June 30, 2011 at 8:45 a.m.
Great River Stockdog Club of Minnesota recently relocated its base to Seaman Farm, and the new relationship is breathing new life into the farmstead. The owner gets the benefit of hosting a viable revenue producing venture, while staying true to traditional agricultural roots. A club official overseeing things at last weekend's stockdog competition, commented that a couple old timers have even stopped by and expressed their appreciation for the farm appearing to be getting a new lease on life.
Most days of the year anyone driving past on Morgan Avenue would notice nothing out of the ordinary. But, on days when there are stockdog events like June 25 and 26 there are vehicles parked along the shoulder of the road, and also at the farm across Morgan Avenue (when enough events support a "B" field site.)
For last weekend's Great River Stockdog Herding Tests and Trials temporary pens were set-up adjacent to the farm's main pasture. Sheep calmly nibbled along the base of the fencelines, basically ignoring the activity, but also keenly aware of lurking dogs.
Spectators passed through a couple of latched gates looking for a good hillside spot on which to set their folding lawn chairs, and view the herd dogs in action. These are not huge events, there are perhaps 100 people total at both "A" and "B" locations. Spectators speak in whispers and murmurs, probably so as to not interrupt the working dog's concentration. It's all so very genteel.
Each animal and handler will take turns displaying their skills in moving a single sheep, moving the herd across the field and getting one animal or a herd into a pen or chute.
Ducks are also herded in separate trials.
This day's competition has novice dogs and handlers competing one side of Morgan Avenue, and at the farmstead across the road, the expert dogs are in action.
There's a surprising variety of breeds involved. A Samoyed with blinding white fur is one of the easier dogs to enjoy, as his movements stand out in the jade green pasture.
Julia Torgerson, one of a duo working the registration table, reads off the list of entries that also includes Bernese Mountain Dogs, Rottweiler, Sheltie, Australian Sheepdog, German Shepherd, Border Collies and more.
Club President JoAnna Yund provides lessons for handlers and dogs three days a week at Seaman Farm. Torgerson said many different breeds are meant to do well herding and handling livestock.
If you are interested in learning more about stockdogs in the field or for competing, Yund, she explained, will first do an "instinct test" of your dog to gauge his potential. Not all dogs have the ability or are even interested in livestock.
Yund's Training Camp Inc. is running at Seaman Farm under the Great River Club, and lessons are available Monday 11 to 2 , Wednesday noon to 6 p.m. and Thursday noon to about 6 p.m. See the Traning Camp Inc. website for detail.
The upcoming stockdog events include ASCA Trials July 23 and 24 south of Forest Lake in Hugo, and Northfield, MN hosts a two day competition Sept. 17 and 18. State Fair stockdog trials are August 8.
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