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Rural Hill Sheepdog Trials and Dog Festival.

Posted: Wednesday, Nov. 09, 2011

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Kelli Robinson

Kelli Robinson is a freelance writer who lives in Mooresville and has been contributing to Lake Norman Magazine since 2009. She juggles family and writing with humor and lots of chocolate, and enjoys experiencing all the Lake Norman area has to offer.

My dog Guinness – may he rest in peace – couldn’t herd a flock of sheep if the sheep helped him by partially herding themselves. Perhaps that’s why I was so amazed when I attended the Rural Hill Sheepdog Trials and Dog Festival.

Your chance to be amazed at this annual event now in its seventeenth year is this Saturday and Sunday, November 12 and 13, at Historic Rural Hill in Huntersville.

This is serious sport for dogs and owners alike. Yes, it’s an event for you to enjoy, but it’s also a competition. Border collies from around the world will be on hand demonstrating their sheep herding skills. (That was Guinness’ first problem, he was a mutt). The goal is for the handler, using only voice commands and whistles, to use his dog to herd a group of sheep through gates and into a pen. Judges award points based on how well handler and dog compete in separate phases, and the team with the most points wins.

It was remarkable to watch the dogs respond to their owner’s calm but direct whistles and see the sheep react to the dogs by swiftly changing directions like a flock of sparrows. Just seeing the event exhausted me, so I can’t imagine how tired the dogs – and the sheep-were.

The Sheepdog Trials are the focal point, but there are other festivities to enjoy. Other talented pooches will strut their stuff in the dog sport demonstrations. There will also be food and drink, kid’s activities, historic demonstrations and exhibits, hay rides and pumpkin chunkin’. If you’ve ever felt the urge to send a pumpkin surging through a field, this is your chance. Bring your old pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns, load them onto the catapult and send them flying 40 feet in the air. The Rural Hill Highland cattle thank you, since they’ll enjoy the pumpkins for an early Thanksgiving feast.

And yes, you can bring your dog! Just know that if you’re luckier than me and have a mutt who aspires to higher talents than chasing his tale, the Sheepdog Trials and dog sport competitions are closed to new entrants.

Want to go:

Rural Hill Sheepdog Trials and Dog Festival, November 12-13, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Tickets – Adults (ages 13 and older) $10; kids (ages 5-12) $7; kids (ages 0-4) free

4431 Neck Road, Huntersville


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