Top handlers, tough sheep mix it up at Sheepdog Trials

MEEKER — Whistles, shouts, gasps of delight and dismay announce the 22nd annual Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials in Meeker Sept. 3-7 where 124 top dog/handler teams from Canada, South Africa and the U.S. compete for the $20,000 purse and other prizes.
Spectators and prior Meeker Classic and BCHA finalist teams return year after year. Look for 2004 winners Bev Lambert and Bill, 2005 winners Canadian Scott Glen and Pleat, 2005 finalist Faansie Basson and Lad of South Africa, 2005 reserve and frequent finalist Canadian Amanda Milliken and Ethel, among others. Even 2007 judge Peter Gonnet returns from Canada, this time to compete.
What is the draw? Scott Glen says, “Everyone wants to come to Meeker. It holds prestige.”
For challenge and purse, says Milliken, “Meeker is the big ticket item in sheepdogdom.”
For 2006 and 2007 Meeker champ Tom Wilson, it’s “the atmosphere, crowd, scenery, great handlers and rough sheep.”
That’s 200 volunteers, many activities, 5,000 plus spectators, glorious White River valley, and range sheep, fresh from isolated alpine pastures.
About those 160-pound ewes, who cause handlers to cry, “We got Meekered!” Peter Gonnet explains, “These sheep aren’t dog-broke. They make a dog pay for every mistake and make a good dog shine.”
And the dog? A 35-40 pound border collie using innate ability, with occasional commands from the handler, to maneuver a band of feisty ewes over the course. The course showcases skills required of dog and handler on a working ranch — dog locating sheep at a distance, “fetching”them, driving them around obstacles and through gates to the “shedding ring” where dog and handler separate sheep, then pen the rest. No manicured pastures in Meeker. The course is at altitude, over rough terrain.
Returning for the 10th year, Art Unsworth of Saskatchewan provides insightful commentary. The 1999 Meeker Classic champion, Angie Coker-Sells, a Tecumseh, Okla., rancher and dog trainer, returns to judge the event.
Other activities? There’s food, from funnel cakes to fajitas. There are handmade or agriculture-related goods at the vendor stalls and art contest/auction entries displayed in the historic Wilbur Barn. There’s an art social there on Thursday night to announce winners and award $3,000 in cash prizes.
Inspect the American Humane Association’s spectacular 82-foot animal rescue rig used wherever disaster strikes and, by contrast, a restored 19th century sheep wagon.
Start Friday through Sunday with pancake breakfasts, then watch saddle-making, weaving, spinning, felting, fly-tying, pottery and painting demonstrations.
See service/therapy dog and stock dog handling demos. Enjoy the FFA petting zoo and the bagpiper.
From 5-7 p.m. Saturday on the courthouse lawn, savor the Lions Club barbecue and Jon Chandler and the Wichitones’ unique folk music from 4-10 p.m. Jackpot Trials start at the fairgrounds at 7 p.m.
Sunday noon break features the Scottish Country Dancers of Colorado and the Wool Growers traditional lamb barbecue.
Avoid the crowded entrance Friday-Sunday and take a free horse-drawn carriage or shuttle from the courthouse square to a ticket booth then vendor area at the site. On the weekend, the shuttle also stops at the White River Inn and the Chamber of Commerce on Highway 13 and Circle Park at Fifth and Water streets.
Tickets sold at the gate, in Meeker at Wendll’s or at the Chamber of Commerce are $30 for an adult five-day pass, $15 for ages 8-16. A single-day adult pass is $10, ages 8-16 are $5. Children under 8 admitted free daily.
Please leave pets at home. Bring lawn chairs, binoculars and sunscreen. For details, call 878-0080 or visit www.meekersheepdog.com. Special to the Herald Times

MEEKER — Whistles, shouts, gasps of delight and dismay announce the 22nd annual Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials in Meeker Sept. 3-7 where 124 top dog/handler teams from Canada, South Africa and the U.S. compete for the $20,000 purse and other prizes.
Spectators and prior Meeker Classic and BCHA finalist teams return year after year. Look for 2004 winners Bev Lambert and Bill, 2005 winners Canadian Scott Glen and Pleat, 2005 finalist Faansie Basson and Lad of South Africa, 2005 reserve and frequent finalist Canadian Amanda Milliken and Ethel, among others. Even 2007 judge Peter Gonnet returns from Canada, this time to compete.
What is the draw? Scott Glen says, “Everyone wants to come to Meeker. It holds prestige.”
For challenge and purse, says Milliken, “Meeker is the big ticket item in sheepdogdom.”
For 2006 and 2007 Meeker champ Tom Wilson, it’s “the atmosphere, crowd, scenery, great handlers and rough sheep.”
That’s 200 volunteers, many activities, 5,000 plus spectators, glorious White River valley, and range sheep, fresh from isolated alpine pastures.
About those 160-pound ewes, who cause handlers to cry, “We got Meekered!” Peter Gonnet explains, “These sheep aren’t dog-broke. They make a dog pay for every mistake and make a good dog shine.”
And the dog? A 35-40 pound border collie using innate ability, with occasional commands from the handler, to maneuver a band of feisty ewes over the course. The course showcases skills required of dog and handler on a working ranch — dog locating sheep at a distance, “fetching”them, driving them around obstacles and through gates to the “shedding ring” where dog and handler separate sheep, then pen the rest. No manicured pastures in Meeker. The course is at altitude, over rough terrain.
Returning for the 10th year, Art Unsworth of Saskatchewan provides insightful commentary. The 1999 Meeker Classic champion, Angie Coker-Sells, a Tecumseh, Okla., rancher and dog trainer, returns to judge the event.
Other activities? There’s food, from funnel cakes to fajitas. There are handmade or agriculture-related goods at the vendor stalls and art contest/auction entries displayed in the historic Wilbur Barn. There’s an art social there on Thursday night to announce winners and award $3,000 in cash prizes.
Inspect the American Humane Association’s spectacular 82-foot animal rescue rig used wherever disaster strikes and, by contrast, a restored 19th century sheep wagon.
Start Friday through Sunday with pancake breakfasts, then watch saddle-making, weaving, spinning, felting, fly-tying, pottery and painting demonstrations.
See service/therapy dog and stock dog handling demos. Enjoy the FFA petting zoo and the bagpiper.
From 5-7 p.m. Saturday on the courthouse lawn, savor the Lions Club barbecue and Jon Chandler and the Wichitones’ unique folk music from 4-10 p.m. Jackpot Trials start at the fairgrounds at 7 p.m.
Sunday noon break features the Scottish Country Dancers of Colorado and the Wool Growers traditional lamb barbecue.
Avoid the crowded entrance Friday-Sunday and take a free horse-drawn carriage or shuttle from the courthouse square to a ticket booth then vendor area at the site. On the weekend, the shuttle also stops at the White River Inn and the Chamber of Commerce on Highway 13 and Circle Park at Fifth and Water streets.
Tickets sold at the gate, in Meeker at Wendll’s or at the Chamber of Commerce are $30 for an adult five-day pass, $15 for ages 8-16. A single-day adult pass is $10, ages 8-16 are $5. Children under 8 admitted free daily.
Please leave pets at home. Bring lawn chairs, binoculars and sunscreen. For details, call 878-0080 or visit www.meekersheepdog.com.