The United States Border Collie Handler's Association (USBCHA) is the sanctioning body for sheepdog and cattledog trials throughout the United States and Canada. It was founded in 1979 and has grown into an organization of more than 800 members. Members who qualify at sanctioned Open and Nursery trials during the year are eligible to compete in the USBCHA National Sheepdog and Cattledog Finals to determine the champion dog and handler for that year. Membership is open to any one regardless of what breed of dog you own. Other breeds of dogs that have competed at the USBCHA National Cattledog Finals in the past are Australian Kelpies and Australian Shepherds.
For the past fifteen years the USBCHA National Cattledog Finals has been influencing and shaping the border collie as a cattle dog across the nation. Many will attribute the improvement of dog quality and handler skill to the USBCHA National Cattledog Finals, it sets a bar of competition and working quality that is unmatched at most local trials.
Over the years the finals course and it’s scoring has changed, at present anyone competing must have a solid skill set on their dog. The outrun and lift is judged, with the judge deducting points based on a ideal. To add adversity to the lift, cattle are held by a number of horse back riders down the field. This tests the dogs ability work his way through the pressure of the horse riders followed by taking control of the cattle.
After the lift the dogs are asked to fetch the cattle up the field. There is a set of panels that earn the team five points for each head of cattle that pass through, with no retries. Then the dog is asked to drive the cattle back out into the field through another set of panels, and then a cross drive, these also allow the team to earn points, but you only get one try and the only help the dog has is the handler’s voice or whistles.
After the cross drive panels the team gets to work together at hand, any number of obstacles are set up to navigate the cattle through. The obstacles are set up to specifically challenge the dog's ability to maintain control and apply pressure to the cattle. Chutes, sorts, pens and trailer loading is often required.
The goal of the course is to fully test the working border collie while ensuring that the dogs maintain the abilities border collies are renowned for. The beautiful cast, the ability to control livestock with it’s presence, but still have the power and tools to gain the respect of the livestock.
The 2001 Finals
The first USBCHA National Cattledog Finals was held in Montgomery, Alabama in 2001 at the W.S. Newell Ranch. The Cattledog Committee in charge of the trial consisted of Wayne Butler, Dan Gill, Red Oliver, Quinn Nuffer, Don Moore, Angie Pickle, Dave Arnold and Mike Canaday. The committee is appointed by the President of USBCHA and typically consists of cattledog handlers. The committee recommends rule changes and designs the course for the USBCHA Cattledog Program and Finals.
The event was limited to the top 60 qualifying Open dogs and all nursery dogs that earned qualification. Pete Carmichael of Timber Lake, South Dakota judged the 56 Open and 9 Nursery dogs. The course would be considered simple by today’s standards. It consisted of a judged outrun and lift followed by the fetch, drive and pen which were all time and points.
2001 Top 20 Open Results:
1) Dwain Thompson and Tee 66
2) Shane Harley and Willie 66
3) Kent Kuykendall and Coon 66
4) Dwain Thompson and Karmie 62
5) Wayne Butler and Rosie 62
6) Keith Gilleon and Whip 62
7) Keith Gilleon and Spurs 60
8) Mike Canaday and May 58
9) Gary Westbrook and Jeff 58
10) Bob Roe and Ben 57
11) Gary Westbrook and Dee 54
12) Larry Young and Jake 54
13) Chester Williams and Rags 53
14) Linda Holloway and Cash 47
15) Brice Allsup and Kate 47
16) Charles Plummer and Pete 45
17) H.P. Roller and Aggie 39
18) Bob Roe and Nan 00
19) Chester Williams and Shep 00
20) Henry Hinton and Joe 00
2001 Nursery Class Results
1) Robin Nuffer and Nap 142
2) Jack King and Casey 130
3) Dwain Thompson and Jessie 129
4) Robin Nuffer and Sue 120
5) Dan Gill and Gail 108
6) Keith Gilleon and Bett 97
7) Linda Holloway and Jewell 88
8) Jack King and Spud 72
9) Trudy Burton and Doc 55
The 2002 Finals
The Cattledog Finals moved to Bud Finley’s Ranch in Benton, Arkansas for 2002, once again the course consisted of a judged outrun and lift following by a time/point fetch, drive and pen. The first changes to the scoring system and a formal judging guideline was approved for this year.
During the February 19, 2002 meeting there was a proposal to eliminate the judged outrun and lift, this was a conditional change limited to the 2003 Cattledog Finals. Mike Canaday, USBCHA President at the time, presented the new judging guidelines. The basic guidelines had been sent to about thirteen persons, who had done a fair amount of judging. They were asked to respond with their suggestions and ideas. The guidelines were the combined efforts of these top judges and handlers.
There was a lengthy discussion on the guidelines, some felt that it would not solve the judging problems and may cause additional problems, others felt it would help educate handlers as well as judges. Dan Gill motioned to approve the Judging Guidelines, a cover sheet strictly spelled out that these are only guidelines, and to reemphasize circumstance at hand and disclaimer at the bottom of each page.
The 2003 Finals
The 2003 USBCHA National Cattledog Finals was held at the Crystal Rose Cowdog College in Red Bluff, California. Elvin Kopp judged. Just prior to the 2003 Finals, on March 12th, 2003 the USBCHA Board of directors were presented with and unanimously approved the following changes:
The first recommendation from the cattle committee was to have poles outside the fetch and drive gates. This was to make it more like a judged trial to differentiate between the dogs that work the cattle down the field well and just misses the gates as opposed to the dog that never gets near the obstacle. Posts horizontal to the drive gate and 10’ away and posts horizontal to the fetch gates and 25' away would be added. Stock coming between a panel and the pole will receive 2 points a head and 5 points a head for getting thru the panel.
The second recommendation was for the preliminary round, the obstacle at the handler's feet (usually a chute) and in the second round the pen, should serve as the post which the stock would have to be turned around in order to complete the fetch rather then crossing a line as in past years.
The final recommendation was for a double lift finals for the last day of the Open. For the double lift three head of cattle would be set on one side of the field. Once the dog has lifted those cattle the other three would be made visible to him. It was felt that this should be eased into, with the first year being less restrictive than in the future. The distance between the two groups would be about 150 or 175 yards. The dog would be allowed to go back any way he could, even if he crossed over.
The 2004 Finals
2004 marked the return of the judged outrun and lift along with the Finals moving back east. Kirk Powell hosted the event on the last week of March in Green Forest, Arkansas.
A survey was sent out to all who qualified for the 2002 and 2003 USBCHA Cattledog Finals as to their preference of a judged outrun and lift or point time. 150 surveys were sent, 60 responded. The majority responded in favor of a judged outrun. On March 8th, 2004 a new set of cattledog guidelines were presented to the USBCHA Board of Directors by the Cattledog Committee and approved. Serving on the committee were Wayne Butler, Dan Gill, Gary Westbrook, Red Oliver, Julie Williams, Pete Carmichael, Merle Newton, Robin Nuffer, Dwain Thompson, and Mike Canaday
The 2005 and 2006 Finals
Two bids were presented for the 2005 USBCHA Cattledog Finals, Big Lake, Texas and Klamath Falls, Oregon. Big Lake won the bid and the finals was held there for both 2005 and 2006. In this year Mike Canaday stepped down as the USBCHA President and Herbert Holmes stepped in.
Discussions were held about numerous “at hand” obstacles. Y-Chutes, T-Chutes, Z–Chutes, L-Chutes and A-Frames that could be added to the course along with rules for scoring the obstacles and how handlers are to conduct themselves around these obstacles were drafted.
Many other changes were discussed and or implemented during 2005 and 2006 finals. The double lift deductions were added for dogs crossing over, judging was removed from the lift making only the outrun judged but deductions based on specific events, a cross over would be 18 point deduction, outrun obstacles were set up (post or gate) and if a dog outran outside the obstacles there were no deduction, if inside the cone then a ten point deduction, the outrun was worth thirty points total.
The 2007 and 2008 Finals
Three bids were submitted for the 2007 Finals, Torrington, Wyoming, Big Lake, Texas and Eagle Point, Oregon. Unanimously Torrington won the bid. Changes proposed in 2007 included increasing to two judges for 2008 and also removing the outrun obstacles and going back to a fully judged outrun and lift. This was the last time that the method of scoring the outrun and lift changed until present day.
Torrington, WY was also the location of the 2008 USBCHA National Cattledog Finals, under two judges for the first time in the history of the program.
The 2009 and 2010 Finals
Gerig, Nebraska was the location for both the 2009 and 2010 Finals. Unfortunately entries were falling off while the finals was in Nebraska. In 2010 only 37 Open entries were received.
The 2011 and 2012 Finals
In 2011 the Finals moved to Redding, Iowa. The final round of competition was filmed and made into short feature that was later aired on RFD-TV. Key changes implemented were a reduction to 50 qualifying Open teams, down from 60, the reduction to one judge from two and a new course design including sorting obstacles and the OK Corral which was provided by Titan West as part of their sponsorship package. This year marked the largest field of competitors in recent history, 50 Open competitors and 27 Nursery.
In 2012 Redding, Iowa was once again the host location and the USBCHA Board of Directors once again mandated two judges for the Finals. Peter Gonnet and Gary Westbrook served as the judges.
The 2013 thru 2015 Finals
There were no changes for 2013 aside from location. The Finals headed south to the home of Thad and Kelley Fleming on the outskirts of Leeton, Missouri where it remained for the next several years. Judges were Alasdair McRae and Steve McCall.
In 2014 the USBCHA Board once again allowed one judge to oversee the finals, Gary Westbrook returned.
For the past few years entries have remained steady and the rules have remained the same. It appears as if the USBCHA Cattledog Program has settled into a partially judged and partially point/time scoring format. The vast majority of changes were drafted and presented by the Cattledog Committee, made up of cattledog handlers and breeders.
Over that last fourteen years the USBCHA Cattledog program has been influential on not only the development of the working border collie as a cattle dog but also the handling and training of the dogs. In speaking with Francis Raley, past secretary and treasurer of USBCHA, she states: “The dogs have greatly improved. In the beginning they couldn’t hardly outrun, now the quality of dog is far better.” Maybe better then some realize.
2016 Bob Johnson - Ruby
2015 Dwight Parker - Craig
2014 John Holman - Lee
2013 Dwight Parker - Craig
2012 Tim Naasz - Ryn
2011 Jimmy Walker - Mitch
2010 Juan Reyes - Zak
2009 Red Oliver - Blaze
2008 Lana Rowley - Kell
2007 Roy Johnson - Sonny
2006 Roy Taber - Biscuit
2005 Bill Reed - Shep
2004 Kyle Estes - Cap
2003 Haley Howard - Cap
2002 Charles Plummer - Pete
2001 Dwain Thompson - Tee
2016 Wyatt Fleming - Mirk
2015 Dwight Parker - Allie
2014 Thad Fleming - Ali
2013 Ron Enzeroth - Mick
2012 Lyle East - Liz
2011 Jerry Davis - Juanita
2010 Bob Johnson - Ruby
2009 Jimmy Walker - Oreo
2008 Juan Reyes - Dot
2007 Elvin Kopp - Cody
2006 Tom Forrester - Pete
2005 Steve McCall - Pete
2004 Roy Taber - Biscuit
2003 Merle Newton - Pearl
2002 Greg Estes - Chris
2001 Robin Nuffer - Nap