While the bulls bucked and tractors roared at the Elbert County Fair in Kiowa during the first weekend in August, a different type of competitors was put to the test in Elizabeth at the Rocky Mountain Roundup Stock Trials.
The stock trials at Casey Jones Park Arena from Aug. 5-7 were hosted by the Colorado Australian Shepherd Association (CASA). The trials offered dogs and their handlers the opportunity to work cattle, sheep and/or ducks in three days of morning and afternoon sessions.
“This is a stock trial,” said CASA Vice President Terri Morgan. “A stock trial is where dogs bred for herding compete in arena trials. They do a particular course, a pattern. With cattle and sheep you have 10 minutes for each run, and then on ducks you have seven.”
The timed events are scored based on how well the animal herds the stock through the course. Points are deducted or a trial is stopped if a judge deems that a dog is showing aggressive behavior toward the stock or nips at an animal.
“They're dogs, dogs with instincts. It doesn't make them a bad dog. It just means they're dogs.” Morgan said. “Working ducks, people always laugh because how many duck ranchers are there, but ducks take a lot of finesse. With sheep and cattle, the dogs have a tremendous amount of instinct to work. The ducks are like, `what?'”
Handlers may enter multiple dogs in each trial, and with six per day (two sheep, two cattle and two ducks), it is possible for a single dog could compete in as many as 18 trials during the three-day competition.
“Some dogs are better at some events than others. Some have no interest in doing ducks, but they love sheep and cows. Not all the dogs do all the stock, but the majority do,” Morgan said.
The stock trial at Casey Jones Park in Elizabeth is one of seven weekends of events hosted by CASA this season. In addition to stock trials, dogs may also compete in four other categories.
Agility trials challenge the animal's ability to navigate jumps and other obstacles, obedience trials test the dog's behavior in public and private settings, and conformations evaluate the overall appearance, structure and breeding qualities. Finally, rally is a combined event requiring a bond and cooperation between the handler and the animal through various tasks.
Handler Tina Bauhs named her Australian shepherd Pig in honor of the character in the film “Babe,” and she concludes each trial with the line, “That'll do, Pig.”
CASA is an affiliate club of the Australian Shepherd Club of America.