LOWER ONSLOW - Luke MacKay would someday like to have his own herd of sheep, so naturally he wanted to take in the sheep herding trials here on Sunday.
“I’d like to own a sustainable homestead combining new and old techniques,” said MacKay as he watched some of the trials hosted at Fred Hamilton’s farm on Highway 2. “Sheep are an important mainstay to a homestead - for clothing and food.”
Although he isn’t sure where to start when it comes to owning that homestead, he’s always had an interest in sheep herding and wanted to take it in for the first time.
“It’s fascinating,” he said, just after the 19 dogs and 15 participants took a break for lunch.
Two of those participants were Rachel and Jerry Hamilton, who travel from Penniac, N.B., to as far as Quebec for trials and clinics.
“We do agility with our dogs and this is another sport that makes our dogs better at agility,” said Jerry in between corralling sheep once they had been herded. “We like that we can do this as a team (with our dogs), and it’s a lot of fun.”
Sitting with Grendel, Rachel said the pair started when Grendel was just a puppy.
“I realized I absolutely loved it,” she said. “I love the sheep and the teamwork, the working and the calmness we are all trying to accomplish. I like trying to figure out sort of what’s in the sheep’s and dog’s minds, and how the dynamics work.”
While the Hamiltons don’t have their own sheep, they’d like to some day. But until then, they travel whenever they can.
“It’s a very unique sport and I’m glad to see it offered here,” said Jerry. “It’s a lot of work.”
The couple has been welcomed into the sheep herding community, something they’ve been grateful for.
“We’ve been really lucky - all the people we train with are sheep farmers. We learned once we got into it that sheep herding is about looking after the sheep. That is our primary focus,” said Rachel.
Along with agility and sheep herding, Rachel and Jerry train their dogs, which also includes Beowulf, in scent work in the wintertime.
“A border collie’s mind always has to be working and it is nice to have different outlets for that,” said Jerry.