The Real Time Canine II

After spending 2 years writing the Real Time Canine, the adventure continues with The Real Time Canine II. Read along as I look for just the right puppy to continue the experience. After false starts with Tim and Jed, I am currently training young Tam, and Spot, which are both off to a strong start. Please visit the RTC II to read about training sessions as they occur.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Soldier Hollow Summons

It arrived in my mail the other day. My invitation to compete at the Soldier Hollow Classic Sheepdog Trial in Midway, Utah to be held this September, as it is every year over Labor Day weekend. Since its inception in 2003, SoHo has become one of the world's best known and most prestigious dog trials, due almost completely to the promotional and organizational efforts of Mark Petersen, the event director and founder. For the past 7 years, Mark has worked in concert with Howard Peterson, no relation, who is the Director of the Soldier Hollow venue, home of the annual trial and to the Pentathalon competition during the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. It is nearly a perfect site for a dog trial.

The first time I competed there was in 2004, it was not an invitational trial as it is now, and I was fortunate to take 4th place setting a 90 point scoring record with Price that has only been bested by a couple points since that time. I am very lucky to have been invited every year since. Because Mark invites specific participants, and does not take all entries, the United States Border Collie Handler's Association does not sanction the event. Inviationals are against the rules of the organization. Undeterred, Mark just went right on inviting, and now attracts some of the brightest handlers and dogs from around the world, including past International Supreme and National Champions from the UK, Ireland and Europe, as well as the home-grown variety. It's one of the few chances we have in this country to pit our dogs against some of the best hands in the world. It's a challenge and it's really fun!

The invitation package includes information about the trial, which is the most widely spectator-viewed trial that I am aware of in this country, with the exception of the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship. I don't know which draws a bigger crowd, but SoHo gets a reported 15 to 20 thousand people in the stands depending on the mercurial weather. The weather, together with the elevation of almost 7,000' are two of the toughest challenges for the competitors. It can be really hot, in the 90's, or really cold, really foggy, completly obscuring the field and delaying the trial for hours, or all of the above. Let's not forget the sheep, which are a Columbia, Rambouillet cross from a local flock of thousands that are tough and rangy, used to fending for themselves on thousands of acres of rural Utah mountains. The dogs can seem like little challenge to big, strong ewes who have been protecting their babies from wolves and coyotes.

Then there's info about the judge for that year and members of the committee. You see Karen Stanley mentioned here, one of many dedicated volunteers who make the trial possible each year. She is one of the hard working folks behind the scenes that you hear little about, but commits a huge amount of time and attention. The trial would not be the same without her steady hand seamlessly and quietly pulling the strings out of sight of the adulation. Mark was married a few years back, and his gorgeous wife, Dena also helps tremendously while keeping an eye on their young son, Sammy Hart. It's a family affair now, and they make all competitors feel like a part of it.

This is the invitation itself, which comes in the package. Not only does it allow you entry to what I consider the best sheepdog party of the year, but promises challenging conditions, unparalleled hospitality, world class competition and one of the richest purses in the United States. Only the Meeker Sheepdog Championship offers as much prize money.

I have been unable to attend the last 2 years, reduced to watching the scores as they were posted on the SoHo website. Not much fun, but this year I'm going. I only have Mirk to run, but this trial is worth it even with only one dog, no matter how far the distance. It's worth going to watch for the same reasons. Hope to see you there!


  1. Hooray! Congratulations! I look forward to watching you run Mirk. Now that I have been in the stands every year since 2006, you can bet I'll be back.

  2. It will be fun to have you there, Jan. Thanks