Don’t be surprised if Ginger Anderson’s name is among the front-runners at the business end of the 2023 New Zealand sheep dog trials, near Balclutha.
The veteran Ōmarama competitor is something of a dog trialling legend and although he is 77 years old and marking 60 years in the sport, Anderson reckons he can add to his already impressive list of achievements.
“Oh hell yeah,” he says, when asked if there is another national title in him.
“You’ve got to have a bit of luck. The ball has got to bounce your way and you’ve got to be able to catch it too.
“Basically, it’s just you, three sheep and a dog. If luck runs your way you’ve got to make use of it.”
Success next week would be fitting, given this year marks 60 years since Anderson first competed in a dog trialling event, as a rawboned teenager.
“I left school and worked in the Maniototo and I ran a dog at the Kyeburn dog trials, which was our local event.
“My father and grandfather were dog triallists and I just sort of followed on.”
It wasn’t a spectacular start to his career and Anderson can’t recall how he went – “I was pretty young and very conscious of trying not to make a fool of myself.”
But it was the catalyst for Anderson to start to forge an enviable reputation in the sport.
He qualified for his first nationals in 1965 and has only missed one event since. In that time he has claimed five national titles, 11 North and South island titles and represented New Zealand on eight occasions.
Anderson says it is his competitive streak and the camaraderie among competitors that encourage him to keep going back.
“When you’re on the mark and competing, it’s no holds barred. I don’t get wound up like I perhaps did years ago.
“But you meet a lot of people and you make a lot of friends. You travel to competitions with people you’ve been friends with for years.”
Next week Anderson will compete in the heading events with two dogs, Jet and Dick.
Jet and Anderson won the New Zealand short head and yard title in Gore in 2021; Dick is a young dog but showing plenty of promise.
Both are descendants of dogs Anderson’s grandfather brought to New Zealand when he emigrated from Scotland in the 1890s.
“We were lucky to have a good breed of dog. I just carried on with what my grandfather brought over.
“My grandfather told my father, ‘Don’t lose this breed of dog.’ They were Highland collies but they’ve evolved a lot, 90% of them are smooth-coated now. There are lots of dogs around New Zealand with bloodlines from our breed.”
Anderson is reluctant to put his feet up and still works on his family farm, Ben Omar Station, which is now run by son John.
“I’m sneaking up a bit. I don’t dig post holes but I’m still working on the farm with my dogs.”
Anderson’s other passion is shooting, particularly duck shooting. He recently opted to stay home for the opening weekend of the game bird season rather than compete at the North Island dog trials in Taupō.
“That would have interfered with duck shooting. As you get a bit older, duck shooting takes priority.”
Anderson expects the nationals, which start on May 22, to be the usual tough competition, with some talented triallists from the North Island heading down to mix it with the those from the South. However, he is confident that with a bit of luck he can give the other competitors a run for their money, not just next week but for plenty more years ahead.
“Obviously, age will win in the long run but if I think I can still compete I’ll always go along.”