What a good day Billy boy had! He ended up 7th out of about 23 dogs in PN with a pretty sweet run. The sheep were set about 200 yards out and I sent him left, his weaker side. He's run 3 times at a trial and i've sent him right each time, so it was time to mix it up. We'd worked a bit on that side in the last week, and it looked to me like he could end up pretty wide to the right on this field. He set off nicely, wide and opening up as he ran uphill. I thought he was maybe a little flat across the top but didn't fiddle with it as i wasn't completely sure - no need to fuss at him when he might be right and he was trying so hard to be good. Lift was nice and pretty straight. Due to handler error (oops), the sheep missed the fetch panel - i flanked him too far and couldn't get him back over in time to catch it. He was pacing pretty nicely and taking my stops and steadies, but a little hard to flank (true all day). I was a little concerned about the drive before the run as Bill is still not completely confident if the sheep are stopping or if they're running hard. These 3 sheep would go downhill and then sharply uphill to the panels, so they might stall out in the low spot or take off as they hit the panel area. I decided to let Bill have his head and push them along a bit fast and he had a very good drive out. Unfortunately he was hesitant to flank around once the sheep were through the panel and they got a good ways deep before i got him on around to bring them back. I'm not sure if he wasn't hearing me or perhaps a little confused. Return leg was nice and the pen clean and handled well by Bill. He likes penning apparently as he's totally got the idea - practically looks up at me and says "relax, i got this".
Since he'd been listening well on his fetch, i decided to go ahead and run him in the Nursery. I was very nervous about it as i felt the potential to teach him some bad things was high. I felt pretty certain he'd run out well enough but was concerned with the possibility of him running away with the sheep and learning he could get away with it being so far out (sheep set at about 350 yards). Fortunately, i was forgetting that this was *Bill* i was running and he was a very good boy again. He's really such a serious, settled dog that i needn't have worried. I decided to go right this time, to his better side. I screwed up and sent him when he was set up too wide (he reset himself while i was fooling with my new timer and i didn't catch it before sending him off). I called his name to pull him back in a little and he ran out pretty well from that point. I gave a couple of little redirects to help him find his way up the hill but i think he'd have made it fine even without the help. He ran deep and lifted well again, and had a beautiful fetch, taking small flanks and pacing down nicely as i'd ask. The drive was quite nice though the lines a tad wiggly. The return leg was very sweet, as i let Bill have his sheep and left it to him to work them as he wanted, with just some easy "time now" comments from me to maintain contact. His head was down and he was practically grinning he enjoyed that so much. Or perhaps it was just him looking forward to the pen again, since he again set that up nicely on his own and penned with little input from me. He finished in 7th place out of 16-17 dogs. The outrun cost 6 points and the rest was pretty clean and nice. I couldn't have been happier with him.
At the end of the classes, the trial organizers decided to offer "fun runs" - six minutes for a PN outrun/course. I decided to run Bill again just to get the lefthand outrun in again. He ran out well but pulled up a little short and was being pretty stiff on his flanks so i got to train a bit on that. I didn't keep him out there the full 6 minutes, just wanted to get a couple of little things done. It was a very good day with lots of good stuff! And now i have a good idea of the things to give some attention. Bill ran out well but i'll need to watch that top end, watch the pulling up short. And i need to free up his flanks, the big ones anyway. He seems fine with small flanks but doesn't want to let the sheep go to take the bigger ones. Not so bad having a dog that wants to keep control. All in all, it was a good day! Even the weather cooperated with the forecast rain holding off. On to the Open (and another Nursery) tomorrow!