Updated: May 24, 2019
Big Field Sheep herding and Putting the pieces together
Malabar, Florida sits on the Atlantic coast of Florida between Cocoa and Vero Beach, but if you went blind folded to the Asher Dell Farm, you wouldn’t know it. The pristine acreage is home of one of our states most accomplished stock dog trainers. Judith Kelly owns and operates the large farm with livestock for consistent seminars, classes and clinics training stock dogs for work and trials.
This weekends trial followed the guidelines of the US Border Collie Handlers Association (USBCHA). The USBCHA trials are distinguished by the their large field format for most games and a favorite of the Border Collie handlers.
The test is scored by qualified judges and involves a series of challenges to show the dog and handler have good communication and team work in driving stock through a course. This usually includes navigating through or by obstacles, penning the stock in an enclose and separating a number of the flock/herd away from the others. Called "Shedding"
USBCHA (est 1979)
The USBCHA oversee's sanctioned trials throughout N. America. The organization focuses on identifying the herding instincts of dogs and bringing the sport to a wide audience of participants of any background. The yearly points earned, accumulate to identify those invited to the National Championships in Colorado.
The Asher Dell Farm spreads across a moderate rural inland from Malabar. With "stock" animals on site the farm provides constant clinics and training opportunities. Constant classes and clinics are arranged for all breeds of herding dogs, from Border Collies to Rottweilers. Individual classes are available and a step by step process takes you into the ways of herding with your individual breed and dog.
Judith owns and operate the Asher Dell Farm and leads the classes personally. This Iowa native started her life of dogs with northern sled dogs and competing in races across the US and Canada. She knew very little about Herding Dogs a Border Collies but after seeing friends from New Hampshire retrain their cattle herding Border Collie to a successful sled dog, she was so impressed she had to have one.
It's unclear what happened next, perhaps the dog talked her into herding over sledding, as she's never looked back since.
The pack of Border Collies she has today are all descendants of that first Scottish born Border Collie 30 years ago. Since then, Judith and her dogs have become well known as established breeders, trainers and competitors throughout the world.
The Florida herding community are one of my personal favorite to spend time with, and I take every opportunity to visit their events. From the family farms at Linden Hollow and Acorn Acres to the large events at the Black Prong Equestrian Ranch, there is always a sense of a connected family of good people with a common vernacular of both stock dogs and down to earth sensibilities.
Billy Bishop is a name Iv'e heard frequently around the vaious events I have visited, and was kind enough to talk to me a while on how he started and in four years has come to be a very popular addition to Florida's herding family. Billy is a Blacksmith and grew up around horses on the family farm in Inverness, Florida. The family maintains a herd of horses and several head of sheep he trains with most daily with his Border Collie.
"Find a dog that suits you, a dog that’s a little bit better than you and try and grow into that dog" Billy Bishop
Billy's trade as a Blacksmith and hobby in stock herding seem like a perfect fit for this soft spoken man who grew up with hand-me-down clothes.
As I have met veterans, business people and folks of most backgrounds, Billy and his family are no surprise with their humble ministry and outlook on life and like most every one I meet at these events, eager to welcome those new to the sport.
Herding is a truly magical bonding of man and dog in teamwork. It takes training to accomplish. Both the dog and their human have to learn the language and the various "pieces" of the puzzle to make it work. Some dogs take to it with a strong instinct, but a herding breed by class does not a herding dog make.
"Get the pieces in a row before taking on the trial "- Judith Kelly
Some start with a book, and today with internet sites like YouTube, you can see videos to learn more, but its most important to get to spend face to face time with a trainer like Judith. She can evaluate a pup you may have now or help steer you toward one to fit you. The trials are a step after you learn how. Asher Dell is easy to reach and more information is linked below.
The United States Border Collie Handler's Association (USBCHA) is geared preservation and growth of the Border Collie breed and has a long alliance with the American Border Collie Association (ABCA), however, that does not mean others are not welcome.
USBCHA Secretary Linda De'Jonz explained that all breeds, including mixed breeds are welcome at their trials.
The is a caveat though. The USBCHA trials are designed to spotlight the Border Collies distinctive style of herding the stock by a "hard eye" at the head of the group of animals and often on very large fields and pastures. So, for many pups, this may be an unreasonable challenge. The thought of a Corgi having to run after sheep across hundreds of square acres may not be the most fun for the dog or handler.
Do not despair though, as there are options and I will continue to cover the various trials ahead. Both the American Herding Breed Assoc. (AHBA) and AKC Sports offer further options for those with all shapes and size stock dogs.
For special needs
I always have a concern within any competitions, to what will be okay for our owners with disabilities. Mr's De'Jonz was very happy to clarify that the USBCHA actively supports making accommodations in both training at events.
Handlers with physical disabilities may be allowed to use tools that are not normally accepted (binoculars are an example). Handlers needing these tools should notify the judge/trial host of their needs before the trial starts. The USBCHA encourages those with physical disabilities to participate in our sanctioned events and believes that trial hosts and judges should make reasonable efforts to accommodate these handlers. - ASBCHA Rules:
Those who follow Bad Azz Dogz know that every dog matters to me and helping others, and especially those with disabilities, and veteran first res-ponders or military are a passion. With so many events and activities, networking of support and reaching out to do every day, it is during my assignments on the rural dog sports that are my own time to feel a little natural healing.
Watching these dogs do what they were bred for decades to do and seeing the looks of absolute joy in the moment on their furry faces is beyond words alone.
There may not be nearby dining or even bathrooms with running water. There may not even be reliable cell phone coverage. It really will not matter for the most part. A day with this very earthbound and straight forward community with their wonderful dogs will have to feeling you just took a little vacation for the soul.
Question. What is your favorite thing about herding trials?“
"Watching the dogs do what they love to do ” - unanimous answer
Two Part Special Photo-Feature
USBCHA Herding Trial Asher Dell Farm Malabar , FL
With the speed, agility and smarts, Seeing these teams in action tells the story better than words...
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Part One - Sunday 5 MAY 2019
Morning Trials 8am - 11am
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Part Two -Sunday 5 MAY 2019
Afternoon Trials 11am - 1pm
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3575 Corey Rd, Malabar, FL 32950
T / 321-544-7321
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