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Chistine Nielsen in action at the sheepdog trials. INSET: The Greenlea Rescue Helicopter. Photos: TAKE THE MOMENT PHOTOGRAPHY

Netherton dog trainer Christine Nielsen and canine pals make a good team

A Netherton dog trainer who has taken part in a myriad of canine sports across a four-decade career has obtained silver in her step into a different code.
Christine Nielsen took part in the first-ever Bayleys Greenlea Rescue Helicopter Sheepdog Trials last month, alongside her two New Zealand heading dogs, Team and Pal.
Held at the Fiber Fresh National Equestrian Centre at Aratiatia, near Taupō, the inaugural event attracted hundreds of competitors who mustered a total of 802 sheep.
Christine’s friend Dave Schaw, the organiser of the trials, established the event to raise funds for the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter.

He was rescued by the helicopter after the motorbike he was riding overturned at the back of his farm in 2007.
The four-day event raised $15,000 for the rescue service and Christine said she was “thrilled” to be involved with something so beneficial.
“I’ve done a lot of dog sports in my life – tracking, obedience, agility – but I’ve always wanted to get into this, and just before Covid, I thought: ‘This is the time I need to do it’.
“After doing all these other dog sports and loving them – this has been our calling,” she said.
Christine volunteered her time at Dave’s home in the week before the event, helping to secure the sheep, putting up gear, and making sure the sheep were comfortable with humans and the large, indoor arena.
“We started at dark and finished after dark every single day for seven days and it was amazing,” she said.
“For seven days, I was absolutely buzzing. Everybody backed Dave, and even though it was sometimes minus-four [degrees celsius] in the mornings, and trying to find sheep in the fog was pretty hard, it was really, really cool.”
The fundraising event saw handlers having a maximum of 12 minutes to shepherd three sheep through a series of obstacles, such as gates, hurdles, and bridges.
Christine was in the Maiden class, and on the first day, she and four-year-old Team took to the arena.
Together, they got a good score and Team was “on the board”.
However, on Day Two of the trials, it was Pal’s turn and he knocked his own brother off the leaderboard.
“It was a little bit like sibling rivalry,” Christine said.
“But I was delighted by how both dogs went. Pal managed to stay on the board for the whole four days and we ended up in the run-off.”
After taking part in the run-off, Christine and Pal received second place in their class.
She received $300 in prize money plus spot prizes.
With the Sheepdog Trials set to become an annual event, Christine – who has rescued and rehabilitated a number of dogs and was once involved in running the Paeroa pound – said she “can’t wait” to take part again.
“It was a fantastic experience, and my dogs and me will volunteer our services again and I can’t wait for it. Even with those minus-four weather conditions, we did what we had to do and kept on going because we were just buzzing and busy.”
DETAILS: To donate towards the Greenlea Rescue helicopter, visit