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Sydney Championship 3 Sheep and Yard Trial

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by Gary Brown (subscribe)
I am a freelance writer and photographer from Sydney who has now had five books published on fishing. I also write for the NSW Fishing Monthly, Visit the Shire, Fisho App & Tackle Tactics. I also like to travel and experience new things to do.
Event: -
Dogs, Sheep, Championships, Trials
The first time I ever saw a dog herding sheep into a pen was as a kid at the royal Easter show. Sure it was great to watch, but really, how hard would it be to get a dog, which is extremely intelligent, to herd a few dumb sheep into a pen.

All you need to do is have a farmer whistle a few commands and the dog chases the sheep around a bit until they give up and go into the pen. Then the farmer comes over locks the gate and pats the dog on the head and says "Good Job".

As you go through life, you learn so many things as you grow up, and one of the things that I learnt, was how wrong I was. Not only are the dogs extremely intelligent, so are the sheep and back then I didn't realise how much was involved in getting those sheep into that pen.

On Thursday 28th to Sunday 31st May 2015 at the Hawkesbury Showground, Racecourse Rd, Clarendon the Sydney Sheep Dog Club will be holding the 3 sheep dog trails, as well as the Yard Trial in the Sydney area. This will be the first time in 10 years, as previously they have been held in various country towns of NSW.
Come along and watch the Sydney Championship 3 Sheep and Yard Trials. Photo courtesy of Exhibitor.

In the past the competition has attracted over 200 dogs that along with its owner/handler to compete for the title of winner in the Open 3 sheep event. This year they will be going a step further and running a Yard Trial at the same event, attracting another level of competitors.

The reason the Sydney Sheep Dog Club is bringing the trials to Sydney is to give us city slickers a chance to be able to go and see what is actual involved in both the 3 Sheep Trial and the Yard Trial.


The first dog trials were held in Wanaka, New Zealand, in 1867 with reports of trials at Wanaka, Waitangi and Te Aka in 1868, at Wanaka in 1869 and Haldon Station in the Mackenzie Country in 1870. Australia also has a long history of dog trailing, with a kelpie named Brutus reported in the local paper in Young, NSW, as winning a sheepdog trial back in 1871.


A 3 sheep trial is designed to test the training, skill, patience and stockmanship of a dog and their handler. The handler/owner has to use a series of whistles, voice commands, gestures and hand signals to get their dog to manoeuvre 3 sheep into the penned area.
The sheep can't put one foot over the line. Photo courtesy of Exhibitor.

This has to be achieved in around 15 minutes and each team is given 100 points to start with and they work their way through a series of heats and into the final round. In the final round the championship is awarded to the team with the highest amount of points and who has completed the round in the least amount of time. The sheep will attempt to outrun, bluff, stare down and outsmart the dog while the judge watches intently to score their progress.
You looking at me? Photo courtesy of Exhibitor.

The best dog and handler teams will be successful in making it through the heats to the final rounds to compete for the title of Championship Winner. Every dog and handler have 3 new sheep each time to test their skills as a team against a few hundred other teams over the course and have only 15 minutes to do so.
A Border collie uses a direct stare at sheep while herding at a 3 Sheep Trial. Photo courtesy of Exhibitor.

To help me understand how and what a dog and his/her handlers has to do, I decided to watch a few YouTube clips on 3 Sheep Trials.

Click on the links below to view a couple that I watched:

• 3 Sheep Dog Trial Demonstration by D'Arcy Martin. Youtube link courtesy of D'Arcy has been trialing dogs on sheep and cattle for more years than he can remember. Here he takes his Border Collie Darb through the course and explains to us the intricacies of this difficult collaboration of man and dog.

• 2010 National Sheepdog Trial Championships on the 21/03/10 at Hall, ACT.

The 3 Sheep Trail is not just a matter of a dog herding the 3 sheep into a pen. There is so much more to it. So much so that if you get the opportunity to get out the Sydney Championship Sheep & Yard Trial you should jump at it, as you too will be amazed at what the teams can achieve while trying to put 3 sheep through course and then into a pen.


The course is held on a large oval to mimic a paddock to test the ability of a dog to gather a mob of sheep, keep them together and return the flock to the handler in a controlled and settled manner. The handler must be able to direct the dog to move the sheep in a marked corridor. If at any time a sheep puts a foot over the line, points are deducted from the teams score.

The first obstacle is a race. It is a narrow laneway and it tests the dog's ability to hold the sheep under pressure and force them to go through a tight gap. Once they have passed through, the handler may then proceed to the bridge. This is difficult as the dog must gently push the sheep up over a bridge and get them to jump off the end. Once they have cleared the bridge, they may go to the pen. This is a tricky obstacle. A small pen is in the field where the dog needs to get the 3 sheep into the pen and hold them there while the handler then walks over to shut the gate.

Border Collies are the primary breed that is seen in this sport, however there are also very good kelpies as well as station bred collie and kelpie crosses that certainly put in a competitive run.
This is an example of a 3 Sheep Trial. Photo courtesy of exhibitor.


The Yard Dog Trial is where the skills of the Australian Kelpie come to the fore. The kelpie has a natural desire to shift stock, has a fair amount of force, presence, bark, style and athleticism as it gathers a mob of sheep and manoeuvres them through a series of obstacles such as a race, drafting/drenching race and sometimes up ramps into a truck and back.

This course is designed to test the ability of the dog to perform these tasks regularly in assisting the farmer with regular sheep husbandry techniques. The dog must keep the stock flowing through the yard system in an efficient manner. It does this by using its eye to mesmerize and control the flighty sheep.

Through natural instinct and commands from the handler, it will also bark, jump up and run along the back of the sheep to shift any stubborn sheep further up the race. The dog will then run back underneath the sheep to cause them to jump forward to pack themselves in nicely. These dogs love this work.
A kelpie jumping on the backs of the sheep to make it move. Photo courtesy of Exhibitor.

Spectators love to see this in action. There are also Border collies that compete in this event and perform the jobs on the farm but most people feel it's a kelpie job.

If you want to learn as to why the Kelpie is one of the best breeds of dogs to train for a Yard Trial why don't you have a look at the following trailer You Tube clip on the "Kelpie – The Legend". This You Tube clip will give you a small insight as to what make a special yard dog.

• Kelpie - The Legend


After speaking to Vickie Priestley the Secretary/Treasurer of the Sydney Sheep Dog Club Inc, who by the way is extremely passionate about her dogs and these types of events, I learnt that there are many aspects of the 3 Sheep and Yard Trials that make it very interesting and exciting to watch.

So to help me out Vickie jotted down some of her thoughts about the sheep, dog and handler.

A small flock of sheep. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

• The sheep will vary from trial to trial so the dog and handler have different challenges for each heat and then the final.

• The time of day or the weather conditions will make the sheep re-act in different ways giving the dog and handler many more challenges.

• There are sheep that will bolt at the sight of a dog.

• Some of the sheep are so stubborn that will refuse to move for a dog.

• Sometimes if a dog gets too close to a sheep it will attack the dog.

• In the 3 Sheep Trial the sheep often try to "flock" to the other sheep that are waiting for their turn.


• A good sheepdog will know which sheep is about to break and in which direction, before the sheep even moves.

• A good sheepdog recognises the right distance to stay away from the sheep to move them calmly around the course.

• If a dog uses too much presence, the sheep will try will run away.

• On the other hand if a dog uses too little presence, the sheep will be stubborn and refuse to move.

• Dogs must be fast and wide enough to outrun breaking sheep, but not so fast and so close as to make the sheep run even more.
A well conditioned kelpie. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Border Collies are great working dogs. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.


• Handlers are from varying backgrounds. Some have worked with dogs and sheep all their lives. While others are new to the game & only get to work at training grounds and trials.

• The handler needs to allow a dog not only to use their instinct, but he/she has to train the dog to override that instinct at times.

• Some handlers are that good they are able to read the sheep as well as their dog.
2014 Supreme Winner Jim Dodge with Paton's Cooper. Photo courtesy of the Aust. Sheepdog Workers Association.


The Sydney Sheepdog Club Inc is a newly formed group of sheepdog competitors and enthusiasts in the Sydney region. These teams regularly travel throughout NSW as well as interstate to compete in highly contested 3 Sheep and Yard Trials.

Due to the fact that these regional, state and National Championships are typically held in small country towns, not a lot of us city slickers get a chance to get to go to on one these events.

What the Sydney Sheepdog Club Inc is organising is it to bring the country to the city by holding the 3 sheep dog trails, as well as the Yard Trial on Thursday 28th to Sunday 31st May 2015 at the Hawkesbury Showground, Racecourse Rd, Clarendon, so that us city slickers can get a chance to view an amazing spectacular of both Kelpies and Border Collies, plus other breeds of dogs competing in both trials.
Why don't you come along. You too could be part of the crowd. Photo courtesy of Exhibitor.

So if you are like me and the only time you have seen dogs chasing sheep to try and get them into a pen was at the Royal Easter show or on TV, why don't you take yourself and your family out to the Sydney Championship Sheep & Yard Trial from Thursday 28th to Sunday 31st May 2015 at the Hawkesbury Showground, Racecourse Rd, Clarendon.


Sydney Championship 3 Sheep & Yard Trial and the Sydney Sheep Dog Club would like to thank the following sponsors and supporters for their on-going support. They are as follows:


• NSW Sheepdog Workers Inc.
Photo courtesy of NSW Sheepdog Workers Inc.

• Turtle Nursery & Landscape Supplies.
Photo courtesy of Turtle Nursery & Landscape Supplies.

• TPC. Total Print Control.
Photo courtesy of Toatl Print Control.

• Vet's All Natural by Dr Bruce Syme.
Dr Bruce Syme. Photo courtesy of Vet's All Natural.

• Greg Walton


• Dianne Evans.
• Acell Therapies.
• Koly's Dog Treats.

Maybe you would like to become a sponsor or support of the Sydney Championship 3 Sheep & Yard Trial and the Sydney Sheep Dog Club. Or maybe you would like to become a member.

Become a member click here.
Sponsor the 3 Sheep & Yard Trial click here.
Contact Information click here.


I have added below a few extra links to web site that maybe of interest to you. Click on them for further information.

• The Australian Sheep Dog Workers Association.
• The NSW Yard Dog Association.
• The Working Kelpie Council.
• Hawkesbury Tourism.

After carrying out some research into these trials and watching a few You Tubes on the 3 Sheep and Yard Trials I can see what makes these competitions so interesting and challenging, as well as fun and exciting to watch.

I reckon you too will be amazed at what the dog and his/her handler/owner can achieve in the 3 Sheep and Yard Trials.
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Why? Bringing the country to the city.
When: 28th of May to the 31st of May
Phone: Vickie Priestley, ph 0410 551 507
Where: Racecourse Rd, Clarendon
Your Comment
I love watching working dogs. The article was comprehensive. I'll definitely be going.
by Faye (score: 3|1187) 1840 days ago
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