I spent a wonderful few days in Camas, Washington in August this year at the Lacams Valley Sheep Dog Trial. I spent 3 days as a volunteer helping set and organize sheep for the competitors. It was a lot of hard work, but Spyder and I had a great time and had many great ahaaa moments while watching all of the handlers work their wonderful dogs. The setting was gorgeous, but for the most part, I was way to busy to break out my camera. I did photograph a friend’s runs, but the distances were so great that it was a reach for my 70-200 2.8 lens and I was only able to shoot images that mean a lot to her…..and we will leave it at that!
But, on Sunday I joined the other spectators and took along my camera. Sunday consisted of a Double Lift Final and there were many wonderful runs, the first one was spectacular and ended up being the winner! I was very excited to have captured much of it. I talk a lot about herding on this blog and I am sure that many of you sort of get it, but don’t truly understand what it is about. I am finding herding to be one of the most challenging endeavors I have ever taken on. It is all about the communication and respect between the handler and the dog and then you throw the factor of the livestock, in this case, sheep, into the equation and life gets interesting very quickly! As a handler, you have to be able to read the sheep and dog and then be able to communicate to the dog where you want him to take the sheep. It is not an easy task…….! The man in these images is Alasdair MacRae and Nap, who incidentally is a Border Collie.
This story begins with a man and his dog!
They enter the field. They have been given a course, which consists of a series of tasks that they have to complete in a specific order and within a certain time! There are two separate sets of sheep in the very far distance, which they must group together and begin the course. This is referred to as the Double Lift Outwork. During this time, the handler has to remain at a post, send the dog to the sheep and do all communication with his dog through whistles or voice commands.
As you can see, they were quite a distance from the post. The 2nd group is way off to the right.
At this point, the dog has gathered all of the sheep into a group and is moving them towards his handler.
Once the sheep are too the handler, the dog drives them around the post and starts moving them through a series of panels.
The judge is watching for how calmly and consistently and accurately the sheep are moving throughout the course!
At this point, you are probably wondering why some of the sheep are so fashionably dressed in red bows!!!
Next comes a part of the run known as an International Shed. If you notice, there is a track in the grass in the picture above which creates a circle. The dog , Nap, with instructions from the handler is moving the sheep into the circle. At this point, the handler leaves the post and comes into the circle. Their task is to shed/move the sheep without the bows to the outside of the circle. If a red bow gets out, they have to bring them all back in and start over. This particular shed was pure magic IMHO!
…..and with that they are off to the pen, which is the final obstacle!
Bravo Alasdair and Nap!!
I absolutely love the challenge of herding with my Australian Shepherd, Spyder. I keep telling everyone that it is much more fun than doing crosswords and certainly strains my brains every bit as much! We are definitely at the beginning of this journey and will start trialing soon, but it is wonderful to have such a vision of possibility for the future!
On a side note: For those of you who know a lot more about this than I do…….I apologize if I have been inaccurate about anything. This was all from a fairly new to the scene enthusiast!