No slowing down for triallist

ALEXIA JOHNSTON
Last updated 13:23 10/10/2013
alister mckenzie
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/ Fairfax NZ
AGE NO BARRIER: Alister McKenzie, 90, is not letting age get in the way of one of his favourite pastimes, training his sheep dogs Skye, left, and Pete.

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There is no such thing as retiring from dog trials, not in Alister McKenzie's world anyway.

While many of his dogs have retired from such events, Mr McKenzie, of Geraldine, is still going strong, regularly competing at various A&P shows.

Not a bad effort for a 90-year-old with almost 70 years' experience in the sport.

Mr McKenzie was introduced to dog trials when he was a member of the Cannington Young Farmers' Club.

"We were all novices at that age. Some of us carried on to bigger things - I'm one of them."

Since then Mr McKenzie has competed with his heading dogs regularly at shows and most recently put on a dog trial display during the Geraldine Museum's garden walk fundraiser.

He has also recently added to his list of canine friends, taking on a dog named Skye who was destined to be put down.

Despite her being a potential challenge, Mr McKenzie agreed to teach her everything he knows. And so far, so good.

"I'm trying to turn her. She's going very well."

When asked if Skye would be returned to her original owner once training is completed, Mr McKenzie was quick to respond with wit.

"It depends who's still living," he joked.

Mr McKenzie said the key to his own success was patience and kindness. He said it can take up to 18 months to train a dog, depending on the dog and how much time the trainer has got to spend with it.

The sport has grown in popularity over the years, with no threat of it dying out any time soon, he said.

"When I started dog trialling, if they got 30 dogs at a trial they were quite happy. Now some of the trials get over 100. It's very, very strong."

Mr McKenzie has no plans to retire from dog trials any time soon.

"It's a sport you can keep doing til old age. TV interviewed me at the New Zealand championships in Oxford. I said ‘you could do this sport when you leave school and still be doing it when you're 90'. I had to prove that," he said of his longevity.

Mr McKenzie's next big event will be at the Ellesmere A&P Show on October 19.

SOUTH CANTERBURY HERALD

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