Sunday, March 27, 2011

Meeker Classic Sheepdog Trials

          It’s mid-September and I’m on my way to Meeker, Colorado for the Meeker Classic - a sheepdog trial event with 120 competitors from all over the United States and Canada.  I arrived at 8:00a.m. and couldn’t find the event.  I stopped in at the Blue Spruce Lodge to ask for directions and was told the Meeker Classic is held in a big field on the west end of town.  “Big field” is an accurate term - the event takes place on a quarter mile rolling hill at the base of a rock wall.  Early morning clouds gave way to clearing skies and I settled in on the bleachers to watch the trials.  I thoroughly enjoyed this event!  

          Here's how the action unfolds:
Picture a very large baseball field - the border collie handler stands at a post that represents home plate.  He sends his dog out to the edge of the field - deep to the wall in center field -  to collect a group of five sheep and bring them back through a gate at second base then around behind the handler and through a gate at third base, across the field again and through a gate at first base and finally back to the infield where the sheep are collected and ultimately herded into a pen near the third base dugout.  All of this is to be accomplished in 11 minutes.  I watched 7 or 8 trials and didn’t see anyone complete the course.  In the outfield are two cowboys on horseback.  They keep the sheep out there until the dogs come to get them.  After a trial is over a trained border collie runs onto the course and collects the sheep to be loaded into a trailer and taken back to the edge of the field.  Many different groups of sheep are used and several outfits of cowboys patrol the field. 
A Sheepdog Handler Shouts Instructions to her Dog
Also at the Meeker Classic is the Mason’s Pancake Breakfast.  I devoured the pancake, sausage and egg breakfast and it was very good, rivaling the Lions Club Breakfast in Price, Utah.  I stopped in the art barn and viewed colorful paintings of sheep herding - all for sale via silent auction.  A craft tent filled with artisan offerings provided a break from the herding action.  I bought a wool blanket and pillow, made with Colorado wool.  A border collie rescue group hosts a stand at the event and several border collie organizations are there as well, selling all-things border collie.  
         During the lunch break a behavioral geneticist talked about his study to determine why border collies are driven to engage in herding behavior and the implications this may have for understanding human mental illnesses.  Also on the lunch break we heard a Scottish bagpipe player and the theme song for the 2010 Meeker Classic.  The rescue group brought out a few of their border collies and a local border collie owner, Elaine, and her dog “Ben” provided a sheep herding demonstration.  

The Meeker Classic is an entertaining event - not too crowded, plenty of seating and you are close to the action and to the dogs.  I was told that the Heber (Utah) sheepdog classic draws 25,000 people.  No thanks, I’d rather go to the Meeker Classic - there were probably less than a thousand people here by afternoon.  I’m already looking forward to attending the event next year.

For more information on sheepdog trials check out the international sheepdog society at:
Travel info for Meeker and the White River Valley may be found by visiting:

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