to South East England Sheep Dog Trials’ web site, the home of ROMNEY MARSH, SUSSEX and THANET SHEEPDOG SOCIETIES.
Each society has it’s own page in the MENU above.Trials are listed in the column on the right of this page, spectators at trials are very welcome. Click on the trial name in the right hand column for details .For RESULTS go to the MENU and also to the ARCHIVES in the column on the right. LINKS to the Nationals and International websites in the MENU above.
HANDLERS, if you have access to a printer, please help to reduce the mounting cost of postage to the societies by using the downloadable trial entry forms. Don’t forget to include your cheque when sending your entry. Fees and address of the relevant secretary are on the forms. In some cases running orders can also be downloaded.
Ron Beecham has sent us an account of a Trial that he and Isobel attended in Belgium recently (see below). Your input into this site is valuable and we would welcome more reports such as this .
To contact the website click HERE
A Belgian Trial by Ron Beecham.
As you may know the Romney Marsh trials are generally held quite close to the Dover ferry port and the Channel Tunnel, so we are fortunate to have handlers from the Continent come over to take part. This has resulted in friendships developing, particularly with the Belgians and a few weeks ago I was invited to enter one of their trials. Although my dog, Craig, is still some way off being a serious contender, my wife Isobel and I decided that it would be only right to support their trial in return, so I entered for both days.
It was a 2 day trial and served as preparation for next month’s (May) qualifying trials for the Continental Championship which will be held near Antwerp at the end of August. The trial took place near a town called Zwevezele, which is about 1½ hours from Calais, (No I still can’t pronounce the name either!!). The field was quite large maybe 400 yards x 300 yards. To the left was a long mound roughly 20ft., high, in from this were 2 smaller mounds. The first was about 10 ft., and beyond this the second was perhaps 20ft. (So maybe it could be called the West Flanders Hill trial!!)) There were at least 3 large areas of quite wet and fairly uneven mud to the right of the centre line. The holding pen was top left and the exhaust pen bottom right.
There were 3 classes’ Nursery, Novice and Open although, unlike us, they tend to refer to the classes as 1, 2 and 3. In the Nursery class handlers are allowed to walk with the dog but of course they lose points if they do. The outrun for this class was about 100m. The Novice was about 180m and the Open 270m. Each class had a different judge, Patrick Vets Nursery, Filip Knops Novice and Jo De Meist Open, who all decided that on the first day the Nursery and Novice dogs should be sent right and the Open dogs to the left. This was reversed on the second day. The Open dogs ran on 5 sheep and the Nursery and Novice dogs ran on 4. Each class had a briefing by the relevant Judge before, so everyone knew what the Judge was looking for, fortunately I had a good translator! Nursery and Novice dogs were to shed any two and the Open dogs any two plus a single after the pen.
On the first day, Saturday, it was a left hand drive with the drive gate having been placed on top of the second mound. This meant that as the sheep went over the first mound they and the dog were lost from sight for a few yards. This caused problems for a lot of handlers, myself included! In fact at this point I retired, although with good old hindsight maybe I should have kept going as, it seemed, everyone else did. The sheep came along quite well particularly if the dog was kept back a bit. However, when it came to the shed they really hung together, almost as if they were glued! It was really difficult for the handlers and the dogs and many tried to call the dog through with only a small gap. Sometimes it worked often it didn’t, but at least they seemed to pen quite easily and the single was easier too.
On the second day it was a right hand drive with the cross drive gates set on the slope of the larger mound. This was a difficult test for both dogs and handlers as again the sheep were out of sight in the area of the mounds. This didn’t apply to me as my Craig got quite confused after having seen the sheep go off to the exhaust pen!! He did get up the field in the end but to no avail and it was the long, lonely walk for me!
As the sheep had been so difficult to shed on Saturday, the Judges decided to erect a funnel for all classes. After negotiating this, the Nursery and Novice dogs just penned and the Open dogs penned and then singled which did make things a lot better.
Each handler was given a 2½ kg bag of dog food and, instead of prize money, the ones placed received a large bag of dog food. Both of which seemed a good idea as, after all, it is the dogs that do the hard work!! I think the event was quite well sponsored which naturally helps enormously with the costs. Another difference is that on the second day the running orders were reversed. Again this seemed to make sense as it gives all handlers the same opportunities with the sheep over the 2 days. The running orders had the expected time for each handler to run which is something I have not come across before. Not a bad idea as it gives people a good indication of when to be ready. After each class had finished every handler was given his/her score sheets to see where points had been lost.
In first place in the Open Eliane Verboven with Mona, Paul Wellemans with Mist was in second place, in third place Nick Couwellier with Tess, Eliane Verboven with Pip was in fourth place, Filip Knops with Rose was in fifth place and in sixth place Heidi Vermandere with Beca.
Throughout both days excellent refreshments were provided by hard working members of the organising Society and on Saturday evening a fine hot meal which was ”on the house” was served. All the food had been prepared and served by the Society members and they deserve a big thank you. There were three “Letters out” who let out all day and did a first class job.
.And so to the sheep themselves. They were brought in specially for the trial and there were four breeds, Drentse Heidesschapen (the ones with the light brown faces and legs, a very old Dutch breed, Heidsnucke (the dark grey/black ones) an old German breed, the ones with a brown face but no horns are Ardense Voskoppen from the South of Belgium and the white ones without horns are Mergellandschapen which is also a German breed. It is thought that the Drentes Heidesschapen are the oldest breed in Western Europe as they can be traced back at least 4000 years and were brought to Drentes, which is a Province in the Netherlands, by French immigrants. Typically the ewes produce one lamb at a time; they are a very hardy breed, living on poor grass growing on sandy soil. It seems that our grass would be too rich for them! Today they are used for conservation grazing and meat production, the wool is also quite valuable.
All in all it was a superb weekend and one that I would highly recommend to anyone who wants to gain either more experience with their dog or simply to see how things are done
If you would like more information about the Belgian Sheepdog Society or a complete list of the results go to www.sheepdogtrial.be which also has a link to the Continental Championship website.
For more photos go the MENU above.