The hardworking folks of Central Otago were front and centre stage at the South Island sheep dog trials last week.

More than 200 triallists and about 500 dogs from throughout the country took part in the South Island sheep dog trial championships, hosted by the North Otago Centre.

The trials were held on Earnscleugh Station near Alexandra, triallists competing on four courses over five days.

A small but steady army of volunteers kept the event running smoothly by taking care of tasks ranging from mustering sheep and course set-up and pack-down through to catering and chauffeuring triallists back to their nightly accommodation.

Omakau-Earnscleugh Collie Club secretary Nikki Heckler

Omakau-Earnscleugh Collie Club secretary Nikki Heckler said “about 80” volunteers were involved across the different areas, members of the North Otago Centre, Molyneux Turf Inc, local hockey clubs and the Alexandra Lions Club all pitching in.

Mrs Heckler oversaw catering for the week mammoth task involving preparing cooked breakfasts, morning teas, lunches and dinner for about 150 people per session.

Also the treasurer and head fundraiser for Molyneux Turf Inc new hockey turf in Alexandra Mrs Heckler pulled hockey players and supporters from throughout the area to help with the catering.

“It’s a big week had to move into my house for the week to look after my kids while I am here,” she said.

After a big day of competition on the hill, the Alexandra Lions Club went the extra mile by driving a courtesy coach with a difference.

Up to nine members would drive competitors home in their utes, ensuring the triallists and their dogs safely.

Transport organiser Dave Ramsay said the initiative was a way to make sure competitors could have a good time and still be among their friends up the hill, without drink-driving.

“Of course, they’ve got their dogs in their truck, so we’re picking them up and taking them back to their accommodation.”

Dog triallists came from throughout New Zealand and it was a way for the collie club and the Lions to make sure people were safe, he said.

“They go away from Central Otago with a good experience.”

While the dogs might be the stars of the show, it was the sheep that made for a good trial, Omakau-Earnscleugh Collie Club member Alan “Snow” Stewart said.

In their element .Alan “Snow” Stewart, of Galloway, with horse Raisin on the final day of the South Island sheep dog trial championships at Earnscleugh Station. The pair were a key part of mustering 3000 merino across the the station for the event. PHOTO: SHANNON THOMOSON


Mr Stewart and horse Raisin, along with Ray Stewart of Gore, on horse Miko, mustered the 3000-odd merino sheep used for the five-day competition.

It took two half-days to drive the sheep the 15km across Earnscleugh Station, and at the end of the trials, he would do it all again, returning the sheep back home, he said.

“It’s awesome daylight, sunrise is just awesome.”