Karen Aitcheson from West Linton has been named as the winner of a new ‘Young Sheep Dog Handler Award’.
She was presented with her award at a showcase event held at Carcant Farm, Heriot, and was chosen for the award because of her natural aptitude, insight and feel for dog handling.
Karen, aged 22, works as a veterinary nurse at Greenside Vets, St Boswells, and has always wanted to learn how to work a sheepdog having watched her father compete for many years at the Scottish National. Karen will continue to develop her skills with her dog Beth over the summer with a view to competing in the Lanark, Lothians and Peebles Novice League in the autumn and winter series.
Karen said: “I am delighted to have been given this award and I have also learnt so much from the training about how to handle the natural abilities of the dogs as well as gaining a great deal of confidence from the supportive atmosphere. One aspect I valued was learning how to use the dog’s initiative rather than training it to wait for a command.”
There were two runners-up for the Award - Fraser Murray and and Sion Morgan.
Fraser, originally from the Highlands, works as a stockman/shepherd for Hamish Dykes at South Slipperfield, West Linton. During the training he faced the challenge of learning how to train and develop his adolescent dog, Rex, on sheep, and considerably progressed his skills in a way that should enable him to compete in future.
Sion is originally from Wales, but after a year shepherding in New Zealand is now the shepherd working for Jim Logan at Pirntaton, Fountainhall, Galashiels. Sion started his trialling career this autumn and has been very successful, winning novice trials at Roslin and Abington with his bitch Jill, and at Walkerburn with his dog Fred.
Karen, Fraser and Sion each received a specially crafted and engraved whistle from Logan Whistles and a commemorative certificate and citation recording their talents and progress.
The new Young Handler Award has been created at the Lanark, Lothians and Peebles Sheep Dog Trials League thanks to the generosity of Suffolk farmer Stephen Cobbald. Mr Cobbald has donated £12,500 over a ten-year period to provide training for young handlers in the region in memory of his daughter, Charlotte, who died tragically at the age of 17 in 2014.
Charlotte and her father competed and trained in the Lanark, Lothians and Peebles Sheep Dog League and regarded the area as their second home.
Applications from youngsters in the Lanark, Lothians and Peebles area to take part in the 2017/18 training should be made to Julie Hill in an email detailing the applicant’s past experience and future goals.