The dogs and i went to a new trial this past weekend, hosted by good friends Mark and Renee Billadeau, in Middletown, MD. I've been trying to get to the Billadeau's "new" farm for almost 2 years and finally managed it. What a lovely place. With their 200 year old farm house in the background (see picture), the field was beautiful and covered in lush green grass, the sheep were fit, and the company excellent. The trial field wasn't very large (150 yard outruns) but it was a good challenge for the dogs with the sheep sorting out the dogs as well as a long and difficult drive to attempt. Tidy lines and tight turns were hard to come by. There was a great group of folks present to compete, with lots of good cheer and good attitudes all around. I really enjoyed it and our host characterized it as "hosting a big party" afterwards, a good sign for sure. Everywhere i looked, people were pitching in and offering help, always a welcome sight.
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.