Hawke's Bay chicken farmer Laurie Horsfall, who lost his home in a fire just weeks after winning a North Island sheep dog title last year, has had another win at the top level with victory at the South Island championships.
Living at Mangaroa, near Hastings, and a member of the Te Aute club, Horsfall and increasingly trusty dog Raid won the short head and yard title at Hanmer Springs in Canterbury last week, 12 months after winning the North Island title in the same class at home-club Te Aute, the trialists first win in the annual circuit of island and national championships.
Travelling with clubmate and 2017 New Zealand longhead champion Bob Bruce, Horsfall and Raid are off again at the end of next week on a 670km road trip to the 2019 New Zealand championships at Ohaewai, Northland.
It's not been done without lots of sacrifices, among them having together any house-topping ceremony as the building last week placed the roof on the house being built for he and his wife to replace the home destroyed by fire on June 5 last year.
The couple have survived a year living out of two portable cabins on the property, Horsfall saying they still had to be there, to look after his dogs, and 64,000 chickens.
Raid, the only current competitor in a kennel of four, had done his bit to keep the spirits up by winning a long head title at the Waimarama-Maraetotara trials at Kahuranaki on February 8-9 and both heading titles at Wairarapa SHB club Akitio's trials on March 1-2.
Raid became a bit off-colour in the ensuing weeks, but with a bit veterinary magic was on-song for the big hills of the Hanmer Springs course, and qualified in first place for Friday's runoff for the top seven dogs.
"The weather was fantastic all week," said Horsfall. "He had a good run to qualify and in the end it was really between me and (Ohingaiti farmer and trialist) Paul Evans."
It was a lower-scoring runoff, Horsfall winning by 1.25pts, with the others including Waikoau trialist Dave Wallace running two dogs for 5th with kennel star Blue and 6th with second hope Slug, and second Te Aute Club hope Graham Duff, 7th with Jess.
"It was a good one to win," Horsfall said. "Winning at Te Aute, being at home, was great, but to do it in the South Island on the big hills was something special."
It was also a big day for Frasertown trialist Rebecca (Becs) Baynes, who was one of three women in the zig zag hunt runoff.
She was top qualifier but had to settle for 6th as Poverty Bay trialist Jo Waugh, of Matawai, swept from the bottom of the table to become the first woman to win an island or national title in the 108-year-history of the championships dating back to the first North Island championships in 1911, at Dannevirke.
Runner-up in the zig zag was Hawke's Bay centre president and prolific runoffs performer Clark Chrystal, with Nell, but there were no Hawke's Bay qualifiers in the other two runoffs, the long head won by Greenvale trialist Brian Dickison with Cole, and the straight hunt won by Taranaki trialist Lloyd Duffy, with Lord.
They'll all be at Ohaewai, Horsfall hoping for a trip with two prizes — the green tie that goes with a national title, and a new house almost ready to be moved-into when he gets home.