Eriksdale father-daughter duo beat out competitors from across North America to grab top spots in Continental Stock Dog Competition
But the stars of the show didn’t seem to mind the weather at all.
“I think the rain is a lot harder on the handlers than it is the dogs,” said Art Unsworth, a Saskatchewan native and long-time announcer of stock dog competitions. “Rain can bring your morale down. But the dogs, all they want to do is work.”
Despite the heavy downpour, the first ever Continental Stock Dog Competition held at the Ex went off without a hitch.
Ten finalists emerged from three days of arena trials and a cattle dog competition to see which sheep dog would take home the $10,000 grand prize. The event drew about 60 participants from across Canada and as far south as Texas, with Prairie competitors dominating the final card.
“We’re a pretty close-knit group,” said Lara Forchuk, president of the Manitoba Stock Dog Association as she waited for the last trials to begin.
Although she and her dog Max didn’t qualify for the finals, she was proud to say that three other Manitoban competitors had.
Among them was Kaelene Forsyth, who’s been competing for more than a decade, and her border collie Gypsy Rose.
“We got our first dog when I was eight years old… and it became a part of my life, I just grew up with it,” said the 24-year-old. “I love it. We travel and have been all over.”
But these stock dog trials provided her with some stiff competition: Her dad.
After a wet but smooth run, Campbell Forsyth and his dog Meg edged out his daughter with a time of 1:22 and a full 18 points, a run so fast it was almost over before it began. A series of shrill whistles and shouts directed the border collie around the course and the three sheep she was herding into the small pen to take home the generous purse provided by Red River Exhibition.
“I’m happy that my dad won,” said a smiling Kaelene, who placed second in the competition with a time of 1:39 and 18 points.
“It’s a win for both of us,” adding Campbell. “If I would have held back she would have known, and she wouldn’t have been happy. She’s a great competitor.”
The pair had just come back from another competition in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and flood clean-up permitting, Kaelene Forsyth will next compete in Calgary.
“We’re all on the same team, but we do compete against each other quite often,” said Forchuk. “It’s friendly competition, but there is also an element of provincial pride.”
Members of about five families make up the Manitoba Stock Dog Association, but the small group punches above its weight, often dominating finals at out-of-province events, she said.
“There is a lot of enthusiasm and support for it,” she said.
Although Forchuk would like to see the stock dog association expand, the amount of dedication, time, space — not to mention livestock — needed to train a stock dog makes it difficult for many enthusiasts to make it to a competitive level. Most people who run dogs in competitions are shepherds or ranchers who work with their dogs on a regular basis.
“It’s not something you can get ready for in a few weeks,” said Forchuk. “People spend years training their dogs, working with them.”
Campbell Forsyth, who began using stock dogs on his Eriksdale farm almost two decades ago, said they’re an integral part of his 400-head cow-calf operation.
“They work every day and they really become a part of you,” he said.