TRAINEE sheepdog trialler Tracey Mammen, of Tamborine, returned from the Queensland Supreme Sheepdog Trial held at Stanthorpe last weekend, after competing in both the Encourage and Open divisions and making the finals in the Encourage.
“The Encourage trials are for beginners. They are set on a smaller course, and the rules are more forgiving,” she said.
“Also, you can ask for help from the judge. They are there to guide a beginner as well as score. It is very welcoming and a great way to learn.
“Being the Queensland Supreme, the competition was fierce. Some of the best handlers and dogs were on show.”
Ms Mammen said it was her first time in the Open ring with her sheepdog, Jill.
“I was a little nervous, but once I was out there, there was no going back!
“I only hoped that the practice would pay off, that my dog would heed my commands, and that I would say the right thing at the right time. It’s a team effort, and the dog must trust and respect your judgement enough to obey your commands.
“At the same time, sometimes you have to trust your dog, as they always know better than you do! It’s about learning to work as a team,” she said.
“I have had Jill for about six months, she is semi-retired and already knows what to do, so I’m bonding with her and learning the ropes from my coach Dale Formosa at Shaundar Herding School.
“We did really well for our first go in the Open. I made a few errors, for example I gave the wrong command at an obstacle which caused the sheep to run the wrong way, and in the process of retrieving the sheep they circled the obstacle before going through. This fatigues the dog unnecessarily and you lose points.”
Ms Mammen said she had her best run so far in the Encourage trial.
“I scored a 78 which secured me equal third and a spot in the final.
“Unfortunately the final was cancelled because they ran out of time and the Open gets priority.”
Ms Mammen said that each time she’s in the ring, she picks up more tips.
“There’s nothing like getting out there and doing it!
“You have to learn to read the sheep and anticipate what their next move will be – like a chess game. I think learning to work sheep with a dog as a novice is like learning to surf. It’s not just about standing up on a board, you have to paddle, read the waves or you won’t even get to the standing up part.
“Next trial I will concentrate on my pace. If that’s the only thing I improve on, I’ll be happy.
“I have always been interested in sheep trials but never dreamed I’d be doing it. I encourage anyone with an interest to give it a go. It’s the best thing I’ve done with my dogs,” she said.