You do not have to be a dog lover, to enjoy the wonderful weekend that is the Kingston Sheep Dog Trials. In 2012 Kingston celebrated their 25th anniversary of hosting this prestigious event. Trainers and judges come from all over North America to participate.
A little further along on these pages there is a video depicting part of the actual trials. Fascinating. No, I am not a dog owner any more, yet I couldn’t help thinking how great it would be if we had one of these friendly, super-intelligent and usually docile border collies at our home. Maybe one day?
What are the Kingston Sheep Dog Trials?
Well, never having been before, we didn’t know either. Here is how this one works, and I suspect it is similar at all events on the Sheep Dog Circuit, which occurs at various venues around North America on a regular basis. By the way, the Kingston Sheep Dog Trials are in the top five of these events.
It is a huge field entirely fenced in, maybe 1/2-2/3 mile long and 1/4 mile or so wide, about 1 kilometer long by 200 meters wide. Half way down the field on either side are a couple of sections of fence with a gap between. These are the gates.
At one end of the field, on a rise in this case, are the judges, so positioned to view the entire field.
Near the judges is a section of the field marked only by small flags into which the sheep dog has to muster the mob of sheep as part of the trial. Also at the judge’s end of the field is a small pen, into which, at the end of their trial, the sheep dog has to direct the sheep.
At the way, way far end of the field is a pen holding dozens of sheep, four of which are let out for each trial, Shepherds keep them close by, while waiting for each trial to begin.
At each trial a sheep dog owner would step up in front of the judges tent, with their sheep dog close by their sides. These dogs love this! You will see one dog in the video that is barely able to contain himeself, it wants to go chase sheep so badly.
At the judges signal, the sheep dog flies from its trainer’s side, zooming way to the other end of the field, where it takes over controlling the four sheep, selected by draw, that it has to muster throughout the trial. The trial begins.
Using only whistle commands (evidently shouted commands are a no no) the owner signals the sheep dog to start the mob down field towards the judge’s end, and in the process controlling the sheep to go where they are supposed, through the gates in the right sequence, to the muster area near the judges, back up the field, and then, back down and into the pen near the judges. All this without any other than whistle signals from the trainer. It is absolutely amazing to watch.
Did I mention that the each sheep dog has to do all of this with their mob of sheep in under ten minutes to even qualify for the finals?
If you noticed that the dog in the video changed during this video of the sheep dog trial, good eyes! In order to make a cohesive video, it was necessary to edit in a host of shots taken at different times during the day, and for each trial it was a different sheep dog and a different mob of sheep involved.
What’s to do at the Kingston Sheep Dog Trials?
How about horse-drawn wagon rides, pig races, duck races, a raptors exhibit, jungle cats and other exotic animals, lots of crafts and pet accessories, dog club booths, or, how about a cow-milking simulator? And then there is the Agility Connection – information on this activity is below.
There is lots of food, face painting, ice cream, kids activity area, celebrity chef cook-offs, not to mention (if it turns out to be hot day when you visit) an absolutely lovely beach and picnic area to enjoy. Why not bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the beauty that Kingston’s Grass Creek Park has to offer? There is lots of free parking right adjacent to the sheep dog trials venue.
The photos below will give you an idea of just some of the range of activities available for adults and children at the three-day-long Kingston Sheep Dog Trials.
Sheep Dog Trial Info
The Kingston Sheep Dog trial only comes around once a year, typically in August, so consider planning ahead.
The venue is Grassy Creek Park, which is about 18 km (10 miles) east of the Kingston City Hall across the LaSalle Causeway and out Highway #2 eastbound. During the dog trials, there has been a shuttle available from the K-Rock Centre to the park, for folks not wishing to drive. There is a nominal charge for this.
For more information about past and future dog trials, please visit their website: http://kingstonsheepdogtrials.com
The Agility Connection
I promised to tell you more about the Agility Connection for dogs. That information, along with a video, is available on this page.
Comments about your visit to the Kingston Sheep Dog Trials are welcome.