When most people think of the annual Trailing of the Sheep event in the Wood River Valley, they think about the moment when hundreds of sheep are marched through the center of Ketchum. The lesser-known part of the weekend, though, occurs in Hailey, with the sheepdog trials.
At last year's event, Kelly Weir of Parma, says she felt like a newcomer to the sport. She worked at this event for three years before competing with her dogs, Petal and Wilson, in her fourth year.
"This is a unique opportunity," she explains, "because these sheep are different from anything that we get to compete on throughout the year. These are sheep that have no experience with dogs or people or the hubbub of this event."
Weir began working with a trainer in Caldwell to learn how to control her border collies, even among untamed sheep like these. "So it’s virtually learning - as a handler - to use your dog’s assets to move the sheep forward, in a different way."
Bystanders trying to corral sheep that have gotten out of the competition area at the 2017 Championship Sheepdog Trials in Hailey. Credit: Tom Michael, Boise State Public Radio.
This Hailey event stands out, says announcer Ray Crabtree, of Kuna, because of Wood River Valley sheep. He calls it "one of the very most difficult trials in the country, because of our sheep. These are big healthy range sheep and they spend their time out in the mountains." He adds, "They are not all that intimidated by border collies."
The Championship Sheepdog Trials run through October 14 at Quigley Canyon Fields in Hailey.
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