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Wednesday, October 26, 2011
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Wednesday, October 19, 2011
The sheep were very good at this trial, very cooperative around the course if handled well by the dogs and making them pay if not handled well. I thought they were a bit more challenge for the at hand tasks of shedding and penning in general, though there were plenty of sheds and pens for everyone, even if they weren't all trouble free. The Montadales seem to react a little differently to the dogs up close and weren't very reactive to the handlers. It was fun for me trying to figure them out anyway. The course both days ended with a split and pen of the 4 sheep.
I was lucky enough to be able to run all 3 dogs in the Open, as well as 2 runs in the Nursery with Zeke. Zeke was first up for me in the Open on the first day and i was very pleased with him. He was calm, cool and collected all the way around. We ran into trouble on the shed as i was trying to figure out the sheep. They didn't seem to want to string out for us and it took a minute for me to figure that out, as they flipped back and forth repeatedly. Knowing Zeke would blow into even a tiny gap, i finally just leaned in to show him where i wanted him to come, and he blasted in for a beautiful split with no gap at all. It sure is fun shedding with him! On to the pen where i began a day of penning woes. One ewe decided she'd just go under me instead of into the pen, and that pretty much became my pen theme of the day as i never did get a decent pen in 4 runs. Zac and Bill both ran very well around the course and through the shed, but i was just cursed at the pen for the day. Bill ended up 5th and Zac was out of the placings. The first Nursery class ran at the end of Open and Zeke had a nice run but the darned pen knocked us into 2nd place. Bob Washer won the Open for the day after a very, very close run off with Barb Levinson and Cy Peterson. Carla King and Sage won the Nursery.
Day two went a bit better for my guys but the competition was really stiff as one bobble here or there would knock you out of contention for the placings. Zac and Bill both had winning runs going up to the at hand work, but a missed attempt on the shed by Bill and a ewe skimming the outside of the pen on Zac knocked them down to 5th and 7th place, respectively. Zeke was laying down a smoker of a run when a quick overflank at the crossdrive panel got things out of whack and it took several points worth of effort to get back on track, knocking him out of contention. He was really on for his second Nursery class at the end of the day though, and won it handily, getting his first qualifying leg. Mike Hanley won the Open for the day. Bob Washer ended up overall champ for the 2 days, with Bill and me reserve champs.
Sunday brought out the novice dogs and i stayed around to watch most of the day. Wow, are there some good teams coming along there. Lots of good runs and nice dog work.
It was another fun few days at a wonderful trial, with gorgeous weather and nice people. The ranch is a lovely place with a lot going on. I enjoyed seeing the big chicken tractor and the pastured hogs, and even brought home a big bag of farm raised meats, yum. And now we're packing and preparing to head to TN for Jan Thompson's Watercress SDT this coming weekend.
Monday, October 17, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
I had 2 Open spots in the trial and my plan was to run Zac and Bill in the first round, then if Zac wasn't staying sound i'd perhaps sub Zeke in for him in the second round. Truthfully, i was just itching to give it a shot with Zeke to see what he'd do with that 600 yard outrun, one of the most difficult we'll ever run into at a trial. Given that I don't have a turnback on Zeke and only the sketchiest of redirects, i was trying to be sensible and not throw him in the mix but i sure wanted to try it. He's got a good head so i felt that even if he wasn't successful, it wouldn't cause any harm to his training. But i resisted for the first round and stuck to just running the 2 experienced dogs. Zac was my first up and had a pretty decent run around the course. I missed the crossdrive gates and thought the run was sloppy enough to keep us out of contention but in the end, Zac ended up placing 13th out of the 67 dogs. Bill had a very good run but troubles at the pen cost us several points and he finished 9th.
So you know what's coming, right? Of course, i put Zeke in for the second round! It was one of those years where lots of dogs were crossing over or not finding the sheep, but i just couldn't stand it so put him in as my 3rd dog. He was definitely seeing the sheep at the top, and left my feet nice and wide. I thought he was on a really correct path but gave him a little verbal "out" reminder just after he left, just for insurance, and out and out he sailed for a perfect outrun. I was dying to do a little happy dance standing at the post! He landed nicely, lifted a bit hard, and the sheep broke hard to the right down the hill, as they'd been doing all weekend. Zeke didn't quite know what to do about that and got them about half way to me before i managed to get him around to stop them. Back online and around the course, a little too pushy but not horrible, off to the pen, where the sheep decided they wanted nothing to do with being trapped in that small space. A bit of round and round but we did get them in, then off to the shedding ring where they were stuck together as if glued. No time to finish the shed but all in all, a great first time out at Edgeworth for young Zeke. What a good boy!
Zac was my next one up and again had what i thought was just an okay run around the course. I couldn't get anything close to a shed as the sheep were feeling very friendly with each other, stuck in a clump, and Zac couldn't get within 15 yards without them bolting around me. So with no shed i thought we were out of luck, but in the end we had held onto a 3rd place, Zac's highest ever finish at Edgeworth. He was really working well, especially with having been laid up with the injury. Bill ran towards the end of the round and was good around the course but for some reason decided he just wasn't going to shed and wouldn't come through for me. That was unfortunate as he had a high placing run up to that point.
So another Edgeworth is done, another great weekend passed on that beautiful field. The picture above of the field was taken last year, looking through Zeke's ears. I'd only had him a few weeks and he had the best time watching the trial and being around all the people and dogs. If you've met Zeke, you know he's a real "life is good!" kind of dog, all the time. He was just starting his sheepdog education then. I think it's pretty cool that he got up that field just a short year later. I'm just a little proud of him! :-)
Thursday, October 6, 2011
I was happy with the performances of both of my dogs. Bill seems to have really picked up a lot of knowledge and confidence from his experience on the western trip. I could feel the confidence in his work as he muscled the stroppy sheep around the field. The first day was especially fun for both of us as he had a ewe that kept trying to break off to the exhaust while leaving her friends behind. It made for a nice puzzle for us to work out. He ended up in 2nd place both days and was the overall Champ for the weekend. I ran Zeke since it was a small course and i'm still resting Zac, and he did very well himself. The first day he had a good enough run that he'd surely have placed well, but i just could not get the sheep to part on the shed. It was no fault of Zeke's, other than perhaps he'd muscled them around a bit hard and made them not want to separate. Not accomplishing the shed also cost the pen points. He ran very well the second day as well, finishing just out of the placings.
Montpelier is a special trial for me in many ways. The first trial i ever witnessed was at Montpelier, with my first little BC puppy Bailey when she was just a couple of months old. My mom and dad attended the trial once, camping with me there. I have many memories of attending the trial with Joan over the years. It's bittersweet to remember traveling to the trial together last year, with her passing only short time after. This year a new memory was added. I always see Pat and Steve at this trial, the people who i placed my first real Open dog Ben with many years ago, to help with their goat herd (they exhibit at the fiber festival). This year, Pat told me that Steve had passed away earlier in the year, and she told me a goosebump-worthy story. A few days before he died, she found Steve with a peaceful look on his face and he told Pat that he was sitting in a field with Ben, that Ben was happy and healthy and it was beautiful. One of their guard dogs was there too but he was so happy to see his Ben again. Of course we just bawled all over each other but wow, what a wonderful thing. Pat's always said i gave them the greatest gift, but i think truly i was the one given the gift, of knowing how happy they all were together. Isn't it amazing where these little black and white dogs can take you and who you meet? (photo of Ben at the Bluegrass by Denise Wall)
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Saturday began about noon and was for a Ranch class (same course as Open would run on Sunday, minus the shed). I was manning the judge's chair for the day and enjoyed it very much. The clerks were excellent and the competitors tried really hard. There were a couple of really good runs, but most folks found the course a challenge with the light sheep. Still, they hung in there and made the best of it, getting good experience in for themselves and dogs. The drive was the undoing for many but most managed to get it done and go on to try the pen. Carla King with Sage ended up winning, followed by Janey Harvey with Tony.
Saturday evening featured a delicious handler's dinner, hosted by Peggy Simpson and Todd Layfield, in their fabulous house. There's so much history in the area and the house has seen most of it in one form or another, being nearly 200 years old. Todd and Peggy have been working on the house for 8 years, reclaiming it from a state of disrepair and i thoroughly enjoyed walking around looking at all they've done.
Sunday brought out the Open dogs, who for the most part handled the sheep a bit better. They were getting a bit cranky but still held up and worked well. I ran Zeke early and he was still in "western" mode, pushing in on the sheep and causing lots of breaking and bolting. I was pleased that he was listening pretty well and maintaining his composure for the most part, but not too happy to see him slashing his righthand flanks on me - more work to be done there. Bill ran later in the day and drew up a nice group of sheep that were willing to settle and walk around the course for us. I mucked up the pen by letting the sheep bolt out of the opening when i had them 99% in but the run was good enough to get the blue ribbon. Karen Karkow's run with Jade (1st run of the day) was really nice and controlled, and she ended up 2nd.
All in all, it was a great little trial and i hope it becomes an annual one. It made for a nice start to the local trial season. Next up is the Montpelier SDT in Orange, VA this coming weekend.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Soldier Hollow is an amazing feat of organization and promotion, even more impressive this year with the ringmaster of it all having gone through several back surgeries in the 2-3 weeks prior to the trial. Mark Peterson is amazing. We got to pitch in and help a little with the promotion when Mark asked if i'd take a dog along to help with a morning news segment. Zac was a very good boy and you can see how it went here -- Connect2Utah segment
My heart was certainly in my throat when that sheep broke on Zac but it made for good tv!
Soldier Hollow was rough on me and the dogs as we finally came face to face with the real deal western sheep. I've heard that the sheep at SH are the toughest you'll face at any dog trial and i have to say, we sure had a tough time figuring them out. Zac ran first for me and though his score was very low, i was proud of him for sticking in there and figuring out how to move the sheep, even though they were alternately stalling out and then coming out after him. It certainly scared him when they'd go on the fight, but he showed his big heart staying in there and working it out. Bill seemed to have things figured out on his run but on the crossdrive started heading the sheep and finally shut them down, to the point where he just didn't know what to do to get them going again. I'd been trying to hold him back from it but not being insistent enough about it and it caught up to us. Bill didn't know what to do with sheep just ignoring him and finally we retired. On Zac's second run, he started bumping into the sheep at the top of the fetch to get them going and was called off for a grip. I was pretty surprised to get called at that distance since i sure couldn't see well enough to call it a DQ but that's what was called. Bill had a smoker of a run going for his second run when the sheep stalled out on him again. He did figure out to give them a quick nip to get them moving but so much time slipped by that i retired him instead of continuing to fight it. Overall it was a pretty poor showing but it sure taught me some handling lessons and i felt like the dogs learned some things too, especially Bill. I really enjoyed getting to watch all of the dogs run and Soldier Hollow is quite the show.
On Tuesday, we traveled to Meeker, where i had some practice time set up for the dogs before the trial started. Unfortunately, after a good workout Wednesday it became apparent that Zac had gotten hurt somehow, either at SH or practicing at Meeker. I got him some chiropractic care and started laser treatments in hope he'd be okay to run on Friday. On Thursday, Bill and I stepped to the post to meet the famous "Meeker sheep". I was very pleased with how Bill handled the sheep, and made some fairly drastic changes in how i ran him to accommodate the western sheep. It worked out pretty well, and even without a pen we managed a good enough score to get into the Saturday semifinals. Zac ran on Friday and handled the sheep nicely but i played it safe because of his injury, sending him the less rough way on his outrun to protect him. It cost several points as it was the more difficult direction and i had to redirect him a couple of times to get to the top without crossing over. That was enough to knock him out of contention for the semis. Bill ran very well in the semifinals but my inexperience on the western sheep again cost us dearly. We got around the course in pretty good fashion but things came to a screeching halt at the pen with a ewe that kept breaking out. Those western sheep react so differently from any we've worked before, and this was my first chance to even touch a pen rope with them on the trip. So we timed out at the pen and Bill ended up in 21st place for our first Meeker. I really enjoyed the Meeker trial a lot. It's a big undertaking but everyone is so nice and it went so well, while still having that "dog trial" feel to it. I hope to go again.
So on we go to the USBCHA National Finals in Carbondale, CO. It was a beautiful setting for a trial with Mt Sopris in the background. The sheep were amazingly even and a good test of the dogs, the trial field beautiful and green. Bill ran on Wednesday and had a very nice run, finally showing that he really had sorted out the western sheep in his mind. I was able to let him go and run him more like normal rather than the flank-flank-flank method i'd adopted at Meeker after SH. It sure felt nice to have my normal Bill out in front of me again. His score ended up 21st in the 1st round so we were through to the semifinals on Saturday. Zac ran on Thursday in a downpour and just didn't run well at all. His outrun was short and he shoved the sheep off to my left for the whole fetch. The drive started out fine though i was letting him move the sheep at a pretty good clip and then for some reason he busted into them after turning onto the crossdrive. I don't think he actually gripped but we were called off on a DQ. It certainly wasn't a very good run regardless. Bill drew up 6th in the semifinals for Saturday and really laid down a heck of a good run. We had a little wiggle going around the post and i managed to drive the crossdrive panels a smidge high, but it was a high scoring run even so. We got our split, managed to pen the western sheep (after i spent a few days studying how others were getting it done!) and had 20 seconds left coming out of the pen to get a single. I rushed into the shedding ring hoping maybe a collared ewe would bust off and we could have a quick call in, and heard the dreaded "thank you" from the judges. We were called for a grip though i still don't know where or how it happened. Someone said Bill bumped the sheep on the way to the ring but i didn't see it. It was absolutely heart breaking as our score without the single was a 145, good enough for a top 10 placement and a spot in the Finals. I hope to see video of it when the Finals DVD comes out because it must have been pretty minor and it certainly is out of character for Bill to do anything other than a polite "get moving" pinch of a bite at the rear of the sheep. I guess that's how it goes sometimes in dog trialing but i was sorely disappointed. It seemed Bill was peaking just right and our shot was suddenly gone. All in all though, it was a terrific Finals and the committee did an amazing job with such a huge undertaking. Here's a little video report from the Denver Post about the trial --
Denver Post report
And now we're home, missing the big open spaces and the incredible sheep out west. It was an exceptional learning experience for both myself and my trial team. The hospitality at all 3 trials was second to none and i'm so glad i was able to go on my great Western Adventure!
(1st pic by Maureen Robinson, 2nd by Mindy Bower)
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Friday, August 12, 2011
So on to the Grass Creek trial. I'd entered Zeke in the Open on the chance he might be ready, and since he'd done decent at 80 Acres, i decided to run him, so i was running 3 Open dogs again. First up was Bill, during a time when it was mostly yearlings that wanted to turn around and fight coming out. He handled them well enough but it ate up a lot of time and we didn't have enough to finish the pen and single. Zeke was next up and his gather was pretty good, with him listening nicely again. The drive was generally in the right direction but wiggly and very slow as i couldn't get him to come off the pressure where the sheep were really wanting to bolt. Not a surprising problem with a youngster who doesn't want to lose his sheep but it made for a lot of lost time, and we timed out coming into the shedding ring. Zac had a pretty decent go but ran when it was quite warm out. I had to keep things slow to keep him from getting too hot and i didn't manage the time well, and we timed out at the pen. So the dogs worked well enough but no placements in the first round and Bill and Zac would need stellar runs in the second go to get to the double lift.
Zeke was first up for me in the second round and his gather was again pretty good. The drive was better as he was freer flanking but this time he was overshooting the flanks a bit and again we missed both panels. The finish to the course was a single followed by the pen and Zeke did a fantastic job on the single, it was just beautiful. We ran out of time just as we got to the pen. His score was very low again but i was so happy with his composure over the 2 trials. I think i'll go ahead and plan to run him at the Nursery Finals next month, for the experience if nothing else. Zac was my second dog up and again ran in the heat. I kept him pretty steady around the course to save him for the finish and he had a great go, right up until the single. I couldn't be as careful as i wanted since they were hard to shed, and called Zac in on a single that was maybe a little too exciting for him. He came in beautifully but gripped on the hold. Too bad as he'd have easily placed well and been in the DL. Bill was my last dog and worked well around the course. I missed the crossdrive gates low unfortunately and that knocked us out of contention for a placement or the DL.
The trials were great as usual and it was a blast hanging out and socializing around the camping area. The dogs ran pretty well and i got a good idea what i need to spend some time on before we hit the road again in a couple of weeks. We certainly haven't peaked too soon at least! (All Zeke photos courtesy of Christine Koval - thanks Christine!)
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Friday, July 22, 2011
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Monday, May 30, 2011
Saturday, May 28, 2011
So on to the rest of the trial. The 2nd Open trial had a bit shorter course and most of the dogs seemed glad of it. The weather was the kicker though. About 2 inches of hail fell and stuck around most of the day, as it was in the 30s with a strong wind right in our faces. Bill had a very nice run, finishing with an 86 and 3rd place. He'd certainly figured the sheep out and moved them smartly. The shedding ring was marked with white plastic bags with sand in them, and i couldn't tell where the shedding ring was as they blended in with the hail! Zac ran late in the day and the hail had finally melted away. Or perhaps it just blew away - the wind was strong enough to knock you backwards. Driving rain kept my glasses completely covered at the post during the run but Zac held everything together nicely and finished 5th. I was very pleased with how he was moving the sheep.
I didn't have anyone running on the Nursery/Ranch day (wednesday) but it was decided to begin the 3rd Open round late that evening. The outrun was long - i heard 600 and 700 yard estimates, so it was somewhere around that. The drive was fairly small but i thought the crossdrive was especially hard to see. The first 8 dogs to run either gripped off or retired, as the sheep were feeling very cranky. Unfortunately, Zac was one of those. He tried very hard to bring in his sheep and was handling one of them that was coming out and trying to hit him, but when a second joined in, he went on the attack with a hard hanging on grip and was DQ'ed. Fortunately, the sheep were a bit happier thursday morning. Bill had a pretty nice run, moving the sheep along nicely and giving them a good hock bite when they'd try to stall out. The crossdrive killed us as i had no clue where the line was. We hit everything and the rest of the course was nice though, and he ended up 9th.
Friday was the last round of Open and it was a double gather trial for everyone. Each dog would run out to the right about 500 yards, bring the group of four sheep through the fetch gates and drop them off, then turn back to the left about 450 yards for a second group of four. After the fetch gates and joining up the two groups, all eight sheep would go to the shedding ring, where they'd be split into 2 groups of four, and the four shed sheep would then be penned. It was quite a good challenge with many dogs having trouble getting the turn back done. The shed also brought several handlers to grief as the left behind sheep were happy to try to rejoin with the shed ones. Zac was my first dog to run and he had a nice first gather, though it was a bit slow with the sheep being quite heavy. The turn back was pretty good though the line to the second group was pretty direct. Lift was nice and he was getting them sorted out and moved down the field fairly well, when he finally lost his cool and again gripped off. It was unfortunate as he was having a decent run and seemed to have gotten the sheep figured out. Bill ran towards the end of the class and had a really nice run. His biggest problem was the first outrun, where he ran out as if he thought the sheep were well to the left of where they actually were. I had to give him a hard stop and redirect to avoid a crossover. Lift and fetch were good. He started anticipating the turn back before i gave it, looking around as he knew what was coming. I had to keep him tuned to the first group though, since we didn't have them quite far enough up field just yet. When i did give the turn back, he took it very nicely. I gave him a redirect on the fly just for safety's sake since i couldn't see him in a dip in the field but i don't think he actually needed it as he ran out a bit wide after getting it. Lift and fetch were good and we hit both fetch gates coming in. With the sheep nicely settled in the shedding ring and grazing, and about a minute and a half to go, i called Bill in and got a quick split cleanly, and we shoved them in the pen with one little break by one ewe. At the end of the day, hitting all the gates and being pretty clean around the course paid off as Bill was the winner. Second was Jeanine van der Merwe, with Linda Tesdahl and Alan Mills tied for 3rd/4th.
So that's the Tabletop SDT blow by blow. It's an excellent trial and i'd highly recommend it to anyone. The sheep were an absolute blast to work, being freshly shorn yearlings off the range, not worked by dogs before. They'd sure challenge the dogs and let you know what was in them, good or bad. I had a terrific time, even with the "challenging" weather. It was so much fun to see the dogs learning so much over the course of the week, with the sheep and also with four very different courses to run. I'm happy with Zac, as he hung in there and did his best. I think he'll figure these sheep out before we head home, and even if he doesn't, he's shown me his heart as he's never given up and never given in. And i'm over the moon with Bill's performance. He's really blown me away with his ability to calmly handle the challenge, and with his ability and courage. I can't wait until the next trial! For now, we're settled in at Joni Swanke's in Bowman, ND and waiting on the "The Big One" SDT, which will start Tuesday evening. 900 yard outrun, here we come!
Thursday, May 26, 2011
So i guess i should do some catching up. I'm sitting in the camper at the TableTop SDT near Colorado Springs with a cold blustery wind ripping away outside, so it seems a good time to do it!
The Bluegrass was well run and well organized as usual but it just wasn't my week there. I was very pleased with the dogs, and felt like Zeke and Bill both learned a good deal from the sheep but we were well out of the placings with every run. Bill had never run at the BG before and never been on that sort of sheep, and i was pleased with the huge improvement from his first to his second run. By the end of his first run, his eyes were all lit up and i could see he was having a ball working the difficult lambs. On his second run he really mastered them quite well but with 2 lambs breaking different directions, a high score just wasn't meant to be. Zac ran quite well. His first lot of sheep had a real rotten one in it and i was very proud of the job he did with it. Unfortunately containing it meant we were short on time so no shed or pen. Even without, he was in the running for the double lift with a 63. His second run was at the very end of the day in difficult light, and he had trouble with the sheep stalling out on the fetch due to their empty bellies and some poor handling on my part, so the DL was not meant to be. Zeke was quite full of himself on the novice field but was running out very well and showing good confidence on his driving. We have much work still to do on his fetch as he was bullying the sheep at the top end of it. It probably was a bit soon for him to be running really, as i feel he needs to be a little further along in his training. I may hold off on running him again until we can get home and get him evened out, perhaps by the fall.
We bugged out of the BG late morning on Saturday and started pounding pavement west. After 22 hours of driving and one nasty thunderstorm spent overnighting in a Walmart parking lot, we pulled in here at the TableTop SDT. It's a big, beautiful field with Pike's Peak in the background, with fresh range sheep. There are 4 Open trials across the week with 4 different courses. The weather has been interesting to say the least. The first day started nice but by the end of the day we'd seen about all the types of weather you could think of. Well, until the next morning when we awoke to rain followed by about 2 inches of hail! And the wind, wow. This morning is blustery but the sun is peaking out.
On Monday Zac was quite perplexed by the range sheep, which were more than happy to come out of their neat group of five and smash into a dog that didn't show authority. The outrun was about 500 yards and he ran out reasonably well and lifted the sheep, but lost his confidence and blasted through the group for a DQ. I think he just didn't know what do to move them, and when he ran out of options, he lost his head. Bill was quite spectacular on these range sheep though. I could see that the lessons he'd picked up at the Bluegrass would hold. Outrun and lift were perfect. When he arrived at the top end, the sheep were split and he just neatly tucked the single into the group and motored them right on down the field. Fetch was straight with a narrow miss on the fetch gates. When these sheep would get up on the ridges running through the field, they'd spin around and test the dogs, feeling confidence from being higher than the dogs. This happened not too far from the handlers post and Bill showed great poise in working his way through it. The turn around the post was difficult as the sheep would stall out and fight, not wanting to go downhill on the first leg of the drive. With 3 big sheep facing him off, Bill kept his cool and turned them down the field. First leg was good with a little stall on a ridge but about half way across the crossdrive the sheep stalled out badly. They weren't fighting any more but put their heads down in a green patch of grass and just refused to move. It took a long time but Bill finally took a good bite and got them moving but unfortunately all the stalling ate up our time and we timed out just before entering the shedding ring. Unfortunate since we didn't get our drive points and would have placed. The going was very tough on the first day.
I'll post something about Day 2 later on….
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Monday, May 9, 2011
I was very happy with the dogs' performances. Bill and Zac both ran very well both times out. I think i was more rusty than either of them! In spite of me, they both placed well. Bill was 3rd the first day and 4th the second. Zac was 7th the first day, and i think he was just out of the placings on the second (haven't seen the final results yet). He had a rough group the second go and i was thrilled with how well he handled them. It was a chore just keeping them on the field, much less getting around as well as he did.
Zeke started off well with a reasonably good run in Nursery, just out of the qualifying spots. Next he ran in PN and i felt like he was stiffening up on his flanks and getting a bit sticky. So in his next Nursery run, i got after him a bit to get him listening better and especially getting on him for not taking his stops. At this stage of his training, i think it's way more important to get good experience and training in than it is to worry about placing. We had the chance to try a 3rd Nursery run and i was happy to see the training paying off, as Zeke was pretty good. I also ran Moon in her first ever trial and she did pretty well! I was mostly happy with her PN run. It wasn't stellar but she got out nice enough to her sheep and kept her head, and finished the course. Since she'd done pretty okay, i put her in that 3rd Nursery class and i was just thrilled with her. She had a decent outrun and a very nice fetch (few and far between on that course), and was listening pretty well. She had a really lousy draw of sheep and at the turn around the post they started splitting and breaking back on her towards the exhaust. She didn't have a clue how to handle it but trusted me to help her as much as i could, and kept her head really well. I fiddled with it a little bit for the sake of getting some training in with her, and when i felt she'd had enough, we walked off. But i was just so pleased with her. I still think i'll be selling her if i find the right fit, but she's coming along.
So that's the quick trial report. Life is crazy hectic with trying to get ready to leave next week. I hope to have lots of good news to report from the Bluegrass. Zac and Bill will be running in the Open (Bill's first time there) and Zeke is entered in the PN and Nursery. It'll be a busy week!
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
There is so much to be done and so many things to fret over with such an extended trip looming. I've always felt like us sheepdog handlers are nearly as obsessive-compulsive as our border collies, and a big trip sure brings it out in me. I try to remember that the dogs are the biggest thing i need to concentrate on though, and to that end conditioning and training are foremost in my mind at the moment. I'd have liked to have started running them more for fitness a bit sooner, but our weather was just lousy last week so i've started this week. Last night was our first serious fitness run, a solid 30 minutes behind the ATV, up and down hills, at a good constant jog. Zac, Zeke and Moon all flit along, bouncing and racing and having a grand time on these runs, but they're more that type of dog and tend to keep pretty fit for shorter bursts like this with just their approaches to life in general. Bill on the other hand, is Mr Steady and very conservative with his energy in general, so he settles in to a pace and jogs right beside me. I'll have to work harder to condition him but he'll also make up for it on the trial field where he controls himself and doesn't waste a lot of energy. The other three are more likely to "hit the wall" so i'll have to work on stamina with them, and that'll come as i extend run times.
I'm searching out larger fields for the dogs to work on, as well as just different fields for the youngsters, small or large. That's part 2 of the dog prep. Part 3 will be nutrition but i haven't quite decided what i'll be doing along those lines just yet. All 3 dogs are healthy and young, so hopefully it won't be as big of an issue as when running an older dog.
So, other than obsessing about the more mundane things (ever tried to pack for a month on the road?!), that's the big focus right now. Dogs, dogs, dogs. I'm going to try to keep a conditioning and training log and will post it here maybe once a week or so if it seems interesting at all.
Monday, April 4, 2011
Since we drove up early friday morning for the Novice day, I missed running Zeke in the first Nursery class. We did make it in time for the 1st ProNovice class though, and he had a very nice run. I sent him to the right, which is his favored side right now. He was a little tighter than i'd like, but not too bad. He kind of poked into the sheep after the lift but from that point it was all very clean and nice. Final score was a 72 (out of 80), good for second place. The second PN class was immediately after the first, and Zeke was back up again very quickly. The second run was pretty bad - i sent left to see if he'd widen a bit but he was really tight and not willing to stop or redirect at all. Fetch was good but he was overflanking on the drive really badly and the sheep kept doubling back on him, so i retired rather than fighting over it. The second Nursery class ran at the end of the Open on saturday, and i debated whether to run Zeke since his outruns had been bad in PN. I went ahead and ran him, hoping that the extra space and length would encourage him to widen a bit, and also so that he could do a much longer drive and hopefully get into more of a rhythm on it of pushing the sheep along. Fortunately, both of those happened. I sent him right and he bent out nicely as he made contact with his sheep. He was still a little tight on the back side, but his attitude was more correct. The fetch was pretty good and the driving was lovely except for when i very carefully steered high above the crossdrive panels. Pen was clean and final score was 79 (out of 90) for third place. If not for my poor steering, Zeke would have had his first Nursery leg in his first Nursery run ever. I was very pleased with my youngster! It was a pretty good place for running the young dogs and i wished i'd entered Moon in the PN. They were too full to add any extra dogs though, so she had to make do with some good socializing and learning to hang out and relax at dog trials. Joe had a ball charming every person and dog he could reach. He's quite the social butterfly.
Saturday brought out the big dogs for the Open. Zac was my first up and ran out fast and tight, not his usual outrun. He overshot the top end a bit but flanked back when asked, and then overworked the draw to the right by pushing the sheep well offline to the left. I don't know if he was in a dead spot on the field or it was just the adrenaline of a dog trial after a layoff rushing in his ears, but i couldn't get control of him at all until the fetch panels, even though i was yelling my guts out. From that point on it was a nice, controlled run but it sure started like a wreck. Bill's run later in the day was very nice but i just couldn't get the shed, no matter what i tried. The sheep in this flock can be awfully hard to separate and we just had a group that knew how to keep from splitting. It was unfortunate as we would have had a high placing score.
Zac was my first up again Sunday and did something i've never seen him do - going out to the right, he pulled up at 3 o'clock and walked in to the sheep directly from there. He was between the sheep and the setout pen and i guess he decided to hit that pressure point and hold it. I couldn't get him to flank at all either. Very strange. Afterwards it occurred to me that perhaps all those people who've run at this trial a hundred times knew what they were doing when they were sending left! I got him down just after the sheep lifted and got them online pretty quickly, and then went to schooling on him since i knew we were out of any kind of score at that point. I thought i'd get some training in since we were there and it wasn't a jam packed entry. The rest of the run was actually really pretty though i'm sure it sounded terrible with me growling at him and making him really listen. He probably wasn't too far out of the placings in the end. Bill's run was quite good though he pulled up a hair short at the top, lifting slightly offline and fighting me when i was trying to get the sheep back online for the first half of the fetch. They weren't far offline and he was determined to bring them straight, but i needed to move them over a bit. The rest of the run was very clean. I left before the trial was over but i heard he ended up placing about 5th.
So that was our weekend adventure. I'm very glad we went as this gives me a good idea what i need to be doing with the dogs before the next trial, in 4 weeks. It looks like outruns and long fetches are in order, as well as establishing some flexibility again. Our big KY/CO/ND trip starts 6 weeks from tomorrow so we'll be working hard on conditioning as well, starting today.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Last weekend was the 4th trial at the farm, held again to raise funds towards ovarian cancer research at Duke. It was bittersweet after losing Joan in January. I couldn't quite bring myself to call it Whistle For a Cure with her gone, but most of the trial proceeds will go to the usual fund (you can still contribute here). It was a lovely weekend weather wise and a big success. Even more people than usual pitched in and it all went off very well.
My young dogs, Moon and Zeke, are coming along really well these days and i'm quite excited about both of them. They're still very young at 19 months old, but looking pretty good and getting pretty trained up. They couldn't be any different. Zeke is very steady and natural, while Moon is my pocket rocket and needs a good bit of handling to keep things under control. They're going to keep me on my toes for sure! While very different, i think they both have a lot of potential. I've come very close to selling Moon several times but i think she's going to be a good one, though that may still be a little more time away. She's certainly exciting anyway. Zeke is a good guy, somewhat like Bill was to train. He's just my guy all the way and a real partner. They're both trying really hard in their own ways. Both are nearly ready to run Nursery, at least on good sheep. Moon probably isn't ready for big trial excitement on sheep that try to run away with her, not just yet anyway. Zeke is probably a little more ready to handle that just because of his nature but i'm not sure about longer outruns with him just yet. I think they're both ready for ProNovice though, and have Zeke entered in both PN and Nursery at the trial we're going to next weekend. I may run Moon if it seems like a good situation for her.
The Open dogs are finally getting out for a little tuning up and conditioning. They're both a little rusty but not too bad. Zac is a little wild for something to do and both are a little out of shape but we'll be working on that. We're heading to Sherry Smith's Longshot trial this coming weekend and it'll be fun to see how they run and to shake some of the cobwebs off of my handling as well! I'll report on the trial when we get back.