It was a good day with good dogs at the trial today. I'm so pleased with the current trial team of Zac, Jet and Billy. All three are a joy to live with, to use around the farm, and to run in trials. They're just nice, nice dogs all around - sweet, easy to live with, good temperaments, keen as heck to work and ready to give it their all.
The sheep at this weekend's trial are the type to bring out the worst in Zac. They lean really hard on the dogs, trying to find a way to slip off from them and break for the exhaust or the woods. Zac always wants to flank a little too far onto the heads of these sort of sheep, cutting off their escape route, and holding them hard on the field. It's a good quality in a dog, to have one that is so determined to keep control of all of the sheep - Zac would never lose a sheep, never let one run off on him. Unfortunately, sometimes this works against us in that it can shut the sheep down so they stop moving forward freely - after being cut off from "escaping" over and over, they just stop moving forward very well and because Zac is more concerned with preventing the break than in getting behind and pushing, forward progress can get slow. So, i tried to hold Zac more behind the sheep and get a little more flow without taking away his control. It worked pretty well though we timed out after penning and before the shed. But then again, so did 95% of the other teams (time was a little short). Zac's run was pretty decent and he ended up 4 points off the lead, good for 3rd place.
I thought Jet ran extremely well. Her strength tends to be more on wool sheep but these hair sheep were leaning very hard on the dogs, and she moved them like they were on rails, strong and smooth, stroking along behind them. She overworked the pressure on the fetch and i couldn't get her to give me a flank off the pressure to get them online, so we lost a lot of points on the fetch but her work was really pretty. Driveaway was straight online, crossdrive wiggly (my fault, i didn't hold that line well with either dog for some reason), return leg straight as could be, pen clean. It's so nice to have that power and push she has, always there ready to go. Sweet.
I wasn't planning to run Billy in the Nursery today. It was supposed to be the full Open course and i felt the very long drive was too much for him, but the course was shortened back down to the same size as yesterday, so i decided at the last minute to go ahead, with a plan to use it as a training run since he'd not run out either time yesterday the way he's capable of doing. The sheep had gotten very cranky by this afternoon and it took a good while to get our group from the setout pen and onto the field. It actually was a good thing as i had the chance to talk a bit with Bill and get him really concentrating out in front of us, watching for the sheep to appear. I set him up to run wider than yesterday and he went well, holding himself out nicely. I did say "back" to him a couple of times to just hold him out (even though he didn't need it) and get into his head a bit. He'd run away with things on his fetch on the second run yesterday and i wanted to be in his head before he lifted today. He landed nicely behind the sheep, deep, and came on well for a good lift. He wanted to push in hard but i got him stopped, and flanked out onto the pressure side, whew! Once he did it once, it felt good to him and he gave it to me well for the rest of the fetch. He was right in there pushing on the pressure but flanking sweet and clean when i asked for it. Turn at the post was smooth and the drive away started well. It was a little offline but i decided to just leave him alone and let him motor on with the sheep since he was pushing well and holding his line on his own. When i did flank him to try to hit the panel, we ended up with a big swing in front of the panels but did hit it, and had a super tight turn. Bill worked well on the crossdrive but i still managed to get the line wrong. I didn't want to have another big swing, wanted him to just flow along and feel his drive so didn't make a big effort to hit the crossdrive panels. What i could see of the return leg looked good. There was a blind section and Bill brought the sheep out of it a little to the right of the line - i don't mind that since it means he was just overworking the pressure and i prefer that to not taking charge. This group of sheep didn't especially want to go in the pen, seemed quite content to stand in the mouth and weren't responding much to me, so Bill had to walk in strong and put them in, which he did well, especially as he'd never even seen a pen until a day or two before. :-) It was a really sweet, smooth run and more what i expect Billy to work like. His first run yesterday was good, but jerky and not smooth. Today made up for it and i couldn't be happier with my young guy. He ended up a couple of points off of 1st place (those "backs" on the outrun!) with another 3rd place and one out of getting a Nursery leg again.
It was a good day and we seem to be getting pretty good at 3rd place (3 now), and the weather even cooperated with the rain holding off until we had finished. Tomorrow is the last day of the trial, and Zac and Jet get another crack at it. I think the sheep are going to be really tired and ready for us to all go on home.