By JOHN LEIDNER
Stock dog trials are one of the main attractions at the Sunbelt Expo. A tradition at the show since 1988, the trials are known as the American Grand Finals, and each year they attract some of the largest audiences in the U.S. to view competitive herding
The trials are held throughout each day of the show, starting at
8: 30 a.m. The location is same each year — in a field very close to the
north end of the exhibit area. You can find the trials by heading to
the Case-IH exhibit (location D- 2), then walking west down the main
field road that leads to the harvesting and tillage demonstrations.
The stock dogs are across the road from the Expo farm shop, and just
behind the tram shuttle station.
There is shaded bleacher seating for visitors. After walking the
exhibit grounds, the bleachers offer an ideal spot to stop and cool
off. And as you rest and recover, you can enjoy watching the dogs
and their handlers working as a team to move and pen sheep. After resting and seeing the dogs in action, you’ll be ready to ride the
shuttle wagons out to the fields to see the harvesting and tillage
The American Grand Finals welcome some of the most competitive dogs and handlers in the U.S. While stock dog trials are open to
other breeds of dogs, the ones you’ll see at Expo will be exclusively
border collies, a breed known for its natural herding instincts. They
originated on the border of Scotland and England, where there is a
long history of sheep farms.
The trials will be judged this year by Dean Holcomb of Clem-mons, N.C. It is the second time Holcomb has served as judge. “We
are pleased that Dean will serve as our judge, and we are proud to
have a judge of his caliber at our trials,” says Tom Friddell of Dawson,
Ga., who helps coordinate the Expo trials.
OPEN AND PRO NOVICE EVENTS
The American Grand Finals feature both open and pro novice herding events. The pro novice class is mainly designed to give experienced handlers some competition with inexperienced dogs. In the
open division, you’ll see experienced dogs and veteran dog handlers.
Typically, about 50 dogs compete in the open division. Barry
Zimmerman of Homer, Ga., will be competing this year with his dogs
Bing and Jip. Bing is more than 10 years old and this will probably be
his last year of competing, Zimmerman says. In retirement, Bing will
work around the farm and spend time with the farm cats (for some
reason, Bing is fascinated by the cats).
Francis Scott Parkman of Indiantown, Fla., will be competing with
his dog Dawson. “He is the first border collie I have owned,” says Park-
man. In May, Dawson won first place in one trial and second in an-
other. “We both live on a small farm where we raise sheep and game
birds,” says Parkman. “Dawson works on the farm and rounds up both
sheep and game birds. This is our first large trial and we look forward
to having fun, learning, and doing our best.”
Leida Jones of Leesburg, Fla., will be competing with her dog
Lucy. Jones remembers her first competitive trial when her dog
made a nice outrun to fetch the sheep. The dog drove the sheep
to, and past, Jones, then jumped a short fence, went through the
crowd, and then over a hill and out of sight in a huge pasture. Jones
feared she would never see the sheep or her dog again. Fortunately,
it wasn’t long before the dog returned with the sheep and put them
in the proper pen.
Cindy Carrington of Mineral Bluff, Ga., will be competing with her
dog Emma. “Emma was the high point ranch class trial dog in 2015
for the Georgia Stock Dog Association,” Carrington says. “This is her
first year to compete in the open division.” Carrington bought Emma
at six weeks of age and trained her under the guidance of veteran
stock dog handler Hubert Bailey of Dawsonville, Ga.
In the 2015 American Grand Finals, the grand champion title was
won by Bailey and his dog Cole. Bailey and his dog Jim won the reserve championship. David Cox of Jupiter, Fla., was recognized for
being the most improved handler last year. He competed with his
Daily winners in the open division last year included Bailey and
Cole. Dawn Boyce of Carnesville, Ga., and her dog Slim were also
daily winners on both Wednesday and Thursday of last year’s Expo.
Pro novice daily winners last year included Allen Hickenbottom of
Dunnellon, Fla., and his dogs Koda and Rose; Scott Johnson of Opelika, Ala., and his dog Gin and Brian Cash of Gay, Ga., and his dog Mia.
Expo thanks Tom Friddell of Dawson, Ga., for his many years of
service in coordinating the trials at the show. Friddell is assisted by
Jim Shepard of Dawson, Ga., and Mark Ireland of Malabar, Fla. The
Expo also thanks the Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity and the Agri-Life
Council from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College for their help
during the trial.
The stock dog trials at Expo are sponsored by Southern States Pet
Food and Southern States Cooperative, Tyson Steel Building Products, and the Sunbelt Ag Expo.
Highly trained stock dogs
will show their skills
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