Visitors and local people were ecstatic with the success of the South Island and New Zealand Sheep Dog Trial Championships hosted by the Warepa Collie Club last week.

For five days the club, between Clinton and Owaka, hosted the country’s top 260 competitors, with 500 dogs working about 4000 sheep.

‘‘Every competitor starts each course with 100 points,’’ national level judge and three-time New Zealand second-place winner Barry Hobbs said.

‘‘They lose points for every mistake and whoever finishes with the most points wins.

‘‘Judges can tell from the way a team handles three trial sheep how they’ll handle 300.’’

Points can be lost for as little as a dog being momentarily distracted over the courses, which are about 1km long and take 10-16 minutes to complete.

Banks Peninsula stock manager and 22-year trial veteran Barry Thompson won the South Island long head event with his dog Bolt.

‘‘The sheep seemed tricky in the runoff but Bolt was so focused.

‘‘All dogs knows the difference between work and competition but he just seems to love performing under pressure,’’ Mr Thompson said

In heading competitions, silent, agile dogs bring sheep down off the hill into a pen or circle, while huntaway events see loud-barking dogs drive sheep uphill.

‘‘The whistles are specific commands. I grew up around trialling and learned from my dad but you tailor the commands to your dogs.

‘‘There’s a lot of other guys here I’ve learned from and it’s a real pleasure to meet and compete with them . . . there’s real networks and camaraderie here,’’ Mr Thompson said.

New Zealand Sheepdog Trial Association president Pat Coogan said the nationals — which were held for the first time at Warepa — were ‘‘outstanding’’.

‘‘The South Otago community, organisers, land and sheep owners and sponsors just quietly get on with it and you couldn’t ask for a better show — they even organised ideal weather,’’ he said.