Competitors still flock to traditional trials
They’re from different ends of the spectrum, but for Alastair Sherrard and Allan Smith, dog trialling is a way of life.
Smith, from Matamata, has been involved with the Putaruru Tirau Matamata Dog Trial Club for more than 30 years. He is now the club’s patron and is widely known as the region’s expert on dog trialing.
Meanwhile, Okoroire’s Alastair Sherrard is the club’s president and is just starting out on his dog trialling journey. However, the pair share common ground when it comes to talking about the sport they love.
Dog trialing is about a man, his dog and three sheep. It’s a sport based on a rural lifestyle.
‘‘ They’re the tools of our trade,’’ Sherrard says. ‘‘We can’t farm without them.’’
Smith says a dog who trials is first and foremost a working dog. ‘‘They’re your mate, but they’re working dogs.’’
The pair agree that special relationship with a dog, and all the people involved, is what makes dog trialing special.
‘‘I’ve met a lot of different people from all parts of the country and you’re all here for the same thing and at the end of the day it’s just fun,’’ Sherrard says.
The Putaruru Tirau Matamata Dog Trial Club club, located on Kakahu Rd, is next week hosting the 76th running of the trial.
‘‘We still put on a pretty good trial for being in a predominant dairy area, we have very good turnouts,’’ Sherrard says.
The club has seen a resurgence in recent years, seeing more competitors in the last three years then they’ve had in the previous ten.
‘‘It’s probably because we’re central and we’ve altered our trial during the week to fit in so they can do a Saturday and a Sunday trial somewhere else.
‘‘ Guys from the Hawkes Bay, Wairarapa or Poverty Bay will do a loop. It seems to work quite well,’’ Sherrard says.
Competitors come from all over to take part in the open, intermediate and maiden categories across four events. There is the long head and short head events for heading dogs, while the zig zag hunt and the straight hunt are for huntaways.
Whether dog trialling is a generational sport, or if it’s something completely new, people of all ages compete.
‘‘We’ve had people in their 90s and they probably started when they were 15,’’ Sherrard says.
But with hesitation, Sherrard says it’s usually older, more middle aged men who are involved in dog trialling.
He says this comes down to the fact they can afford the time to travel. ‘‘But you still get the groups of young fellas.’’
At the start of a season, a number of competitors aim to qualify their dogs for a New Zealand event.
To be able to qualify for the North and South Island events, a competitor has to have six qualifying points.
Smith says to get those six qualifying points if you place first at a club event you get five points, second gets four points and so on.
‘‘If you win one you set yourself up pretty much, you’ll get that other point somewhere along the line. It’s when you only get ones or twos that you have to do more kilometres,’’ Sherrard says.
There is money on offer in the intermediate and maiden categories, which Sherrard says gives the competitors incentive to come along. ‘‘If you win at intermediate you’ve well and truly paid for your day out, because if you do go to a few and you don’t win anything it can cost you a little bit.’’
Both Sherrard and Smith say sponsorship from the three towns involved with the club has been very generous.
‘‘A lot of them have helped us out year on year on year. We’re very lucky. We wouldn’t still be able to run if it wasn’t for them,’’ Sherrard says.
The pair encourage anyone keen on dog trialing or those interested to learn what it’s all about to pop out and have a look at any stage throughout the two days of the trial.