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Thanks entirely to to the determination and enthusiasm for this project from the people involved, Glebe Farm finds itself about to host a clinic based Australian Shepherd Club of America's rules. This will be followed about 6 weeks later with a sanctioned ASCA trial, with well known judge, Mr Roy Sage, from America.
ASCA comes to UK, 2014.
Link to Starter courses diagram...
Jonh Verity's (handled by J Goulder) Oscar 97
Sue Beavers Roosta 96
Mandie Gibson Kanga 93
Vikki Wong Blanche 92
Liz hulley Pitch 89
V Wong Bandit 88
J Verity Fleck 88
Hugh Emmerson Bess 87
Jenny Smith Brodie 86
M Gibson Kanga 93
H Emmerson Bess 92
V Wong Blanche 90
Liz Hulley Pitch 89
S Beavers Roosta 88
J Verity Fleck 87
V Wong Bandit 79
J Verity Oscar 79
North Yorkshire Holds an ASCA Sheepdog Trial
Thousands of Kennel Club registered and unregistered dogs of what are described as Working or Pastoral breeds and crosses are owned, shown and worked in various competitive disciplines around the UK. A tiny proportion of these have owners interested in handling stock with them. Places prepared to help such people, especially Border collies, are not uncommon nowadays, though all prefer to work with people who have stock and a genuine need to improve their handling skills.
Over the last twenty years a small group have persevered with the handicaps of a. having no stock, b. having another herding breed with which they wish to learn stock management. Originally these people were ‘Beardie' people, as the keenest member of this group breeds and shows this breed. Over the years, the breeds working sheep included GSDs, Polish Lowlands, Pyrenean Sheepdogs, Vallhunds, Australian shepherds, kelpies, Welsh sheepdogs, border collies and boxers. ( Yes, boxers) There is some interest from these folk to have some more formal recognition of their efforts, perhaps a qualification recognised by their Breed Club, or Certificate to mark a certain standard reached.
Some find regular training at Glebe farm, North Yorkshire, with a very strong emphasis on considerate, effective sheep handling. Having an unusual breed is no excuse for bad dog work!
Four fairly regular members own Australian Shepherds, a breed with a very strong following in USA, and last Autumn an ASCA trial was requested… That’s ‘sanctioned’ by the parent club, the Australian Shepherd Club of America, under, as I, the proposed host, discovered, several inches of regulations, paper work and rules. Fortunately they were encouraged and led by a Swede called Mikael Hageus who managed all this paper work through the Swedish branch of the ASCA, or it would not have gone as smoothly as it did! A highly recommended judge, Roy Sage, from America was coming to Sweden, and Mikael included North Yorkshire in his circuit. He delivered Roy to our door on the 14th of June, and group with 9 dogs between them gathered the following morning to work with Roy towards gaining the first formal qualification for sheep work, albeit a very basic one, as there are several more, becoming steadily more demanding.
ASCA trials are open to a wide range of dogs considered to be of herding breeds, so we had 5 aussies, 3 border collies and a working beardie.
Roy Sage was inspirational with both people and dogs, and his kind, enthusiastic and attentive handling of his group relieved their nerves, tidied up some handling techniques and was a joy to observe. This sort of thing is always nerve wracking to host, who worries for the people, the dogs and the sheep until they see the clinician in action!
Mikael ensured the course was set up as the rules required, decisions were made as to which sheep, and how many, were to used in the trial, people were instructed as to trial etiquette, and we were off!
It was just marvellous how it all went! Each packet of sheep was ready at the start , and reappeared through the gate after completing the course, to be replaced by the next group for the next handler. There was such calm and quiet! In fact, all nine competitors completed the trial with a qualifying score, something to be proud of. Roy told us that he has never qualified a whole class before, and the group had all proved themselves very good learners!
For me, as host, this was a very useful experience, as we ran an All Breeds Trial, an ambition of mine, with the guidance of a very experienced professional trainer, and M and V Hagus coping wonderfully with the paper trail. Many thanks to to them. This gave a feeling of importance that is lacking from a progress test type set up we have done in the past. I understand that this the first time a sanctioned ASCA Started Sheep has taken place in the UK, so it was quite a triumph for the Australian shepherd ladies who kept me up to the mark on the lead up to the event, and a source of satisfaction they have well earned!
Present were … Course Director / time keeper, M Hageus, Judge R Sage, Sheep steward J Goulder
John Verity with Fleck and Oscar, Border Collies
Vikki Wong with Bandit and Blanche, Australian Shepherds,
Hugh Emmerson and Bess, a Working beardie,
Mandie Gibson and Kanga
Jenny Smith and Brodie, a working sheepdog
Liz Hulley and Pitch, an Australian shepherd
Sue beavers and Roosta, an Australian shepherd
There was an a.m and p.m trial with the Most promising Started Aussie going to Sue Beavers and Roosta in the first trial, and to Mandie Gibson with Kanga in the second trial.
The Asca Question Trial…
You have got to trial these things.
Good results from a trial give your dog a ‘qualification’
Trials demonstrate your dog has ability in your chosen field, though face the facts. The ability demonstrated is only as much as the trial conditions require; tame sheep, small area; not a lot, in fact. This argument persists right though to selecting an English team for the Supreme, the last day of the ISDS International. But it is a start, important as team building, for dog and handler to progress.
“Can we have an ASCA trial?” a keen aussie owner asked, late autumn 2012.
How hard can it be, I thought.
So the first herding trial the All Breeds Herding UK group selected was the Australian Shepherd Club of America’s very first level, the Started B course, and the very first accredited ASCA trial in the UK.
A few quiet sheep, a wander round the Rhubarb paddock (it used to have a patch of rhubarb in it, as distinct from Fir tree, which still has a fir tree, or Turkey pen, no turkeys) through a few hurdles… the dogs have all done that and harder in our own progress tests in previous years.
Sounds fun, let’s do it!
We had a keen young man volunteer to teach us about A S C A come over from Sweden. ASCA is popular and growing in Europe. I made some serious efforts to duck out, when the thickness and complication of the rules and requirements - legs on ducks sheep and cattle - paper work, prizes, ribbons and belt buckles - became clear. Most of my clients would have worn that very happily, but the enthusiasm of Mikael, his passion, ‘We’ll see to all the paper work’ seduced me and the very first ASCA trial, on sheep, was Sanctioned. I fear I will be Sectioned by the time it’s all over.
Assembled to demonstrate their progress, my team struggled with urinating, hip hugging, singling and wool snatching dogs with ever decreasing confidence. Duh! What! How had I failed them all here? I don’t know what Mikael thought but I was ready to chuck it in right there. ‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’ said Bob, my partner, from a position of strength as a self employed shepherd, watching as long as he could bear to from the front room window.
Then came Roy Sage.
With kindness, quietness, tact and the skill born of experience, this genuine, slightly battered looking American Aussie handler with a lifetime of success gathered up the lose ends, the unravelled nerves, the rebellious, anxious dogs. In two days, they were - well, still rather anxious , but resigned to what ever the trial day would throw at them.
As sheep setter, I had a perch in the shade, and a view of three quarters of thecourse. I heard no shouting. I saw the first handler, dog and sheep negotiate the second hurdles. I saw them pacing to the exit gate. ( and BURSTING out through it...'Bring your dogs up to show they are WORKING' something I personally questioned and rejected...) I released their sheep and assembled 4 more. 8 more times. Brilliant, unbelievable. Quite tearful… Every one gained qualifying scores; history was made, in a small but profoundly satisfying way.