Winter Training in Florida - 2024

By Daniel Turcotte

*Photos by Daniel Turcotte


Fall was showing its colours and the days were getting shorter.  The sheep seemed interested in finding comfort in the barn, away from the wind and rain.  As for my dogs, they looked at me wondering if they will continue to work or settle in for the winter break.  The season ended with several trials and clinics and the weather forecasts called for a mild winter which is usually synonymous with ice and rain in Quebec.

My wife and I entered retirement in 2018 and presently live on a bi-generational farm with our daughter, her husband and their children.  This ensures the farm is taken care of when we are away.  We have been making the trip to Florida for the last 4 years, a well-deserved rest we are both look forward to.  There are many trials in Florida in February so we bring along our dogs and rent a place in Sebastian, close to Vero Beach but travel to trials in our camper.  This year, we registered for:

  • Howerton Oaks Sheepdog Showcase, Williston FL on Feb 1 - 4, 2024
  • Wild Winter Wag Sheepdog Trial, Morriston FL on Feb 6 - 8, 2024
  • Suwannee Sheepdog Trial, Wellborn, FL on Feb 10 - 12, 2024
  • C-54 2024 Sheepdog Trial, Fellsmere, FL on Feb 17 - 20, 2024 
  • Linden Hollow Sheepdog Trial, Saint-Cloud, FL on Feb 22 - 25, 2024

Although the nights are cold, the days are usually perfect for trialing.  My objective during the trip is to evaluate the level of my dogs on big fields and spend time watching and talking with more experienced handlers.  It’s kind of the MLB winter training camp.

We left Quebec on the 26th of January 2024 and our first stop was in Maryland at Peggy Simpson and Todd Layfield’s, two great handlers from whom I always get lots of advice.  We continued our trip to John Campbell’s to train some more and pick up a pup that we would deliver to Thad Fleming in Missouri.  Finally, a quick stop to Carol Ann Bailey’s before heading out to Williston for the series of trials.  I am always surprised to see so many Canadian handlers - Hillary Flower, Elizabeth Edmonds, Billie Richardson, Celeste Lacroix, Brian Epp, Joanne and Jim Murphy and Tracy Hinton. It’s always a pleasure to see people we know. 

My intentions were to move Denver to Open and after a couple of noncompetitive runs, I decided to go for it, knowing we couldn’t run PN together again.  It’s a little intimidating to run amongst Gordon Watt and his wife, Marianna Schreeder, Tracy Hinton, Michelle Brothers, Rose Anderson and many more.  I was worried about the shed but with help from Tracy and watching a couple of videos, I managed to complete the course and was pleased with my 60 and 79.  As for our young dog Sept, I guess we will go back to basics and run in PN to gain maturity.

After a month of competition, we are taking a pause in Sebastian, Florida until the next trial in Buena Vista on our way back.  I wish everyone a wonderful herding season and hope to cross your path in NEBCA, OBCC and perhaps ABCQ events.  Finally, I would like to thank everyone who followed our journey and encouraged us in this adventure.

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