Those who have witnessed Carol Leeman’s border collies in action at demonstrations at the Wilson County Fair have asked for it, and now it’s almost here.
More than 175 working dogs from across the United States will transcend on Lebanon in about two weeks for a special sheepherding competition at Spring Creek Farms. Leeman said dogs and their handlers will compete for prize money, along with points to qualify for a national competition next fall in Virginia at the Spring Creek Farms Stock Dog Trials on Sept. 29 in Lebanon.
“The interest in the demonstrations at the fair is just mind boggling.” Leeman said. “People are fascinated in what these dogs can do. We attract big crowds every year. That’s why we are publicizing this, so people can come out and see what it’s all about.”
And Leeman said those who have seen fair demonstrations have just gotten a taste of what goes on during competition.
Leeman said the competition will be held on a 20-acre field at the farm. She said the dog and handler go to one end of the field and three sheep are released on the other end.
“The dog brings the sheep back to the handler a distance of about 500 yards,” Leeman said. “Then the dog takes the sheep through an obstacle course. Then, at the direction of the handler, the dog directs the sheep into a small pen. Then the dog has to take one of the sheep and hold it and separate it from the others.”
Once the about nine-minute course is complete, the dog’s precision on handling the sheep is judged. The handler generally uses a series of whistles or hand claps to move the dog either clockwise or counterclockwise to herd or divide the sheep.
“If the sheep veer off that line even just a bit, there is a deduction,” she said.
Leeman said the competition is based on actual work the dogs would do on a farm.
“The whole event is supposed to simulate real work on a farm,” Leeman said. “For instance, if I have a sheep on my farm I need to single out to vaccinate, the dog can do that for me.”
Leeman said the competition is open to all breeds but the majority of dogs there will be border collies, which she considers “the Cadillac of the sport.”
“It is open to all breeds, but it is difficult for other breeds to do the competition as well as the border collies,” Leeman said.
Leeman said the event is open to the public and encourages those who are planning on attending to bring a chair. Competition will start at about 7 a.m. and wrap up at around 4 p.m.
Spring Creek Farms is at 575 Vance Lane off Hartsville Pike in Lebanon.