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Is it really that time again?

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Not results as yet but I contacted my breeder to fix a day to pick up my pup to be told it would have to be after the Worlds in which he is competing. I can't believe it is 3 years since the last one that I had to miss even though it was less than an hour away from home. I must be getting really old for time to pass so quickly.

 

Some interesting contrasts in the gender distribution between the teams.

 

The US only has one man, Canada none, but Ireland and Scotland have no women, Wales has one and England one plus a reserve. (I think my memory is correct.) On the whole most of the European teams are male dominated. Does it reflect a different attitude towards trialling on each side of the ocean? Or is it just a coincidence?

 

Just wondering why the discrepancy? The majority of handlers in popular dog sports all over the world are women, I'm sure.

 

Might it be different if travel costs weren't a major issue for those coming from afar?

 

Anomalies interest me.

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I believe part of what is impacting the North American representation is that the Worlds and the American Finals back up to one another so people had to choose which to go to.

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What Jumpin Boots said pretty much. Way back (in the Dark Ages) when I started trialing, Women were definitely the minority. Now in the US they are the majority. Some come from other dog sports and get the bug. Additionally, farmers, ranchers etc(mostly male) tend to have to stay 'on the farm' to do chores etc and trialing in the US can be quite expensive.

 

A friend who moved here (Great Plains region) from the east coast discovered trialing around here can be quite expensive when compared to the coast. First there are fewer trials, and the distance between trials is much greater. Additionally not owning livestock (renting use) meant he didn't have to have someone cover his chores while he was off trialing. Now having that expense added to his costs of trailing. Most trips meant a day (Friday) off work, average of $50.00/entry (running at least 2 dogs/day) food, motel, gas, then often a Monday (to finish travel) off work. Minimum of 2 nights (often 3) in a motel and it is quite expensive to trial. Typical travel times are 5-8 hours one way (or 250-500 miles). Gas costs went up (not much compared to the UK, but then we don't have pet friendly mass transport either) so a weekend could easily cost a near $600- $1000.00.

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I know most of the working farmers around here would go to a local bragging rights trial in a flash but simply don't have any interest in competition for its own sake. We do not make money on our working dogs by selling puppies and adults are generally traded to complement/diversify a breeding program so the only reason to go would be for sport and ... I think very few of them see what they do all day as a sport / would spend money for the privelege of doing it somewhere else.

 

There is no bias against trialling and we all watch television coverage and sometimes attend trials as spectators but no one trials. It *is* a pretty exciting sport to watch.

 

I go to several trials a year - all over the place - and find it a fascinating entertainment.

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Interesting thanks. It rather confirms what I suspected.

 

Last Saturday it would have been theoretically possible to compete at three Open trials on the same day in this area. Unusual but two in a day a few miles apart happens quite a lot I'm told. An economic advantage for the competitor, I'm sure.

 

I get the impression that trialling is still very much a male dominated hobby / business here.

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I think it is. A few years ago, I worked remotely for a company based in the States but with employees all over the world. I was looking into moving to the UK (I had lived in England for a couple of years when I was in my early twenties). I spoke to a British coworker about the sheepdog trialing scene there, and he was completely gobsmacked that I participated in sheepdog trials. He never quite looked at me the same way after that :ph34r:

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Well I guess for the 4 UK nations, there is now quite a long history for farmers and shepherds to compete in nursery and open trials and over here these are still both pedominantly male occupations ....with a few very notable exceptions.

 

I believe the local trials are relatively cheap to enter...just a few pounds per dog and even if the trial is a couple of hours drive away, it is still possible to do the really necessary chores before leaving to run your dog plus then get back in a day. There are a few who will sometimes go away for a weekend so they can trial but I think this would not be a common thing to do.

 

In addition, It is also is hard over here for hobbyists to get sufficient land/ sheep to be able to take their dogs to the highest level. so when it comes to run the National trials, the 150 dogs who have won sufficient points to enter these tend to belong to shepherd's and farmers... Who as I said tend to be male.

 

I don't know how the members for the World trial are picked in other countries but in the UK nations, 16 of the 21 competitors are those who ran best in the previous year (ie 2013) National championships. I don,t think that the woman who won this years Scottish National...Julie Hill..has a dog running in this year's World trial because she didn't make last years single team even though she did win last year's International Brace competition.

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Certainly there doesn't seem to be a large number of "outsiders" taking part here, not people looking to do something with their dog, who are more likely to be women ime.

 

A late female friend did take up trialling in her 70s when running in agility became a bit harder but she is very much the exception. Although most of the dog people I know have multiple collies, many working bred, I don't know anyone other than those who are already involved in farming who works stock with their dogs and no one who trials.

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Trialling is probably populated - somewhere in the 85% range - by hobbyists or people who were once hobbyists and got very serious about the hobby. Most for-a-living-farmers I know just don't see any value in it (proving a dog's worth as a working dog can most assuredly NOT be done at a trial) but do admire it for it's entertainment value and for the unique ability it provides herders to be removed from the tableaux and watch it happen as spectators.

 

The sport and the work are separating (while once very connected) and will continue to do so as long as folks who aren't farmers fall in love with these dogs and get into the sport. The wealthy ones can afford to buy a bunch of sheep and some pricey dogs and win a bunch of shiny trophies. Which is pretty distinct from folks who do it as part of base survival.

 

My perspective is somewhat divided. I am one of those hobbyists (not a trialer, but one who has a BC for something other than work because I could happen to afford to be able to buy one) who lives, literally, amongst the other type - the ones who use the dogs for actual real-world work. They snicker about me a little - which I expected - but to be frank, I was not quite ready for the genuine feelings of derision I have ocassionally encountered in my own back yard.

 

I suppose it's an old story.

 

When I started out in my career I was a trained photographer. Had a couple of university degrees and could rock a dark room. Saved for YEARS to buy some of my equipment and used to discuss the merits of ground glass and large format with other "experts". People hired me because there were no hobbyists who COULD do what I do. Then came digital cameras. Anyone with a few thousand dollars could get a camera. Some of them were naturals and absent of the need to really UNDERSTAND photography, they could take some really wonderful pictures. I really hated digital cameras and hobby photographers for a while - they had STOLEN my precious "members only" ability which I had felt I had earned and had a right to. Then they started stealing my work. Many of them did not depend upon photography to eat and pay mortgages. Many of them had better equipment than me because they were wealthier. Many of them started looking at me as an "also ran" - somebody stuck to my old school ways (like you hear "farm dogs" talked about, I suppose) - someone who did not enter contests and the like.

 

Of course that made me cranky. I'd been usurped by folks who had not paid their dues (in my mind, back then, I see things a little differently now).

 

This is NOT a new phenomenon.

 

From horses to fishing boats, its an Ecclesiastes thing, I suppose: "nothing new under the sun".

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Trialling is probably populated - somewhere in the 85% range - by hobbyists or people who were once hobbyists and got very serious about the hobby. Most for-a-living-farmers I know just don't see any value in it (proving a dog's worth as a working dog can most assuredly NOT be done at a trial) but do admire it for it's entertainment value and for the unique ability it provides herders to be removed from the tableaux and watch it happen as spectators.

 

The sport and the work are separating (while once very connected) and will continue to do so as long as folks who aren't farmers fall in love with these dogs and get into the sport. The wealthy ones can afford to buy a bunch of sheep and some pricey dogs and win a bunch of shiny trophies. Which is pretty distinct from folks who do it as part of base survival.

 

 

 

 

I'm sure some think to themselves "I have a pretty good dog or dogs. I will make a name for myself by doing well in trials and people will come to me to buy at higher than normal prices. They will come to me for lessons or even pay me to go abroad to teach. They will pay me to train their dogs for them. I will be able to wind wind down the farming (which is hard work) and concentrate on the dogs."

 

All perfectly sound commercial reasoning but helped in no small part by the demand from those whose aim is competition rather than full time putting food on the table farming.

 

A couple of days ago a friend (farmer's wife) and I were speculating how much a local well known trialler charged for pups he bred. The conclusion was probably not much because farmers won't pay .

 

"Trialling is just like any other sport; people flock to buy from the latest successful handler / dog" and "Winning trials doesn't prove you have a good worker". Not my opinions, straight from the daughter of my chosen breeder who largely runs their breeding programme. Not sour grapes either because her father does very well in trials.

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Although most of the dog people I know have multiple collies, many working bred, I don't know anyone other than those who are already involved in farming who works stock with their dogs and no one who trials.

 

Just to clarify, I speak to people who trial but they are acquaintances rather than friends. I don't consider that I "know" them as such.

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Trialling is probably populated - somewhere in the 85% range - by hobbyists or people who were once hobbyists and got very serious about the hobby. Most for-a-living-farmers I know just don't see any value in it (proving a dog's worth as a working dog can most assuredly NOT be done at a trial) but do admire it for it's entertainment value and for the unique ability it provides herders to be removed from the tableaux and watch it happen as spectators.

 

I think this figure may differ quite a bit regionally.

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I think this figure may differ quite a bit regionally.

Yes, I think you are right. In my mind I was using that number as an aggregate figure - not necessarily accurate in any particular slice but maybe accurate as a whole.

 

And I could be so far wrong that I'd have to runbackwards to catch the right path :/

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I think the motivations and concerns of people who work dogs for reasons other than making a living is probably a lot more varied that the distinction between "trialer" and "farmer" (or "competition" and "putting food on the table") allows for.

 

A lot of people who are not farmers/ranchers (in the US/Canada--it's clearly quite different in the UK nations and different again on the continent) do this for reasons that are a bit more complex, varied, perhaps even interesting than wanting to win at a game. In talking with lots of people involved in this as non-farmers, I discovered that some are motivated to win at a game but I think the majority are motivated to learn how to solve a puzzle, to experience the grace of the craft, to grab at that intangible feeling of connecting in an unexpected way to a dog, to understand sheep, to be connected to the natural world, to feel a certain kind of calm.

 

I'm in no way trying to "elevate" trialling or pretend it's something that it's not. At the same time, if you aren't involved in doing it, it's sometimes easy to misunderstand what might motivate someone who is.

 

In any event, exciting to have the Worlds to experience vicariously again!

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I don't trial and I have no wish to do so. However the farmers and shepherds I've talked to who do trial (some who have been very successful) mainly say that they consider that their stock work is definitely their day job and the trials are secondary. They tell me that they wouldn't give up their day job even if they could.

 

Also in the UK, a lot of farming, especially hill farming, is not commercially viable on its own. Most need to diversify...some do this through their dogs.

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Pippin's Person: I totally get that. It makes perfect sense to me. I have often thought how interesting and intellectually challenging it would be to take up stock work myself.

 

Still and all, it boils down to competition - or else you would do all of that in the privacy of your back yard.

 

Which is FINE (not that you need me to tell you that, of course). And it *is* fascinating and incredibly complex and yet so utterly simple all at the same time. I am a huge fan of the sheepdog and handler in the canine and human athlete model - much like horse and rider. And we are driven by our own nature - hardcoded on the DNA stuff - to be competitive, to display our skills and talents and to share our love of whatever with our fellows. It's all good.

 

I have moved on the (very outer) periphery of the trialling world for a long while and know a lot of people who trial. My brother trials extensively. I understand what motivates the people I know, so I can't imagine your own inner workings would prove alien to me. I applaud them, actually. It is good that these artful forms of husbandry find advocates - it will keep them from falling to obscurity.

 

Just because a hobbyist is well intentioned, honorable and good for the sport/dogs/art does not make him less a hobbyist. The word itself is not pejorative - at least was not intended to be.

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Trials are also where community is--not the only community of course, but in my experience, people at trials enjoy the fellowship.

 

CMP, I wasn't really taking about my own inner workings but matching people I know and deeply respect with the idea that they are all about the competition. I think that's certainly a part of it, and for some a big part, but I just don't think it captures the central motivation for why. When I've asked them why, it's almost always because of their dogs and enjoying the partnership with their dogs.

 

I don't fully get the hobbiest point--I doubt many of these folks (ETA: those who don't earn their living on livestock) would claim to be anything other than hobbiests. But just because they don't do it for a living doesn't mean the motivation to do it is centrally the competition. I think your point, CMP, about sharing the love is probably apt.

 

I recognize that it's easy to wax romantic and I don't mean to do that. Trials are absolutely competitions and all of the good and bad that goes along with that is certainly easy to find. I guess really what's rubbing me oddly is that I don't really see as much distinction between the people I know who primarily use dogs for their livestock livelihoods but don't really trial and those who are hobbiests as is sometimes painted in these discussions. There are obvious financial differences of course but the underlying motivations (and for people with home hobby flocks also the basic husbandry needs) don't seem so different.

 

CMP, is your brother who trials extensively not part of the family farm? I ask because you've said in different spots that your family doesn't really see the point in paying to do what they do anyway for a living. Does your brother like trialling?

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My brother, the one I mentioned, lives on his wife's family farm. I have six brothers :) He *loves* trialling and just pooh-poohs the rest of the family who bugs him about it. He does it for love of the dogs, the pursuit, the idea of man/beast in true partnership.

 

All people start in all things somewhere/sometime. I wasn't a photographer until I decided to become one and people weren't farmers or stockmen or whatever until they decided to become those things. Some of those people become very good at it and it does become their vocation and their is no shame and should be no derision in that.

 

You know, Edison was a hobbyist. Until he wasn't. So was J.K. Rowling. And many other great writers.

 

I do apologize if I sound judgmental. I dislike that quality in a person, especially myself.

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Dear Doggers,

 

Mr/Ms CMP offers a good picture (photograph?) of eastern US trialing but when he writes "The wealthy ones can afford to buy a bunch of sheep and some pricey dogs and win a bunch of shiny trophies . . ." he makes a minor mistake (there are few shiny trophies) and an important one: trialing at a high level is so extraordinarily difficult there is no way, none, to buy it. Most top trialists have spent the better part of their lives working sheep as shepherds, shearers, farmers and ranchers. Their stocksense and dogsense can be earned but never purchased.

 

Donald McCaig

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Yes, that is true. All of it :)

 

In fact, if I could grab that sentence back, I would. It has a petty edge to it.

 

Bah, maybe self-editing is not such a bad idea. :/

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For those interested, the daily results and a brief commentary about what is happening at the 2014 World Trials will get posted here,

 

http://www.worldsheepdogtrials.org/2014-world-sheepdog-trials/2014-world-trial-results/

 

And For those who want to check the current posted score on their mobile.

 

http://m.isds.org.uk/

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We used to go to more trials when we lived on 6 acres in a new house. Now that we live on an old farm with more (more land, more sheep, more fences, more buildings, more home repairs, etc) and we don't have the budget (time or money) to travel 3-5hrs one way (east coast) for 2-4 day long trials more than about 4 times a year. If trials were close enough to travel back and forth each day (like I believe it is in the UK) we might compete more.

 

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Definitely agree ^^^ !!!!

 

Not that I am participating in sheep trials (yet), but there are other activities that I do not do as often as I would like due to the fact that animals and property maintenance is prioritized.

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Dear Sheepdoggers,

 

We lambed out of season in October which is the peak trialing season in the Southeast. Unless things were unusually calm, I didn't dare leave and often I returned the same day after entering, paying for and not running my dogs.

 

Donald McCaig

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