The pure joy of running. Is there anything better to watch than a dog simply having fun running at top speed with a tongue-hanging-out grin, and fur whipping around in the wind? I don't think so! I was invited to watch and photograph my first herding trial this weekend and I still smile thinking about how fun the dogs were having out in the arena herding sheep!
What I didn't realize is that a herding trial is a bit like watching a golf game. Dead silence during the run and polite clapping when the run was over. I was a bit worried that the sound of the camera would spook the sheep and I would have one upset exhibitor looking straight at me, so I had to stand way behind the fence and try to shoot during the faster action moments. Combine the fence issue with being out in midday sun and it was definitely a challenging day!
The trials were fun because there were several breeds entered, from Corgis, to Cattle Dogs, German Shepherds, Bearded Collies, and Shelties. Each breed had a unique way of handling the sheep and each trainer had to conform to the dog's abilities and training level making it even more fun interesting to watch. Reactions were quick and the sheep were relatively unpredictable so each dog had to think on their own and the teams were judged on how well they worked together through the course.
The two breeds that were the most fun to watch were the Corgis and the Bearded Collies. The Corgis were slow and steady, methodically walking the sheep through each step, keeping them calm and moving along. The Collies were just full of spunk and kicking up their heels, enjoying their time out in the field thoroughly entertaining themselves! I would love to have another session with them just to capture their lively expressions while playing around. I admire the training and the bond these handlers have with their dogs, it's in their eyes as the dogs continuously check back in with their handlers waiting for the next command. But to see the instinct kick in and the excitement the dogs had was so much fun and hopefully I'll get to photograph another trial in the near future!