The Trial starts at 7.30am on Thursday we have over 130 dogs to get through so the sooner we start the better. The only delays to start time on any day will be weather related i.e. heavy fog.
Hopefully, by now the Competitor, the dog and their best friends the three sheep are all settled and ready for a gentle carry to the PEN. Time is ticking down and this section is worth 30 points if worked well. When the Competitor reaches the pen they must stand in the ring/set and work the dog without assistance to put the sheep in the PEN according to Australian rules. The sheep must all be completely within the PEN before the gate can be shut and the dog must hold the sheep in the pen as the gate is being shut. When the PEN is closed it is all over. The Course is complete, well done. Now, what is the score.
Two obstacles down and two to go. No time for relaxing, the time is ticking away and the Competitor needs to head for the BRIDGE. Remember you are still in New Zealand and need to carefully DRIVE the sheep to the free working area in front of the BRIDGE. Tricky here as the Competitor must not enter the mouth of the BRIDGE but may assist the dog to move them into place. The dog must clear the sheep completely over the bridge and they must have dropped off the end before the Competitor can move. There may never be a BRIDGE between NZ and OZ, but the competitor in now back on Australian soil and rules and the PEN is in sight.
At the end of the DRIVE is the free working area 10 metres from the MALTESE CROSS. Here the fun really begins, if the Competitor has only ever worked under Australian Rules. In this area the Competitor may move about to assist and work their dog in completing the MALTESE COSS. It must be entered and exited from the direction of the GAP, then entered and exited in the direction of the BRIDGE. Plenty of scope for problems here, where do the Kiwis come up with these ideas?
Once you have walked through the GAP you have "crossed the ditch" and are on NZ rules. This Section to the MALTESE CROSS is called the DRIVE and is now a 15 metre wide course. The Competitor and the dog must move the sheep directly towards the obstacle, without getting in front of the sheep. The Competitor may move freely within the course to assist with moving the sheep, but should not run around or over assist the dog. If the sheep break back the competitor can not go back but must get the dog to bring the sheep forward again. The DRIVE ends when the sheep enter the free working area of the MALTESE CROSS. The Judges will have expected to see free flowing work.
The Carry from the Post to the Gap is consistent with the Australian Rules. There is a 9 metre corridor which the sheep must travel within. The Competitor walks on the line on the left hand side and must not stop or vary their pace. Points are lost if the sheep move outside of the corridor . When the sheep, dog and Competitor arrive at the GAP the Competitor must stand in the ring to work the sheep through the GAP. Once that has happened the Competitor MUST WALK THROUGH THE GAP to start the next section.
The POST is the starting point for the Trail. The Competitor walks to towards the post and positions the dog and steps into the ring ready to start. When the bell rings the dog is CAST to the left or right to the head of the sheep. The dog should move into a position of control the sheep and then bring them is a steady manner and a direct a line as possible to the post where the competitor is standing. In the Trans Tasman the sheep must have passed around the Competitor on the left hand side before the competitor can set off towards the GAP.
One of the wonderful things about Trialling is, if you have a trained registered working dog and know how to drive it you can compete. Age, gender or experience are no barrier to having a go. You can compete alongside the best in the country and will often be given a few handy hints to help you improve.
This years competitors come from all over NSW and are a real mix. Some manage huge properties with the dogs having a busy working life, some are urbanites, with working sheepdogs their passion and others are small blockies with a few sheep to train their dogs. Wherever you come from, you are welcome.
The Dogs that compete in the Trans Tasman Trial are mainly working Border Collies with a small number of Kelpies and the occasional Koolie. Three sheep trials are dominated by Border Collies and Yard Dog Trials by Kelpies.
All dogs need to be registered with the Working Dog Association for their State. Most dogs at this trial are registered with the NSW Working Sheepdog Association. This Association keeps a register of working dogs and their bloodlines as well as talented working dogs of unregistered parents who are listed as "Station Bred". This year we have 136 dogs having a run, up from last year.
The area at the far end of the field , where the sheep are is know as the LETOUT (for obvious reasons). This is where each group of three sheep is released onto the field when the Judge raises his flag. The sheep must be released in a calm manner and encouraged to move quietly away from the let-out fence. This is to give the dog plenty of room to move around behind the sheep on the CAST. When the sheep are correctly positioned the Judge lowers his flag, the bell rings and the trial has begun.
Our Sheepdog club is for working sheepdog breeds and hold regular training days to assist people with training their dogs. We also organise and run the Trans Tasman Trial at Bungendore.