Tuesday, May 19, 2009
KY Trip & Chinquapinwood SDT
Wow, where to start? The dogs and i packed up and headed east to KY on May 7th, a thursday. The trip was long but mostly uneventful, always a good thing when hauling a travel trailer and a van full of dogs. The last few minutes of the trip were a bit harrowing. I'd been warned repeatedly about a bridge and hairpin turn if you missed turning into Mike and Laura Hanley's road. Trying to negotiate it is futile and results in needing to call a huge wrecker to rescue you. For a change, the GPS actually saved my butt rather than getting me all turned around and messed up. It was fussing at me to "turn, turn, TURN NOW!" into what looked for all the world like a driveway rather than a road. Thankfully there was room to pull off and call Laura, and for a change i managed to make the right decision. Someone had stolen the road sign that very day and i'd been one bad decision away from a very bad evening! The Hanley's farm is picturesque and the camping area very nice, with lots of room for dog walking, and wooded trails leading down to streams and a river. I got us all snuggled into a campsite at a tree line for the first few days of our trial trip.
Friday morning i ran over to Vergil Holland's for lessons with the dogs and some practice working on bigger outruns, since i haven't been getting to do much longer stuff with the dogs. Vergil has a terrific field for training on, about 400 yards long and rolling. First we worked on Bill, getting him to open up a bit and also working on the stop at a distance. If he didn't open out on his outrun, i was to just stop him and give him a voice correction. That worked well on him. Next up was Zac, who has been using too much eye as he goes out, locking onto the sheep and winding in too tight. Because he's an experienced, trained dog, we used different tactics with him, sometimes calling him back, sometimes just hitting him with a voice correction on the fly. Finally, we worked some on Jet, who pulls up short on her outrun even though she runs out properly. I'd send her, give a voice correction if she was locking in, and then flank her all the way around the sheep, making her let go of the hard contact. After a couple of times, she was finishing properly and got to fetch for a reward and to show her she was doing it right. It was a good day and very enjoyable. I'd highly recommend Vergil for lessons. I've been going to him every once in a while since i first started training dogs. I remember calling him up because i was in KY for Christmas and taking my baby 6 month old Belle to him for her first lesson. I knew absolutely nothing about all this herding stuff but sure got hooked quickly. Vergil has a good eye and can break things down well. Good stuff.
Saturday was the first day of the Chinquapinwood SDT. I ran Jet first and was really pleased with her. She ran out beautifully (thank you Vergil!) for a 20-10. The fetch was very straight but as we went to turn the post, one of the sheep broke very unexpectedly, hard to my right (away from the exhaust, which was to the left behind me). She just bolted like her tail was on fire. Jet did a nice job scooping her back up, and handled her well on the drive, but she was trouble all the way around the course, breaking and bolting and generally eating up drive points. We got back to the pen and she continued her cranky ways, breaking around it repeatedly. Final score was 64, well out of the placings. I was pleased with how Jet worked and sometimes the luck of the draw just gets you. For the most part, the sheep were really very even. It probably didn't help that an Army helicopter came over when we were starting the drive, and hovered over my head to watch for a bit. Jet couldn't hear a thing and the sheep sure didn't like it! Zac finished up with a 78 on his run. It was a pretty decent run though Zac wasn't really running in top form. He was a little stiff on his flanking for some reason, perhaps from the corrections the day before at the lessons. His shedding was really off as well - he'd help me get a nice hole, start into it, and then not finish it off for some reason. He usually eats up shedding, so it was a little weird.
Day 2 was a little better. Zac ran quite a bit better, more responsive. He overshot his outrun a little and ended up with a 19-9. Fetch was straight for 18 points. Drive was really good until i turned right smack in front of the crossdrive panels, so a 20. Split-pen-single was all a little sloppy, so 7-6-8. Total score 87, well out of the placings, but i was getting my dog back at least. We'd been out of sync at this trial and Shaker Village as well. Jet ran extremely well. As i sent her, i looked up the field and realized the sheep had split up, with 3 on the left and 1 on the right, all settled and eating peacefully but well apart. In hindsight, if i'd seen the split before sending her, i guess i could have asked for the sheep to be put together, but i didn't see it and it was too late. I really thought they'd rejoin before she got there anyway. But the single one was hungry and perfectly happy by himself. Jet ran out well, going out to the right, passing the single and covering the three who were standing at the left side. She tapped the three to get them facing me, then flanked back over to the single. Mr. Hungry still didn't go join his friends and Jet had to tap them all back together. It was pretty to watch but the clock was running. Outrun and lift were good for 19-9, nice straight fetch, tucking in the hungry one, for 18. I thought the drive was quite good but the lagging hungry sheep kept causing us to have to flank a bit to tuck him in, and cost a few line points. I kind of thought the drive score would be a little higher but in hindsight, those wobbles probably knocked us down to the 23 we got. The finish was good but i got a little foolish on the single. Time was almost up so i grabbed a quick one just as we entered the ring. Unfortunately it was out of the ring before Jet got total control and that cost us 2, so the finish was 10-9-8, total score 96 out of 110 and a couple points out of placing. The Open competition was extremely competitive with the top 4 scores being 107, 107 (run off), 106, 106. Yikes!
Monday was Billy's day to run at the trial, in the Nursery, which was run as part of the "Stockdog" class - a combination of Nursery, Ranch and PN, sort of. It was the full Open course with no shed. This wasn't a very big course but it sure was tricky. You couldn't see your dog on a good part of the outrun, the dog couldn't see the sheep on part of the outrun, the crossdrive was wicked. On his first run, i sent Bill right and he went about half way up the field and started coming in to cross over, so i stopped him and he redirected nicely, running on out and finishing the outrun well (I don't have his breakdown). Lift was nice but then Bill started barreling into the sheep so i had to scream at him to stop him, and the fetch was very offline until the end. The drive was beautiful and for the first time all weekend i think i actually had the line right - it was extremely hard to see it. Pen was clean and the score ended up a 69, finishing about in the middle of the 20 Nursery dogs. The second run, Bill ran out very well with no problems, lifted nicely and then poked the sheep, causing them to split up, and he gripped one that was taking off to the side. Because of the way the field rolls, i couldn't see him to handle that spot, which is where he'll still blow into sheep. I'm sure he'll outgrow this but it's his biggest "hole" right now. I suppose it's allowed given he's only 22 months old still!
After the trial, i packed everyone and everything and we moved over to Masterson Station Park to get set up for the Bluegrass. Being so early to arrive, i had a nice choice of camping spots and ended up just where i was hoping to be, and under a shade tree to boot. I was having some trouble with the batteries on the camper not recharging, so i popped those off and took them to an auto parts store, to recharge and test. They read as still being good and the recharge seemed to do the trick. I think i just let them get too low because they were fine the rest of the trip and recharged like they were supposed to.
Tuesday morning i went back over to Vergil's with a friend and got some more help with outruns and shedding, and worked all 3 dogs a fair amount. Then back to the park and the Handlers Meeting that evening. It's always fun to go to the BG Handler's Meeting because you see people you haven't seen in a year and get the chance to catch up and say hey. It always feels more like a social event to me.
I'll split this up since it's getting very long. Next up....the Bluegrass!