The International Course

On Sunday, the top-scoring teams at the Kingston Sheep Dog Trials will compete for the championship honor. This double-lift course is much more demanding than the courses of the preliminary rounds, and the highest-scoring team will have truly accomplished something very special. Both judges will judge the the double-lift courses, and their scores will be added together as an aggregate. Handlers will be allowed thirty minutes each to complete the course.

The Gather: The dog will be sent for one lot of ten sheep and fetch them through a set of fetch gates. When the sheep have reached a point about twenty yards from these gates, the handler will command the dog to "look back" and then ask the dog to leave the sheep he has just fetched and set out on a second outrun for a second packet of ten sheep that in all likelihood cannot be seen by the dog. Unlike in the preliminary rounds, the direction of the outruns in the double-lift are no longer the handler's choice: all dogs will be sent the same predetermined way for the first set of sheep, and then the opposite way for the second. Leaving the first set of sheep to seek a second, unseen set requires the ultimate act of trust and obedience on the part of the dog. Once the dog has fetched the second set of sheep through the fetch gates, the two groups of sheep will be rejoined, and the twenty sheep will continue down the field to the handler. The gather is worth a total of 100 points (200 aggregate): 20 for each outrun; 10 for each lift; and 20 for each fetch.

The Drive: The drive will be longer and more challenging than the drive of the preliminary rounds, but in principle it will be the same: the dog will drive the sheep in a triangular course through two gate obstacles and then back into the shedding ring. Even though the dog is driving many more sheep than he had in the preliminary rounds, lines should still be as straight and turns as tight as possible. The drive is worth a total of 40 points (80 aggregate).

The Shed: The so-called "international shed" of the double-lift finals is much more intricate and advanced than the regular shed of the preliminary rounds. In general, handlers will move through the first part of the course in about fifteen minutes, leaving themselves about ten to fifteen minutes to accomplish the shed. The goal of the dog and the handler is to separate five collared sheep from the rest of the group, allowing the uncollared sheep to drift out of the ring. All of the sheep need to be regathered and shed again if one of the collared sheep leaves the ring with the uncollared ones. The shed is worth a total of 20 points (40 aggregate).

The Pen: The pen cannot begin until the five collared sheep are properly shed off from the fifteen uncollared ones. On completion of the shed, the handler must proceed to the pen and ask the dog to fetch the five collared sheep. The handler is forbidden from helping the dog drive the sheep to the pen. The pen is not complete until all five sheep are inside with the gate closed. The pen is worth a total of 10 points (20 aggregate).

If you are interested in learning about the details of how the trial will be judged, you can read the judging guidelines put out by the United States Border Collie Handlers Association.
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