Cattledogs return to Steamboat Springs |

Cattledogs return to Steamboat Springs

National Cattledog Association National Finals

Flying Diamond Ranch


8 a.m. Open division on main field

1 p.m. Intermediate horseback division on main field

3 p.m. Free cattledog clinic


8 a.m. Nursery division on main field

9 a.m. Intermediate division on small field

12:30 p.m. Free cattledog clinic

1:30 p.m. Open horseback division on main field


8 a.m. Open division on main field

10 a.m. Intermediate horseback division on small field

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Western Craft Festival

Noon to 3 p.m. Handler and dog meet and greet

1 p.m. Intermediate division on small field


8 a.m. Nursery division on main field

9 a.m. Open horseback division on small field

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Western Craft Festival

Noon to 1 p.m. Meet a breeder

1 p.m. Intermediate division finals on small field

1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Handler and dog meet and greet

2 p.m. Whistle demonstration

3 p.m. Open horseback finals on main field


8 a.m. Nursery division finals on main field

10 a.m. Intermediate horseback finals on small field

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Western Craft Festival

11 a.m. Free cattledog clinic and whistle demonstration

Noon Open division finals on main field

Noon to 3 p.m. Handler and dog meet and greet

Noon to 1 p.m. Meet a Breeder

During Open finals: Brace demonstration

— Bob Wagner was looking for some help on the ranch, running cattle near Nunn, a small town northwest of Fort Collins and near the Wyoming border.

He bought a dog to provide that help, but the owner insisted he be allowed to continue competing with the animal in cattledog trials through the summer. Wagner’s interest was piqued, so he went to see what his new dog could do.

Years later, he’s still attending those trials, but now he’s a competitor.

He says he stuck his head into the world of cattledog competitions, and he was never the same.

Now, as he and a field of competitors from around the nation prepare for the National Cattledog Association National Finals this week in Steamboat Springs, he’s hoping people will swing by and open themselves up to the same experience that hooked him.

“It’s an absolutely spectacular display of dogs,” Wagner said Monday, taking a short break from work to prepare for the five-day event, which will be held at the Flying Diamond Ranch on Colorado Highway 131 south of Steamboat.

“We’re talking about dogs, between 35 and 55 pounds, and they’re moving cattle that weigh 1,000 pounds,” he said. “The way they do it, the skills they show, if you haven’t seen it, there’s very little like it.”

Finals return

The NCA National Finals return to Steamboat Springs for the second year in a row starting on Wednesday. The event will stretch until Sunday, running through preliminary rounds first, then finals on Saturday and Sunday.

There will be five divisions, three with dogs, including a nursery division for new dogs, an intermediate division for new humans and the open division for the best of the best. There also will be two horseback divisions, an intermediate division and an open division.

Each day will begin at about 8 a.m. and run into the afternoon, and each competition will challenge the dogs and their owners in unique ways.

The dogs are tasked with herding cattle across a pasture. It’s not as simple as it sounds, however. There are obstacles in the way and tasks such as siphoning off just a few cattle or splitting the herd that the dogs must accomplish.

The dogs are being directed the entire time by the controllers, who stand in a corner of the field and only have a whistle to convey their commands.

It’s a sight to see, Wagner said, and those interested will have an opportunity to do more than just watch.

The NCA is a new organization, only started in 2012. Last year’s event was its first national finals, and Steamboat was selected to play host because organizers were hoping to draw a crowd.

“We were looking for a place that had some draw besides us,” Wagner said. “We have to be realistic. People won’t drive hundreds of miles just to watch a cattledog trial. But Steamboat Springs is a well-known destination. It’s very popular and exceedingly beautiful. People can come out and do all of the things there are to do in Steamboat and pay us a visit, as well.”

The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association has worked with the group, offering $5,000 this year to support publicity and promotion. 
It all worked well last year, but organizers are hoping for better attendance this week.

Showing off

One way they hope to draw more interest is by showing how they get their dogs to do such amazing things. This week’s competition will be filled with demonstrations and opportunities for fans to meet the dog handlers and the dogs.

“They did a couple demonstrations last year, and they were really big and popular,” said Lisa Warner, who is working with the NCA through Misto Productions in Steamboat.

There will be clinics, demonstrations and meet-and-greets every day of the finals. People are invited to bring their working dogs for training sessions three times — Wednesday at 3 p.m., Thursday at 12:30 p.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m. There will be dog whistle demonstrations Saturday at 3 p.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m. Finally, on Sunday during the open-class finals, there will be a brace demonstration, where one handler uses two whistles to control two dogs.

It should certainly be enough to give any passersby an idea of what exactly is going on, and Wagner is hoping those experiences have the same effect on some fans that they had on him when he was first introduced to the world of cattledog trials.

He and the NCA are hoping it’s enough to keep fans filling the stands and to keep the organization coming back to Steamboat Springs.

“This year is a really critical year,” he said. “We’ve done a better job publicizing things, and I’m hoping that translates into more attendance and more spectators.

“It’s a lot of fun. People can spend a day out with us at the ranch and have a really good time.”

Tickets for the event are available at the gate and cost $10 for adults for a day or $30 for the week. Children cost $5 for a day and $15 for the week. The Flying Diamond Ranch is located on Highway 131, about 12 miles south of Steamboat.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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