MIDDLETOWN — The United States Border Collie Handlers’ Association (USBCHA) has again selected Belle Grove Plantation as the site for its annual National Sheepdog Finals. The competition will take place October 5-10.
The National Sheepdog Finals are the North American championship of working dogs and their handlers from across the United States, according to a news release from Belle Grove. One hundred-fifty competitors have earned the right to compete in finals through their success at local sheepdog trials throughout the year. This is the fifth time that Belle Grove has hosted the National Sheepdog Finals. It was last at Belle Grove in 2017.
“We are delighted to welcome some of the best handlers and dogs in the world back to the National Sheepdog Finals. Belle Grove is the perfect location with sweeping fields and ample space for the entire competition,” said Sandy Payne, co-chair of the 2021 National Sheepdog Finals Committee.
The event will be on the large front field at Belle Grove and will begin with open preliminary rounds Oct. 5 through Oct. 8 in preparation for the semi-finals on Oct. 9. Six hundred-fifty Dorper sheep will be brought to Belle Grove from Askin Land and Livestock in Wyoming for the finals. Shepherds on horseback will move a small group of sheep onto the field for each competitor. Each team of dog and handler must collect the sheep from more than 400 yards away. Using whistle and voice commands, the handler instructs the dog to move sheep through a series of obstacles. As the handlers battle against the clock, judges from across the country will score the teams for accuracy.
The top dogs and handlers will compete in the final competition on Oct. 10. It is the most difficult test of handler and dog communication, the Double Lift, in which the dog must fetch one group of sheep, bring it to the handler, and then go back and fetch another group.
The competition will begin at 7:30 a.m. Oct. 5-9 and 7 a.m. on Oct. 10 and continue until all the runs of the day are complete (around 4 p.m.). On Oct. 10 there will also be an Opening Ceremony at 10 a.m. and an awards ceremony when the competition concludes in mid-afternoon.
In addition to the main competition, there will be concurrent finals for nursery dogs (under three years of age) that will take place Oct.6-9. This will take place on another field at Belle Grove and is included in the spectator ticket for the event.
Food and merchandise vendors will be on the property during the entire event. Spectator tickets include touring Belle Grove’s Manor House, which will be open Oct. 5-Oct. 10, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The Museum Shop will also be open these hours. Belle Grove requires masks be worn when indoors.
Spectator tickets are on sale now at www.bellegrove.org until Oct. 4 at 4 p.m. EDT and then will be available at the gate during the event. Cash and all major credit cards will be accepted. This is a rain or shine event and there will be no ticket refunds. Ticket prices are:
Adults $14 per day (any day), $36 for a three-day pass (any three days), or $60 for a six-day pass;
Youth 7-16 and Seniors 65 and older $7 per day (any day), $18 for a three-day pass (any three days), or $30 for a six-day pass;
Youth 6 and younger may attend at no charge.
Free event parking is provided and will be on grass. Handicapped parking on gravel will be provided for those with a valid placard. Visitors may bring chairs and some tent cover will be provided. Comfortable clothing, sturdy and closed-toe shoes, and a pair of binoculars are recommended to fully enjoy the event. There is no outside food or drink, or smoking allowed on event grounds. Spectators may not bring dogs to this event.
Belle Grove is located off Valley Pike (U.S. 11) at 336 Belle Grove Road just south of Middletown. Belle Grove Plantation is a nonprofit historic house museum that is a National Trust for Historic Preservation site and a legislated partner in Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park.