Tuesday, September 29, 2009

WFAC Results

Here's the official trial write-up. It all went great, couldn't have gone any better!

The second annual Whistle for a Cure SDT was a resounding success. Held as a fundraiser for Joan Knight’s team in the Gail Parkins Memorial Ovarian Cancer Walk, raising money for ovarian cancer research, the trial smashed our goal amount by a long measure.

We were concerned about the weather forecast for Shoofly Farm near Oxford, NC as the weekend approached but even that worked out well. There was an occasional light mist during the running on Saturday, with heavy downpours overnight, and then the clouds parted for a gorgeous sunny Sunday, our main day for trialing, with spectators, raffles, gift item sales and our big fundraising lunch.

Start time was noon on Saturday, with just the Open class for this day. It was what I picture a farm trial should be, with nearly everyone there pitching in to help, a very laidback atmosphere, just good friends getting together for a little friendly competition. The outrun was not very long at 225 yards, but it was certainly tricky for some of the dogs. Four sheep, a mix of ewes, lambs and wethers, both wool and hair sheep, were set in a far back corner of the pasture, mostly hidden to the dogs by the rolling terrain and trees. Dogs sent right needed to negotiate their way around the farm pond, while dogs sent left had a clearer path but tighter top end and greater risk of bumping the sheep off before the lift. Just after the lift, sheep and dog dropped out of sight of the handler, coming up over the hill just before the fetch panels. They were a bit cranky about turning the post, then went back up a hill for the drive and back down for the crossdrive. Penning was pretty easy and then off to the split, which was sometimes pretty difficult. The sheep were a mix of two flocks, with 3 of each group from the home flock and a fourth from a neighboring flock. At the end of the running, we had a tie for 1st place between Julie Poudrier with Twist and Denise Wall with May. Another trip around the course for each found them separated by only 1 point, with Julie taking the top spot. 3rd place went to Peggy Wilkinson with Liz, and 4th to Robin French with Bill. It was quite a good day for the young dogs, as 3 of the top 4 places were taken by dogs just at or under 3 years old.

Sunday dawned wet and dreary but cleared off as we started setting up. With some hay spread on the mud, on we went. The Open course was completely different for the second day, with a more straightforward outrun, though still somewhat blind for the dogs, and the pond to negotiate to the right. The sheep again dropped out of sight on the fetch, but this time only if you weren’t exactly online. Fetch panels were eliminated for this course, as the fetch line passed through a marshy area at the edge of the pond. Two small trees marked the area of the natural “fetch panels” and the sheep had to be convinced to step down in there. The drive was pretty straightforward with a hard dogleg on the return leg, then pen and split. The sheep had learned where the exhaust was by Sunday, and the pen and shedding ring were fairly near it, so handlers had to keep it in mind and not let their attention wander or they’d end up off course quickly. We again ended up with a tie for 1st, between Julie Poudrier with Pip and Peggy Wilkinson with Sis. After the run off, Julie and Pip (in his 1st Open run!) ended up on top. Julie with Twist finished 3rd, and Tony Luper with Maid were 4th. Overall Champion for the weekend was Julie Poudier with Twist, with Reserve Champion being Tony Luper with Maid.

The quality of the competition in the afternoon novice classes was impressive. The course and sheep proved to be quite difficult for the novice dogs and handlers last year, but this year it was smooth sailing for the most part, as dogs and handlers treated the sheep well. The Ranch class ran a course somewhat smaller than the Open class, without the marshy fetch area. Ranch Champion was Lauren Seabolt with Mac, 2nd was Christine Henry with Meg, 3rd was Amanda Winecoff with Scott, and 4th was Julie Poudrier with Lark.

Pro Novice was won by Liza Williams, with a very pretty run by her Jet. Second place went to Kelly Jerman with Spottie, 3rd to Barbara Shumannfang with Kat, 4th to Sally Glei with Sid.

The Novice Novice class was very nicely done by all of the competitors, with a lot of calm, steady dog and handler work. Charlie Hurt and Deacon were the winners, with Lisa Roberts and Kat 2nd, Charlie Hurt with Patsy 3rd, and Pam Helton with Slick 4th.

The awards for this trial were truly unique. A local baker, Dorothy Booth, donated them. She took pictures of some of the Shoofly Farm border collies and printed them on icing on cookies, with different colors of “ribbon” (icing) around each one, to place each class. It was something different and quite fun.

The trial part of the weekend was really wonderful. The sheep worked well, the courses were good, and the competitors did a fabulous job out there. Even more impressive to me were all of the amazing people who threw in to put on this trial. I believe nearly everyone who attended ended up doing some job or task, and I know everyone pitched in as much as they could to make it all a fundraising success. I’m going to try to remember everyone here, but forgive me if I miss you – there were so many folks doing so many things, it was hard to keep track. Thanks to Julie Poudrier, Laura Carson, Peggy Wilkinson, Denise Wall and Sandy Gunter for all the setout and exhausting and all you did before and during the trial to help; to Dan King and Christine Henry for judging; to Kate Caldwell for the use of her sheep and for organizing and cooking the delicious lunch, Jim Knight for the yummy barbeque and Bonnie French for the slaw; to Joan and Jim Knight for organizing and running the raffle and sale stuff, and posting scores and announcing; to Lauren Seabolt for arranging the awards and the clerks; to our scorekeepers Barbara Shumannfang and Laurie Schulz; and to Dorothy Booth for the awards. I’d also like to thank all the folks who donated such nice items to the raffle, and those who couldn’t join us and instead sent in-spirit entries.

It was a great weekend and for the worthiest of causes, and I hope we can do it all again and even better next year!

Open 1 (20 dogs)
Julie Poudrier Twist 93
Denise Wall May 93
Peggy Wilkinson Liz 92
Robin French Bill 90
Tony Luper Maid 90
Peggy Wilkinson Buzz 85
Denise Wall Moss 82
Julie Poudrier Kat 82
Denise Wall Kate 81
Robin French Zac 77
Laurie Schultz Nara 74
Joan Knight Brook 73
Dan King Vic 63
Robin French Jet 54
Tony Luper Blurr 46
Colin Campbell Scout Ret
Julie Poudrier Pip Ret
Dan King Fann Ret
Laura Carson Nick Ret
Peggy Wilkinson Sis DQ

Open 2 (19 dogs)
Julie Poudrier Pip 88
Peggy Wilkinson Sis 88
Julie Poudrier Twist 86
Tony Luper Maid 86
Christine Henry Bess 85
Christine Henry Rook 80
Robin French Zac 78
Christine Henry Tweed 75
Peggy Wilkinson Liz 74
Robin French Bill 73
Peggy Wilkinson Buzz 72
Denise Wall May 67
Robin French Jet 67
Joan Knight Brook 54
Laura Carson Nick 50
Tony Luper Blurr 47
Denise Wall Moss 44
Laurie Schultz Nara 29
Colin Campbell Scout 21

Ranch (8 dogs)
Lauren Seabolt Mac 64
Christine Henry Meg 59
Amanda Winecoff Scott 59
Julie Poudrier Lark 57
Julie Poudrier Phoebe 51
Caroline Reichard Jim 36
Emily Falk Rae DQ
Mary Luper Ben DQ

ProNovice (12 dogs)
Liza Williams Jet 66
Kelly Jerman Spottie 64
Barbara Shumannfang Kat 63
Sally Glei Sid 63
Christine Henry Kep 57
Caroline Reichard Roy 54
Christine Henry Kaige 50
Robin French Nan 42
Laurie Schultz Boomer 36
Emily Adham Manse Ret
Laura Carson Linc Ret
Kate Caldwell Sam Ret

Novice Novice (9 dogs)
Charlie Hurt Deacon 70
Lisa Roberts Kat 68
Charlie Hurt Patsy 64
Pamela Helton Slick 63
Liza Williams Piper 55
Kelly Jerman Jen 53
Kate Caldwell Rose 47
Pamela Helton Bonnie 46
Emily Adham Case DQ

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Gael is going to be a cover girl! Well, her ears are anyway. I sent in some pictures i liked to Nicole Rhodes, owner and editor of The Stockdog Journal, and she decided to use one for a fall cover. I really liked this picture of Gael looking out over what makes a border collie a border collie - the field and sheep. You can almost feel her saying "send me for them!".

Here's the link to the magazine webpage. Check it out and consider subscribing. Nicole is working hard to make it a resource for all types of stockdog enthusiasts. I especially enjoyed the most recent issue with an interview with Scott Glen and a review of one of his clinics.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Crystal Ball...

I was looking at Dan King's excellent photos of the trial this past weekend. This is a nice one that he got of Bill --

It reminded me a lot of one i have of Bill at 4 months old!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

20th Occasional Highland SDT, part 2

So on to sunday we go. Zac ran 10th and the sheep were quite a bit better than saturday. He ran out nicely, stopping short of 12:00 but the sheep folded off the top end beautifully and straight towards me. I was extremely pleased at how nice the lift was, as good as any i saw all weekend. Fetch was pretty straight. Zac was weaving behind the sheep more than i like but the method worked surprisingly well - i'd have thought the sheep wouldn't like it, but when i held him back to straighten out, they slowed and weren't coming as straight. Zac was listening really well, even way out at the beginning of the fetch. Turn at the post went fine. First leg of the drive was wobbly but we got them through the gates. Crossdrive was similar but again through the gates. The single was gorgeous, with Zac flying into a very small gap and taking firm command of the shed sheep. The pen was good. All in all, lines could have been more tidy but it was a very good run with those kind of sheep and at the end of the day, Zac and I were 3rd behind Lyle Lad and Barbara Ray. I was very pleased with Zac for the weekend. He looked good and was learning the whole time.

Next up was Bill - yep, Bill moved up to Open! His Ranch run was so good that i thought we'd give it a shot. I knew his shedding wasn't quite up to par yet but it was a good chance to get some experience. The outrun, lift and fetch were really very good. I had to give Bill a couple of whistles on the outrun as he came up expecting the sheep to be further down the field than they were (from his 2 shorter outruns the day before). He took them well and got behind nicely, lifted with authority and actually rated the sheep very well on the first half of the fetch, not pushing in too hard as he's liked to do. He definitely learned something from his runs on saturday! The fetch was strong and straight, very nice. Turn around the post was good but the first leg of the drive very wiggly as the sheep didn't want to move off straight. The rest of the drive was pretty good. We were to do a single before the pen, and this is where things came to a halt. Bill did a very good job setting up the shed and was good and strong on the sheep. I got one small gap and called him in, and he flew in so fast it actually surprised me. The single moved towards him as he flew threw and he snapped at her nose as he blew past. If he'd stopped in the gap, it would have been a spectacular shed but he kept going on through and the sheep got back together. That's okay and really just about where he is in learning to shed. I've been trying to get him coming in with enthusiasm and to come in and on through since his preference is to come in slow and use his eye. He'll get it all put together soon. Anyway, that was our only real attempt and finally we timed out. It was a good first Open run and he certainly looked like he belonged in the Open class.

On to Jet's Open run. She ran out marginally better since i set her up to run out sideways but still pulled up in front of the sheep and then wouldn't flank once she got them going - they went way the heck to the left of the field. So once she got in range, i took the opportunity to do some schooling with her, making her listen and flank and stop as told. It was a good chance to do it since it was the sheep bringing out her problems and we don't get on those kind of sheep often. I knew she wasn't going to place as the running had improved a lot, not after that outrun and first part of the fetch. We got around the course in pretty good fashion and completed the single and pen. Hopefully it will help some with several trials coming up soon.

Last up was Bill's Nursery run. The gather was again very good, turn at the post fine though one ewe was giving Bill some dirty looks, but the sheep stalled out about halfway to the first drive gates and the one ewe started acting like she wanted to pound Billy. I let him try to sort it out for a little bit, but when he started looking nervous about it and avoiding her gaze, i went out to help him get things moving again, and we exhausted our sheep. It wasn't a great note to end on and i hated seeing him looking confused. Since Bill was the last dog in the class, we'd been asked to push the big group of sheep back up the field for the remaining classes. Before we could do that, Bill had to hold the group while the sheep owner caught up a couple to treat/cull. That was a lot of fun for Bill though a little confusing with people all around flapping arms and waving hands to catch certain sheep. Then we had to shed off about 2/3s of the sheep to take up top and that was a bit of a challenge, holding them apart. With that done, we marched up the field and Bill really enjoyed that. The sheep were hot, tired and hungry, and very hard to keep flowing, so he got to push in and do some nipping and generally really boss them around. They kept doing this swirling thing that less broke sheep will do, where they pack really tightly and move in a wave, in a circling motion. Hard to explain but pretty effective for avoiding predators (the weakest get swirled to the outsides) and for stopping forward motion. Anyway, Billy had never seen it before so he got to learn about that and to figure out how to sort that out. I'd felt bad about the Nursery run but this was a great way to end on a better note, as Bill's brain was about to pop he was learning so much.

So, that was the 20th Occasional Highland SDT. It was a very good learning experience for the dogs, especially Billy and Zac. The field was gorgeous and the sheep a good challenge. It's a heck of a drive up there (note to self: don't take the trailer across Highway 250 ever, ever again!) but was well worth it for the dogs' education. Now on to putting on our little benefit trial in 2 weeks and then the big fall trial season.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Catching Up, 20th Occasional Highland SDT, part 1

It's only been a week today since i last posted but it seems like a lot longer. A lot has been happening. The puppies are now 6 weeks old and about ready to move to new homes. Turns out there won't be a whole lot of moving since Julie is keeping Ranger and i get to keep the other two! I've been pestering Darci since very early on to let me buy ZJ so i could have both him and Moon to raise up and train, and she finally agreed to it (THANK YOU, DARCI!) at the last minute. ZJ and Chris were scheduled to leave this past Friday, hitching a ride out west with Finals bound folks, but Wednesday afternoon we canceled ZJ's ride. Chris is on her way out there right now, where Darci is anxiously awaiting her arrival. I know that's going to be a very happy reunion on both parts. I'll get the pups this saturday when i go over to Julie's to do the monthly group lessons. Now i'm trying to come up with a new name for ZJ and having a tough time with it. Early on, i thought he looked like a Turk. Right now i'm tossing around Zeke and Creed. I'll have to spend some time with him to see what fits. Who knows, maybe he'll just stay ZJ.

This past weekend i loaded up the camper and the new truck, and the dogs and i headed into the Blue Ridge mountains for the 20th Annual Occasional Sheepdog trial at Don McCaig's near Williamsville, VA. The trial was a benefit for the 2010 National Finals, to be held in Middletown, VA. Donald has taken out some fencing and opened up a new trial field and it's very, very nice. The outrun is about 450-500 yards, flat 90% of the way out and ending in a steep little hill, where the sheep were set for the Open class. For the Ranch and Nursery classes, the sheep were brought to the bottom of the little hill, making the outrun probably 400-450 yards or so. The sheep for the trial were rented from a local commercial flock of polpays and not used to being worked in small groups.

The sheep were quite a challenge for the dogs. Open ran first on saturday and in the morning, it was pretty difficult to get the sheep off the top end and started down the field. Several dogs retired quickly, unable to shift the sheep. Jet ran 8th and when we were walking to the post, i felt pretty sure she'd move the sheep, but some good dogs had had some big trouble already. Jet's outrun was terrible, one of the worst outruns i've ever seen her do. She went right up the middle and wouldn't redirect for anything, eying the sheep the whole time. We managed to lose 16 of our 20 outrun points without even a crossover. I told someone afterwards that i was sure the judge must only be taking 1/2 a point for redirects as i was certain i'd blown 32 of them! Anyway, the sheep finally shifted and Jet got behind them, taking them well offline for the first half of the fetch. The second half of the fetch was good and then we hit the place where so many good Open dogs on Saturday met the end of their runs - the beginning of the drive. Group after group would stall out in this area and either fight the dogs or just simply refuse to budge. Clean grips were being allowed though nasty ones would earn you a DQ. Jet actually didn't have all that much trouble shifting the sheep here, though they did test her some. She's got a ton of power and used it well to her advantage, not needing to bite to convince the ewes to move along. It's so nice to have a dog with that "under the hood" when you need it. The drive was pretty good, and the split, pen and single also decent, though Jet felt she should peek back at the left group on the sheds. With all the difficulties on the first day, she ended up finishing 8th, even with the horrible outrun. I can't be too upset with her, she's been laid up with an injury and just came back to work. All i'd really done was a bit of driving last week to make sure her leg was holding up okay. I guess she decided she liked just driving around and not having to run out!

Zac ran later in the order and i was a little nervous about him with those sheep. He has a different kind of eye than Jet, not more but a stickier kind of eye, and can sometimes have trouble shifting sheep as he doesn't have the same raw power to back it up that Jet does. He ran out beautifully though he landed short - there were trees behind the set out point and he was drawn in to them. He lifted well but did have a little trouble getting them moving freely down the field, flanking defensively to cover the draw to the setout and stopping the forward progress of the sheep. But he managed to work it out in fairly short order and had a beautiful straight fetch. Many dogs were pushing the sheep well offline to the left, either not hearing their handlers commands or overworking the draw (as Jet had done), but Zac handled very well, taking every command i gave. I had planned to take the sheep quickly around the turn at the post and very tight, in hopes they'd not stall out, but a lagging ewe ruined my plan. Her 3 mates went right past the post while she held back and i had to put Zac on her. Meanwhile the 3 leading ewes got very deep behind the post, forcing an even worse version of the stalling out confrontation i'd been hoping to avoid or at least lessen. Zac was very good here, actually much better than i might have expected. He kept on coming forward and his eye didn't catch him up at all. The ewes just wouldn't move off and finally he started gripping. At first it was okay, pretty decent grips but one ewe tried to go over him and he grabbed hold of her neck and held on, while she went crashing into the fence and the judge called out "thank you!" to end the run. All in all, i was quite pleased with Zac's performance. It'll be nice to run him this fall - he's been injured the past 2 fall seasons. He got a little frustrated there at the end but my dogs don't see this kind of sheep all that often. He learned something.

Bill was next up in the Nursery. I was nervous about him meeting up with this kind of sheep for the first time so far out from me, where i couldn't be on top of how it went and back him up if he needed it. He ran out pretty well though i gave him a couple of quick call in whistles to keep him from getting around some trees that would kick him too far out. He landed really well behind the sheep and lifted with nice authority. He came on too strong after the lift as he likes to do, bringing the sheep too hard, which made the sheep pretty unhappy. Three took off strongly while one split off and stopped. I thought that would probably be the end of the run but after many long seconds, Billy somehow calmly convinced her to rejoin the others, now something like 100 yards away. I was pretty impressed with him there. The fetch was decent but the sheep stalled going around the post and Billy couldn't quite figure it out. He came calmly forward but didn't have quite enough confidence and ended up gripping and being called off. After his run, i took the opportunity to exhaust the next few runs with Bill to let him figure out the sheep. They were pretty hard to get off the field and it mimicked the problems at the turn around the post very well. Bill very quickly learned to walk strongly forward to get the sheep moving and his confidence grew a ton in just moments. He was practically grinning he was enjoying it so much after exhausting only three runs.

A bit later I ran Bill in the Open Ranch class and he was wonderful. Nice outrun, lift, much better treatment of the sheep on the fetch so it was pretty straight and calm. The turn and first leg of the drive were wobbly but not too bad, especially comparatively speaking. Crossdrive and return leg were good and the pen clean. It was just a nice, smooth run and ended up winning the class. I was surely happy with the little man!

Since this has gotten so long, i'll do a part 2 later on. Sunday was even better for the Shoofly dogs and Billy made his Open debut!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Pups at 5 Weeks

I went over and had a really good playdate with the puppies yesterday. ZJ is about the cutest little thing i've ever seen, and he was feeling really active and playful. It's going to be so hard to see him leave next weekend. Moon seemed to decide she kinda liked me, was responding well and connecting with me. And Ranger continues to be just spectacular, bold and outgoing. His name will certainly suit his adventurous spirit. He reminds me a bit of his grandmother Spottie, always with a twinkle in his eye.

ZJ started out kind of tired, couldn't hold his head up and eyes open at the same time

Moon found a comfy place to take a puppy power nap

But Ranger is ready to go!

Come on, bring it on!

Go ZJ go!

Moon thinks these things look interesting...

We decided to weigh the puppies in a lamb sling and they weren't impressed

I'm gonna get you for this!