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South Canterbury’s sheep dog trials have kicked off at the Hilton-Gapes Valley Collie Club, with keen competitors vying for a spot in the national finals, despite spots of wet weather.
Young triallist Mike Trotter, from Blue Mountain Station, near Fairlie, won the straight hunt with his maiden bitch Mangu, with an impressive 99 points.
Former sheep dog trials national president Merv King hosted the event again this year, with many coming for the social side of competition.
Canterbury Sheep Dog Trial Association promotions officer Sally Mallinson is also the promotions officer for South Canterbury, and the national newsletter editor, ‘‘which keeps me out of trouble,’’ she quipped.
‘‘Sheep dog trialling is something you can do from a young age through to old. It’s a really great sport that keeps gaining in popularity. The huntaways have increased each year which is just fantastic for the sport,’’ Ms Mallinson said.
‘‘We run four events; that is standard in any dog trial. Two heading dog events: the long head and short head and yard. Then two huntaway events [the noisy dogs] which are the zig-zag and straight hunt.’’
Huntaways are a uniquely New Zealand breed developed from crossing border collie with Labrador and various other breeds to get dogs that would bark.
Back in the day, heading dogs could not cope with shifting sheep, and so the huntaway was born.
‘‘Huntaways are under registration as our own New Zealand breed. I am a bit biased toward them, too,’’ she laughed.
‘‘I quite like them.’’
Mrs Mallinson was expecting a 100-strong turnout in the heading trials last weekend and 80 in the hunt, with competitors coming from Omarama to Oxford.
‘‘It is part of a circuit. Ultimately people go around dog trials to gain qualification points to attend South and North Island championships, then the New Zealand championships.’’
‘‘One open win won’t get you there. But you could get six fifth-place spots and be qualifying.’’
Gore will be the main stage for the South Island and national championships this year, running in conjunction with each other.
There, 280 to 300 dogs are expected in each event.
Steve Kerr is judging the zig-zag hunt in Greenvale, Southland, for this year’s New Zealand championships.
‘‘The first thing we want to see is a bit of style in the dog. Good noise, line plays a bit of a part ... Coming up through the middle of the course. [We] want to see a run that flows and progresses nicely without stopping or being too slow. I want to see the sheep chased and harassed. A nice clean run with good stockmanship,’’ Mr Kerr said.
The prize is a trophy, a green tie, $1500 and glory.
‘‘There is great camaraderie within the sport. Everyone gets to know each other. You sort of wish your cobber the best and then hope like hell your run is better than his.’’
-By George Clark