My husband, Larry, and I get the reaction of “You Do What?” from people who ask us what we are doing in our retirement. “We do competitive herding. You know, dogs moving sheep.” Little did we know the world we were getting into! Six and a half years ago, while doing disc dog with our dogs, we discovered Herding Instinct Testing at a Wags for Wishes event in Arizona. Our Miniature American Shepherds, Jack and Mattie, passed their herding instinct test that day which brought the end of disc dog activities and the beginning of our sheep herding adventures. It opened a whole new world to us. We traveled around the United States meeting wonderful people on our travels.
Not only competing in AKC herding events, we also have competed in the American Herding Breed Association (AHBA) and Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) herding events. After reaching the intermediate level in AKC and AHBA, and Started Sheep in ASCA, Jack retired from herding. I don’t think Jack really liked herding, but with his love for me, he worked hard to please us. We always thought that if we could find some way to hang Frisbees on the sheep that he would love it!
Mattie went on to achieve an Advanced title on Course A sheep in AKC, Intermediate B course, and Started Ducks. In AHBA, she has obtained intermediate titles in Herding Trial Dog and Herding Ranch Dog. In ASCA, she has Started Sheep and Ducks. We are working toward our herding championship in AKC.
Mattie has earned two legs in AKC started cattle. The little blue dog doesn’t have a whole lot of power against those cows because of her smaller size, but she found her bark to help move them. One day we will get that last leg and our title! We are looking forward to obtaining that last leg and our Championship Title.
Mattie has even competed in the Novice level at some United States Border Collie Handler Association trials. We don’t always do well, but every journey to the post is an adventure and learning experience.
Mattie and I found our trainer, Terry Parish, to be an invaluable source for training and education. It’s people like her who help us along the way. She is a very successful Border Collie handler and breeder. She trains all breeds and has helped many obtain their championships on their dogs. Another invaluable support in this journey is my husband, Larry. He lets me train his dog Mattie that, at times, is the other woman in our marriage!
Competitive Herding – You Do Wha-a-at?
Marla Van Willigan