Tri­alling tests farmer and dog

South Waikato News - - NEWS / OPINION - By TERESA HAT­TAN

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 tri­alling.

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 tri­alling 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 tri­alling 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 this 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 tri­al­ists in the last three years then they’ve had in the pre­vi­ous 10. ‘‘ 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, with a com­peti­tor’s fa­ther or grand­fa­ther com­pet­ing in years gone by, 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 got to a few and you don’t win any­thing it can cost ya 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 tri­alling 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.

Fe­bru­ary 26-27, Kakahu Rd, Oko­roire, from 8am.

Photo: TERESA HAT­TAN

STRONG BONDS: Pu­taruru Ti­rau Mata­mata Dog Trial Club pres­i­dent Alas­tair Sher­rard, left, and club pa­tron Al­lan Smith are busy pre­par­ing for this month’s tri­als.

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