Sheepdog handlers are herded into the Borders

THIS year’s top sheepdog handlers in Scotland will be chosen in the Borders at the beginning of next month.

The Scottish National Sheepdog Trials take place at Ruecastle Farm, near Jedburgh starting on Thursday, August 4.

The trials will attract 150 of the top sheepdogs in Scotland to compete with their handlers over three days for a place in the Scottish team of 15 to contest the International Sheepdog Trials at Tain in the Highlands later this year.

The national trials were last at Ruecastle in 2002 when the event went into a fourth day because of bad weather.

One of the event’s secretaries, Margery Robinson said: “It’s an excellent running course, which slopes gently uphill and provides good visibility for spectators. The Scottish Borders is a perfect setting, and we will have a spectacular outlook from the hills looking down towards Denholm and Jedburgh below.”

Top handler Bobby Dalziel from the Ettrick Valley, and his assistants, are stewarding the sheep, farm owner John Richardson’s flock of Scotch mule ewes.

Fundraiser trials at Springhill Farm, Coldingham, raised nearly £300 for the national event, another in the Etrrick Valley in June raised £290.

The organisers hope a demonstration day and novice handlers’ clinic at Heriot on Sunday July 31 will help boost funds further. The two-hour working demonstration at Carcant Farm will be with dog whisperer and top handler Julie Hill, who will give the combined talk and demonstration.

Mrs Robinson said: “We hope to attract a wider audience to our trials as well as open up the field for young and less experienced handlers to have a chance to learn from one of our top trialists.”

Both international supreme champions, Julie, and her partner, Bob Henderson regularly run clinics at the farm and overseas and in 2003 Julie wrote The Natural Way, a book about her positive techniques for training dogs.

Julie bases her technique on understanding and using the language of the dog as a pack animal.

Mrs Robsinson said: “Julie will focus on how training a Border collie progresses throughout a sheepdog’s life. Her training style stresses correct communication with your pup right from the beginning as essential to the pup’s proper development. She will cover starting the young dog and the skill needed to assess your own dog so that training can progress. At each stage of training this communication builds so that young dogs can progress at an appropriate rate and mutual respect is built.”

Tickets for the event are £10 and anyone interested should contact the couple on 01875 83524 or 07833 606366 or by email at enquiries@henderson-hill-bordercollies.co.uk

At the nationals the following Thursday, there will be a birds of prey display from Falconry Scotland, incorporating Jedforest Falconry between 11am and 3pm when the falconer will talk and answer questions.

There will also be a free children’s dog show, starting at 12.30pm. Emma Gray will give sheepdog demonstrations with runner ducks and there will be search and rescue dogs showing their skills. Work by members of Crossing Borders, an association of artists and craftspersons from the Borders and north Northumberland, will be on display and the craft marquee will include demonstrations of sheep-to-shawl spinning and weaving by local experts and crook-making by Borders Stickmakers. Local caterer Marcus Barnett will be selling refreshments.

More information at www.scottishnationalsheepdogtrials.org.uk.