The Sport of Sheepdog Trials.
The body which controls sheepdog trialling is the International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS). Various types of trials take place throughout the UK and internationally. UK trials are as follows:
Taking place mostly during the winter months, these trials are intended for dogs which are fairly competent but which need more experience. Nursery trials can be an excellent way of widening a dog’s horizons and ironing out any faults which appear during a competition. Dogs which are perfect at home are often disappointing when they sense the occasion of a trial. I should point out that just because the trial is called “Nursery” doesn’t necessarily mean the course will be any easier than a Novice or even an Open trial. The outrun is often just as long and the sheep are just as difficult. The competing dogs must be inexperienced to qualify and the rules are normally somewhat relaxed, so that where a handler and dog might be expected (or told by the judge) to retire in a more senior trial, everyone tends to turn a bit of a “blind eye” to semi-disasterous runs in “The Nurseries”.
Novice trials usually run concurrently with Open trials. If your dog has not won a novice trial you can run in the novice class and stand a better chance of doing well than you will in the open class.
Open trials which have more than 25 runners are eligible for points which go towards qualifying for the National Trials. By definition, they’re open to allcomers and you could find yourself competing with top handlers in these competitions.
Top competitors from each country compete in their own trial to pick a national team which can then compete in the International.
Despite the introduction of the World Trial, the International is still regarded as “the big one”! Every year, the teams from the competing countries get together at a venue in one of the countries to hold the trial with the highest status of regularly run trials. The competition is a team event but the individual winner holds the title of Supreme International Champion. A bone of contention among triallers is that there are so many competitors in the national trials that the organisers restrict them to a single gather – that is to say the dog has to fetch and control a single bunch of sheep. In the International Trial, the dogs have to gather a bunch of sheep and bring them to a point on the field where they then ‘look back’ for a second bunch which it gathers to the first lot. Theoretically, you could qualify for the National team without having taught your dog to do a vital part of the International course!
This event was first held in 2002 at Bala in North Wales. Bala was the venue for the first sheepdog trial ever to be held in 1873.