The First Woman to win ‘One Man and His Dog’ – in the face of ‘competition, small-mindedness and having been put down by most men in the dog running world all my life.’
‘When I was invited to participate in One Man and His Dog, I thought it was a joke’
But it was true. They called me and invited me to take part. My dad came to watch me – and for the first time he was proud of me. I had been so wild as a child, I was terrible at school and he’d never come to watch me do anything in my life.
‘You have to be selfish to live your passion’
The first time I watched a dog trial something in me just knew. This is it. So I swapped my husband for a sheepdog. The focus and the love of running dogs birthed in me the ability to make those sorts of hard decisions!
I found that the best way to do this is not to think or worry about something until it happens.
‘Being a woman, you cannot afford to cut corners’
I have to be even better than – not simply equal to – the men I compete with. We pretend there’s equality between men and women, but there isn’t. It’s a male dominated world and they continue to resist us and put us down. We can pretend all we want. Of course, it’s not true of all men but the majority still want to keep us down. I know for a fact that I haven’t won certain trials, simply because the men have actively marked me down to keep me out.
It’s hard to speak out about this though because you are simply labelled bitter and angry.
‘I used to school myself not to say what I thought’
Women are not meant to complain. I think women often don’t really say what’s going on regarding men’s oppressive behaviour because they don’t want men to hate them even more. It’s because I love what I do so deeply that I stopped caring what people might think if I said what I really thought.
‘A woman can’t run a dog!’
That’s all I heard from the men around me until I almost started to believe it. But the challenges of being deliberately marked down or penalised to keep me from winning (yes, it’s true, that is what happens) make me train harder. Physical strength is probably my only limitation in terms of being female.
‘Business women who never make it outdoors are missing out on everything’
To be on the fells… to be with nature…despite whatever else is going on the world, this reminds me of my connection to God. Everyone needs this. Walking in the heather over the fell seeing thirty red deer run past. I know how strong my Christianity is when I’m outside. It’s magical. I count my blessings every day.
‘Sheepdogs have taught me how to relax’
When they rest their body, they really rest their body. You just see them stretch out and think – ‘ahh, yes I really need to do that!!’
‘Women have more of an affinity with sheep and the dogs and the land’
Women are more patient. And we’re not just out there to win a trial. Once upon a time, the dog was a shepherd’s best friend, but now there’s a lot of money in this industry and that connection has been placed second. I can get inside the animal’s head and treat them as they should be treated.
‘You get nowhere training a dog unless you are truly kind’
I guess the same is true of people too. In return, my dogs give me love and the confidence to be myself. They taught me about mutual trust and respect. They saved me from my madness.
‘Always keep a bottle of Champagne in the fridge’
And you’ve got commiseration or celebration covered!
Katy Cropper – sheepdog breeder and trainer
First Women to win ‘One Man and his Dog’
To find out more about First Woman, Katy Cropper visit www.katycropper.co.uk
Watch her doing what she does best here.
Interview by Deborah Willimott