Over the Queen’s Birthday Holiday this year, Simon, Kate and I along with thousands of other kelpie lovers made the trek out to Casterton, Victoria for the annual Australian Working Dog Kelpie Muster. The festival is held over two days and includes working dog demonstrations, kelpie events, a parade and culminates with the working dog auction on the Sunday.
Back in 1871, a stockman called Jack Gleeson traded a horse for a kelpie pup on the banks of the Glenelg River, cementing the kelpie in history. Nearly 150 years on, the kelpie is now an Australian icon symbolising hard work, loyalty and ultimate mateship.
The Festival – Saturday
So here we were at our first Kelpie Muster, we arrived in town early Sat morning and found the streets buzzing with kelpies and people wearing Akubras everywhere. We were there with our Farmdogz (the rescue we foster for) contingent, and we all had our kelpies in tow!
First up was heading off to sign up our dogs to compete in the Kelpie Triathlon. The Triathlon consists of a 50m kelpie dash, high jump and hill climb, testing out their speed, spring and long range recall! After some mild peer pressure, I signed Kate up to all three events and then proceeded to hope fervently that she would behave and hold her own with all the country dogs!
The festival kicked off with a parade in which the whole town turned out to see. Then it was straight into the kelpie dash. Artificial turf was laid down in the street making a nice safe surface for the dogs to sprint down. It was great to be one of the competitors and experience the camaraderie before the start line! After all my worrying that Kate wouldn’t run, but more take her time greeting all the spectators along the way – she smashed it in 5.72 seconds! The winner was better though sprinting the distance in 4.97 seconds, absolute champion.
After the excitement of the dash, it was time for the high jump. The organisers set up a wooden plank high jump supported by hay bales either side, in which they would keep adding a new plank of wood after each round to increase the height. This meant the dogs could scramble up it rather than a clean bound over, although some did manage that! This was the event I wanted to see Kate do, she was a notorious fence jumper at home, and even our fence extensions wouldn’t deter her for long, so I was hoping she would have fun with this one.
To compete one person holds the dog at the bottom of the jump, while another person runs around the back of the high jump, climbs up the hay bales to stand at the top to call the dog up. We thought we might have more of a chance if I was the one Kate had to get to, so Simon held her while I would run around and call for her to jump.
The first jump came and she cleared it no issues! Then the second round and again no issues. Then the third! Our rescue dog was breezing through this event! Kate blew us away with jumping 2.11 metres before the next jump proved too much for her. In true Kate style she attempted it but when she didn’t succeed, instead of trying again, being the smart kelpie she is, she instead broke through the crowd barriers and ran around the back of the high jump up onto the bales to get to me that way! Clever dog indeed!
Out of 31 dogs, Kate came equal fifth and I couldn’t have been more proud, The winner jumped 2.49 metres in a fantastic effort.
Kate clearing the first jump no issues.
The final event of the day was the kelpie hill climb. The dogs have to run from a point at the bottom of the hill to their owner at the top. Let me tell you – this was a BIG hill. I was driven to the top with the other competitors, while Simon kept hold of Kate near the start at the bottom. My instructions were, once I got in place I had to yell, scream, shout, wave my arms – do anything loud that will make Kate hear and come to me! The event is a hard one as there is a lip in which for a period of time the dog can’t see the owner but can only hear them, hence why being loud is crucial. The dogs that went before us were great, they all took off at go, and would run up the steep hill to their owner taking about 30 – 40 seconds or so.
Then came our turn.
I got in place at the top, Simon got Kate in place at the bottom…and GO! Kate took off like a rocket, and after about 10 steps stopped! I was yelling my head off, waving, jumping up and down and Kate’s response to that was to sit down and bark at me from the bottom! Obviously she felt she had done enough that day and that I should come to her for once. Eventually she ran up to meet me, with a golden time of 1 minute 20 seconds. We were out of the running for overall winner, but I couldn’t be more proud of Kate and all she did!
GO! Kate sprinting for at least 10 metres!
“Wait…you want me to come ALL the way up there? Nah, I don’t think so. How about you come to me?”
“Alright, I’m coming!”
It was a great end to the first day, and we all went back to the accommodation for some hard earned food and sleep for the dogs!
The Auction – Sunday
Sunday broke and after an early morning run by the creek for the dogs, we were back to Casterton for the working dog trials and auctions. Each breeder was given the opportunity to showcase their dog in a sheep demonstration before the auction.
Watching the trials was incredible, the control displayed by both the dog and the trainers was mind blowing. After watching dog after dog round up a small flock of sheep and move them into a couple of holding zones, it just made me want to trial Kate out at herding to even see how she would go.
After the trials came the auction. Dog after dog was up, and I don’t know much about blood lines and the different breeders but there was a lot of money going for these dogs. The highest selling dog of the day was kelpie breeder Ian O’Connel’s, Bagalla Coke who went for $10,000. It’s evident how much work goes into these dogs, and it is good to see it is being appreciated and rewarded in the figures coming out in the auction.
It was a brilliant weekend, and we will definitely be back again next year to try and win that Kelpie Triathlon!