BY JOHN LEIDNER
HOSTING STOCK DOG trials is a long-standing tradition at the Sunbelt
Ag Expo, and this year will see exhibitions by handlers and their dogs
from throughout the Southeast. Stock dog trials began at Expo in 1988.
Dee Penatzer Bailes of Sanford, N.C., will be judging the trials this
year, and Alan Aulson of Bronson, Fla., will be providing the sheep for
Open and Pro-Novice competitive categories will take place all
three days of Expo. In the Open competition, both dogs and handlers
are veterans. In the Pro-Novice competition, either the dog or the handler is relatively new to stock dog
competition. Most entries in the
Pro-Novice competition will include experienced handlers and
The stock dogs you’ll see are
all from the Border Collie breed,
which originated in the area between Scotland and England,
which has many sheep farms
where herding with dogs is a
These dogs are trained to do well in competition and perform as
steady work hands on their home farms and ranches. They are bred for
their intelligence and ability to move livestock by following their handlers’ whistle and voice commands. Expo’s unique environment can be
challenging, with a large crowd of visitors, along with noise from tractors moving near the competition site, and sounds of aircraft landing
and taking off from the nearby active runway. Handlers guide their
dogs, but also give them some freedom to work and move sheep on
There is very little downtime for the trials. Visitors can expect to see
the working stock dogs in competition as soon as the gates open at 8: 30
a.m., and throughout each day of the show until the gates close.
Expo visitors will find the stock dog trials just west of the exhibit
grounds. Go to the Case IH exhibit, proceed from there down the main
field road leading to the crop farm and the show’s harvesting and tillage demonstrations. The trials will be located across from the Expo farm
shop, and just behind the tram shuttle wagon station. Shaded bleacher
seating, provided by Tyson Steel Building Products, one of the major
sponsors of the American Grand Finals, offers a great temporary respite
from the sun and weather.
Stock dog handlers share great enthusiasm for their sport. Mary Louise Cattaneo of Satellite Beach, Fla., grew up a city girl and never pictured
herself herding sheep. “Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she says.
“The time I spend with my dog Grace and the sheep — it’s a joy I can’t
explain. I just think how lucky I am to have Grace and herding in my life.”
Barry Zimmerman of Homer, Ga., is looking forward to competing
with his two dogs, Flip and Storm. Storm is 9 years old and is the 2017
Double Lift Reserve Champion from North Carolina stock dog trials.
Storm is the mother of Flip, three years old, and competing in his first
Open competition. Last year at Expo, Flip competed in the Pro-Novice
class and placed second in the overall Pro-Novice competition.
Allen Hickenbottom of Dunnellon, Fla., a veteran stock dog competitor, will be bringing his dogs Craig and Bodie to compete in the Open
division. He has competed in stock dog trials for the past 28 years and
says he uses his dogs daily to work on his farm.
Debbie Bailey of Cataula, Ga., and her dog Camp won the grand
champion title in the 2016 Expo Open competition. Shelby Cook of
Salvisa, Ky., and her dog Ben, and Dwight Parker of Brevard, N.C., and his
dog Allye tied for reserve champion in the Open category.
The Pro-Novice competition was won by grand champion Dwight
Parker and his dog Lisa. Jean Murphy of Citra, Fla., won the most improved handler award with her dog Hope. Daily Open trial winners were
Debbie Bailey and Camp on Tuesday; David Saunders of Monticello, Fla.,
and his dog Jill on Wednesday; and Hubert Bailey of Dawsonville, Ga.,
and his dog Matt on Thursday.
The 2016 Pro-Novice daily winners were Jean Murphy and her dog
Hope on Tuesday; Ellen Beasley of Siler City, N.C., and her dog Shia on
Wednesday; and Barry Zimmerman of Homer, Ga., and his dog Flip on
Thursday. Sunbelt Expo extends its special thanks to Tom Friddell and
Jim Shepard, both at Dawson, Ga., and Mark Ireland, Malabar, Fla., for
too, to the Agri-Life Council from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College
for their assistance during the trials.