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Competition rewards Wairarapa’s top dogs

John Barlett [left, Tinui] with Lurk, Chris Shaw [Tinui Club president], Michele Clarke [manager, Keinzley Agvet Masterton], Pete McFetridge [Martinborough] with Hope, and Vaughan Marfell [competition organiser]. PHOTO/ ERIN KAVANAGH-HALL

The Tinui and Martinborough Dog Trial Clubs have emerged victorious, clinching the top three awards at this year’s Keinzley Agvet Wairarapa Sheep Dog Trial Championship.

The competition brings together five of Wairarapa’s longest-running dog trial clubs, Akitio, Alfredton, Martinborough, Masterton and Tinui, who face-off in a series of five events from January to April.

The Tinui club had the best showing in this year’s event: Taking home the Wairarapa Combined Club Shield for the best overall performance, and Life Member John Bartlett and dog Lurk scoring the win in the Top Heading Dog category.

Coming up trumps in the Top Huntaway category were Martinborough’s Pete McFetridge and Hope, a multi-award winner at the New Zealand Sheep Dog Trial Championships.

The Wairarapa interclub competition had been a mainstay within the shepherding community for several decades, but had disbanded in 1994.

In 2019, the competition was resurrected by the collaborative efforts of Vaughan Marfell, Wairarapa/Southern Hawke’s Bay Sheep Dog Trial Centre, and Keinzley Agvet owner Phil Keinzley.

Marfell said this year’s event attracted about 60-70 competitors and their dogs, many of whom have been successful in regional and national competitions.

He said trialling events “do get quite competitive”, but it is, on the whole, a very inclusive sport.

“Age is no barrier, you can be 16 or 90 and still do well,” he said.

“It all comes down to your dog, and the relationship you have together.

“Also, as farmers, our sport is an extension of our job. Not many sportspeople can say that.”

Marfell said the Wairarapa dog trial clubs, some of which have been running close to 120 years, have “a long history in the region”.

Several members have had a long tenure with their home club, including John Bartlett, who has Life Membership with the Tinui club, the Wairarapa/Southern Hawke’s Bay Centre, and the NZ Sheep Dog Trial Association.

This year’s awards were presented at Keinzley Agvet’s Masterton premises by manager Michele Clarke, with the two category winners receiving a voucher to spend on high quality feed for their dogs.

Sponsor Phil Keinzley said optimal nutrition, high in protein and healthy fat, is key for a working dog’s performance.

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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