Ettrick Valley’s Bobby Dalziel is the new Scottish champion sheepdog triallist.
The six-time national winner gained 206 points with his seven-year-old collie Joe to take the title in the rain at Ruecastle Farm, near Jedburgh, at the weekend.
The sheep farmer, who has also won three international titles, says it’s still good to win: “It’s a good feeling.”
The key to being a good handler is being lucky, he says, but added that he agreed with a top skier who’d said the harder they worked the luckier they became.
“It was a good, big, challenging course. The international course is a lot larger, but for a national it was quite big,” he said.
A lowering mist on Saturday pushed the three-day trials into a rare fourth day – for the second time at Ruecastle, for when the nationals were last held there in 2002, similar bad weather conditions caused another four-day trial.
“It’s historic that the trials ran over to a fourth day in exactly the same field as the last time,” said secretary Margery Robinson.
She said of the event which started on Thursday: “There was a really good turnout. We were trying to attract more of the general public. The gate takings were well above average on Friday and Saturday. It was really an excellent event
“Despite the weather, there was a really good spirit, the running was excellent and the sheep were challenging – they were very strong.
“You had to have a really strong dog well under control to stand up to the sheep. You had to have a dog that could push them from a distance ... and not take any nonsense from them.
“There are some really top calibre handlers and dogs going to represent Scotland. We are really proud of them.”
“We had such support from our hosts John and Adele Richardson and from members of our committees. We really couldn’t have done it without them.”
BBC Alba filmed the unique ‘sheep to shawl’ demonstration, featuring local spinners and weavers, and other attractions included a craft village and other working dogs and demonstrations.Most of the expected 150 entrants competed with the Scotch mule ewes.
Mr Dalziel said: “The sheep were good – and not so good – but that’s what happens in trialling. They behaved reasonably well.”
His winning dog Joe was his partner winning the Scottish national two years ago and an international in 2006. Also qualifying was Mr Dalziel’s nine-year-old Spot, similarly a previous Scottish national winner, who notched up 173 points (olf 82) at the weekend.
“A lot of things make a good dog – brains and a feel for sheep, they just understand sheep and have the ability to use their brains after you have trained them,” explained Mr Dalziel, who farms the 3,500 acres of Potburn, adding: “It’s the work on the farm that makes them.”
He started trialling in 1976 and competed at his first nationals in 1979 when he came third with another Joe.
The international will take place at Tain in Ross and Cromarty in September.
And if Mr Dalziel could have his way he’d wish for: “A hill type course – though I know it won’t be – and just nice weather, not too warm, not too cold and no rain – that would be ideal”
The team of 15 going forward from Scotland also includes Galashiels’ Keith Preston who gained 166 points (olf 80) with Queen and Coldingham’s Cameron Dickson, who goes through on 175 points with Scott.