Each competitor starts the trail with 100 points and 15 minutes to complete the course. Points are deducted whenever the sheep are "off course" or when the dog loses control of the sheep.
If the time expires before the competitor completes the course they still get a score. If the dog bites a sheep, (except in self defence) or crosses between the handler and the sheep they will be disqualified and receive no points.
For a printable version of the trial course (with notation), visit ourSpectators page
THE STARTING PEG The competitor walks to the POST and stands in a designated circle, which is within a D shaped area called the DELIVERY AREA. The dog is to be placed behind or beside the competitor. When the competitor is in position the Judge indicates with a wave of a flag that the sheep are to be released from the LET OUT. Three random sheep are then released and positioned about 20 meters from the LET OUT. When the Judge is satisfied that the sheep are reasonably placed a buzzer rings and the trial begins.
CAST, LIFT and DRAW The dog is then CAST which is the run towards the sheep, it can be to the left or right. The dog should run out around the sheep and stop at a position which is roughly 12 o'clock to the competitor. The less disturbance the dog causes to the sheep at this stage, the better the introduction. The dog must then LIFT or move the sheep in a straight line towards the handler. The Judge imagines an eight meter corridor for the DRAW towards the handler and as long as the sheep do not move outside this corridor no points will be lost. When the sheep arrive at DELIVERY AREA and all sheep have passed within the D the Competitor is then free to proceed with the course.
THE CARRY AND WINDING PEGS. The Competitor sets off along a clearly marked course, the left side where the Competitor walks is defined by a mown track and the right side of the 8 meter wide corridor is marked by a row of bricks. To gain maximum points the sheep must be within the corridor and not too far ahead or behind the Competitor. At the top of this corridor is the FIRST WINDING PEG where the course turns left. The sheep must travel around the outside of the WINDING PEG (the right side) and onto the SECOND WINDING PEG. If the sheep pass the peg on the wrong side they must be UNWOUND and brought back on course before the Competitor can proceed to the next stage.
THE RACE At the RACE the Competitor takes up a marked position which is 3 meters from the edge of the obstacle, and cannot move from that position until the obstacle has been completed. At the obstacle the work of the dog and Competitor has to be exact and is judged quite harshly. One or more sheep running around the obstacle will bring a deduction of 3 or 5 points each time. All the sheep must pass through the race and be completely clear of the RACE before the Competitor can move on.
THE BRIDGE The BRIDGE is worked in a similar manner to the RACE. This obstacle can prove very challenging to the dog as the sheep must be moved up onto the BRIDGE above the height of the dog and the sheep can be uncomfortable with the surface of the bridge. Once the sheep clear the end of the BRIDGE the Competitor can move on along the designated corridor.
THE PEN With the PEN in sight the Competitor must approach with care as all the previous good work with the sheep and dog can all come undone. Time can be running out but the PEN is needed for a high score. The dog and Competitor must have the sheep fully within the PEN and shut the gate before the TRIAL is complete.
The Craft of Sheep Dog Trialling
Welcome to sheepdog trialling. These notes are put together so that spectators can better understand and appreciate the craft of competitive sheepdog trialling. BACKGROUND Briefly the art of sheepdog trialling is for the dog, under the directions and control of the handler, to balance the three allotted sheep between FIGHT and FLIGHT i.e. Establish a relationship so that the sheep accept the dog as a controlling, but non-threatening presence. Handlers aim is to establish this presence as early as possible, generally by applying and releasing pressure i.e. The dog moves carefully towards the sheep and then moving away, when the sheep respond. If successful then the sheep will accept the dog as a non- threatening control.
The reason this balance between FIGHT and FLIGHT is so important is because the major judging consideration is the relationship between WHERE sheep are as opposed to where they OUGHT to be i.e. At any given time there is a specific place that the sheep OUGHT to be, and if not then points will be deducted from the score. Each competitor starts a trial with 15 minutes, and 100 points. Points are deducted if the sheep are off course i.e. Not where they OUGHT to be, and other misdemeanors. If time expires before the course has been completed there is still a score available. Each obstacle has a value and these points are a further deduction to the score, for the obstacles not completed. The RACE is worth 7 points, the BRIDGE is worth 8 points, the PEN is worth 10 points.
THE TRIAL Three randomly selected sheep are released from the far end of the ground, and positioned approximately 20 meters from the fence, (not necessarily directly in front). When the judge is satisfied that the sheep are reasonably placed the trial starts and time commences. The dog is then Cast, this is the initial runout, and may be to the left or the right. When the dog reaches a Point of Balance, (a position from which the sheep can be lifted directly towards the handler) then the judge will draw an 8 metre corridor (in his mind) directly to the handler. To retain maximum points the sheep must remain within this corridor until the sheep are delivered into the D shaped area that the handler is standing in. When the sheep have been delivered into this area then the handler is free to proceed with the course.
From this point the course is clearly marked. The left side is defined by a mown path, that the handler walks along and on the right boundary is marked by a line of bricks, forming an 8 metre corridor, again to retain max points the sheep must remain within this corridor, not too far in front or behind the handler. The course takes a left hand turn at the first Winding Peg the sheep must pass this peg, and also the second Winding Peg on the right side i.e. Anti-clock wise.
At the Race (as at all the remaining obstacles) the handler takes a marked position which is 3 metres from the edge of the obstacle, and must not move from this position, until all the sheep have cleared the end of the Race.
The Bridge is next, with the handler in the marked position at the obstacle with all three sheep to clear the end of the bridge before proceeding to the last obstacle. The Pen, where the handler must wait in a marked position ready to close the gate only when all three sheep are inside the pen.