MEEKER I On Sunday morning, 40 dogs and their handlers will again test their skills on the trial field at Ute Park, but this time it is cattle who will be their challengers.
The Meeker Classic has long been known as the site of one of the best sheepdog trials in the world and the organizing committee hopes this cattledog trial will meet those high standards as well in the inaugural Meeker Cattledog Trials.
Rich in agricultural heritage and community involvement, the community of Meeker has a good standing in the dog trial world. This reputation is what led handlers to suggest the idea of a cattledog trial a couple years ago and the reason the entries filled with dogs from across the United States.
Many Meeker-area locals know the name of Dorrance Eikamp, a dog handler from Gillette, Wyo. Dorrance won the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Trials in 1994 and has been a familiar face at the Meeker Classic for several years. A skilled dog handler and trainer, Dorrance also uses his dogs to work cattle and competes in cattledog trials.
He and Juan Reyes, another dog handler from Wyoming who works sheep and cattle, have thought Meeker an ideal place to host a cattledog trial. They’ve visited with several Meeker Classic board members over the years about the idea and have also reached out to past committee members of the board.
Contestants traveling to Meeker are from Tennessee, Mississippi, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, Wyoming and Colorado are excited to compete on the course and enjoy the hospitality the community is known for.
Melinda Parker, one of the original Meeker Classic board members has lent her strong support in getting this idea off the ground. Reyes and Eikamp know the caliber of the sheepdog trials and recognize the community support in organizing such an event. They are active in cattledog trialing across the country, and Reyes is the president of the National Cattledog Association.
After lots of research and thought, the Meeker Classic Board of Directors decided to do a test run with a one-day cattledog trial this year with the hopes of it expanding into something more. The intent is to build upon the reputation of the sheepdog trials to create an event that embraces the local heritage, generates commerce and appeals to the many fans and spectators that come to the Meeker sheepdog trials each year. The response from handlers, sponsors and spectators has been overwhelming.
A committee was formed that included Meeker Classic Board members and other interested members of the community. Working together the group has put together a cattledog trial that will feature some of the top handlers in the country.
Using the knowledge and experience of the Meeker Classic, both groups have embraced the project and hope it will be the beginning of something good for Meeker.
June was picked as a good time to host such a trial because it won’t conflict with plans for the sheepdog trials in September and fits into the trial schedule as most of the handlers are headed to Steamboat Springs to compete in the 2015 National Cattledog Finals the following weekend. The Town of Meeker, its businesses and the ranching community has lent its support to help make the cattledog trial a reality.
A cattle dog trial operates under the same premise of a sheepdog trial, using dogs to work a group of cattle through a set of obstacles on the field.
The best help on a ranch is often the well-trained dog that gathers cattle and assists in working them in the pasture or to the corral. The cattledog course is set to duplicate those typical situations and allows the handler the choice of being on foot or horseback. This year’s course is an open course; each handler/dog team will have 11 minutes to work three head of cattle through a set of obstacles.
Beginning behind the handler line, the dog must be sent 200 yards to gather the cattle, bring them in through fetch panels and continue to work them through a series of obstacles in a certain order. The handler is free to move anywhere behind the handler line as the dog is directed to move the cattle through most of the obstacles. Only on certain sections of the course can the handler move across the handler line to assist the dog in putting stock through an obstacle.
Points are given for each tail head that clears the exit of an obstacle. The handler may not reach into or enter an obstacle unless instructed by the judge, and striking of the animal is prohibited unless in the case of self-defense.
This trial is sanctioned by the National Cattledog Association, and points earned in Meeker will go towards qualifying for the 2016 National Cattledog Finals.
Headquartered in Greeley, Colo., the National Cattledog Association (NCA) is the parent organization that oversees and promotes cattledog trials across the country. Their mission is to encourage efficient, low-stress and humane cattle handling by promoting the use and demonstrating the value of well-trained cattledogs. It is the organizing agent that provides guidelines, oversight and insurance for cattledog trials.
Executive committee members of the NCA have been instrumental in helping with the organizational process of the Meeker Classic Cattledog Trial.
Cattledog trials differ from sheepdog trials in the judging process—time and completion of the obstacles is emphasized. Sheepdogs are judged on the ability to guide the sheep in smooth straight lines through the course, where cattledogs employ the same tactics, but must work more aggressively to move the cattle through obstacles. Cattledog trials are traditionally shorter in distance and use a greater variety of courses and panels.
Runs will begin at 7:30 a.m. for the Meeker Cattledog Trial at Ute Park.
Admission is free to the public. Visitors will enter and park through the west gate close to the Wilber Barn. No parking or traffic will be allowed on the hay meadow. The trial will run all day on Sunday, ending approximately at 4 p.m.
Trial organizers hope to have a short lunch break. Food vendors will be on site as will other vendors that are staying over from Meekerpalooza, a separate event scheduled on Saturday.
Everyone is invited to come watch this historic event and learn about the sport of Cattledog Trials—with free admission for all.
Meeker area artist John Kobald recently completed a piece to be used as the first poster for the inaugural Meeker Cattledog Trial. Posters and T-shirts of this inaugural event will be on sale during the trial.
Cattledog committee members include Leah Bohlander, Bruce Clatterbaugh, Greg and Maym Cunningham, Lynda Frost, Regas Halandras, Justin Hansen, Michele Morgan, Renae Neilson, Cynda Norrell, Kelcee and Ryan Vroman and the Meeker Classic Board of Directors, who hope this will be the beginning of another fine Meeker Classic tradition.
Meeker has a reputation for its hospitality and ability to put on a good trial, and the handlers are looking forward to visiting the White River Valley.