Warepa Collie Club, located between the Catlins and Clinton, will celebrate its centenary by hosting its first New Zealand Sheepdog Trials National Championships on May 22.
‘‘For the nationals we’ll be managing 6000 local sheep for about 260 dogs entered in each of four events over six days,’’ Warepa Collie Club president Craig McKenzie said.
‘‘That’s helped make . . . [our] annual local event — which is also our centennial — bigger than ever, with competitors from all over the country here for the next three days to get a feel for the terrain,’’ he said on Friday.
Collie club ‘‘life caterer’’ Linda Wallace said the club was proud to have the nationals coming.
‘‘The first Warepa Collie Club trial in 1923 at Glenfalloch farm had no facilities at all. Caldervan in Waitepeka had an old shed, but the turning point was buying Romahapa Church in 1979. That brought in young guns for mentoring around the old hands and the club’s grown until we hosted the South Island Championships in 2017, and that got us nominated to hold the nationals. ‘‘We’re at 26 members and already have six dogs qualified.’’
Serious investment has gone into the club’s facilities in Hillfoot Rd for roading and infrastructure, a new canteen-clubhouse and first-class courses.
‘‘I’ve got to hand it to the club members and the sponsors for the effort they’ve put in. The feedback we’re getting is very positive.
‘‘Our facilities and the layout of our courses is as good as any national venue I’ve seen and I’d say better than most,’’ Mr McKenzie, a sheep and beef farmer and national level trials competitor, said.
‘‘With the whistle you’re giving actual commands; left, right, walk up, sit, back-up. On the job you’ll use a team made up of headers who direct the sheep by watching them, and huntaways whose bark is their main tool. For trials you’re down to one dog.’’
The four events are divided into the long and short heads, where headers take sheep down a hill through a course to a ring or pen, and the straight and zigzag hunts which move sheep uphill.
Andrew Herriott, from Heriot, was course marshal for the short head, and also had a team of two headers and two huntaways.
‘‘I’ve been really impressed with the young people coming up. They’re high calibre with excellent dogs, good control and stock ability — competing fearlessly against veterans.
‘‘Managing sheep would be impossible without them, especially on hill country — working dogs are still the cutting-edge technology.
‘‘They become such a companion working, you get really grateful for what they do and they sense that and love it as much as the competition itself,’’ he said.