades.

In 2016, the Canterbury A&P Association awarded the Show Legend Award, which recognises volunteer effort, to Mr and Mrs Binnie.

The couple were described as the backbone of the dog trial section after many years of going above and beyond to make sure the section runs smoothly.

It was the people  she enjoyed at dog trials, Mrs Binnie said — "the guys are just great ... [they] just make you feel part of them. They don’t exclude you," she said.

Women were still outnumbered by men as competitors, although the number of females had increased over the years.

Organising committee chairman Mike Joyce, of Wendon Valley.
Organising committee chairman Mike Joyce, of Wendon Valley.
Among the young triallists was Nick Meiklejohn (22), a shepherd from Glen Dene Station, on the shores of Lake Hawea.

Originally from a lifestyle property in Northland, he had wanted to be a farmer "from day dot".

He did Waipaoa Station’s farm cadet scheme in Gisborne, where cadets were given a heading pup in their first year, and a running huntaway in their second year to train.

Glen Dene Station shepherd Nick Meiklejohn and Pip at the Southern Indoor Charity dog trial at...
Glen Dene Station shepherd Nick Meiklejohn and Pip at the Southern Indoor Charity dog trial at Waimumu.
Moving south, he worked first at Crown Rock, near Roxburgh, and had been at Glen Dene for nearly six months.

He has six dogs but only entered Pip, his main heading dog, at the indoor trials. The innovative yarding course was inside the 5000sq m building, and Mr Meiklejohn said it was different from usual trials but it was "good to come along and give it a crack".

He won the novice title at the event last year with Pip, but things did not go quite according to plan this year.

He won his first open trial with Pip this year at the Millers Flat trials and would keep "chipping away", he said.

Mr Meiklejohn enjoyed both the challenge of the sport and the opportunity to get out and meet people.It was also an even playing field — "it’s about the dog ... not about the person running it", he said.

And that even playing field was very evident at Waimumu, where the age range spanned through to the remarkable nonagenarian Les Roughan, of Mandeville, who was competing.

When it came to training, Mr Meiklejohn said it was "a bit of both" — it was incorporated into his daily work on the station, but he also spent spare time working with his dogs.

"For a shepherd ... without your dogs, what are you?" he said.

Farm ownership was his ultimate goal, and Mr Meiklejohn hoped to work his way up the ladder to achieve that.

There were 133 entries in the event this year.  Triallists came from as far afield as Blenheim, and there was a strong contingent from Canterbury.

The event

raised $13,000 for charity across its previous two editions, and Southern Field Days secretary-event manager and dog trial enthusiast Sharon Paterson hoped this year’s event would raise more than $6000 for this year’s chosen charity, Hospice Southland.

Organising committee chairman Mike Joyce said the event was driven by a small band of locals who got together.

The shed was "sitting there" and, inspired by similar events in the North Island, they thought it would be a great setting for a dog trial.

The setting was "a bit different", and some dogs did not handle it quite as well as others. It could be a little strange for younger dogs, but  improvement could be seen in dogs that had previously competed. Mr Joyce, of Wendon Valley, was particularly keen to encourage novice, young competitors. He competed with three dogs, and was third in the open with Strutt, also winning the maiden.

The open was won by Barry Hobbs and Ben, while Clayton Chittock and Di won the novice competitor award.

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