Questions and answers about the Meeker Classic

MEEKER I Have you attended the Meeker Classic for years yet still wonder about some of the things going on out there? Here are some frequently asked questions, and their answers.
Q. The Meeker Classic is a U.S. Border Collie Handlers Association open trial for which points are awarded. What does all of this mean?
A. The USBCHA purpose is to preserve the border collie as a working breed. To this end, the organization “sanctions” local trials that showcase the skills of working sheepdogs and hosts the national finals where the 150 dog/handler teams from the U.S. and Canada who have won the most points in open trials during the year (from Aug. 1 to Aug. 1) compete. A sanctioned trial course replicates work on a farm and the trial is run according to USBCHA rules and guidelines. The top 20 percent of dogs running at a sanctioned open trial earn points. An open trial is one for experienced dogs and handlers.Meeker offers high points, stiff challenges and cash. Meeker will host 135 open dogs this year, as opposed to 40 to 60 at most open trials. The winner will earn 27 points (20 percent of 135), the runner-up earns 25, on through the 27th team which earns one point. In addition to points and apart from the USBCHA, the top 20 competitors will share a $25,000 purse and $10,000 in additional cash prizes, including Moody Construction’s awards for the top four dogs on each day of preliminary runs – and the bad luck and sportsmanship awards for train wrecks. Along with the money, Julie Hansmire’s flighty yearling ewes, just down from summer pasture in the Gore Range, make the Meeker Classic a top draw even for those competitors from outside North America who cannot compete for points.
Q. About how far do those 35 lb. border collies run in 13 minutes?
A. If everything went perfectly at a preliminary run in Meeker, a dog would run almost a mile full tilt, looking for the sheep, keeping pressure on the sheep, thinking about making little course corrections, listening for commands from the handler, some of them occasionally in error … (It’s true. Watch for the dog looking back as if to say, “You said what?”) But, there has never been a perfect run at Meeker. So, here are some facts as a basis for your own calculation. For the gather, the dog must run from the handler’s post to the sheep set out, roughly 535 yards, then calmly move the sheep through a gate back to the handler’s post. The dog, though, cannot run out in a straight line because it would scatter the sheep. So, it runs a pear-shape course, wide end near the sheep, and comes in behind the sheep about 10 or 12 yards so as not to disturb them. Then, the dog should fetch the sheep to the handler with a minimum of zigs and zags. The dog must change position in relation to the sheep to some extent to keep them going in a straight line. At the very minimum, the dog will have to run about 1192 yards or a little over two-thirds of a mile to this point. Many will run much farther. Your best guess of an individual run and a stopwatch will tell you the speed..Then the dog drives the sheep through the first drive gate, 150 yards from the handler’s post, across the field another 150 yards to the second drive panel, then to the center of the 40 yard shed ring – most of the 150 yards back to the post. That, plus shedding and penning the sheep will easily add up to a mile. Most dogs will run two to three times that far.
Q. Does the panting dog get penalized for jumping in the water tub before finishing the work? A. No, but the clock keeps running. Good sportsmanship requires sheep be reasonably stress-free. they are, after all, the rancher’s livelihood – and the dog be well treated. Can the dog wait a bit? Do the sheep need a break? Just another dilemma for the handler.But, at the end of the run, every dog will head for a refreshing dunk with the handler not far behind to tell the dog “well done.”  Refresh your week with a day with the dogs — and the fabulous food, crafts, art show, vendors, sheep shearing and demonstrations — Sept. 7-11. Bring sunscreen, a hat, a stopwatch and leave your pooch at home. Discounted tickets for RBC residents are on sale at the Meeker Chamber and at Wendll’s, where art contest entries are on display and you can also vote for your favorite. Visit www.meekersheepdog.com or call 878-0111 for information.