Amanda Milliken

Profile: Amanda Millilen

THE PAST


How long have you been active in training and trialing working border collies?

Fourteen years

Tell us how you got started in border collies. Did you have any experience with any other dog sports before you got interested in herding? Did you have any livestock background?

My sister brought us our first taste of Border Collies. She had spent a year in England at riding school, befriending a farming family in the UK, the Ripley's, who like many others ran a dairy with 400 sheep. She saw the Border Collies at work, which is more than I ever saw before I got my first one. Her Border Collie came from Bill Wyatt, now deceased, in Tennessee. She handily brought in Cathy's horses and I assumed her to be singularly intelligent dog, not that she was driven by glorified instincts. She helped with our sheep once or twice and my mother and I went out and bought our first Border Collie, Bart. I never knew what I was doing with him. I had always had plenty of dogs for fun and horses, for three day eventing.

Tell us about your first dog. Did you train the dog yourself? How did you go about finding the dog? Were there any particular challenges that you encountered with the dog? Is there anything you’d do differently if you had the same dog to work with today?

Bart was a great first dog. His breeders had been in touch with my sister Cathy, knowing she had a well bred bitch from Tennessee. And wanting to do a breed. We called them and they sold us Bart. I did train him myself. I went to a clinic put on by Glyn Jones, Bodfari, at the Sheep Focus in Markham, Ontario. Bart was about seven months old, very keen and obedient. Glyn used him to show everyone how to start a dog. I went home and worked on what he said to do and returned the next year for a new clinic-the next stage. The organizers asked why I was not entering in the trial. I asked what was required, thought I could do it, and won. I would have locked up Bart. He had free runoff our farm, as most of our dogs did. It brought him too much eye. He was extremely useful. We had next to no fences and let our sheep run all over the place. Bart would run out and find them anywhere on two or three hundred acres. I think he mentally kept track of where they went throughout the day. He was a good dog.


Were any “big hat” handlers particularly helpful to you when you were starting out? What was the best piece of advice that anyone gave you as a novice?

Jim Cropper. The best piece of advice was to lock up the dogs.


Tell us about your first trial. What class were you in? What happened?

Novice. I won. I knew nothing about it. I thought that if I got the obstacles, I would win. I did not understand an outrun or how it was pointed or anything else.


What were some mistakes you made in your early days that you no longer make?

Letting my dogs run loose.


THE PRESENT


Tell us about the dogs that you’re currently trialing: how many do you have? What are their names? What do you like about each of them?

Eucher and Grace are my top dogs. They are pliable, genuine, powerful and a pleasure with which to live. They win their share. Ethel and Bart are my young ones. They are same way bred, Grace and Craig. I love Bart. He is a lot like the one he is named for, my first Border Collie.


What is your general working routine with your dogs? How often do you work each of them? How do you tend to plan and structure each working session?

I tend to give the agricultural chores to the youngsters and run my older ones more for the exercise than anything else. Bart sheds off and takes the work sheep out to where we will work. I usually shape things like a trial course-a gather and triangular drive to no consistent destination and shed. I try to give each dog about fifteen or twenty minutes, every day when the footing is decent.


What are your facilities like? How large are your fields? How many (and what type of) sheep do you have? Are you able to get to different fields often?

I have plenty of big fields. And keep sheep that are good to dog-about 120. I can go to all kinds of fields without leaving the farm.


Do you prefer training your own dogs now or purchasing trained dogs? What qualities do you look for in a dog? Do you use your trial dogs for farm chores?

I train my own. I have been most successful with them. Power, trainability. Yes I use them for all kinds of farm chores, the more the merrier.


How do you mentally prepare for a run on the day of a trial?

Think about what direction I have to go.


What has been your most gratifying trial experience to date?

Penning with Hazel at Grass Creek Park. They were being difficult and she told me to steady. She was right.


What are your goals as a trainer and handler? How are you working toward those goals?

Be the best. Practice and win. Surely everyone wants that.


ODDS AND ENDS


What do you see as the single biggest challenge facing the sport of trialing border collies today?

Getting accessible good sheep in large numbers.

What advice would you give to a novice starting out in the sport?

Try to think like a dog and behave like a human being.




When Ordinary Humiliation
Just Isn't Enough