GRANITE Belt stockman Gary Hurtz proved combining experience with a string of young dogs can work on the state sheep dog trial circuit where he was named 2013 Queensland Open Handler of the Year.
The Stanthorpe-based competitor was the highest point-scorer, taking home the Jack Parr Family Open Handler trophy for a second time with 141 points.
It was a fitting reward for the experienced dog trialler, who first won the title in 2010, then missed out by half a point in 2011.
"I won by 10 points this year and it was a good feeling," he laughed.
Trialling working sheep dogs is a great sport and it's growing in popularity all the time. What keeps people like me coming back each time to compete is the belief you will have a better run next time.
Mr Hurtz attributes his success to a team of young dogs that continually performed well in the novice and improver classes.
"It is getting harder and harder to win an open title because there are more and more competitors in the sport and the quality of dogs is continually improving," he said.
"If you make a final you can consider your dog did well and luck was with you so, to accumulate the points to contend for the open trophy, you need to have success with young dogs in other classes."
This year the accomplished hand-ler had eight or nine dogs with him on the circuit and competed at around 20 Queensland trials.
Yet the undisputed star of his canine collection was Hurty's Roley which was named 2013 Queensland Novice Dog of the year.
The three-year-old border collie won a total of 37.5 points for his handler this season on his way to the coveted overall novice title.
"I start my dogs around 15-18 months so Roley hasn't had a lot of experience but he has a lot of potential," Mr Hurtz said.
The end of the 2013 season brought mixed emotions for the Southern Downs local, who also made the tough decision to step down from his position as president of the Queensland Working Sheep Dog Association.
He has had a hands-on role with the associations for seven years, almost as long as he has been competing on the state working sheep dog circuit.
"My involvement in trialling started about eight years ago, when I went out to Goondiwindi to help my son Nathan run a trial," Mr Hurtz said.
"By the end of the day I had bought an old dog and was keen to give it a go.
"That old dog was a great way to get started competing, he taught me a lot about trialling."
The following year he joined the QWSDA council determined to give something back to the association.
"Right from the word go I was keen to lend a hand and help make events happen," he explained.
Describing his time as president as a "learning curve", he highlights overseeing the Australian Supreme in Warwick last year as the pinnacle of his reign.
"I had a great committee and the event went well and it was a success and a good way to showcase our region," Mr Hurtz said.
At trial level he said a defining change he made as president was introducing a $1-a-run charge: paid by competitors and forwarded by the association onto committees hosting events like the Queensland Supreme.
"It meant the association could help committees pay for the cost of finding sheep and other expenses involved in running a trial," Mr Hurtz said.
"I am very proud of the change; it made a significant difference."
The other major change he initiated was a three-dog policy allowing triallers with fewer entries to compete on just Saturdays and Sundays, instead of having to be there for the full three days of competition.
"I am proud of what I accomplished as president and I will still be involved at local level," Mr Hurtz said.
"Trialling working sheep dogs is a great sport and it's growing in popularity all the time.
"What keeps people like me coming back each time to compete is the belief you will have a better run next time."
When the Bush Tele caught up with Mr Hurtz he was back from the Australian Supreme Championships in Cobar where his dog, Wolfe's Snoopy, finish eighth in the national event against the top 250 dogs.
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