The summer months are busy for us at Borough Farm, and competing at Sheepdog trials had to take second place to all of the commitments on the farm, but last Saturday I made it to the Brentor trial on Dartmoor. It’s always been one of my favorite trials, a large field amongst the high Tors of the moor, and plenty of strong competition from across the south of England. We’ve had success there before, with Fern winning a few years ago, but it was Zola and Fly that I was hanging my hopes on this time.
The weather couldn’t have been much worse, with a strong wind, driving rain and mist blowing in from the moor, but it’s an unwritten law at sheepdog trials that you carry on what ever the weather, and when Zola’s turn came to run, she put on a creditable performance despite the conditions. In fact she was doing really well until she missed a couple of commands in the wind, and the sheep went the wrong side of one set of gates. Missing the next set of gates however, was all my fault. Zola and I were in complete control of the sheep, I just mis-judged the line and the sheep filed past the wrong side of the gates again, leaving Zola’s run just outside of the prizes.
A little while later it was Fly’s turn to test her skills. She made a great start, driving the sheep successfully through the three sets of drive gates, in the shedding ring she worked well. As we approached the pen, and the finish of the course I had hopes that a top two finish was on the cards. Fly performed her task perfectly, bringing the sheep to the mouth of the pen, but luck wasn’t on our side. One old ewe decided that she had no respect for a shepherd, and instead of turning away from my waving crook, she walked straight under my arm, and led the other four ewes away from the pen. I could feel the judge deducting points by the bucket full, and when the same ewe performed the same trick for a second time, I knew that we were only penning to earn a single point. Eventually Fly was successful and with great relief I shut the pen gate, but I knew that the penning had cost us dear. When the places were announced, Fly had come fourth, a little disappointing but a result that should see her qualified for next summers National Sheepdog trials in Gloucester. I’d been desperately trying to qualify for this summers National trial, so there’s some frustration that we finally achieved the result a month too late, but now there’s next year to look forward to!
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