Trials dogged by the growing flock of Saturday amateurs

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The Independent Online
A sharp whistle split the early morning air and the first run of the International Sheepdog Trials was under way.

Eric Barfoot, 50, a fisheries officer from County Tyrone, stood with his dog, Man, on the Chatsworth estate in Derbyshire ready to compete. He is among a growing number of "Saturday trialists" in the sport who have never worked on a farm. The trend has angered some shepherds.

"There is resentment, but I compete because I love it," he said. "I know I will never be able to read sheep the way a full-time shepherd does but I get pleasure from working with a dog and just being outside."

Nearby was Mike Northwood, 38, a full-time shepherd. "There are more Saturday trialists than ever before," he said. "They can do it because they've got money to buy good dogs at something like pounds 1,500 a time. I don't begrudge them the pleasure but I don't think they should compete with full-time shepherds."

Philip Hendry, the secretary of the International Sheepdog Society, said of the sport's growing popularity: "It is the attraction of the unique partnership between man or woman and a working dog. The public just love it."