At its best, the communication between Border Collie and handler is near magical, something built over time and based on a foundation of trust and a common mission: herding sheep.
You can spot this relationship in action with the best of the best at the annual Soldier Hollow Classic, the most-attended sheepdog herding competition in the country. The Soldier Hollow Classic is held over Labor Day weekend in Midway, Utah.
The Soldier Hollow Classic was launched on a wing and a prayer, says Marc Pederson, Solder Hollow Classic founder. After attending the biggest sheepdog trial in Scotland—The International—Pederson believed that if done right, Americans would love the sport. More than 10,000 people showed up the first year, and now, more than 28,000 people have attended each of the past two years. For perspective, the next biggest trial has 10,000 people in attendance.
Pederson says that many folks will attend the Soldier Hollow Classic for the first time out of curiosity and wind up spending the entire weekend. “It has a way of winning you over and capturing your imagination,” Pederson says.
The main event is an invitational, where 64 dogs are invited based on point scores at other trials held nationally and internationally. Handlers have come from 17 countries and five continents to compete in Midway.
The competition goes like this: Handlers send their dogs to herd sheep, via command, from a hilltop downward, through gates, and eventually into a corral in front of the stands. There are about 350 head of sheep, which are broken up into small herds for each dog.
Each dog runs twice, because a lot of things can go wrong during the near 15 minute race, says Pederson. The top 15 dogs advance to the second day’s “double lift,” which is a more complex course. The dog with the fastest time wins, and that usually clocks in at just under a half hour.
The final day ends with an arena trial, for the next 15 dogs—the runners up—which Pederson says is a crowd pleaser, because it’s fast and takes place much closer to the audience.
Aside form the main event, there are a number of family-friendly activities. The Soldier Hollow Classic offers great food, face painting, games, and additional non-Collie dog competitions, such as agility trials.
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