One of the highlight events at the Henty Machinery Field Days in September is the working dog trials and this year the best of the best will line up for a chance at nearly $10,000 in prizemoney. Organisers say competition is expected to be intense this year.
The trials consist of two events – the sheep field trial and the yard dog championships, each running concurrently across the three days and culminating in the finals on the Thursday (21 September).
Run under the auspices of the NSW Sheepdog Workers Incorporated, the sheep field trial is set to attract more than 100 dogs and their workers from around Australia.
The Murray Valley Yard Dog Championships, run by the NSW Yard Dog Association, is tipped to also attract more than 100 dogs.
Murray Valley Yard Dog Championships co-ordinator Peter Darmody, of West Wyalong, said the event was one of the most prestigious on the calendar, and would draw the cream of the nation’s best dogs competing for more than $5,000 in prize money plus trophies and prizes.
“Anyone who’s anyone in trialling will be at Henty – it is a great event as people love competing and having the opportunity to look around the field days as well,’’ Mr Darmody said.
The maiden trial will be held on Tuesday, followed by the novice and open classes on Wednesday and Thursday.
The finals are due to get underway from 1 pm on Thursday.
Dogs will be fresh from the Forbes, Quirindi and Eugowra yard dog trials. Bill Luff, of Gundagai, along with Geoff McDougall, of Hay, fresh from winning the Bendigo Victoria Championship, Kevin Howell, of Eugowra, and many others are expected to be among the top-line competitors.
The event is designed to demonstrate everyday skills a working dog would use on a farm.
Each entrant has 12 minutes to gather a mob of about 18 sheep, herd them through a draft, and then on and off a truck.
Adaminaby trainer Dean Incher took out the prestigious event at Henty last year.
He made it back-to-back wins from 2019 to take out the prestigious event at Henty last year.
Dean and his black and tan Kelpie, Rafa, won the final on 185 points, closely followed by Shane Maurer, of Stockinbingal, with Stuart on 177 points and Michael Hedger, of Rocky Plain, with Trapper in third on 176 points.
Up to 450 sheep will be needed for the Three Sheep Dog field trial heats and finals alone over the three days.
Run by the NSW Sheepdog Workers Incorporated, the event is limited to an open trial, with no encourager or novice class, and handlers entering their four best dogs.
Three Sheep Dog Field Trial co-ordinator Paul Darmody said the event would draw both top-line competitors and younger handlers competing for prize money of $4000.
Mr Darmody said the event would attract entries off the back of the 2023 Supreme Australian Working Sheepdog Championships.
Last year Mick Hudson, of Cobar, and his dog MGH Rabbit emerged from the finals to win on 276 points.
It was also a back-to-back win for Hudson from 2019 when he won with Ritchies Finn who placed third in 2022 on 260 points.
Winner of the 2023 NSW State Championships and 2023 National Sheepdog Trial, Mr Hudson placed second with Daisy on 274 points while Peter Oxley, of Orange, was fourth with Caesar on 257 points, while John Perry, of Bredbo, was fifth with Joe on 251 points.
The event is a three-sheep field trial, requiring the dog to move the sheep around a designed course.
The dog begins by casting around the sheep, bringing them back to the worker. The dog and worker then move around a marked course through obstacles of a race and bridge before penning them within 15 minutes.
The Henty Machinery Field Days are being held on 19, 20 and 21 September and attract more than 60,000 visitors each year.