Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Watercress Farm SDT
We're back home after a terrific weekend at the Watercress SDT in Limestone, TN, hosted by Jan Thompson at her gorgeous farm. I mean really, WOW, what a beautiful area. I wish i'd gotten pictures and i'll grab some to post here if i see any pop up on the web. The changing leaves were at their peak and we were surrounded by mountain after mountain. I walked to the top of the field the evening before the trial started to look at the course, and was knocked speechless when i turned around to see the incredible view with the sun laying across the golden leaves on undulating mountains. Whew, not to be forgotten.
Jan and her fabulous crew of helpers did a wonderful job with the trial. I can't think of a single thing i'd suggest to make it better. The field was large and challenging, the sheep were fit and fat and healthy. All in all, every detail was attended to. We were even treated to one of the best handler's dinners of the year to top it off. This was Jan's second year of hosting the trial. I didn't make it last year but I won't miss it again!
Friday was the Novice/Nursery day and i ran Billy twice in Nursery. He ran pretty well in the first go, though a little tight on his outrun. That was surprising as i thought he'd run pretty wide since he was going his wider direction and the field was very open to that side. Fetch and drive were good and the pen should have been good, but Bill took an extra step to push the sheep out just as they were going in. Twice. We finished 3rd for the go. Since he'd run so tight the first go, and Bill has plenty of qualifying placements for the Finals, i thought i'd just train a bit on the second go, trying to widen him out on his outrun. He wasn't having any of that, even though i stopped and redirected him several times, he wasn't bending. Around the course was decent enough but no placement since we were in training mode. I found out later there was a very nice engraved whistle as a prize for the overall and spent some time kicking myself for not trying for that. Lesson learned!
Saturday was a dreary, yucky weather day, cold with misty rain most of the day. I ran Zac around 14th or so. He ran out pretty well but ended up tight at the top, pushing the sheep offline to start the fetch. The fetch ended up pretty good once we got them back on line, pretty tight to the line and Zac had the group really nailed together. As we turned the post, Zac started fighting me, not taking the flank i was asking for and once he took it, i saw why. The lead ewe in the group took off like a bat out of hell up the field as soon as Zac took the pressure off of her. It was very odd and i'd have never predicted it from how they were acting on the fetch. Zac worked his butt off to catch her, well up the field and well past the first drive gates. We got back on the crossdrive line and finished out the drive in good control. Next was the shed and i was quite thrilled with Zac's performance there as we took 2 lambs off the group of 4 in fine fashion. He's gotten to be a really good shedding dog and it's a lot of fun for both of us. On to the pen where we worked to get the group in only to have time called as the gate was about 6 inches from shut. It wasn't an easy group of sheep and i was really pleased with Zac. Jet, on the other hand, was a little stinker when i ran her later in the afternoon. I knew she'd pull up short on this course, but the little you-know-what pulled up in *front* of the sheep, pushing them off backwards! I was very unhappy with her and then she didn't want to flank on the fetch once we got going in the right direction, so i went into training mode, thinking i'd try to salvage something from the run by getting her listening for the next day's run. I ended up walking off on the drive, once i felt i'd made my point with her.
Sunday was a much nicer weather day, sunny though still pretty cold. I decided to substitute Billy in for Jet in my morning run to give him experience, since i really didn't expect Jet to do much better than the first day. He ran out nicely to the left (oddly enough, the side he's usually tight on) and lifted well. After the lift, he pushed into the sheep, splitting them and knocking them offline. Actually, i think he did it twice before getting it together and into the range where i could have some impact on him. The second half of the fetch was nice, the turn and first leg of the drive good, and then Bill refused to flank right to turn at the panels. He didn't want to come off the pressure but the sheep started booking up the field, getting very deep before he finally caught them. We put them right back online and finished the drive very nicely. The pen was very clean and then we were on to the shedding ring, where we were to take a single off the back of the group of three. The sheep were very hard to split and we manuevered them around a bit trying to get a good shed, with Bill seeming to be "getting it" on the shedding, really keyed in and trying to help me get a gap. I was happy to see that, i think he's on his way to being a good shedder. Since the back single wasn't coming easily, and the sheep were so difficult to split, i decided to take the front sheep as she kept leading out and leaving a nice gap. We got slaughtered on points for it but the run wasn't going to be really competitive anyway. I didn't want to keep fiddling with getting it right since Bill was trying so hard, and wanted to do something to give him a sense of accomplishment. He came in nicely with good enthusiasm and was quite pleased with himself. I was very happy with him overall. I want to make sure he's having positive experiences since he's just moved to Open, and this was a good one.
After a long wait, Zac was finally up as the second to last dog of the day. I sent him off left as i had the day before and he kicked wide and deep, obviously having learned something from the first time out there. He landed perfectly and the sheep drifted off the top, straight towards me. He kicked to one side and i kicked him back over, and from there the sheep never veered offline a bit. It was a nice, calm walk straight towards me. I'd gone out hoping to work on having a nice flow to the run and Zac was giving it to me. I'd put him over on the pressure side to show the sheep they shouldn't veer off, being very careful to not let Zac overdo it and make the sheep turn off the fetch line, and then he'd scoot behind to make sure they were continuing towards me without stopping for a graze. Turn around the post was smooth and tight, and the first leg of the drive continued on as the fetch had, dead straight and a comfortable pace. With the late afternoon light, it was really hard to tell when the sheep were through the driveaway panels, and i was getting nervous knowing we had such a good run going. I wiggled the sheep just a hair to try to see if they were through and decided they weren't, driving on just a little further, and then saw a bit of shadow from the panel on the inside sheep's backside, so started the turn carefully. The group squeaked right around the panel and were through. The crossdrive was straight and online and just as we got to the panel i started protecting the bottom side a little too much and the sheep barely slipped around the top panel for 6 points gone (the first points we'd lost). It was pretty hard to see as the shadows were playing tricks around those panels, but i think nerves were getting to me. I don't get nervous usually, but having a good run will do it to me. I knew my run was good enough that it would place if i finished clean, even with the missed panels, so i kept the pressure on. Our return leg to the pen was very good, the pen clean as a whistle. On to the shed with about a minute and a half to go. We flanked back and forth a bit, trying see who might be the better candidate to split off and i decided on a lamb that was hanging at the back by just a hair. I wanted to string them out but they weren't having anything to do with that and were clumped up very tightly after having just spent 8 minutes leaning on each other around the course. I got in position and brought Zac slowly forward until the front two started forward, and calmly called Zac in - "this one" (weird since i never use that particular command). Zac came in strong and a bit far, and then was very exuberant trying to hold the single, and we lost 2 points on the shed (for coming through too far). Final score was 92, I was blown away, that was the best run i've ever had in terms of flow and control and lines. I'm still enjoying it today! We ended up in 3rd place, behind Christine Henry and Bob Washer, but really the placement didn't matter. The memory sure will.
It was a great trial and a nice weekend. The puppies even had a ball, meeting lots of people and dogs, and having great wrestling sessions in their pen with brother Ranger. Next up, the Rural Hill trial in 2 weeks.