The Broken Back Ranch SDT, hosted by Steve Godfrey and held in Cowpens, SC, went really well this past weekend. The katahdin sheep were fit and relatively even from group to group. Kent Kuykendall did a fine job sorting the runs and it was great to see him at a trial for the first time in several years. The field had changed from the previous year, with a much shortened outrun, which was unfortunate. The crossdrive however, may have been the longest one i've ever seen at a trial, whew! It was interesting seeing seasoned Open dogs on that crossdrive. You could almost hear them saying "geez, are we ever going to turn and head back to the post?" as many of them lost confidence a bit about 3/4s of the way across. The turn around the handler's post was actually a turn around a hay bale, set about 50-75 yards in front of the post. Where many dogs had trouble with it last year, very few did this year. It was a pretty good course and a decent challenge.
On friday, the Nursery dogs tackled the full course twice, without the shed of course. The turn around the hay bale was confusing for some of the dogs but most managed to get it done and there was some nice work. Bill ended up winning both Nursery classes, but just barely. I thought his second run was really nice and smooth. The long drive brought out his eye and he got a little stiff on his flanks by the time we were ready to turn at the crossdrive panel, but we got it done in good fashion.
Zac was up first for me on saturday in the Open. He ran very well but i wasn't keeping lines quite tidy enough, with some wiggling around at both panels. Our turn at the hay bale was beautiful though, nicest one i saw all weekend. Pen was good and the single should have been. Zac helped me get a nice hole and i called him in. He committed nicely but somehow got off track as he came in and pushed into the two sheep i was trying to let leave, splitting them. The judge had already called it (i'm sure he'd have liked to take it back!) so we got the single but were hit heavily on points. It was a decent run and just out of the placings. I ran Bill in my second spot and he did a beautiful job! The whole run was very, very nice with good lines, tight turns and clean pen and single. The only problem with the whole run was that i let the sheep slip above the crossdrive panels and then pulled them through. It was a huge error on my part but i just saw it wrong. It was a real shame as it cost us 8-9 points and a 1st or 2nd place finish. Bill ended with an 85, in 9th place and a 93 won it. That was disappointing but he sure ran sweet.
Bill was up first for me on sunday. Unfortunately, we drew a ewe that didn't want to cooperate very nicely. She was workable but not one to win on, throwing her head up high and racing around the course looking for an escape. Bill did an admirable job working her but we just couldn't get her to settle down enough to get really good lines. And at the pen she was a real problem, breaking around the open side or around me and determined to not go in. After some really good work, Bill did manage to get her penned, just as time was expiring. It was a good learning experience for Billy, and i was really proud of him placing 3 out of 4 runs. His shedding this weekend was much improved too.
Zac was up a little later in the day and had a very good run. The fetch was a bit wobbly but i think he was trying to settle one of his sheep, get her broken into behaving along with the others. The drive and split were very clean and then we had a little trouble penning, when that ewe started acting up again. She led the group around the open side, then around me, just a bit out of the pocket on both sides, but Zac caught them and got them in and i got the gate closed with about 1.5 seconds to go. Final score was a 91, good for 4th place.
All in all, it was a very good weekend for the Shoofly boys. I was very pleased with how well they ran and how consistent they were. I'm looking forward to 2010 with them as my Open team.