The Memorial Day weekend trial at Dr Ben and Emily Ousley's in Lawndale, NC is one I've attended nearly every year since i first started competing at sheepdog trials. So that's what, 16 years or so? Time sure has flown but one thing remains the same - the Ousley family are just the nicest people you'd ever want to meet and they bend over backwards to make all of us feel like we're family too.
The trial is set on a field that rises out in front of you in terraces, and the sheep come from the large home flock of katahdins. For the friday afternoon Nursery class, 5 sheep were run. I ran Bill and he did a lovely job, running clean enough that he nearly won the class even though we couldn't get the sheep penned. He ended up 2nd behind Christine and her Rook son Kaige. He continued to run very well in the Open classes over the weekend, though i'd have liked to see him deeper at the top end of his outrun. This field tends to bring the dogs in tight but i thought he was even tighter than i'd have expected. We'll be working on that a bit before the fall trials, though i won't overdo it as i think he'll be one to loosen up naturally as he ages. I was happy with his work the whole weekend, as he was very consistent and had good control of the sheep on every run. He ended up in 10th place in the first round and just out of the placings in the 2nd, and nearly made the double lift based on combined scores. In our second run, we had a ewe that just didn't want to be penned and losing that 10 points knocked us out of it. I also ran Bill in monday Nursery class but decided to just try to train on him a bit rather than run competitively. I wanted to work on his outrun and did stop him to redirect but the sheep broke down the field, which was unfortunate.
Zac ran quite well at the trial as well, though his overenthusiasm did hurt us in the first round. He had a gorgeous go around the course but was overflanking at the shed and we never managed to get it, losing those and the pen points. He did place in the second round, 14th.
I stuck around on monday to watch the Ranch and ProNovice classes and ended up setting sheep for the PN class. It's always fun to see how the dogs look from that end of the field. An extra added treat was getting to see my Gael run for the first time with Kelly. She did great!
It was a great trial with a lot of dogs to run this year, over 70 Open dogs in each round. The sheep seemed fit and mostly pretty even. We'll head back over to the same trial site at the end of June for a trial to benefit the 2010 National Finals.