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ISDS No: 226598 (Registered on Merit)
13th March 1990 – 27th August 2004
Polly, registered at the Kennel Club as Ma Biche of Whenway was bred by my wife Sheena and Ann Jordan. She was sired by our N.Z.Ch & Sh.Ch. Clan-Abby Blue Aberdoone out of a bitch bred by June Simmons, Awaywoodever Lucy, who was by our Sh.Ch. Tork of Whenway out of Whenway Forever Waywood.
Polly gained her distinction by becoming, and to my knowledge is still the only "show bred" Border Collie to gain ISDS Registration on merit by winning an Open Sheepdog Trial. (Ed. See footnote)
Polly was the first dog that I attempted to train for sheepdog trials and without a tremendous lot of help from Philip Davies-Russell and his father Steve I would never have succeeded. They encouraged me from the very beginning of her training when I think Philip despaired of me achieving anything. I spent hours and hours just practising doing one thing at a time and when I could achieve that with her I would phone up and say "What do I do next?"
Without the help of other people whose sheep I used to train her with (big thanks to Ann Jordan) I could never have done so much with her. Eventually we purchased the field at the rear of our house, bought some ewes and things became easier!!!!!
My first real success with her (well it was a success for both of us in those early days) was coming 5th in a Novice Trial at Kinlet SDS in 1992.
1993 saw us once again at Blaeneinon Sheepdog Training Centre and more advice from Philip and Steve. During our fortnight's holiday we were entering usually two trials a day in Wales. We entered in the Open Novice National trial at the Pembrokeshire county show in Haverfordwest. I did not bother to have a combined run (one run scores for both the Novice and Open trial) because she was so bad the previous day at a trial. She ran and worked brilliantly, walked the sheep around the course and I knew that she had performed brilliantly. We left and went back to
Blaeneinon leaving Philip at the trial. With over 100 dogs running during the day it was late when Philip knocked the cottage door and told me that I had won the Novice trial and that if I had booked in for a combined run I would also have won the Open trial as well. I was delighted (having beaten a lot of the top Welsh handlers that day) and "gutted" as if I had the combined run I would have been able to register Polly on merit at the ISDS.
Later that year we won the Novice trial at Worcestershire Agricultural College and came fifth in the Open trial.
In 1994 Polly passed the KC/ISDS working test.
Over the next two years we entered Moreton Hall SDS Members trials and won two of the Opens but as they were members trials they did not count for registration on merit!!
On the 30th June 1996 we entered an Open Trial again at Moreton Hall SDS (this was an Open trial and not restricted to members so did qualify for merit registration). We were drawn to run last and Polly again had a very good run, I was hopeful of a place as some good handlers had also had good runs but I was absolutely delighted when I was told that we had won, I phoned Sheena to tell her and she could not believe it. We applied for Registration which is not a simple process and eventually we got it.
At a sheepdog trial the worst part in my opinion is actually plucking up the courage to walk out to the start post!! You then hope that your dog has seen the sheep to be gathered (!) and you send them on the outrun, which can best be described as an arcing run to the left or right which hopefully ends up with the dog behind the sheep at a distance that does not unsettle them. The dog is then (hopefully) stopped. The next part of the trial is the lift in which the dog should advance on the sheep again steadily so as not to unsettle them and start to move them in a straight line towards the handler. The main desire in trials is to get the sheep to go around the course in straight lines, it is no good to get all the sheep through the gates if the lines are not straight between them!! (Took me a few trials to get to grips with that basic). The sheep are then brought to the handler, who is still by the starting post, guided around the back of the handler, round the post and driven away IN A STRAIGHT LINE. The drive element of the test is to drive the sheep in a triangle, through a set of gates, you then turn the sheep left or right depending on the course, keep them IN A STRAIGHT LINE to another set of gates, pass them through and turn them again back to the handler IN A STRAIGHT LINE. Then usually the sheep are shedded...depending on the trial, one or two are split from the others and held until the judge(s) are satisfied that the dog is in control of the sheep. They are then put back together and IN A STRAIGHT LINE moved to the pen and hopefully penned at the first attempt.
I must tell you about a trial at Moreton Hall that I entered with Pol. The sheep were absolutely crackers and when I sent her on her outrun (which was in driving rain and mud about six inches deep) they just took off and
disappeared over the brow of the hill. I could do nothing really and Pol also disappeared over the hill. I had absolute confidence in her and after about two minutes of everybody standing about waiting to see what I was going to do the sheep came back over the hill at about thirty miles an hour, covered in mud from head to foot followed by what can only be described as something small and covered in mud from head to foot - Pol. I have never been so proud in my life, she was soaked to the skin, absolutely mud splattered but she brought her sheep back to me. I think that that summed her up - no matter what type of sheep there was only one way - "Pol's".
I would say to anyone who wants to have a go at training a sheepdog to seek help from an expert and be prepared for a long hard road. Since Polly, I have trained her daughter Rosie (by Int Sup Ch Spot) and she has been placed in a couple of Nursery trials and I have a dog at home (Fells Drew) who is too strong for me to handle at trials but is very good helping me with moving sheep etc, but I can honestly say that there will only ever be one dog for me and that is my Polly. I was devastated when I had to take her to be put to sleep and no other dog could ever replace her.
The MBCC extends grateful thanks to Bruce for writing Polly's Tale for us.
Footnote 2008. Remarkably, Bruce has achieved a second ROM with Bridacre Flair, now ISDS registered as Charlie 297431. What a tremendous feat and what a dedicated handler - many congratulations!
Footnote 2010. Bruce does it again! Littlethorn Qashqai (Eve) passed the ISDS Working Test in October to achieve her ROM (ISDS number 309472). More congratulations to a superb trainer/handler!