Best mates: a boy, his horse and a beloved kelpie
SHEP TAYLOR AND HIS ENTHUSIASTIC OFFSIDER ARE LEARNING NEW SKILLS TOGETHER.
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