Trial season is now in full swing here in the mid-Atlantic area. This past weekend, the dogs and I went to the Pipedream Farm SDT, hosted by good friends Mark and Renee Billadeau in Middletown, MD. Mark and Renee bought this farm a few years ago and have been working their behinds off on it since, and it's really starting to show. I hadn't been there since the trial last year, and the changes to the house are wonderful. The fields were lush and healthy, the sheep fat and sassy. I was lucky enough to be invited to stay over for the weekend at the home of Todd and Peggy Simpson, a treat all in itself. Their home is so interesting and beautiful, and this trip i actually had time to explore and enjoy the grounds a bit in the daylight, as well as spending a little more time than is usually possible visiting with Peggy and Todd.
The course at this trial isn't especially large, with the outrun being somewhere around 200 yards. The sheep are set on the top of a ridge and dogs are generally completely out of sight at the lift. The drive is fairly long and set on the face of a hill, so lines aren't too bad to pick out. There's quite a bit of pressure with draws for the sheep back to the setout on the drive and also behind the handler's post to the exhaust for the fetch, so that's a bit tricky. Shedding was fairly difficult and penning was pretty straightforward though not a given. I ended up needing to pull Zeke from the trial since he'd had a canine removed and the vet felt it was too soon to run him, so Zac and Bill were the Shoofly team this time around.
Zac was my first dog up at #4 on saturday and he had a pretty nice run around the course. There were some minor bobbles but overall it was pretty good. The shed was very good, very clean, and the pen good. I thought it would place but didn't realize the shedding would end up being pretty difficult over the course of the day, and in the end, the score held up for 1st place. Bill ran later on and drew up a very difficult set of sheep. They broke hard off the top before Bill arrived and with some quick moves on his part, he caught them just before they'd made it to the fetch panels. We got them back online but they broke again at the turn around the post and Bill had to pull some pretty fancy work to keep them on the field and get them back online for the drive away. The sheep finally realized they weren't getting anywhere with trying to get away from him and we managed a very pretty crossdrive which i capped off by steering the sheep high around the panels. Off to the shed where the crazies started again. I thought i'd seen Bill slip and possibly tweak something on the turn around the post, so kept him from trying any heroics to control the sheep. When it became apparent that shedding was going to take full speed, i decided to retire rather than risk further tweaking on a run that had already gone to pot. It was a lot of fun trying to manage that difficult group, and i was thrilled with Bill's work sorting them out.
On sunday, Bill was my first dog up and i thought he really nailed it. I'm not sure where we could have cleaned up many points other than a wiggle in front of the driveaway gates and a pause before the sheep went into the pen. He was just really on. The judge wasn't quite as happy with it as i was, hitting his top end a fair bit, and we ended up in 4th at the end of the day. No matter, i was very happy with his work all around for the weekend. Zac was up later and he was really on too - laying down a really gorgeous run around the course. We were penning before the shed, and with only a small pause the sheep walked right in. On to the shed, where we got a nice split, i called Zac in, and my dog that usually takes out my knees on a shed refused to come in, very strange. I mean, i assumed he was in there and got all twisted up looking for him because he's ALWAYS there and i don't need to watch for him. Time ran out not long after with no shed and a 10th place finish. It's a little worrisome that he didn't come in and i'll be keeping an eye on old Zac-boy to make sure there's not something physically troubling him. He had a good run up to the shed, but his flanks were also a bit un-Zaclike. I had given him melatonin saturday evening because it looked like it would storm and he hates storms, so perhaps it was still affecting him. If i see any other suspicious things, i'll be having him checked over and test for tick diseases. Those things can present in very subtle ways so it pays to be wary of anything being a touch off.
So that's the report on the running at the trial. I had a great time socializing and hanging out, and seeing some folks i don't get to see often enough. It was a really pleasant weekend!
After the trial, i drove to Sarah Ruckleshaus' place in Chestertown, MD on the eastern shore for a day of doing lessons on Monday. I'd done a clinic a few weeks ago at Monroe and Evelyne Williams' place and afterwards Sarah asked if i'd like to do one at her place, but with all of the fall weekends filling up, we decided to try a mini-clinic/lesson day instead since i'd be fairly close at the trial. It ended up being a most excellent day, with 7 or 8 dogs and a nice group of people. I've been really resistant to doing clinics or lessons away from home before, but i'm finding i really enjoy it a lot. It's a very rewarding experience. I've been asked to do another the first weekend in November at VA Beach and i'm looking forward to that.
Next up, the Montpelier SDT in 2 weeks!