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.

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