World Sheepdog Trial

Article and Images Dani Ludick

The world of sheepdogs. Can you believe it, that’s actually a thing! On the 14th of September, Zimbabwe for the first time, competed in the World Sheepdog Trails at Gill Hall Estate, Dromore, Northern Ireland. The two proud competitors, Jenny Ludick and Rose Van de Ruit along with their dogs Sprite and Pip put Zimbabwe on the map, competing against 240 other sheepdogs from 30 different countries. After years of dedication and perseverance, they at long last received an invitation to compete. So, their journey began, they left the dry, harsh environment of Zimbabwe to the soft, lush green grass and rainy days of Northern Ireland to compete with a completely different breed of sheep, these new ones were much bigger and had horns, compared to our placid Dorper breed!

The art of sheepdog trialling requires you to have a strong bond with your dog to be able to work together to move 5 sheep (two with red collars and three without) around a course using whistled commands to direct the dog. The first part of the course is to send your dog to fetch the sheep from 365 metres away and bring them through the first gates in a straight line to you. The dogs must then work against their instinct and drive the sheep away from the owner through a triangular course, consisting of two sets of gates. This next part is one that challenged both Jenny and Rose the most, they had to separate two of the three uncollared sheep from the rest. This proved to be the most difficult because these type of sheep in close proximity somehow manage to interlock their horns as well as scare the poor dogs with the banging noises that they create when their horns clash. Unfortunately, the clock beat Rose and she left the field with 102 points out of 220. The second last step is to pen all the sheep and must completely close the gate before moving onto the next step. Jenny successfully completed this stage and was just about to move onto the final stage of the trial when yet again the clock was the winner! She left the field with 104 points. The final stage would have been to separate one of the collared sheep and hold it away from the other four until the judges were satisfied. This is the most rewarding thing for a handler is to complete the course. And so, it gives these two Zimbos inspiration to look forward to trying again the next in 3 years.

For both Jenny and Rose, their runs were not award-winning but it was a dream come true that they were finally there and that this was an icebreaker to be recognised as a country at an international level. The path that they have set will lay the way for others and the sheepdog trialling in Zimbabwe will keep growing from strength to strength.

A little something about the competitors: Rose and Jenny are both sheep handlers in Zimbabwe and use their dogs when herding and working the sheep as well as participate in training every Thursday at Rose’s plot in Goromonzi, along with some other sheepdog handlers.

 Rose started trialling in 2000 with her first sheepdog Tess and has shaped a large part of her life and, as I quote, “is a bug that once caught is fairly incurable!”. She now runs a stud flock of Dorper sheep, is very involved in the Dorper Sheep Breeders Society (which she is now in the middle of persuading Jenny to join), runs a kennel, has a pet travel business and obviously helps train sheepdogs. Her dog, Pip, is nine years old and was bred by Rose’s dog, Lily, and Andrew Philip’s dog, Kenn (South Africa). Rose grew up watching her grandfather work his dogs on stock and never, ever thought that she would do the same. Little did she know that she would be one of the first competitors to ever compete for Zimbabwe in the World Sheepdog Trials!

Jenny grew up on a farm in Goromonzi with her parents and three brothers and would wake up early every Saturday to herd cattle on a horse. This was possibly the start of her herding animals obsession. She now lives on a farm in Enterprise Valley with her husband Hector, three kids, Dani, Dalton and Gordon and Hector’s mum, also Jenny. Hector grows tobacco and other crops and Jenny runs a flock of 250 sheep. Jenny’s sheepdog journey started seven years ago when she was at Rose’s farm for a sheep course (fancy that!) and Geoff Armond’s dog Misty was pregnant. Rose convincingly talked Jenny into getting a puppy for her daughter, Dani, for her birthday, well the dog is no longer hers and a birthday present is still owed. Three days after the puppies were born, Jenny chose one for her daughter and at 5 weeks old the family decided on the name Sprite. As of today, Jenny has three collies: Sprite, Whiskey and Cola. Jenny and Sprite are top their class, Top Dogs, in sheepdog trialling and as we all know proudly competed as one of the first Zimbabweans in the World Sheepdog Trails.

A big thank you from Jenny and Rose to their sponsors: Damara, Isuzu, Cartrack, Maguires and Superstructures their sponsorship was a huge help and is greatly appreciated.

So, congratulations go to Rose, Jenny and their two dogs. They’ve benefited from this unique experience and will enjoy teaching local enthusiasts. Anyone who is interested to learn about sheepdogs or see them work can contact:

Rose Van de Ruit +263 71 220 8590

Jenny Ludick +263 77 242 3642

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