Sheep and the dogs that herd them return to Strang Ranch | AspenTimes.com

Sheep and the dogs that herd them return to Strang Ranch

Staff report
The stars of the show go nearly nose to nose at a prior sheepdog trial at Strang Ranch. The 2016 National Sheepdog Trials will be held today through Sunday.
Kerri Back/courtesy photo |

TO LEARN MORE

Go to http://www.sheepdogfinals.com/ to learn the inside game of sheepdog trials and details about the National Sheepdog Trials at Strang Ranch.

You know it’s going to be a good time when 861 sheep get together with 248 sheepdogs.

That good time will be at the Strang Ranch in Missouri Heights today through Sunday. For the third time in five years, the Strangs will host the National Sheepdog Finals.

“It’s a national event. We think it’s pretty cool that they’re coming to our little valley,” said Bridget Strang, a dog handler herself and organizer of the event. Bridget is the daughter of Strang Ranch founders Kit and Mike Strang.

About 160 handlers are coming from around the U.S. and Canada for the granddaddy event in sheepdog trials. Each handler can have two dogs in each class. Preliminary rounds start today, building to semi-finals later in the week and finals over the weekend.

The event is spectator-friendly — as long as spectators don’t bring their own dogs. They won’t be allowed onto the property. It’s too much of a distraction for the working dogs, let alone the sheep.

The Strangs unloaded 861 yearling sheep from the ranch of Ernie Echart of Montrose on Monday. Handlers also were making their way to the picture-perfect Western ranch at 393 Country Road 102. The ranch is located about 3 miles from Catherine Store in the midvalley.

The Strangs also hosted the National Sheepdog Trials in 2014 and 2011. Spectators have fallen in love with the event and many return for each trial, Bridget Strang said. Many handlers are willing to talk about their pursuit with the audience. When they aren’t busy, they mingle with the crowd and wear “Ask Me” T-shirts.

There also will be “doggie demos” on the weekend where handlers and their dogs demonstrate to spectators what they are trying to accomplish during the competition.

The event also features a food and craft fair and a cooking demonstration with three great chefs and lamb as the guest of honor.

The Strangs also use the event to showcase land conservation, stewardship and the region’s ranching heritage. The family worked with Aspen Valley Land Trust to conserve much of their ranch for perpetuity. The land trust and the animal rescue group CARE will benefit from the gate receipts.

The cost is $15 per day for adults and $30 per vehicle with three or more people, so carpool. The pass is $5 for children and seniors. Adults get a discount on a weekly pass.

Strang said the event is a rare way for Roaring Fork Valley residents to watch truly remarkable dogs that were bred for herding sheep.

“It won’t be back for another three years,” she said.


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