SHEEPDOG enthusiasts from various communities around the Highlands gathered together to learn and discuss the various elements in judging a sheepdog trail at Jasmine Grant's Braehillor Sheepdog Handler Training centre in Caithness.

Participants from Lybster, Thrumster and as far afield as Brora, Ullapool and Bettyhill were in attendance, where five local handlers put their dogs through their paces under the watchful eye of judge, Jock Welsh from Ayrshire, who has been a member of the Scottish National Sheepdog Team more than 20 times, winning the National in 1987. He has also competed in the International Sheep Dog Society Supreme competition on several occasions and four times with two dogs in the final 15 of the country’s top dogs and handlers. No stranger to judging, Jock has judged at National and International level, BBC One Man and His Dog and also extensively in America and Belgium.

In addition to the official judge, the spectators were given the chance to hone their own judging skills and all runs were video recorded and played back to allow Jock to make comment and give advice on how to best point each competitor. All runs were video recorded and played back to allow Jock Welsh to make comment and give advice on how to best point each competitor.

The top award or best trainee judge awarded went to William MacDonald, Tormore, Dunbeath, while Tina Coghill Robertson from Inkstack, Thurso, took the mini sheepdog trial title. Hot on Tina's on heels were Fiona MacDonald, Forss; Jan MacKenzie, Kinbrace; Kelsey Keith, Durness and Neil Mackay, Kirtomy.

"The standard of dogs is just amazing and it is wonderful to see so many people with an interest in sheepdogs. It's great to have this facility here at Braehillor Sheepdog Handler Training centre where folk can have a go with their dogs in a safe and encouraging environment and can build up their confidence and hopefully then go on to compete in nursery and open trials” said Jock.

Jimmy Ogston, vice president of the Scottish Branch of the International Sheep Dog Society was in attendance and gave a very informative talk about the work of the society in regard to dog registration, dog health monitoring and improvements, the National and International Trial, and their plans for the future. Both Jimmy and Jock were very encouraged by the fabulous numbers in attendance and the enthusiasm for the sport from both competitors and spectators. Jimmy was delighted with the enthusiasm of all who took part and commented, “We are always looking for new folk of any age to join in at the trials. It’s a great way to socialise and also improve your dog handling skills”.

On the same day, the event hosted a demonstration of agility by Emma Taylor and Kirsteen Thorburn, who both attend training sessions at the Braehillor centre for handling their sheepdogs, and Kerry Maclennan from the Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RSABI) gave a short talk about her work with the charity.