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Cattlemen’s classic a real trial for cattle dogs

Craig Balls' dog Jasper pushes cows through gates at the Routt County Cattlemen’s Classic Cattle Dog Trials on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, at Brent Romick Arena in Steamboat Springs.
Eli Pace/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The Routt County Cattlemen’s Classic Cattle Dog Trials at Brent Romick Arena last weekend were an arduous test for the dogs and their handlers.

“The course was maybe a little more challenging than I expected when I laid it out,” said Jeff Meyers, who designed the course and serves as co-chair of the event, along with his wife, Erika Murphy. 

Meyers said he expected about half the dogs to finish, which he said is the goal when designing cattle dog courses, but only a handful were able to successfully complete the course within the six-minute limit. 



A difficult aspect of designing a cattle dog trial course, according to Meyers, is predicting how the cattle will respond to the many other variables. 

Still, Meyers added that he doesn’t mind if Steamboat has a reputation for putting out a challenging course. 



“Was it a little too challenging this year?” Meyers asked. “It could have been just a little easier on both dates. But still, the people with the best dogs who had the best outings did the best, and that’s what the dog trial is all about.” 

Gentry Holt’s dog Nell nips at one of the cows during the Routt County Cattlemen’s Classic Cattle Dog Trials on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, at Brent Romick Arena in Steamboat Springs.
Eli Pace/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Keri Palmer and her dog Ike out of Kadoka, South Dakota, won the open class, which is the highest division of cattle dog handlers ahead of the nursery, intermediate and novice classes. 

“She doesn’t go to as many trials as a lot of people,” Meyers said, adding that he’s never been to a trial where Palmer didn’t do well. “She’s just an excellent handler. She’s got some really good dogs.”

Bob Wagner and his dog Swoop from Nunn won the nursery class. 

“That guy is a really, really good handler,” said Meyers. “He’s the superintendent of the trial at the National Western Stock Show, which is a huge trial.”

The nursery class is limited to dogs under 2 years old. According to Meyers, the nursery class often features some of the best handlers in the sport because its only restriction is the age of the dog, and doesn’t bar experienced handlers from competing like the novice and intermediate classes do.

Gentry Holt, whom Meyers described as a young up-and-comer, won the intermediate class with her dog Annie. Hannah Rowlan and her dog Tiffany from Hyde Park won the novice class. 

Gentry Holt directs her dog Nell during the Routt County Cattlemen’s Classic Cattle Dog Trials on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, at Brent Romick Arena in Steamboat Springs.
Eli Pace/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The entire event was staffed by volunteers from both the Future Farmers of America and the 4-H club, which were the primary beneficiaries of the donations the event collected. 

“Handling all those cattle, keeping track of the score, chasing down food and doing all that stuff, it’s a lot of work,” said Meyers of the volunteers. 

Ladder Ranch, which runs along the border of Wyoming and Colorado, provided the cattle. 

Craig Balls and Jasper get ready for their turn at the Routt County Cattlemen’s Classic Cattle Dog Trials on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, at Brent Romick Arena in Steamboat Springs.
Eli Pace/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Meyers said the Routt County Cattlemen’s Classic is a great opportunity to connect people in Steamboat with the town’s agricultural history, saying the cattle dog trials are meant to emulate the work many dogs do on ranches and farms. 

“A lot of people from town — everywhere in the country today but in Steamboat for sure — don’t have much of a connection to agriculture anymore.” Meyers said. “But almost everybody likes dogs.” 

Craig Balls’ dog Jasper gets nose-to-nose with one of the cows during the Routt County Cattlemen’s Classic Cattle Dog Trials on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, at Brent Romick Arena in Steamboat Springs.
Eli Pace/Steamboat Pilot & Today

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