Trainer enjoys sharing her skills

By Annette Lambly

Former shepherd Anna Holland, who has 35 years of experience breeding, training, and working with sheepdogs, travels New Zealand offering day-long lessons on how to train farm dogs.

Her classes are highly sought after. Many employers recognise the benefits and pay for their young shepherds to attend. Last year she featured on TVNZ's Country Calendar.

Over the past two years, Anna has tutored 34 dog-training days. Having toured the South Island twice she is now concentrating on the parts of the North Island she hasn't yet covered.

On April 29, Holland will be in Wellsford, then in Otorohanga on May 1.

Holland, who lives in Taihape, says the training is for huntaways and heading dogs but is also effective for cattledogs.

So confident is Holland that she offers participants the opportunity to join the class until lunchtime for no fee. If they want to remain for the rest of the day they then pay the fee.

"Nobody has ever gone home, so I think that is proof the sessions are value for money," she says.

When you hear how she came to this point in her life, you realise that this former city girl is a bit of a groundbreaker.

She has had a passion for farm dogs since first spending school holidays on her uncle's Wairarapa farm, Drumcairn.

Although born and raised in the heart of Auckland, the long journey to Uncle Ian's farm was something she never minded.

The times spent there were the catalyst for her desire to becoming a land girl.

"Ian Nicol was renowned not only as an excellent stockman and farmer, but also as a top man with a horse and dog," Holland says.

"It was there on his steep Wairarapa hills that I learned to ride a horse.

"He never taught me about dogs. Why would a city girl need to learn? But I saw first-hand how a well-trained and obedient dog handled stock."

Although horses had been the initial attraction of farm life, she soon became keen on the working dogs.

Much to her parent's horror, when Anna left home at 17 it was to begin a career working on the land.

More than 35 years ago finding work on a sheep farm was "nigh on impossible for a woman", Holland says.

"Virtually all my jobs were gained by helping out at a busy time before 'the boss' finally realised, by virtue of seeing me work, that I had a very capable team of dogs and I possessed good stockmanship," she says.

"My dogs were my passion - my family, my buddies, my hobby. They made up for the living conditions, poor pay, long hard hours and the non-acceptance of a female in what was at the time a man's world."

Holland worked as a shepherd for 25 years, breeding and training her own dogs.

She also gave sheep dog trials a try with her heading dog, Rod.

Rod was mated with a young heading bitch, Patrica, starting an enthusiasm for breeding sheepdogs..

When Holland left shepherding 10 years ago she kept "her girls" and continued to breed the occasional litter.

Since then she has continued breeding, has taken in and trained other people's dogs, and trained and sold the dogs she bred herself.

For the past five years she has written for several rural publications and two years ago she started her dog-training days.

It was a successful dog training day for women in farming held in the Manawatu that set the wheels on motion.

"The day was fabulous. Over 30 people attended, so I ran two more in the Wairarapa, and another 34 keen souls turned up."

Those wanting to attend the Wellsford session should phone Sue on (09) 422 4947. Bookings are essential and places limited to 35 people.

Participants don't bring their own dogs, but a comprehensive booklet is provided to take home.

Training takes place in covered yards so the day goes ahead irrespective of weather. Tea and coffee is available, but participants need to bring lunch.

- Hamilton News

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