We're home after a somewhat successful weekend at the Lexington SDT, hosted by Dave Clark and Cheryl Branibar. Dave and Cheryl are delightful hosts and i don't think there's anyone out there who works harder to make sure we all have a good time. The field is gorgeous, sheep healthy, judging good, set out even and well done, and the handler's dinner superb. They try very hard to cross all the t's and dot all the i's and it really showed. Thanks so much to both of them!
Friday was a misty, dreary day, and much colder than normal for this time of year. We met to run two Nursery classes in the afternoon, each with 8 dogs so qualifying two youngsters for the National Finals next year in Middletown, VA. I was running Bill and he did a very nice job, especially on his first run, which i thought was smooth and flowing and really sweet. He ended up second in the first class and won the second, so now is officially qualified. I'll keep running him for experience, but it's nice to have the qualifying done so we can relax on that. I was very pleased with his enthusiasm, coming off a bad experience at the Edgeworth trial last weekend. He seemed none the worse for it, and perhaps even learned a bit from it as he was more willing to take some redirects over the weekend.
We lucked out on the weather over the weekend. It was very cold but not raining as had been forecast going in, whew. I ran all three dogs in the Open. Bill was first up both days and i was really thrilled with him. He ended up running when the sheep were especially cranky, and handled them and himself very well. The outrun was horribly tricky, with many experienced Open dogs crossing over or not finding the sheep. Bill certainly had trouble as well, but got out there both times. His first outrun was relatively clean, just one stop and redirect and on he went. The second time, he ran deeper and came across the pen full of sheep at the top of the field, which perplexed him. After a bit, i got him to go on around where he found his group of sheep. I thought that was a very good learning experience for him. It was a bit rough around the course, as it was for everyone, but Bill got around both days with fairly decent lines. We had a quick shed to finish the course saturday and then timed out at the pen on sunday. I really loved how Bill worked and held it together, and the authority he was showing over his sheep. Confidence was just shining through and i couldn't have been happier to see that!
I ran Jet second on saturday and she pulled up terribly, terribly short on her outrun and it took forever to get her over to lift. It was very frustrating, to say the least. Zac ran third and had a beautiful run, coming at a time when the sheep were being extra cranky and tearing around the course like crazy. He ran out well (after trying to cross behind me on his send command, which cost us dearly on points), nice lift, straight, calm fetch and drive. Pen was clean and when i looked down at my watch to see how much time we had left, i realized it hadn't started counting down! (probably because i was fiddling with resetting it, etc after Zac tried to go the wrong way). I was pretty certain time was short, so started rushing around on the shed and couldn't get it set up before time ran out. Turns out i might have had time to get it set up, but it was pretty tight. Overall, it was a very good run and i thought the score would be close to the leader at the time, but we ended up 7th instead, quite a way off the leading score. I think i must have been seeing the lines a little differently than the judge but that's the way it goes sometimes. I'm certain she was judging the lines tighter than i'd thought as well (note to self: be pickier next time, dummy!). The cross behind me surely didn't help much either. Anyway, it was a nice run and i was proud of how Zac handled and settled the sheep.
The runs on Sunday with Zac and Jet weren't anything to write home about. The sheep were racing around and really tired of the whole thing, and neither dog managed much with the groups we'd drawn. It was kind of a shame to see the sheep get so bad, since the rest of the trial was so well planned and executed. Not many dogs actually got to do a lift since the sheep were racing off the top end so hard, and that's a shame since that's when the dogs need to set the tone for the run. I'm not sure what would have made it better, perhaps running four sheep instead of three - i've seen that help tremendously at a couple of recent trials. It would mean another trip or two around the course over the weekend for each sheep, but that might not be so bad if it could be a calmer trip and not a race to try to beat the dogs. Moving the setout pens to a position behind the setout point, rather than off to the side, might have helped as well. The pull to the exhaust was hard but might have been okay if the draw uphill to the setout wasn't there as well. That's all just supposition though, no complaints here. It was a very good trial.
Now off to the Watercress SDT in Limestone, TN this coming friday-sunday!