The Flinders Challenge Sheepdog Trial®The epitome of dog trialling

The Flinders Challenge Sheepdog Trial® was conceived, organised and run by Ben and Lyn Page.

The trial is somewhat unique in that it encompasses two trials in one, a Utility trial and a Yard trial. The winner is the competitor who accumulates the highest combined score in both disciplines. There are two Champions. Open Champion and Novice Champion and prizes are awarded in all the sections and for all levels.

The objective is to test for the best all-round dog.

Our motivation in running The Finders Challenge® is:

     1. To foster the sport of dog trialling.
     2. To introduce the sport to areas and towns that may benefit from the event.
     3. To attract the top competitors throughout Australia.
     4. To gain economical benefits to the host town and the Southern Flinders.
     5. To demonstrate and educate the public in dog handling and breeding.
The Flinders Challenge® is a not-for-profit event wherein all sponsorship monies are returned as prize money and all functions of running the trial are by volunteers.

The initial concept of the Flinders Challenge® was to host the event in two towns fairly close to each other. It was envisaged that one town would run the Utility competition and the other town would run the Yard competition. In this way two towns would benefit.

In 2003 the first town we approached was Orroroo with the proposition that they run the first leg and the nearby town of Wilmington would run the second leg. Unfortunately, Orroroo were unable to organise themselves within the time lines, so we decided to run the complete trial at Wilmington.

In 2003 The Flinders Challenge® was run on the Wilmington oval and was basically a farm trial with a decent cast, some yard work and one obstacle in the field.  Like all first-time trials we had some difficult challenges - not the least of which was the surprising inability of the town to be willing to supply sheep. The sheep were sourced from outside the community and had to be trucked in. The support from the trialing fraternity was wonderful and the town benefited substantially from the influx of visitors, their purchases and accommodation.

We have always had a strong desire to include the youth of country towns and we introduced the use of high school students to undertake positions of responsibility and commitment. We gifted all monies to the town.

Expressions of Interest
After the first trial we introduced the concept of towns submitting “Expressions of Interest” to host the next Flinders Challenge®.

In 2004 we ran the Flinders Challenge in Melrose, a nearby town, and this year it had grown to 4 days of competition and upwards of 280 entries. It consisted of 4 days of serious trialing and functions at night. This was the year we also ran South Australia’s first working dog auction.

We have always been strong advocates of attempting to blend Arena trialers, Utility trialers and Yard trialers and we made every endeavour to have them all compete. Indeed, the Utility trial was judged by Anthony Ireland a prominent 3 sheep trialer. Needless to say the town benefited greatly.

In 2005 the successful bidder was Jamestown and the trial, once again, included a working dog auction. By now we had streamlined the organisation a little and we ran dual rinks so that Utility trials and Yard trials were being run simultaneously. The 2005 Flinders Challenge® was a 3 day trial.

This year we introduced a management model to enable students to run large sections of the trial themselves and, with the approval and assistance of the Jamestown Community High School we developed a model based on corporate team building. It was highly successful. Once again the hosting town benefited a great deal but the most pleasing aspect was the uptake by the students.

In 2006 Jamestown was, once again, the successful hosting town. By now the Flinders Challenge® was a 3 day event with dual rinks and the student group was encouraged to extend their responsibilities and accept the success (or otherwise) of the decisions they made themselves. A lot of the direct supervision was lifted. Instead of team leaders being closely supervised, they were briefed on the desired outcomes and they had to implement decisions to reach those outcomes within the timeframe. At this stage we introduced succession planning to the student group. It was a very well run trial and a credit to the students. An approach was made to the Education Department to grant credits to the students who were involved.

Once again we attempted to involve all the different disciplines of dog trialing and the Utility trial was judged by the President of the South Australian Working Sheepdog Association, Merv Simmonds.

Youth Involvement
This concept of involving the youth in the responsibility and decision making has now been copied at various trials throughout Australia. One of the first trials that we were aware had copied the procedure was at Edenhope in Victoria and later the National Field Kelpie Trial at Roseworthy in South Australia. I’m sure there are others, and it is not before time that our young people are allowed the freedom to make community decisions and measure the consequences of making the correct decisions, without continuous close supervision. It is a necessary part of life that they be allowed to make mistakes and learn how to correct the outcomes.

Standalone trial
It should be noted that The Flinders Challenge® is a “stand alone” event wherein it doesn’t “piggy back” on a show or field day to attract crowds. We did consider running it in collaboration with an agricultural show but dismissed the idea. Mainly because most small town shows are struggling for space and are 1 day concerns.

These show committees would be overburdened to host an event such as this. The Flinders Challenge® has now grown in stature and desirability and some of the top competitors in Australia have competed and won the title of Champion.
Thank you
We would like to thank all the competitors who have travelled so far to be part of the Flinders Challenge®. All the friends and competitors in South Australia who supported us and encouraged us to “keep going”. All the sponsors and businesses in the Southern Flinders Ranges who have made the event such a success. The students and teachers of the Jamestown Community High School. The media including The Advertiser, Flinders News, Stock Journal, Outback Magazine, Southern Cross Television GTS/BKN and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. And a special thank you to Kay and Rex Hocking for all their advice, work and support.

Stacks Image 3


Sign up for the Working Dog Centre newsletter and get a free copy of Ben's 8 Secrets of Dog Commands.

Stacks Image 2932

If you are buying a "started" or "trained" dog, it's also important to attend some training if you haven't already done so. Otherwise you could be spending many thousands of dollars and potentially ruining your investment by not knowing how to actually work the dog and get the best out of him."

Ben Page
Stacks Image 2936