Ann started dog sport as a woman in a man's world
SOME 20 years ago, when Ann Leonard started trialling working dogs she'd step into the arena feeling like a woman in a man's world.
Today she says the sport she loves has been infiltrated by the fairer sex and the number of women competing, not to mention savouring success, has increased dramatically.
The Bush Tele caught up with the accomplished handler at the National Kelpie Field Trial Championships at Allora recently.
Don't get me wrong - the men involved have always been supportive of all competitors and willing to let women have a go.
"I started trialling because I loved dogs, I had grown up in the bush and it was a fairly natural progression for me," Ms Leonard admitted.
"This is about my 20th year on the trial circuit and I still love it."
When she started out, she said she was amongst just a small handful of women who braved nerves and the blokes to compete.
"Don't get me wrong - the men involved have always been supportive of all competitors and willing to let women have a go," Ms Leonard said.
"Nowadays there are definitely more women competing especially in three sheep trials in New South Wales.
"A lot of them are city people, who just love working dogs."
While she said many came to the sport with an understanding of dogs, but sometimes limited livestock knowledge they tended to be "quick learners".
"If experience trialling and growing up working stock gave me an advantage, it doesn't last long," she laughed.
"There are some very competent, accomplished handlers out there."
Ms Leonard and her faithful kelpie Kinghayes Cindy won the Lorna Browning Trophy for champion female handler with the highest scoring individual dog at the Kelpie nationals.
But it wasn't all a case of girl power at the Allora event.
Seasoned competitor John White, vice-president of the National Working Kelpie Council, was also competing with five dogs in the open.
He praised the calibre of competitors and the efforts of organisers at the Southern Downs event.
"Well done all round, it was a tremendous effort," Mr White said.
And while he acknowledged there were more women on the trial circuit than ever, he said the sport in general was enjoying good growth.