◆ The best dogs and their handlers will compete July 11-16.
The Mountain States Stockdog Association (MSSA) National Finals will once again be held in Afton in July. The week- long competition is the culmination of a year of stockdog trials around both the US and Canada.
In the trial, dogs and their handlers will compete by moving livestock through obstacles. Stockdog trials give a chance to show off the talent of working dogs around the country. Handlers earn points in competition all year long in hopes to qualify for the finals in Afton.
“They go and send us the results, and then we calculate and give points to the top 30 percent. They get points that qualify towards nationals, and then to come to nationals, it’s the top dogs,” said Steve Wight, President of the MSSA.
Steve Wight founded the MSSA in 2015, and has seen the trials grow in popularity exponentially.
“Right now in our database there’s thousands of dogs and people trying to make it to this year’s nationals,” Wight said. “There’s people coming from Tennessee, Alabama, Canada, all over.”
Wight, who runs Mill Iron S Ranch, provides the livestock for the trials. Currently MSSA is the only organization that uses both cattle and sheep in competitions.
“We have over 700 head of stock here, 400 head of cattle and 300 sheep,” Wight said. “The sheep come right off the mountain and the cattle are at my house getting ready.”
There will be four arenas running events all week long. There are three divisions, as well as a nursery division for younger dogs and a junior handler division for the younger humans. All of the events will be live streamed, and last year’s stockdog finals had over 1 million views.
“Afton’s great. The people come here not just for the dog finals, it’s their vacation,” Wight said.
This year there will be live music and bounce houses, plus food and merchandise vendors. The event itself, however, is free to the public. The last day of the trials, Saturday, is Family Day. Wight said they make an effort to make the events family-friendly.
“It’s a way good group of people, it’s family oriented,” Wight said. “These people are the best group of people I’ve ever met.”
The Finals also give back to the community. Last year MSSA gave $30,000 to the local 4H program.
The MSSA National Finals will begin Monday, July 11 and will run through Saturday, July 16 at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds.