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!)