"A dog trial is battle involving a man or woman, a dog and sheep. It is a very intricate play and neat to watch," said Dave Milne, who organises the dog trials at the Horowhenua AP&I Show

"The Horowhenua Show is very well supported and attracts participants from Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa, Taranaki and Taihape as well as locals."

The battle takes place in a 10mx 50 m show ring with eight obstacles to negotiate. The course has gates and a pen at the end, where all sheep need to end up.

Each dog has around 10 minutes to get three sheep through the course and into the pen.

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"They start with 100 points and as you go points are taken off for things such as lack of progress, the dog not behaving, or the animals not going through the obstacles. Man or woman and dog must do this together as team."

Milne, who took over organising the dog trials at the Horowhenua AP&I Show recently as part of his job at Lakeview Farm is expecting 50-70 dogs for the trials with 40 owners.

Sheep not playing ball at the Horowhenua AP&I Show dog trials a few years ago.
Sheep not playing ball at the Horowhenua AP&I Show dog trials a few years ago.

The dog trials follow a three-class system: Maiden man, and maiden dog (for man and dog who have never won a maiden event) and open man, for a dog owner who has won a maiden event in the past. The latter can use either an open or a maiden dog.

Milne said human participants in the Horowhenua dog trials can vary in age from 19 to 80.

His favourite dogs for trials are heading dogs.

"They are quiet, while huntaways are very noisy."

Many heading dogs are border collies and they can start their dog trial career from the age of one.

"Most participating dogs will be two or three years old though," Milne said.

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The sheep for the trials come off the Lakeview Farm, where Dave works.

"The sheep get trained for the event three weeks prior for 10-15 hours, so they can get used to having dogs around, as well as people, and learn to negotiate obstacles. We have 200 sheep available for the trials."

Dog in action during dog trails.
Dog in action during dog trails.

He said at the Horowhenua AP&I Show dog trials spectators can see the entire ring from one spot.

"You can get close and see what is going on."

The 2020 Show will have dog trials on the Saturday, starting at 9am.

"Depending on the number turning up on the day, they could last well into the afternoon."