Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bluegrass Wrap up

Sorry to be a slacker in posting about the KY trials but i was having too much fun to spend much time in front of the computer! The Bluegrass was terrific this year and i had a blast. There were lots of new handlers to meet and lots of new dogs to watch, as well as the chance to see what a year of progress had done for others. It's hard to beat the Bluegrass for a great time spent away from the handler's post. I know i came home excited and motivated about the dogs.

I was mostly pretty thrilled with how my dogs ran. Because i was limited to one dog in the Open by virtue of the draw, Bill was only running in the Nursery. He was a bit off his game on his first run, and was startled at the top end of the field as he picked his sheep up, by the set out person's big yellow boots, of all things (!). It was kind of funny really but not exactly how i planned our BG week to start. His fetch was very offline but the rest of the run was nearly perfect and he ended up about halfway down the pack. He was back to form on his second run. I gave him a very hard down at the top to get him to settle back a bit and it paid off, as the run was very good and he finished 2nd by one point. For the 3rd round of Nursery, the sheep come over from the Open field and things get interesting, as the young dogs meet the wily Texas lambs. The first 2 days were run on nice yearling wool sheep but they are pretty dogged. The Texas lambs have been worked in groups of 3 exactly one time in their lives, on the Open field. Bill's first run on these sheep was less than stellar as he ran right into them after lifting. We were lucky to not be DQed! He got more comfortable and was really enjoying them by the end of the run though, and ended up about 1/4 of the way down in the final placings. On to the final Nursery run, and Bill was really terrific. I went out with a different plan, and dropped him at the top just a hair short of balance so i could see him when he came forward, and hopefully keep him from rushing into the sheep. It worked like a charm and the whole run was beautiful. We ended up tied for first and won the run off, for a 1st place finish. I was really pleased and proud of my young guy for a great week. It was a bit like last year in the Nursery, where he got a bit better each time out and ended up winning the final day as well. It's nice to measure against such a large Nursery class, with most of the contenders for this years Finals attending, as well.

Jet was up in the Open class early on Thursday, a very good time to run as it's cool and the sheep are usually a little bit more agreeable. Unfortunately, we ended up wasting the good draw. I'd planned for weeks to send Jet to the right, in hopes she'd get deep enough that even with her habitual stopping short, that she could get a decent lift. But as i watched run after run on Wednesday end as the sheep broke back to the left, i decided to try sending her left instead. Stopping short would really leave her at the correct lift point, and we'd save tons of time that she'd have used easing over from the right side after pulling up. I knew it was risky but decided to try it anyway. Unfortunately Jet pulled up in front of the sheep, not even getting around them, and they broke back anyway. I kicked myself pretty good in hindsight, thinking i should have stuck with my plan to send right, as i'm sure she'd have gotten the sheep down the field but that's how it goes sometimes.

I decided to sub Zac in for the second Open run rather than send Jet out again. He's been working pretty strong and i thought the sheep would be better in the second round, and he would be the better choice. We were up early Saturday morning, when the sheep were good again. I was actually feeling pretty nervous, which is very unusual for me, i just don't get nervous at trialing much at all. But i was this time, i think because Zac didn't do well last year, having a lot of trouble getting the sheep down the field. But he's older and stronger now, and was running in a much better time slot, and he didn't have any trouble at all lifting. I let him get them well started, not worrying too much about them getting off line, as i wanted the draw back to the set out to fade before i messed with him much. We got them back in the vicinity of the fetch panels easily enough but i took him off the pressure on the sheep right at the panel and they slipped around. First leg of the drive was nice but i did the same thing at the panel, drew some pressure off the sheep and they slipped around (that was my nerves working on me, i think). Crossdrive was really nice, right straight through the panels (my nemesis in years past, that darned crossdrive panel, and it's the only one i hit). Return leg was very good, on into the shedding ring. Now i've had lots of trouble shedding at the Bluegrass in the past, but for some reason my nerves were gone (maybe because i'd given away so many points at the panels) and i was feeling pretty confident. I got it set up and called Zac in on one heck of a shed, tiny little gap, and he blew in like gangbusters. It was truly pretty darned spectacular. After it was called, the lamb tried to go over Zac and he went straight up in the air stopping it. Unfortunately, it then broke up the field and when he couldn't catch it in front (probably because i was yelling at him just enough to slow him down a hair), he grabbed it by the shoulder and we got the dreaded "thank you" for a DQ. All in all though, i was thrilled with Zac. He really ran well, listening to me and handling the sheep, and it was so much fun being out there with him. I'd have sure liked another crack at the sheep to handle our way through the run better, that's for sure.

It was a great trip to KY and i can't wait to go back next year!
(photos by Mindy Bower)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Chinquapinwood SDT Wrap up

The 2010 Chinquapinwood trial was very nice. The trial is hosted by Mike and Laura Hanley at their beautiful farm near Lexington KY. It's a really gorgeous farm with manicured green grass, classic Ky horse fencing, and every detail is attended to all weekend, including a fabulous handlers dinner on Saturday evening.

I was very pleased with all 3 Open dogs this weekend. I spent the time between Shaker Village and this trial at the farm of Vergil and Anne Marie Holland, and was able to get a couple of lessons in with Vergil, and it certainly paid off in the performances of Zac and Bill. Both ran extremely well. Zac ended up placing in the first round and i was surprised neither placed in the second as they ran very clean. The drive panels are really tough to hit on this field and there are tons of misses but we hit them both on every run. Sheds were tight for us as several were made with only 1 or 2 seconds left on the clock. All in all, it was a very enjoyable weekend though i was disappointed to not pick up some qualifying points towards the Finals for Jet and Bill.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Shaker Village Rafting Trip 2010

Oh wait, it's not a rafting trip, it just FEELS like one. 8.5 inches of rain, handlers unable to get to the trial field because of flooded roads, others (like myself) trapped at the trial field by creeks running over roads. Seriously, we do this for fun?! I have to say, Bob Washer gets the diehard award in my book. I heard he walked his dogs in across the flooded creek just to get here to run. I say i *heard* this, because i've been planted in my camper almost the entire weekend, emerging occasionally to run a dog.

The trial started Friday with the novice classes and two Nursery classes. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and pleasant and just nearly perfect. I ran Dot in PN and she did reasonably well. She was a little hesitant on her outrun, perhaps because the field is steep and rough with brushy growth. But she took her redirects, lifted well, nice straight fetch taking all the small flanks i was giving her. Turn was around a post set in front of the handler's post and was nice. Drive out was good but ended a bit to the right of the panels, and Dot decided she just couldn't take any away flanks there. She finally ran clockwise around the sheep and brought them back to me, and we penned easily. Even with the very costly missed panel and circling the sheep, she ended up 6th of 19 dogs. I was pretty pleased with her but won't be running her at the Bluegrass. She was still on the waiting list but i don't think she's quite ready for trials just yet.

Bill ran two Nursery classes. His 1st run was going extremely well though he had a difficult group of sheep. One kept lagging behind and trying to fade off and it cost us quite a bit of time on the fetch and drive out. I tried making up some time on the crossdrive by having Bill flank and bump her to speed the group along, and the one cranky ewe decided she had enough and bolted up the hill. Bill couldn't catch her, i think because his leg is still not 100%, and we retired. His second run wasn't nearly as clean and i missed the driveaway panels, which landed us 5th of 15 dogs.

Saturday morning the thunder and lightning began about 5am and the weather was the major focus of the rest of the weekend. Jet ran 5th and we were somewhat lucky on the weather. It wasn't raining when we began, but by the end of our run, the sky had gotten so dark i could hardly see, and it just opened up as soon as we came off and the trial was halted for a long break. Jet didn't run out well, pulling up well short, pushing the sheep off sideways. She didn't want to give up the pressure point and it took some doing to get her to put the sheep back online, but we got there fairly soon after the lift point. The rest of the run was very clean but the top end killed our score and we were out of the placings. Zac ran in the rain later on. He also pulled up quite short, as many dogs were doing. And he pushed the sheep hard off sideways and just wouldn't take my away flank to fix it. I couldn't get the sheep back online until the fetch panels and he just kept flipping back to overwork the draw. We got around the drive okay but were called on standard before shedding. I was very pleased with how well Zac moved these heavy sheep, lambing seems to have been very good for him.

Sunday brought more, you guessed it, heavy rain. I decided to run Bill in Jet's spot since she'd pulled up so short. It was hard to tell exactly what happened up top, but it looked like Bill pulled up short and the sheep ran back to the set out, without him even trying to stop them. I don't know if he was in front of them or just short off to the side, but either way, he did nothing to try to stop them. I wish i knew what happened because it wasn't very Bill-like, to my eye. He's not run out with any enthusiasm this weekend and i think his leg must be bothering him. It seems to bother him the most when he goes uphill, and this field is sharply steep to the top. He's definitely off somehow, either physically or mentally. I'll see how he does this week with some work and have to decide if he's really ready for trialing. Zac ran later and we got around without being called to the standard but i doubt we placed. I haven't seen scores yet. He ran out a bit better than saturday, finishing better, but still pushed the sheep off to the side and gave me a big fight about putting them back online. We got there sooner than yesterday but he sure didn't want to take those flanks again. Drive was clean, pen clean, then i took the front sheep on the single since we were about out of time and it kept presenting.

All in all, it's not been the start i was hoping for with this long trial trip. I'm going to try to work the Open dogs some this week, at some distance, to see if i can get a little more compliance out of them. It's a problem we run into too frequently as a result of working mostly in small fields.

Oh, have i mentioned how happy i am to have my own ark, a.k.a. camper here?!