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)