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Spectators at Trials/Clinics??

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Do most Clinics/Trials allow spectators? We wouldn't mind supporting the event with admission fees either. I'm sure it takes $$$ to put on an event and would be more than glad to chip in.


I'm wanting to introduce my 'soon to be husband' to the wonderful world of herding trials and clinics as a spectator first to see what they are all about. Or.. a beginners clinic if they don't mind taking an inexperienced pup and handler.


Besides... what better way to spend a weekend getaway than with great people, amazing dogs and beautiful photo opportunities?


Thanks for any help! We'll keep watching here... but wondered if we should also be exploring other opportunities.

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I don't know of any trials that don't welcome spectators although there may be a few. Some trials charge a small entrance fee. Bring lawn chairs. If you bring dogs, keep them leashed. The handlers running will not do so when walking their dogs but you should.


People are happy to explain the course and how it is judged. Try not to ask someone who is holding a crook or stock stick and off by themselves with one dog. This usually means the person is getting ready to run. Other than in that circumstance, handlers are welcoming and glad to answer questions.



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Barb - Most trials rarely charge an admission fee for spectators. Some of the "really big ones" (like Meeker or Soldier Hollow) might, I don't know. At certain venues (like State Fairs) parking and/or admission to the Fairgrounds will be charged. For some trials held in conjunction with other events (like the Montpelier Wool and Fiber Festival or various highland festivals), there may be parking/admission fees for the event but the sheepdog trial probably would not have any additional fee associated with it.


I've spectated at a limited number of trials and never had to pay any fee to watch the trial. It is loads of fun to watch the Open runs down through the Novice classes. People tend to be very nice and friendly.


A golden rule to remember at trials is to never "bother" a competitor before their run. Some are more than happy to entertain questions/compliments after a run but not before. At all times at either clinics or trials, your discussions should not be disturbing to those around you. At a clinic, people are enrolled to learn so keep talking to a minimum, and particularly to the times when it is most suitable (lunch break, changing stock, etc.).


Some clinics charge fees to audit (attend without participating with a dog). Some do not, or may allow family members to audit free with another family member entered in the clinic. Those rules would be specified in the clinic registration forms generally, or you can check with those hosting the clinic for specifics.


Remember to dress for the weather in layers (boots/rain gear can be very appropriate); bring a comfy outside chair; and shelter may or may not be provided so an umbrella/sunshade may be useful. Trials and clinics go on rain or shine, so be prepared.


Any dog that you bring to a trial or clinic should be mannerly, quiet, and on lead, and under your control at all times. Appropriate arrangements should be made at your vehicle if your dog needs to be there for all or part of the time - adequate ventilation, crating or chaining, etc.


Barking and fussing are not appreciated (but most Border Collies don't have a major problem with this) and if your dog is a distraction, you may be asked to remove him/her. Dogs may not be welcome at clinics unless they are enrolled - check with the clinic host.


Some trials have food available for a fee (sometimes rescues do fund-raisers with bag/box lunches). Some do not have any food available and you need to provide your own. Clinics generally have food either to purchase or as part of the registration fee. If you are going to audit, there may be an option to prepurchase the breakfast/lunch.


Although some folks do not seem to "pick up" after their dogs, it is polite to do so, particularly in the areas where people will be walking and spectating. Most trials/clinics will have trash receptacles and some even have poop bags available (but you'll generally need to bring your own).


As for clinics and beginners, the majority of clinics that I have been aware of will take participants of all levels, although there are some that are oriented towards those just starting out (introduction to stockwork) and some that are for more advanced handlers only.


Many clinicians, I believe, would prefer to start with a beginner handler/dog team and start them *right* than to have to spend a lot of time fixing ingrained mistakes. So, usually they seem very happy to work with beginners, and help them get a good start and a good foundation.


Some opportunities within a reasonable distance of you in Charleston include: clinics and cattledog/sheepdog trials near Athens OH at Lavelle Farms, associated with the Buckeye Cow Dog Association; introductory clinics/lessons and cowdog/sheepdog trials at Possum Hollow Farm in western NC (this is one trial I've been to that offers a Beginner's class, which is even more basic than the Novice level classes are); Craig Roger's Border Springs with USBCHA-sanctioned sheepdog trials; and a great number of trials offered in central/south-central VA (Edgeworth, Frontrunner, Breezy Hill, Hickory Hills Novice series) as well as eastern/central Kentucky (Bluegrass Classic in particular).


Trials are always looking for volunteers and better than just spectating is the opportunity to help at a trial - scribing (keeping score for the judge - one of the best jobs at a trial), posting scores (checking the scores and posting them to the scoreboard), helping in numerous ways, and even helping with the set-out or exhaust pens of sheep (this is a great way to learn about sheep - while the opportunities to help may be limited until you have some experience, and you'll be working under someone who knows how to do the job). When you volunteer, you get to enjoy the trial and get to learn a lot about sheepdogs, sheep, and handling.


I spent some very enjoyable and educational times just spectating at several sheepdog trials before I was able to begin lessons, and met some wonderful and helpful people. I am pleased to consider a number of them as my friends and respect and admire them very much. I have now been able to scribe, post, do "odd jobs", and help with the set-out pens, and each of these jobs has been an opportunity to learn that I always look forward to.


Best wishes! Maybe I'll see you someday at a trial or clinic.

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Thanks Penny and Sue!


I appreciate the time spent providing information! I've got a feeling we'll see you, Sue! Hopefully soon!

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