Classic Sheepdog Trials entertain in Meeker Sept. 4-8
The 16th annual Meeker Classic Championship Sheepdog Trials are Sept. 4 to 8. North America’s top dogs and handlers meet unforgiving terrain, high altitude and the West’s feistiest sheep in one of the nation’s most prestigious sheepherding competitions.
Unlike arena or other field contests run on even ground, the classic’s natural pastureland contains deep ravines and steep hillsides. Poorly schooled dogs that ignore handlers’ commands may never find their flocks or, if successful, may quickly lose sheep scattered amidst tall sagebrush and precipitous gullies.
An elevation of slightly more than 6,000 feet takes a toll on unconditioned dogs and unwary handlers. To prevent early tiring, handlers must astutely choose the most energy-saving routes for their dogs, a daunting task when lightning-quick sheep change direction unexpectedly.
While tame stock may be used in other competitions, the Classic’s yearling sheep have just arrived from their summer high pastures, where neither herder nor herd dog disturbed their tranquility. Notorious for bolting in headlong charges, these sheep can so upset the rhythm of dog and handler teamwork that many a handler “calls” a run before completion to save the spirit of his frustrated dog.
Elimination runs start at 8 a.m. Sept. 4, 5 and 6 and continue through the day and are followed by the semi-finals at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 7. Sunday, Sept. 8, features the top 10 finalists vying for a $10,000 purse.
Returning for his fourth year, Calgary Stampede announcer Art Unsworth will handle microphone duties. This year’s Classic will be the eighth U. S. competition that Scottish sheep and cattle rancher John Henry Harrison will have judged. Harrison has been running dogs for 24 years. He has qualified seven times for the English national championship team and won the English National Trials in 1990.
Food and entertainment provide additional allure. Hearty pancake breakfasts precede semi-final and final events. Saturday evening’s barbecue dinner kicks off a Calcutta and jackpot competition while a delicious lamb barbecue fills Sunday’s noon menu.
At noon on Saturday, spectators will be treated to a unique fly ball competition featuring Denver’s RUFF Fly Ball Club and a “doggie” tetherball demonstration showcasing Lou Dean’s Border Collies from Blue Mountain, Colo. These events repeat at noon on Sunday with an additional demonstration of dog agility by the Western Agility Group.
Hugh Thackaberry’s live bagpipe music may be heard throughout the weekend. Craft and food booths offer interesting diversions all five days.
Entries for the Classic’s annual art contest will be on display and for sale. Thursday evening the public is invited to view all entries and join in the announcement of this year’s winning artists at a reception hosted by Meeker’s Fawn Creek Gallery and the Meeker Hotel.
The trials site is just west of Meeker on Highway 13. Tickets, sold at the gate, are $10 for one day. A five-day package price is $20 for adults and $10 for children ages five to 10. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, organized school groups may attend free of charge.
Please leave your dog at home, but don’t forget to bring lawn chairs. Bleacher seating is limited. For more information call 970-878-5510 or visit http://www.meekersheepdog.com.
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