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Barking mad farm lifestyle

TRIP METER: Jenny Nolan travelled more than 5200km with 26 dogs to compete in Warwick. She is pictured her with her favourite co-passenger Nolan’s Roy.
TRIP METER: Jenny Nolan travelled more than 5200km with 26 dogs to compete in Warwick. She is pictured her with her favourite co-passenger Nolan’s Roy. Toni Somes

OPTING to drive 5200km with 26 dogs - including three upfront in the dual cab, alongside a litter of pups born along the way - suggests you are either extraordinarily committed or possibly a little mad.

Of course for Western Australian Jenny Nolan making it to the 2012 Coprice Australian Supreme Championships with a trailer, ute and carload of canines is simply evidence of her love for both her animals and the sport.

The 58-year-old hails from Dowerin, 160km north west of Perth, and thinks nothing of hitting the road for up to two months at a time on the working dog trial circuit.

She had been travelling for weeks when the Bush Tele caught up with her at the Warwick Showgrounds competing at places like Cobar, before heading into Queensland for the national titles.

She arrived in the Rose City in a blur of black and white with dogs in a purpose-built trailer, another group in cages on the back of her ute and three riding in style in the front of her dual cab.

Sitting shotgun was her personal favourite, a lanky border collie called Nolan's Roy, who at 11 is the oldest of the pack.

"It's not that big a deal," Ms Nolan explained when quizzed about her choice of travelling companions.

"You just have to have regular stops.

"We break every two hours and that works for both the dogs and me as the driver."

And when she pulls over there is no staggered run time for her charges: she simply releases them altogether.

"I have even had other triallers asking me if I run my dogs together," Ms Nolan said. "Of course I do. They are well disciplined: I let them out to have a run and then I say get up and they are all back where they belong."

She believes the experience, not to mention the patience and kindness, involved with raising three sons has served her well as a dog handler.

"If you want good dogs you need to spend time with them, do things with them, so in some ways it's like raising kids," she explained.

Today her children are grown up and she lives on nearly 95 hectares of hobby farm with her dogs and a menagerie of other pets and a mob of 80 sheep.

She and her husband had an amicable split 12 years ago, possibly she concedes as a result of her growing interest in working dogs.

It's a marked changed from someone who started life as a city girl, trained as a secretary and then married, shifting her family around inland Australia and New Zealand following her husband's mining commitments.

"We moved a lot. I have lived in Perth, Kununurra, Darwin, Tom Price, Jabiru, Southern Cross and New Zealand and for the most part it was good.

"You have to make the most of wherever you are."

It was a move across the Tasman, back in 1995, which sparked her interested in working dogs.

"Since I was 12 I had wanted a farm dog, so when the chance came for me to have one I took it."

Under the guidance of experienced Kiwi handlers she began trialling and a passion was born.

One that so piqued her interest she even enrolled in an agricultural course to develop her understanding of livestock, so she could in turn improve her dog trialling skills.

When she returned to Australia a few years later it was with her trusty first dog, a bitch called Katie and two females from her litter Nolan's Yoda and Nolan's Ashley.

"It snowballed from there," she laughed.

"Most of my dogs today can be traced back to those three females."

These days she has represented Western Australian in the slightly different yard trialling competition and remains an avid supporter of the working sheep dog circuit.

"I love just working my dogs, I don't have to win.

"If my dog and I finish out there in the ring and we've had a good run then I'm happy."

And she said being a female made little difference in a sport with a growing number of women.

"When I first started in New Zealand, old fellas use to say you should be in the cookhouse, when they saw me with my dogs," Ms Nolan said.

"But that was 15 years ago and things have changed.

"In Western Australia I think there are a lot of women trialling dogs and I think it reflects what women are doing in agriculture.

"They are very involved in farming and a lot of them have great stock sense so they are doing well and they are very accepted."

Last year the supreme championships were hosted by her home state and as a trial organiser she is well aware of the challenges of getting an event together.

"Warwick has done a very good job of organising this event and as a trialler I really appreciate that.

There is a lovely sense of camaraderie in this sport and I think most of us know what happens behind the scenes to host an event like this."

Topics:  queen of the paddock rural lifestyle