Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Beginning of the Trip

It's been a long few days getting here - the camping area at Soldier Hollow:

We left midday on Friday and drove about 7-8 hours, then finished up the short hop on to Indiana to see some old friends. It was great fun! We went to a small art festival to see a couple of friends play on the gazebo stage - Jenn Rose and Christy.

Then we went to camp out at Deam Lake in Borden, IN, site of many good times when i lived in Louisville. It was fun catching up with my dear old friend Jenny and a few other folks. We grilled and had many margaritas and lots of laughs. Good stuff.

Sunday morning we were up early and reluctantly on the road again. I'd have liked another day to visit and catch up. But on we went, driving about 11 hours and ending up at a McDonald's parking lot in Stuart, IA. Yep, McDonald's. They had nice camper parking so there we stayed. Monday we were up really early and pounded lots of pavement, again hitting about 11 hours, getting a good start on crossing the continental divide, passing the highest point on I80 and landing at a Walmart in Laramie, WY. Tuesday morning we got a very early start and made our first trial destination of Soldier Hollow about 2:00. It was a little confusing figuring out where to park since i was the first one there! But with a little guidance (and one quick change of parking places after stepping on a yellow jacket nest in my first spot!), the camper was set up and the dogs and i were off to the practice field.

The Soldier Hollow folks have kindly provided a place to get the dogs out on some sheep, very welcome after so many days on the road. It's not a huge place, maybe 250 yards long, but the sheep are good and it's nice for getting the dogs out. All 3 dogs popped out of the truck and acted like they'd never left home, not missing a beat. That was nice to see.

(the practice field)

I was asked to help out with a spot on a local news channel promoting the trial this morning, so up early yet again. I decided to use Zac since he's been working really nicely. We were asked to take some sheep across a hotel parking lot to a very nice courtyard area at the front entrance. While Mark Peterson, the Soldier Hollow organizer, spoke to the reporter, i was to move the sheep around the turnabout in the back ground. Simple enough until one of the sheep bolted and Zac had to pull one of his crazy moves stopping her. In a parking lot, on pavement, with a crowd. And did i mention LIVE TV?! It ended up okay, and you can see the spot here --

After another session at the practice field, this afternoon i hooked up and hauled the camper into Heber City to repair the strap that broke under my freshwater holding tank back in WV. I'm sure glad to have that off my mind, kept waiting for it to fall out from under the camper. While there i got a nifty little shelf welded on the back to hold my generator. No more dogs peeing on it at trials, yay. Tomorrow i have a free day after practice time in the morning. I'm hoping to do a little sightseeing. Then friday Zac runs at Soldier Hollow, woo hoo!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

And we're off! (again)

Some might say I'm off all the time, off my rocker that is, LOL! It's the eve of the big western swing and i'm almost ready to go. One last busy, busy day to get through, then a short work day tomorrow, hook up and go! Today i need to drop Joe off with Laura, where he'll get to hang out with her dogs while i'm gone. I'm sure he'll have a lot more fun with her than being crammed in a crate so much with me, but i'll miss his happy pointy little face.

So tomorrow, Bill, Zac, Zeke and i head west. I plan to drive a few hours tomorrow and overnight at the very cool Tamarack in Beckley, WV. Saturday we'll be up and rolling bright and early towards Deam Lake in Borden, IN, where i'm meeting up with my old friend Jenny for some camping and reminiscing. We had some wild times at Deam Lake many moons ago. I'm hoping this campout won't involve having to run through the campground wrapped only in a shower curtain (yes, that happened, much beer involved and sneaky, sneaky friends). I suspect i'm safe on that count. Sunday i'm hoping to put in a longish day of driving and end up at Cabelas in La Vista, NE to spend the night. Monday morning, after some shopping (Cabelas, yay!), i'll pull out and head across NE into WY. I'm thinking i'll pull off at the Laramie, WY Walmart and overnight, then Tuesday morning finish the trek into Heber, UT for Soldier Hollow. The trial doesn't start until Friday, but i want the dogs to have some time to get used to the thinner air, and i have practice time scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I'm planning to put in a good bit of time at the practice fields with all 3 dogs, at least at the first 2 trials, for the sake of the experience on range ewes, which are being brought in for just that. It'll be especially good for Zeke and Zac I think. My first trial run will be next friday with Zac and Bill gets his shot on Saturday, then both run again on Sunday.

So that's the current itinerary for the drive out. I'm hoping it goes smoothly and i get to see lots of good scenery. I really enjoyed the south to north drive along US85 in WY on my last trip, and am hoping this east to west trip across WY will be just as stunning.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Canada Trip

Time for another catchup post. The dogs and i made it up to Kingston Ontario for the second and third days of the 80 Acres trial at Amanda Miliken's place. We missed the first round of Open since i didn't want to take the extra day off of work. Bill ran very well and sat near the top of the pack most of the day but some higher scores at the end knocked him down to 7th out of 98 dogs. Zac ran pretty well too and i thought might have placed but the judge saw things differently than i did, so nothing there. The real excitement of 80 Acres (other than the most amazing handler dinner ever, with fresh lobsters for all!) was running Zeke in the monday classes. He has so little trial experience that i really wanted this trip to tell me where he is in readiness. First up was the Nursery, a very small 5 dog class since it was the first day of qualifying for the 2012 points year. The outrun was probably 300-350 yards and i sent Zeke to his left - his weaker side naturally but the one i've spent the most time working on. I gave him a couple of encouraging shouts of "stay out" but he ran out really pretty well. The top and lift were nice and he was taking the lie down easily (yay! not being a bully where he has before at the start of the fetch). The fetch was very nice, with him taking little soft flanks from me to adjust the line. The drive was generally in the correct directions and straight but we turned short of both panels as Zeke overshot the flanks. Nice to the pen but the sheep went around, so i took the opportunity to train a bit on keeping him out on his flanks as time ran down. All in all, i was very pleased. Zeke wasn't done though, he was up at the beginning of a very large ProNovice Class soon after the Nursery run, and laid down a really nice run on a shortened course (200 yard or so outrun, shorter drive and crossdrive). This time i sent him right to see how that would go, and he went well. Good lines, hit all the panels, marched them right in the pen. After a long wait for the end of the class, Zeke won it. Yay, Zeke!

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!)