Weekend could mark final Steamboat Stock Dog Challenge | SteamboatToday.com

Weekend could mark final Steamboat Stock Dog Challenge

Nicole Inglis

— This Labor Day weekend could be the last for the eight-year tradition of the Steamboat Stock Dog Challenge, a local event that brings dog handlers from across the country to Steamboat for a sheep-herding competition and community gathering at the Stanko Ranch.

Organizer Mariane Sasak said that the workload has become too much for her and her volunteers and that she'll be looking to scale back the event or help someone else with the organizational aspects in future years.

"I really like meeting the people and bringing this kind of competition to Steamboat because a lot of people in town have really enjoyed it," Sasak said Tuesday. "That's the fun part. I do it because I like the event. But it's too much work for me."

But that won't change how the Steamboat Stock Dog Challenge goes off this weekend, with more than 80 dogs ready to step into the spotlight while herding sheep in front of the crowds at the Stanko Ranch.

The annual event takes place over three days this holiday weekend. Advanced and intermediate dogs will compete in several herding tasks at the command of their handlers.

The event starts at 8 a.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday and is free to attend.

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Spectators are encouraged to bring their dogs as long as they're leashed and have water. The handlers will be wandering the crowds with their working dogs to answer questions, while an announcer gives the audience a comprehensive play-by-play and analysis of the sheep-herding tasks.

There will be ranching-related activities for children from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., including butter churning and tours of sheep wagons. There will be barbecue at 11 a.m. each day, and Saturday's barbecue will feature Colorado lamb.

Sasak said even those who have never seen working dogs in action will be impressed.

"Most people's dogs barely sit when they tell them," Sasak said. "These dogs are 200 yards away and changing direction based on a whistle. That's the difference. People don't know how well their dogs can be trained."

On Tuesday, Sasak had one of the competing dog trainers sitting in her kitchen. Maureen Robinson, of Zirconia, N.C., has been attending the Steamboat Stock Dog Challenge for three years and arrived in Steamboat early this year to camp on Sasak's land and enjoy the scenery.

Robinson once worked at a competitive dog school but switched to sheep herding training five years ago and has been enjoying the ride with her border collies ever since.

"I've done a lot of other dog sports, but herding is the one dog sport that the dog really expresses beyond any shadow of a doubt that it's a team effort," Robinson explained.

"The field is super," she said. "What I like about Steamboat is the beautiful field and having river access and the nice town turnout. Having spectators that are interested in seeing the dogs, that's always nice. And having lamb barbecue is high on my list."

— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com

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