Fraser Shennan and his home-bred Belle won the 2023 International Sheepdog Trials supreme championship at Three Castles Farm, Blessington, Co Wicklow.

A delighted Fraser said: “I was relieved, coming off the field – I thought it was the best run I’d ever had in the supreme.”

The privilege of comparing past runs on the supreme course is one that only a small number of handlers share, but very few at the age of 28 have four supreme runs under their belt.

The Scottish Farmer: Reserve winners Dewi Jenkins and Jock (Photograph: Lisa Soar)Reserve winners Dewi Jenkins and Jock (Photograph: Lisa Soar)

Fraser first ran for the supreme overall title in 2012 at Cardiff, at the age of 17, with Belle’s great grand-mother, Fizz (N MacEachern’s Murphy, RJ Shennan’s Meg), and finished in third place. Belle’s sire, Spot and Spot’s dam, 2018 Scottish National champion, Mia, also reached the supreme in their time.

This year, Belle took Fraser into the top slot, earning herself the Blue Riband champion’s collar.

Fraser continued, “I was delighted with her, the sheep were heavy, but she worked well with them, she sorted them and they knew it, she reversed them into the pen and they went. She is one of the easiest work dogs I’ve had and she takes all her commands.”

Fraser draws no attention to the fact that Belle has achieved this with only one eye, since losing the use of the other, after an injury at lambing in 2022.

The Scottish Farmer: Scottish young handler, Harry Cooper (Photograph: Lisa Soar)Scottish young handler, Harry Cooper (Photograph: Lisa Soar)

Belle (F Shennan’s Spot, J Shennan’s Rose) got off to a very good start running out to the right over the gently rising green slope for 10 sheep, bringing them down and through the fetch gate. She looked back out to the left and lifted her second packet, brought them down and through a marked opening in a line of shrubby whins and through a ditch.

As they neared the fetch gate, the first packet was standing beyond and to the left of the gate and the fresh packet seemed drawn toward them with every chance of the two lots joining up and destroying Fraser’s chances of success, but he directed Belle into place between them to guide the new packet to the gate while inhibiting the first 10 from moving forward to mix. Once the fresh packet was through the fetch gate, Belle took the 20 to Fraser and drove them round him and away.

Belle’s turn through the drive-away gate was an exemplary sharp turn and she drove them across the second leg of the drive with no trouble. Approaching the cross drive gate, it was hard for a spectator – or the handler – to know if the line was correct, and – to some – it looked a little high, but Belle had them bang on line, put them through, and returned them to the close work.

Fraser and Belle shed 11 unmarked ewes off in twos and threes fairly quickly, until the last four plain ewes were left amidst five collared sheep. The separation took time, effort, and partial attempts, but eventually, two and two were drawn out and five marked sheep taken to the pen, with the clock ever ticking.

Belle was well up to the job and showed her power. She held the sheep and repeatedly reversed them towards and into the pen, and as Fraser brought the gate round to secure the supreme championship, Belle stuck her nose in, to tell a forward ewe – clearly considering her chances of freedom – not to bother trying. The gate shut and the job was done.

The Scottish Farmer: Fraser Shennan and Belle won the International (Photograph: Lisa Soar)Fraser Shennan and Belle won the International (Photograph: Lisa Soar)

ISDS chairman, Ian Fleming said:“We’ve had a tremendous trial, the Cheviot ewes were very good and well presented and that produced a high standard of running on the field. Fraser had a very workmanlike run, and an excellent finish gave him the edge that earned the supreme championship.

"I know there were two men looking down on Fraser, today, very proud of his achievement.” ”

The Scottish team came into the supreme in good fettle with five dogs qualified – Fraser’s Belle, Neil McVicar’s Mark, Elinore Nilsson’s Midderry Kid, Chris Toner’s Niro Mace and Stuart Davidson’s Dan.

Wales had four, while England and Ireland each had three representatives in the final.

The trial was held on open, but undulating ground, surrounded by trees, which put sheep and dogs out of sight at various times on both qualifying and supreme courses.

With handlers standing at the post, without the option of a podium or gantry to give them oversight of the course, it was not always easy to assess lines and actions closely and the shorter competitors suffered for that.

The sheep were generally calm and well behaved, but could test dogs to see whether they had the authority to command them into the pen or out of the ring.

Leading the qualifier were the 2022 supreme champions, Dewi Jenkins and Jock (D Jenkins’ Moss, M Morgan’s Jill) with very steady work which set the standard from the seventh run of the first day.

There were minor deductions throughout the run but no hole that presented any threat to the work and they earned 392 /440 from four judges.

Neil McVicar and Mark spearheaded Scotland’s five qualified to run on the supreme course after taking second place in the qualifying round with one of the later runs of the second day.

Mark (JP McGee’s Glencregg Silver, IM Brownlie’s Lia) took a whistle from Neil to reach his sheep, and made a good job of bringing them to him.

Neil let Mark put the packet fully through the first drive gate for safety, which made a wide turn, but the cross drive went well. A clean shed and pen followed, and although Mark had to work to take the single, he eventually had her and became top Scot of the qualifier with 371pts.

Leading Awards

(Judges, I McConnell (S), I Jones (W), G Bonsall (E) , F Cashen (I)) – 60 dogs ran.

Qualifying trial – 1, D Jenkins’ Jock 346553, 392 Wales; 2, N McVicar’s Mark 371 Scot; 3, M Longton’s Rootenbrook Rex 344996, 363 Eng; 4, E Nilsson’s Midderry Kid 342012, 366 S; 5, I Ll Evans’ Mwnt Mac 363292, 362 W; 6, C Toner’s Niro Mace 370934, 359 S; 7, F Farthing’s Sal 364632, 359 W; 8, F Shennan’s Belle 365935, 358, S; 9, MN O’ Malley’s Bruce 367443, 348 Ire; 10, M Hutchinson’s Katie 345661, 346 E; 11, SL Davidson’s Dan 357454, 345 S; 12, M Feeney’s Mo 372305, 336 I; 13, Ll Harries’ Preseli Jock 346215, 334 W; 14, O Alkubaisy Shy 366105, 328; 15, RJ Hutchinson’s Jonah 362571, 325.

Supreme – 15 dogs ran – 1, F Shennan’s Belle 365935, 560, (57.5) Scot; 2, D Jenkins’ Jock 346553, 537 (54.5) Wales; 3, MN O’ Malley’s Bruce 367443, 551 (52.5) Ire; 4, I Ll Evans’ Mwnt Mac 363292, 532 (50.5) W; 5, F Farthing’s Sal 364632, 519 (45) W; 6, M Longton’s Rootenbrook Rex 344996, 476 (40) Eng; 7, RJ Hutchinson’s Jonah 362571, 450 (36) E; 8, M Hutchinson’s Katie 345661, 401 (32) E; 9, N McVicar’s Mark 372041, 387 (28) S; 10, M Feeney’s Mo 372305, 377 (24) I; 11, O Alkubaisy Shy 366105, 341 (20) I; 12, C Toner’s Niro Mace 370934, 301 (14) Outbye S; 13, E Nilsson’s Midderry Kid 342012, 301 (14) S; 14, SL Davidson’s Dan 357454, Ret, (0) S; 15, Ll Harries’ Preseli Jock 346215, DQ, (0) W.

Brace – 1, DK Evans’ Knockmaa Bec and Hendre Gwen 345695, 490 /560 W; 2, T Thewissen’s Kate and Shep 388810, 351; 3, E Connell’s Clyde and Taff 363363, 340; 4, A Wilkinson’s Grace (ROM) and Pip 356432, 324.

Driving – 1, J Howard’s Lad 343138 E.

Young handlers – 1, AP Corrigan Jnr’s Cap 358284, 355 I; 2, W Carter’s Moonspark Jill (ROM) 370250, 300 E; 3, H Cooper’s Roy (ROM) 396175, 279 S; 4, C Edwards’ Cit 361413, 275 W.