We didn't know about the Casterton Kelpie Muster until we became the owners of a Kelpie working dog, but once we heard about it we knew we definitely had to check it out this year.
Held annually, during the Queen's Birthday long weekend in June, the 2016 event marked the 20th anniversary of this popular weekend festival in Casterton, Western Victoria.
We started planning our week long getaway many months ago, as is the way when living on a farm with multiple live creature's needs to be catered for daily.
You can read here about planning to get away together in my last blog post.
Casterton, Vic, is situated 63kms across the Victorian border from the pretty little town of Penola or 70kms from Mt Gambier in the south east of South Australia.
Meg is at home on her bed in the caravan.We took our trusty old caravan and had made our booking three months prior, to stay four nights at Coleraine caravan park which is 28km east of Casterton on the Hamilton Highway. This proved to be a really wise decision as every man (woman) and their dog were at Casterton. All accommodation was booked out and caravans took over the Casterton caravan park, as well as numerous allocated paddocks surrounding the town.
I love my peaceful sleep, so we were happy to drive the twenty minutes from Coleraine to Casterton each day. (Keep this to yourself though, we hope to enjoy the same quiet caravan park next year.)
Casterton takes pride in being the birthplace of the Kelpie Australian working dog
On the first day (Saturday) we joined in the opening street parade with hundreds of other Kelpie owners and our dogs. All of us positive that our Kelpie was the most wonderful, ;) but really, there is no ugly Kelpie.
Events were held over the day at various sites, all within easy walking distance of the Casterton main street.
The Bushman's Challenge is a showcse of the many talents of rider, stock horse and working dog. I could have watched this all day, but other events were happening at the same time, so we tried to spread ourselves across everything, but I'm sure I missed some things.
The high jump grows in height incrementally until only one dog is left in the running.
The winner was Bailey jumping an incredible 2.915 metres and breaking the record.
The Hill Climb.One dog at a time is released from this small area at the bottom and runs to its handler who is calling the dog from the top of this hill.
The hill is steep, impossible to walk up or down, so the handlers at the top are driven up to the lookout via the road in the official ute. It's hard to spot the dog running in this picture.
The dog with the best time wins, and any dog that runs through the two white squares at the beginning of the climb are awarded an extra five seconds, but very few did.
Some dogs lost sight and sound of their handler as they were less than half way up the hill, and returned to their handler at the bottom, so we figured there must have been a blind spot there somewhere.
(The two white blobs in the foreground are small pieces of sheep's wool stuck on the fence.)
Our strategy for entering Meg next year will take this into account. ;)
Well, by way of explanation, there was a display of Australian animals in a small marquee, to show the City folks maybe. I felt sorry for the poor possum, who should have been asleep in a dark hollow, but was displayed in an open cage with no shelter. The snakes and lizards should have been in hibernation, and I guess this bloke thought he was keeping his snake warm. But enough about that.
This is my idea of blissful entertainment. I happily sat on the hay bales for hours watching these amazing dogs.
The top dog sold for $10,000, with the average prices being around $6-$7k.
As it was Brian's birthday earlier this month, I purchased a day of training for him and Meg at the Ewe, Me & the Dog clinic on the holiday Monday following the Kelpie Muster.
I was allowed to attend with him, and it was an educational and fun day spent on a beautiful sheep property a few kilometres from Casterton. Eight other Kelpie owners from as far away as Queensland and of course, us from South Australia, gained much knowledge from working dog guru Joe Spicer
It was music to my ears when Joe told us that we should be spending as much time with our working dogs as possible and that it's OK to let them inside and be a part of the family if we want to.
It has always been my belief that a working dog can be a companion friend as well. The more time we spend with them, the more they will want to do things that please us like bringing those sheep back to "the Boss".
We do need to be clear and consistent in our training, but that doesn't mean we have to rule with an iron fist.
On Tuesday we packed up the caravan and drove across to the Colac area to spend a night with my sister Annie on the acreage she runs with her husband Darren.
I have heaps of photos of her magnificent garden to show you... in the next blog post.
On the way home we spent a night at Kaniva caravan park. It was so cold, we needed power to run our little fan heater, otherwise we would have freedom camped somewhere out in the bush and had a fire. Brrrr....