Monday, May 30, 2011

Time to Wait

No big news to report for the last couple of days. Just hanging out and enjoying good company and waiting on The Big One to start. The dogs are mostly resting up and stretching their legs when they can, on jogs with the ATV, after being crated so much the last couple of weeks. I know it feels good to them. I'm hoping to work Zeke a bit when we have the chance this week but that's hard to squeeze in with trial prep and such, not to mention the weather is pretty lousy right now with cold, wet and wind. He got a couple of minutes in yesterday in the small pen with a quickie reminder to behave himself a little better as he gets behind his sheep. I'm not too concerned about getting a lot done with him really. At his age, i don't mind waiting on him a bit. Off now for a ride to Dickinson to pick up our judge for this week. And hoping the weather cuts us a break for the trials!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

TableTop Wrap Up

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

Bluegrass and TableTop Day 1

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

And we're off!

We're all set and ready to roll! Camper is packed to the gills, truck hitched up, just got to wait until the morning and we'll be gone. I have the dogs about where i want them in terms of their work. Of course it would be nice to have a little more experience on Zeke, but that's what the trip is for. I feel like all 3 boys are working well, and Zac and Bill and were even ready a bit early, so we've been in a holding pattern this last week or two. It's all been light work, just a little tuning here and there. I do wish i'd done a better job conditioning them. Unfortunately my big plans for that never really materialized. There just aren't enough hours in the day for everything. I'm also wishing i hadn't scratched Moon from the Bluegrass. She's working well and it would have been fun to see how she did. Joe has gone on an adventure of his own - he's staying with his breeders for the month. I suspect he'll be quite spoiled by the time i get home and wishing i'd stay gone!

So part 1 of the big adventure starts tomorrow. I'm hoping the weather cuts us some slack. It's been really rainy in Kentucky this spring and i hear it's rained most of the last two days. Sure would be nice if it would clear up for the trials.

I'll try to post here as well as on Facebook with how things are going. If you want more regular updates and pictures of the scoreboards, "friend" me on Facebook.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Belle Grove SDT

A couple of weeks ago, the dogs and i went to the first Belle Grove SDT at the site of last year's Finals. It was a terrific trial, hosted by David Clark and Cheryl Branibar. The field was different than the field used for the Finals but plenty challenging. The sheep were David and Cheryl's home flock of Montadales and were very fit and up to the challenge of 3 days of Open runs. The novice and nursery classes were held on yet another field, which was quite "interesting" - steep hills on the left and right, with a narrow valley between, where the sheep were set and the fetch was to be. The sheep were Barbara Ray's dorper/katahdin crosses. It wasn't a long course but the terrain sure bamboozled some of the young dogs.

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!