Lewis Ellsworth Pence
While growing up – it was not unusual to see someone send an Australian Shepherd ½ mile away or more to gather a group of animals from a pasture and bring them into the corrals. We didn’t have to train them for work. It was natural for them to go out and bring the stock in…it was pure instinct. The pups learned as they went along doing chores. They delighted in pleasing us and were eager to gain our approval which was their desired reward.
It wasn’t until my parents met Lewis Pence (1914- 1984) that we learned “how” to teach our dogs to fetch and other skills necessary to develop successful trial dogs. They had traveled to Texas in the late 1960s to attend the open sheepdog or Border Collie trials and the Catahoula Leopard Cowdog gathering in Quinlan. We were trying to develop a working dog program, some type of Stockdog Certification to preserve the working instinct in Australian Shepherds.
Even though they met other men who had been to Scotland and learned this type of handling and training – those men were very close-mouthed and would not teach it to others. Lewis Pence was an unselfish man who was willing to share his knowledge with anyone who asked. He wasn’t afraid of the competition.
Who was Lewis Pence? For over 30 years Lewis Pence he owned and operated his own shearing and dipping business. He also bred and trained Border Collies. During the 1960s and early 1970s, Pence was actually one of the only Border Collie men in the United States that trained his own sheepdogs. Most of the other handlers of the era bought and imported trained Border Collies from the British Isles. Lewis started his pups at two months of age. His kindness was reflected in the gentle way he handled them. His methods were highly successful. For over 20 years he competed in open sheepdog trials and won the largest and most prestigious events in the North America including the Kentucky Bluegrass National Open at Walnut Hill Farm and the Canadian Sheepdog Trials at Crang Farm.
Not only was Lewie Pence a generous man with his time, but he was always willing to share his knowledge and help other people with their dogs regardless of the breed. He was truly the first all-breed herding dog trainer in North America. If it weren’t for Lewis Pence, many people would never have developed the art of training and handling stockdogs.
To learn some of the stockdog training methods Lewis taught us and more please refer to the book, Stockdog Savvy (Alpine Publications) by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor and Ty Taylor:
Copyright © 2009 – 2010 by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor and Ty Taylor.
All Rights Reserved.
See also The 1967 Open Sheepdog Trials and a CowHogDog Exhibition: