Best mates: a boy, his horse and a beloved kelpie

SHEP TAY­LOR AND HIS EN­THU­SI­AS­TIC OFFSIDER ARE LEARN­ING NEW SKILLS TO­GETHER.

Country Style - - CONTENTS - WORDS CLAIRE MACTAGGART PHOTOGRAPHY CLANCY PAINE

TWELVE-YEAR-OLD Shep Tay­lor, who lives at Wil­lunga, east of Welling­ton in Cen­tral West New South Wales, had a long wait un­til he was con­sid­ered old enough to have a work­ing dog — and when it fi­nally hap­pened it took him com­pletely by sur­prise. An ex­citable ball of black and tan was the stand-out Christ­mas present two years ago. “My best present yet,” he re­calls of the fe­male kelpie pup he promptly named Flash. Since then, Shep has taught Flash ba­sic obe­di­ence and live­stock-han­dling skills un­der the watch­ful eye of his par­ents Hugh and Mardi Tay­lor, both 42, and his un­cle Kieran Potter, 50, of Sham­rock Kelpie Stud. The Tay­lors own Boxleigh Park Merino Stud, and Kieran bred Flash and also helps on the 2830-hectare SRS merino sheep farm. Ac­cord­ing to his par­ents, Shep has al­ways loved dogs. “He’d come out with me when he was lit­tle and ask if he could take my dogs and work them,” Hugh says. “It’s some­thing he’s dreamed of to have his own to work.” “The kids have al­ways been hands-on on the farm, mostly on horses,” adds Mardi. “Work­ing dogs are Shep’s main in­ter­est. He wanted a pup when he was younger but we said wait un­til you can re­mem­ber to feed, ex­er­cise and train it. He’s lived up to that.” Her son and his dog have de­vel­oped a strong bond and it’s a fa­mil­iar sight to see the kelpie on the back of his bike or by his side when Shep is rid­ing his palomino geld­ing Timmy. The nine-year-old quar­ter horse was also a gift — he ar­rived as a foal from Shep’s god­par­ents when they moved away from the area. “Timmy is so friendly and def­i­nitely part of the fam­ily; he comes wan­der­ing over to say hello when he’s out in the pad­dock,” Hugh says. But when it’s time to work, both Timmy and the two-yearold kelpie are ea­ger to help. The Tay­lors em­brace low-stress stock-han­dling tech­niques to work their sheep and they hope there will be plenty of op­por­tu­nity for Shep and Flash to help in the coming months if the sea­son im­proves as they have de­stocked by a third due to the drought. “Flash was born with her tal­ent, my un­cle Kieran has made sure of that and se­lected her for me be­cause she showed a keen eye for work­ing sheep,” says Shep. “She is an all-rounder and has a strong nat­u­ral in­stinct for work­ing sheep.” Kieran breeds two to three lit­ters each year, re­tain­ing some pups for train­ing to take to an older age, while the re­main­ing are sold be­tween eight and 14 weeks. “Flash has turned out to be one of the best from that lit­ter and we’re re­ally pleased that Shep has her so we can watch her grow and learn,” says Kieran. “She’s got great in­stincts and is now do­ing some light work on her own. I tend to do a bit with Shep and Flash on week­ends and by the time she’s two-and-a-half she’ll be fully trained.” Kieran and his younger sons Pa­trick, 13, and nine-yearold Matthew spend time to­gether with Shep on week­ends, train­ing their dogs and shar­ing valu­able skills. “The boys love it and it’s a good out­let for them,” says Kieran. “We let dogs progress nat­u­rally with their in­stincts.” When Shep re­turns home from school he col­lects Flash and the pair head off on the bike to check stock or to catch a few yab­bies at the dam. While older sister Josie, 14, is away at board­ing school in Or­ange, Shep and his younger sister Olivia, nine, play soc­cer with Flash, who loves to get into the game. “She likes to grab the ball and is an awe­some goalie!” he says. Flash, it seems, is teach­ing her owner the all-im­por­tant lessons of pa­tience and trust when it comes to work­ing with an an­i­mal. “I don’t rush her and make time ev­ery day to work and ex­er­cise her and to feed her well,” he says. One day Shep hopes to com­pete in dog tri­alling, when he and Flash are ready. “She’s taught me re­spon­si­bil­ity; how to love and care for an an­i­mal. She makes me feel good about my­self.” For more in­for­ma­tion, fol­low @boxleigh­park­meri­nos on In­sta­gram, or visit boxleigh­park.com

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