Thursday, June 20, 2013

VBCA Summer Trial at Big Bend Farm

After a very nice couple of days of lessons in Maryland with Vergil Holland the weekend before, the dogs and I loaded up and headed into the VA mountains this past weekend for the VBCA Summer Trial held at Big Bend Farm. The trial was a benefit trial for the 2013 USBCHA National Finals (to be held in VA in October) and was wildly successful, raising $7800! It was a huge undertaking for the organizers, with one field as the site for the Open classes, and two other fields for the novice classes, which ran twice each day. There were just a ton of runs over the two days. Barbara Ray very generously donated the use of her farm and sheep, and worked her tail off on the trial all weekend. There was a huge group effort to cover all of the jobs that needed doing, and i think everyone there helped out in some way or another. It was truly impressive to see just how many people were pitching in.

I wasn't able to spend as much time watching the novice runs as i would have liked, but i saw some nice work when i did manage to get back there and take the time to stop and watch. The Big Bend ewe flock was on the novice field and from what i saw, worked pretty nicely. The Open trials were run on weaned lambs and they were a challenge to handle, alternately racing away or getting very heavy and hard to move, and straight lines were very hard to come by.

Zeke was my first dog up and he had a difficult group of lambs. He worked them pretty well, with one trying to squirt off and two trying to lay back. He was very patient with them but on the cross drive, the runner took off again and got far enough away that we called it quits. Bill ran well and handled the lambs nicely, finishing up 8th. On day two, Bill again ran well but a missed gate and some trouble getting the shed knocked our score down. Zeke ran late in the day and had a gorgeous run. The lambs had gotten quite heavy and he just laid into them and marched them around. It was probably his best run yet in Open, as i was able to lay off my whistle and just let him handle the lines and pace. We missed the cross drive gate (i had a devil of a time seeing it - missed it all 4 runs), and Zeke looked at the wrong group when he came in on the shed (like a freaking freight train i might add). I still haven't seen the final placements but he did place pretty well.

So now we have a couple of weeks off before the next trial, which will be the Fetch Gate Farm trial in Cortland, NY. I've been trying to get to a trial there for years, and hopefully this will be the year i make it. Zac is injured so i'm trying to pick up some qualifying points for the Finals on Zeke, just in case Zac isn't able to run this fall. Coming up this weekend, Tommy Wilson will be back to do another clinic at the farm. I can't wait! Now what dog do i put in the clinic, hmmmm....?

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Spring Trials Wrap Up

Well, i didn't do a very good job of keeping the blog updated, now did i? I have an excuse for the Bluegrass at least, as i was hit by a fever about halfway though the week and could hardly lift my head for several days. Turns out it was Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever of all things. Thanks to the quick thinking of a good friend, i got on antibiotics quickly and all should be fine.

First stop was Dave and Debbie Fetterman's Borders on Paradise trial in Turbotville, PA. This is a lovely trial, with a not large field but challenging commercial wool sheep. I ran Bill and Zac the first day. Bill ran quite well around the course, keeping good lines and would have placed well but the shedding bugaboo showed up in force - he wasn't having anything to do with it. Zac ran like a pig. Granted, i haven't been doing a lot with him, but he was just a pig. He wanted to run straight up the field, and two stops and redirects hardly changed his path at all. Amazingly, the sheep didn't take off backwards to the setout. Then, after turning the post, one of the sheep put it's head down to graze. Zac moved up and got her going, but decided to grab her for emphasis. As you can guess, i was none too happy about that, and neither was the judge, DQ. It was just uncalled for, so Zac got fired for the rest of the trip and Zeke was subbed in. Day two, and Bill again ran beautifully up to the shed, where he refused to come in again. Not a good sign for the beginning of the trial trip. Zeke ran even better than i'd hoped. I was a little conservative on our shedding and we ran out of time before completing it. Even so, he managed a placement and a couple of points towards the Finals.

Off we went to KY, for a couple of days of working dogs and training with Vergil Holland. I got in some good training on Spot, and Vergil gave me some very helpful advice on Bill's shedding, thankfully. It proved to be just the ticket, as we had no trouble shedding at the Bluegrass, where i've had fits shedding in the past, even with dogs that were enthusiastic shedding dogs.  I ran Zeke again in Zac's spot, and was very happy with him. His outruns could have been better, but i was generally happy with him. He finished both runs in the top 1/3 and would have done even better had i been a little more aggressive in my handling in bye. But we're getting used to each other on the trial field and gaining experience.  Bill was his usual steady self and had 2 good runs, finishing 14th in one round and just out of the placings in the other. His combined score was good enough to make the Top 20 Finals, the first time in all these years i would get a crack at the Bluegrass double lift. Unfortunately, a little bug was brewing. I started feeling lousy saturday morning before Bill's second run. He seemed somewhat off as well, just acted tired and was eating grass like crazy. We got through the run and had a decent score, but then crashed in our room.  Sunday morning of the double lift, i could hardly lift my head. I finally drug myself to the field about 11:00, just in time for the Handler parade. We didn't run until 16th, so a long wait later, we stepped to the post. I was feeling pretty good about the run, wasn't sure how the international shed would go, but knew Bill could move the 20 sheep even though they were getting very heavy in the heat, and he's very reliable on turnbacks. I was excited as he took off for the first lot. Good outrun, good lift, offline on the diagonal fetch (i've got to get better at seeing that line!) but moving the sheep very well, made the gates, set up the turnback, gave the whistle. Bill released the first group, no problem. And then he just froze. It was very weird. He seemed to see something in the crowd outside the field, but it wasn't like he was seeing something he thought was sheep out there, i could tell that. He just froze up. I finally got him to come part way back to me, thinking i could unfreeze him enough to get him to go out, but he was just not right and wouldn't go. After several minutes of struggling, i retired. I swear i felt like we'd hit a brick wall, never in a million years would have predicted that to happen. I mean, he's turned back in a ton of different fields, at huge distances and out of sight, with no trouble. So strange. Strange enough that i started him on doxycycline afterwards since weird behavioral stuff is a good indicator for tick troubles in the working dogs. Anyway, it was a disappointing end to the BG, but i drug myself and the dogs home in a feverish haze the next day. Talk about a bitch of a drive home, whew. But now i'm better and Bill seemed immediately more chipper on the doxy, so maybe he did have something going on.

After a few days of rest and antibiotics, i thought i'd go on ahead to the Circle BR SDT, hosted by Ben and Emily Ousley and very capably managed by Beth Chuck. It's only a short drive from home and the forecast was for a lovely cool weekend, so it sounded kind of relaxing (and it was). This would be Zeke's first time on the terraced field, which gives many dogs fits on their outruns. He managed the outrun well but did land a bit tight both days. The first day, he had a very difficult draw of sheep but handled them well. The second day, his sheep were a bit sweeter but he was a little too western for these very eastern katahdins. He's still learning to handle this kind of sheep and i'm still trying to get used to handling a dog that sheep feel as much as they do Zeke.  Bill ran very well both days. The first day he ended up just out of the placings as i misjudged the time and the clock went off as we were penning. The second day he ended up 8th with a gorgeous run around the course. I messed up the shed and had a missed attempt when i didn't follow Vergil's suggestion (still trying to get it to be a new habit). But Bill came right in on the second attempt, when i got it right. Pen was easy, then off to the single. I thought i had it clean but the judge saw something he really didn't like, hitting us 7. The 7 killed us, but it was one of those runs where you just think you did it about as well as you were going to. I so love running that dog. The mistakes are always mine with him, he's just so reliable.  It was a lovely, lovely weekend, with lots of happy faces and good runs all around. Next year will be the 30th anniversary of this trial and i hope to be there.

So that's the spring trip wrap up. We're off for lessons this weekend, then on to the VBCA Summer trial next weekend, then another clinic with Tommy Wilson at the farm the following weekend. It's a busy time of year!