8 May 2016

Top dogs tackle Taranaki trials

5:25 pm on 8 May 2016

Hundreds of enthusiasts, fans and topline competitors from around the country have descended upon a remote valley in eastern Taranaki this week for the North Island Sheep Dog Trial Championship.

Huntaway finalist Dan Murphy, left, and Kerry Kilminster

Huntaway finalist Dan Murphy, left, and Kerry Kilminster Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

And while titles have been up for grabs, the event has also been an opportunity for dog handlers to share tales and catch up with old mates.

The president of the Taranaki Sheep Dog Trials Association, Loyd Bishop, knows when he's onto a good thing and he reckons everyone should visit the Mangamingi Valley.

The valley is located about 20km east of Eltham.

"These are magnificent hills down here in the Mangamingi Valley. It's amazing you come out over the top of the Mangamingi Saddle there and the country just changes. It's worth a drive out just to see and, of course, our hills here are regarded as probably one of the best courses in the country."

Taranaki Sheep Dog Trial Association president Loyd Bishop.

Taranaki Sheep Dog Trial Association president Loyd Bishop. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Mangamingi, the North Island's only championship level course, has been hosting about 400 dog handlers competing in the long head, short head and yard, and in the straight and zigzag huntaway.

The competitors have had to qualify to enter and while that might sound intimidating, Mr Bishop said sheep dog trialling was a sport anyone could enjoy.

"It's an amazing sport, you can have anything from a 15-year-old kid to an 83-year-old man competing in this sport. It's very versatile in that regard.

"So yeah it's a sport for everyone, you don't even necessarily need to be a farmer."

Dog trials Alan Smith of Matamata and Dot

Alan Smith and Dot Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Matamata's Alan Smith has been dog trialling since he was a teenager and, even at 77-years-old, he was not there just to make up the numbers.

"You aim for the top but you don't always get there," he said with a chuckle.

"No, it's a sport that anybody can sort of take on and it's a good sport. You can get a puppy, break it in and bring it out and compete with it, win with it. It's a real buzz really."

But Mr Smith reckoned the best part of trialling was the sense of camaraderie.

"It's good to get out each year and the North Island guys go to the south and visa versa and you meet up with all your mates. It's really great fun."

Dog trials Competitor Annie Flood of Gisborne with Ginny and Scott

Annie Flood of Gisborne with Ginny and Scott. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Gisborne farmer Annie Flood was one of just 15 women in the field.

She has got sheep dog trials in her blood.

"Well, I'm off the land anyway and my husband Maurice started off being a shepherd in the high country and probably had a lot to do with my getting experience on hill country.

"We both do it together and it's really good. It's part and parcel of what we do as farmers."

Ms Flood said she had no problem earning the respect of her male counterparts.

"That's not a problem at all. Not a problem, they're all good guys. I mean at the end of the day it's sport both women and men can do just equally I think and as time goes on there is actually more women coming through, which is good to see."

It's not all been about competitions and titles - a sawdust bar has been doing a steady trade and the cookhouse has been chocker all week.

Dog trial dogs in car.

Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Cookhouse boss Sam Lourie and his team of volunteers have been up at dawn.

"In the morning the Mangamingi girls come in they're doing the breakfast and they start and about 5am. So it's a full cooked breakfast and they've been getting up to 80 meals a morning and that goes to 8.30am. And then we come in and there's about seven or eight of us and we do a hot lunch and afternoon tea."

And the menu didn't sound half bad.

"The first day was hot ham with all the trimmings, vegetables, roast veggies and salad. Second day was scotch fillet steak and then today were onto venison casserole and we also had lamb on day as well ... yeah so good tucker."

Taihape competitor Marcus Totman took out the straight huntaway competition with Meg.

The 31-year-old finished on 192 points from his two runs, just half a point ahead of second placegetter Taumarunui's Trevor Rumbal with Thug, who edged Dannevirke's Gerard Brown with Tempo into third on 191 points.

In the zigzag huntaway, Rick Orr from the Waikari club in Canterbury finished on 194.75 points with his dog George, just ahead of Manawatu's Dave Stuart with Turk on 194.

In third, just half a point back, was Taranaki's Graeme Dickson with Bell.

Huntaway finalist Dan Murphy, left, and Kerry Kilminster

Huntaway finalist Dan Murphy, left, and Kerry Kilminster Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

The long head was won by Murray Child with Dice from the Maungakaramea club on 192.5 points.

In second was Parapara-Makirikiri competitor Graham Wellington with Rachel on 191.75, who pipped Whangamomona's Steve Murphy with Treat on 191.5.

The short head and yard was taken out by Waikoau club member Dave Wallace with Toi on 191.5 points, while Leo Edginton and Skip from Tolaga Bay on 189.25 came in ahead of Wairoa's Brendon Bishop and Spur on 186 points.

The next event on the dog trial circuit is the National Championships in Canterbury at the end of the month.

Dog Trial fans, Taranaki

Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

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