Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lexington SDT

So on we go to the 3rd trial of the week, again set in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains, at Broadview Ranch in Lexington, VA. Hosted by the most gracious of hosts, David Clark and Cheryl Branibar, this is a fun and very welcoming event. The field contains lots of cross country horse jumps, making for an interesting and challenging course. The Open outrun looked to be about 350-400 yards to me and the sheep are David and Cheryl's Montadale flock, trucked in to the ranch for the trial. Our judge this year was the inimitable Tommy Wilson and the setout crew par excellence was made up of Debbie Crowder in the sorting pens with Julie Poudrier holding the packets of sheep for every run of the 3 day event. It doesn't get any better in all respects there! The socializing was top notch as well, with handlers gathering each evening in the ranch cabin (very, very old with a wonderful fireplace) for food and merriment.

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.

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