We're home from the last trial for awhile. Memorial Day weekend always finds us at the Circle BR SDT, at the home of Dr Ben and Emily Ousley. This year was extra special as it was the 25th Annual trial - 25 continuous years! I was really touched by the speeches and dedications at the Handlers Meetings and the remembrances of trials and handlers from years past at the dinners. Ben and Emily are special folks and i feel lucky to have been at their trial for the last 14-15 years.
The trial kicked off friday afternoon with a Nursery class. The sheep were set about 2/3s of the way up the terraced field, about 200 yards out I'd guess. The drive was very long, the full course to be used for the Open on saturday. Sheep were katahdin ewes, pulled off their lambs just before the class started, and run in groups of five. Since the outrun wasn't too terribly long, i decided to run Bill and i'm glad i did. He ran very well, handling the sheep with ease, keeping a nice pace on the fetch and drive. I sent him to the left, which isn't his stronger side, but he ran out nicely, kicking as he'd crest each terrace and landing correctly behind his sheep. He didn't seem to be thinking as much about busting the sheep up after lifting as he'd been on the Ky trip. I'd worked on it some in the couple of days we had before the trial and it seemed to have stuck with him. I tried just steadying him instead of downing and that worked better, probably since he could feel less like he was giving up control from the stop. When the class ended, Bill had finished on top handily, gaining his second top 20% finish (with two 1st place finishes) and qualifying for the 2009 Nursery Finals. Yay Billy!
Jet ran early on Saturday morning. Other than some trouble with pulling up short on her outrun and needing 3 redirects, her run was just beautiful. It was nice enough that even with the outrun problems and losing 9 points right off the top for that, she ended up in 5th place at the end of the day. Zac ran later in the day and had a terrific run going right up to the driveaway panels, when for some reason the ewes just bolted and starting running. I'm still not sure what caused it - Zac seemed to have a really good hold on them up to that point. We didn't get them settled back down again until we'd missed both drive panels. Since i knew we were out of contention at that point, i just kind of schooled on Zac a bit on the return leg and shed and pen, in preparation for the next day's competition.
Sunday morning, Zac was the first dog on the field. Since the entry was fairly small at about 50 dogs, with plenty of time for running them, we were going to be doing a marked shed, pen and then single. Zac had a really gorgeous run around the course. When we got to the marked shed, we had a leader with a collar on (we were to take 2 of the 3 unmarked sheep) who gave us fits. She kept leading out and made it really hard to get the shed set up since she kept trying to leave the ring. After what seemed like forever, we finally did get it set up and Zac had a perfect shed. Off to the pen where that ewe again gave us fits, costing us 5 points. At least i thought our single of a collared sheep would be easy! Unfortunately, time ran out just as we got back to the ring, darn it. Final score was an 84 out of a possible 110, which kept us at the top of the leader board for a good part of the day. The scores jumped a bunch late in the afternoon though, and we ended up 10th, one out of the placings. Getting the single would sure have been nice. Zac ran well and we were finally working well together again. It's too bad it's come right at the end of the trial season but it was awfully nice to have my boy back to his old self. Jet ran towards the end of the day and had a decent run going but ended up having some problems on her drive and didn't get a very good score, knocking her out of contention for a top 3 combined finish and the chance to do the double lift.
Today was the novice dogs' day at the trial and i had Billy entered in Nursery and ProNovice again. Nursery was first and Bill was off to a great start on the course when he got confused. About half way down the fetch, i gave him a stop and he turned right around like he was looking back up the field. It looked like he thought he'd left some sheep, or something like that. It was really strange looking though - he'd take the down but turn his back to me. It took a couple of minutes before i figured out what was happening. There were swallows skimming along the grass, grabbing at bugs that Bill and the sheep were kicking up, and Bill was feeling pretty disturbed by them. I don't know if he thought they were dive-bombing him, or someone was throwing something or what, but he sure was confused by it and wanted to keep an eye on whatever was going on behind him! Needless to say, his fetch and drive were pretty "interesting", especially in combination with having drawn a group of sheep that wanted to tear around the field like deer. I decided to retire with him before the pen. Later on, he ran in the Pronovice class and had a very pretty run. I decided to send him to the right (he'd gone left the 2 times before) and he ran out very well, to the same setout point as for the Nursery class. Lift, fetch and drive were very clean (breakdown was 18-10-19-26 if i remember correctly). Unfortunately, the sheep didn't want to go right into the pen, needing some convincing, and time ran out, so no pen points. Final score was a 73, which held up at the top of the class until nearly the end of the 17 dogs. He ended up in 2nd place when the dust settled.
It was a nice trial and good finish to the spring trial season. The dogs have all run pretty well and Bill's had a terrific start to his trial career. Now it's time to put some attention into the farm and sheep for a little while. We may go to a local trial at the end of June, but otherwise there's not much on the trial calendar for a bit.