Nation Valley Sheepdog Trials

July 27, 28  2013

Judge: Michael Gallagher, Ireland 


kate b at pen 2005 

In 2007 I reduced my flock from about 150+ breeding ewes to 75. I also decided to discontinue the big Nation Valley Sheepdog Trial which was held on the long weekend of August for the last 15 years.  I am now considering hosting a smaller farm trial later in the year.

2013: Due to the number and nature of sheep we shall not be able to offer Novice Novice classes but will restrict ourselves to Open. There will be a maximum 50 dogs/day.

Entry Form for 2013 trial



General Information about Sheepdog Trials

The purpose of a sheepdog trial is to test the dog's (and handler's) ability to work sheep effectively. To that end many years ago some British farmers and shepherds devised a course that through different phases thoroughly tests a dogs ability to function on a stockfarm as a valuable partner to the shepherd, helping him or her in all aspects of livestock handling. These ISDS (International Sheepdog Society) trials test both the natural ability of the dog and the level of training the dog has received and mastered.
There are many good dogs out there that do not trial but many of them do not have the makeup that lets them accept highly refined training and will never achieve that high degree of precision that is important in a good trial dog. While they can make super workmates on the farm quite often there will come a moment when they "know better" than their master. Most times this will not matter too much but at some critical moments that could spell disaster. To best assess a dog's worth one should see the dog both in working situation and on the trial field. If in doubt I would always prefer to assess a dog on the trial field. There I can see how (s)he manages the stock and by watching other runs can form an opinion about the natural ability and about the biddable nature of the dog. With some experience such a setting allows one to assess a dog quite accurately as one also can make allowances for the skill of the handler. This is the reason that trials became such an important part of the shepherd and farmers decision making process for choosing pups and potential studs. ISDS trials are now run in most sheep producing countries of the world.
Every year
ISDS holds an International Competition. In this competition 15 handler/dog teams from each of the four British "nations" (England, Ireland, Scotland & Wales) compete for the International Supreme Championship. They compete on an International course. The teams are chosen by a National Championship in each of the four "countries" and the course for these National Championships is referred to as the National course.
National Courseconsists of Gathering: sheep are at about 400 yards from handler, dog runs around them (outrun), lifts them quietly and fetches them through a seven yards wide gate (150 yards from handler) to the handler. Sheep are passed behind handler in predetermined direction, which starts the Drive. Handler directs dog to drive sheep 450 yards over a triangular course with two sets of gates. The drive ends in the shedding ring, and the handler has to remain at the post until the sheep are in the shedding ring.
If the outrun is shorter than 400 yards the drive should be lengthened so that the total of fetch and drive is 850 yards.
In the
shedding ring two unmarked sheep are to be shed of by the dog. After the Shed the sheep are reunited in the shedding ring. The handler will proceed to thePen(9x8feet, gate of 8 foot with 6 foot rope). Dog brings sheep to pen and pens them. Handler will hold rope and is not allowed to let go of that rope until pen is completed. Handler will close gate. After releasing sheep handler will close and fasten gate and return to shedding ring. Dog will bring sheep into shedding ring and one sheep (could be marked) will be shed off by dog and worn to judges satisfaction, this is referred to as the single. Time limit for the National course is 15 minutes. Most Opencourses are similar to the National course, however generally there would be only a shed or a single, not both and the distances would be determined by available fieldsize and to some degree by weather (in the heat of the summer courses are often kept smaller).
International Courseis quite similar except that there a two lots of sheep: the dog is sent for the first lot and fetches them past the fetch gates and then is re-sent for the second lot. Once the two lots (each lot consists of 10 sheep) are combined there again is a drive. After the drive 15 unmarked sheep are shed off so that handler and dog end up with five marked sheep in the shedding ring. After the shed the five marked sheep will be penned. Also the distance of the sheep from handler at the outrun will be 800 yards. This type of course is referred to as a double lift. In Canada a double lift can be seen on the last day of the Kingston Sheepdog Trials at GrassCreek Park, at the National Finals in Canada, this year at Hawkridge Farm, Morton Ontario(for more information about these visit the Canadian Border Collie Association). In North America the best dogs compete at the National Finals, organized by USBCHA. 150 of the top North American dogs qualify to run at these finals: for 3 days 50 dogs each compete for a spot in the semi-finals, where 50 dogs compete for a spot in the finals. The two preliminary rounds are run on a National type course and the 20 Final dogs run on an International course.

Aside from Open courses there are
Novice courses for different stages of the dog and handler experience:

Novice Novice classes are designed for absolute beginning handlers and dogs. Generally they consist of a very short outrun, some drive or wear (handler walks ahead of sheep) through a set of fairly close gates and a pen. No handler who has run an open course is allowed to run in Novice Novice. Most handlers move their dogs quite quickly out of Novice and into ProNovice. Some handlers liking ribbons, prefer to stay in this class as long as possible.
ProNovice course consists generally of a longer outrun, short drive (and possibly short crossdrive), and a pen. It is intended as a second level course for beginning handlers with dogs that have competed successfully in Novice Novice it is also the first level of competition for young dogs of more experienced handlers.
Some trials offer a
Ranchcourse. A ranch course is the same as the open course but without the shed or single. USBCHA also has a yearly competition for top Nursery dog, which is run around the same time as the National Finals. Dogs less than 3 years old that have qualified can run for the honor of USBCHA Nursery Champion.The qualifying runs are held at various sanctioned trials all over North America. The qualifying course is a Ranch type course (open without shed or single).

Open course is normally like a National Course (see above). It consists of an outrun, lift and fetch; triangular drive, (shed) pen and single. Often if there is a shed there is no single and vice versa. Some Open trials are qualifying trials for the USBCHA Finals.
At every ISDS style trial the handler/dog team start with a full score, each element : outrun, lift, fetch, drive, shed, pen is worth a certain number of points. The judge takes off points for less than perfect work. Each course also has a time limit.
Also in some circumstances the team can be excused .... gribbing sheep is one of the transgressions that will most of the time result in a DQ.

Coursedescription & Sheep

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Directions to the trial site:

From Ottawa area: Take Hwy 31 (Bank Street) South to about 8 km south of Winchester. On right you will find "Cass Bridge Cheese House", opposite to this is River Road going east. Take River Road for 4 km, then turn right onto Nation Valley Road and we are the first house on right (2 story red brick) at # 12758 Nation Valley Road

From Montreal or Kingston, Toronto area:
Take Highway 401 to exit 750 (Morrisburg) turn north towards Winchester and Ottawa. About 18 km north of exit 750 you will cross Cass Bridge over the Nation River. Right after Cass Bridge turn right (east) onto River Road. Take River Road for 4 km, then turn right onto Nation Valley Road and we are the first house on right (2 story red brick) at # 12758 Nation Valley Road

On GPS enter 12758 Nation Valley Road, North Dundas, ON, Canada


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