Stock Dog Challenge highlights Steamboat’s rich agricultural history | SteamboatToday.com

Stock Dog Challenge highlights Steamboat’s rich agricultural history

Nicole Inglis

Owen, owned by Lynn Graziano, of Hotchkiss, finishes his run at the sixth annual Steamboat Stock Dog Challenge. This year’s event is at 8 a.m. Saturday.





Owen, owned by Lynn Graziano, of Hotchkiss, finishes his run at the sixth annual Steamboat Stock Dog Challenge. This year's event is at 8 a.m. Saturday.
Matt Stensland

— In a stock dog competition, success depends on the actions of more than just the dog, said Mariane Sasak, a local dog trainer and event organizer for this weekend's seventh annual Steamboat Stock Dog Challenge.

"Nothing is set in stone except for the course," Sasak said. "You're dealing with the variables of three animals: the dog, the sheep and the human being."

In this weekend's event at Stanko Ranch, almost 100 canines will compete in a working dog contest, chasing, herding and cutting a flock of sheep with precision and exuberance.

Starting at 8 a.m. Saturday at the ranch, which is 3.5 miles from Bud Werner Memorial Lib­­rary on Twenty­mile Road, Sasak said the open class, or advanced dogs, will compete when they will "fetch" a flock of five sheep 350 yards away from them.

The intermediate dogs will run Sunday morning on a smaller course, and a surprise event will take place midday Sunday. The open dogs will continue Sunday and Monday when they compete by cutting and herding half the flock into a pen.

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Sasak said the spectator area offers views of the field unparalleled at other stock dog events.

"I love the excitement that working dogs bring to people," Sasak said. "When you see a dog working, it's so cool when people see that. It makes you feel good, and we need to have agricultural events in Steamboat."

She said the skills of the stock dogs and their handlers, who will travel to the competition from across the country, are indicative of the rich heritage of the sheep industry in Northwest Colorado.

"This is a very large piece of our valley," Sasak said. "There are thousands of sheep grazing all over the valley, and it's a big area for the United States for wool production."

The three-day event will feature activities for children, in addition to the competition.

Melody Villard, who runs a sheep ranch north of Craig, plans to bring one of her family's sheep wagons to demonstrate how sheepherders live on the range. She will offer activities such as butter-churning and coloring stations, as well as an educational video about sheep shearing.

"It's a good way to keep the kids entertained, and it's a good outreach thing to do," Villard said.

"We really think education about what we do is important, not only from a local product standpoint, but also the history and the heritage of it. We want people to kind of understand what we do and why we do it so we have an opportunity to continue to do it and pass that on to our children."

The Villard Ranch employs about four border collies at a time to help retrieve livestock and manage the flocks, as well as several large guard dogs to protect the sheep against predators.

Sasak, who helps the Villards train some of their working dogs, said the four-legged animals are the real focus of the weekend.

"People in Steamboat absolutely love anything to do with dogs," she said. "It's exciting when they get to see dogs do real jobs and doing what they're bred to do."


Labor Day weekend events in Routt County

Saturday

• Steamboat Stock Dog Challenge, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Stanko Ranch, 3.5 miles from Bud Werner Memorial Library on Twentymile Road. The event is free and open to the public.

• Wild West Air Fest, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Steamboat Springs Airport on Routt County Road 129. Admission is $5. Call 970-879-0880.

• Mainstreet Farmers Market, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sixth Street and Lincoln Avenue

• Festivities in Oak Creek, starting at 10 a.m., including a fishing derby, horseshoe tournament, music and a the crowning of Oak Creek Coal Princess and Queen at 3 p.m. Decker Park, Willow Bend and Moffat Avenue.

Sunday

• Steamboat Stock Dog Challenge, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Stanko Ranch, 3.5 miles from Bud Werner Memorial Library on Twentymile Road. The event is free and open to the public.

• Wild West Air Fest, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Steamboat Springs Airport on C.R. 129. Admission is $5. Call 970-879-0880.

• Chuck Wagon Chili Challenge and Downtown Hoedown, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Eighth and Oak streets

• Historical Society barbecue, 4:30 to 7 p.m., Decker Park in Oak Creek, Willow Bend and Moffat Avenue. A VFW awards presentation is at 5:30 p.m.

• Rocky Mountain Bull Bash, 5 p.m., Brent Romick Rodeo Arena at Fifth Street and Howelsen Parkway. Tickets are $25 to $30. Call 970-879-0880.

Monday

• Steamboat Stock Dog Challenge, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Stanko Ranch, 3.5 miles from Bud Werner Memorial Library on Twentymile Road. The event is free and open to the public.

• Oak Creek Labor Day Parade, 11 a.m. Main Street.

• Festivities in Oak Creek start after the parade in Decker Park, Willow Bend and Moffat Avenue.

For more events

Discover more Labor Day weekend events at the Steamboat Pilot & Today events calendar:

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Monday

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