Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Scio Trial

Welcome to my neck of the woods......
Beautiful lush green...and WET! The Scio trial is held just a blink of the eye from my place.....and I don't know that I could have gone to a more radically different trial compared to Big Willow! Fine by me...my dogs are used to hunting clean white sheep on flat green pastures! The field was on the small side.....but made complicated by little streams and creeks running through it. Judge Bill Berhow took advantage of those challenges by incorporating them into the drive work.
It was sunny and hot by the end of the weekend. The dogs and sheep seemed to hold up alright and the handlers and spectators enjoyed soaking up a few rays!
The sheep came from a local grazer here in the Willamette Valley. They were a combination of Dorset, Suffolk and crosses. The combination in each set of four.....really made dogs and handlers step up to run them! The sheep certainly did not want to be pushed anywhere.....not around the course and definitely not into the pen. This poor ewe got separated from her friends and ended up taking a truck ride to the exhaust.....too much pressure and they would either run wild, split, or refuse to move!

Nell had her coming out party into nursery. Her first run was...well...wild! Her eyes were popping out of her head....she over ran every flank...every whistle...and as I left the field after timing out at the pen...I could tell she was in just a little over her head. Second run, I got a lie down at the top....and she started settling and feeling her sheep. First go, 7th place...second go, 9th. Not too bad for my baby dog.

Open started Saturday morning with Sally and I running 3rd, following Anne Mock and John Fontaine who were standing in second and first, respectively, right to the end of the day. It was good to see beautifully handled runs before I sent my dog. I wanted to send Sally right...but she fought me a few times...and finally, I remembered my promise to myself and let her go left. Her outrun was very nice. I stopped her short setting the tone for the rest of the run......we got our shed, pen and single......but the run just missed the magic of feeling like I "had" the sheep. Times like this...I am so very thankful to those who mentor me. I got some priceless input into what was going on. At Big Willow the over-flanks came from my admiration of my dogs work.....this time...I was watching the sheep but Sally was still over-flanking...and also not feeling her sheep until the third leg of the drive. I had a lot to think about for the next day's run.

Sunday.....I ran 24th.....which had me walking to the post at 11:00. I was curious to see how Sally would hold up under the radical temperature change.....she ran very well. This run, I did not stop her short...our fetch was nice and controlled but I started to loose the sheep to the exhaust as the sheep were pulling hard after three days of running. Sally held her own, worked very hard to bring the sheep out of the pressure, took her stops and flanked well, and the run had the more "magical" feel. I beat myself by 10 points from the previous day.....and it felt like a whole different run.

I think back over the past 6 months.....all the little details that come together for a run. Jack Knox says to "let the dog be right, correct it when it is wrong...but don't "make" the dog be right." That is me and Sally..I need to not worry about making her be right. Also, when I get frustrated with Sally, she gets a little frantic...and for that, I am working on me. It is about watching the sheep...but still knowing what the dog is doing. And letting go of mistakes as they happen. My main goal of consistency continues to be my focus. And each time out....we become more of a team. I am right where I need to be.....!

This weekend I am off to one of my fondest trials.....Dry Lake! A meager 550 yard outrun awaits me and Sally......maybe Geri could water the field so the grass is green....Sally likes green pastures!!
Seize the day!!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

BIG BIG BIG WILLOW!!!!!

As I reflect on the trial from this past weekend....I wonder what about it WASN'T BIG?!! The field was a BIG HUGE almost fence less desert outside of Caldwell, Idaho. Filled with BIG sage brush, BIG hills, and BIG blue sky....it was breath-taking! The sheep were GINORMOUS! BIG monstrous dog eating ewes that sorted dogs without justification of fairness. Picked from the huge mob that was grazed by volunteers for the trial....these renegade ewes wanted nothing more then to join their flock....and it took a dog with courage, finesse and trickery to get the packet of five around the BIG course. Well, the course might have not been as BIG as I remember but my imagination has run wild during my reflections. Thank goodness I taped runs and sheds so I can be brought back to reality with a sense of what really happened!I hung out with some really great people...and also finally met some "friends" from the blog world. I believe that is one thing that made this trial so memorably special to me...the people...comradery....friendship...laughter.I do believe this was the toughest trial I have ever attended. On my first go I had a serious moment of "what the heck was I thinking coming to THIS BIG trial" as my little rough coated black and white English dog took off out of sight over the hill side to my right assuring me the cluster of sage brush was indeed her set sheep. She lacks nothing in how big she can outrun...even if she never did find her sheep for the day! I learned a lesson worth the price of the entry......and the next day.....as she did the exact same thing except with an exceptional beginning to the outrun.....I stayed my ground and nursed her back to where her sheep were waiting for her. Well done, Sally! I stared in awe and wonder at how my girl worked the sheep....too much so.....as pointed out by a good friend....my pool like approach to my first leg of the drive was from enjoying the view of my dog and not watching my sheep. And I thought I knew better! My scores...both RTs...were nothing to write home about.....but the experience, all I learned, the further development of my relationship with my dog.....could make a MasterCard commercial...Priceless!

I watched and taped...and watched some more. I saw some really fabulous dogs and runs. Patrick Shannahan and Riggs, Diane Deal and Pat, Bill Orr and Boone, Joe Haynes and Rain, Lavaon Calzacorta and Tess, Francis Chia and I believe it was Chime...the list goes on and on! The dogs that struggled but held it together...the handlers that helped, trusted, directed, cheered and pushed through the hard moments to put down amazing scores. I am in awe!

Here is one of my favorite photos from the trial....guess who is in that porta potty!? Reminds me of the time Joe Haynes stole my dog when I did this same thing.....hmmmm......and we were just talking about pay-backs!

April was sort of a "thinking" month. It started out with a lesson with Patrick Shannahan talking and working through some of the handling challenges I had at Sonoma. I got to meet and audit a clinic put on by Simon Leaning for Australia. In honor of my Snook dog, that won't be seeing the trial field much this season, I ran in an AHBA trial at Bringand's Hideout. I had goals for each dog, as I walked to the post...and was pleased with the relationship I am developing with each of my girls. A clinic day with Elvin Kopp and a clinic with Kathy Knox, where Nell showed she really could be a "rock star". Then I sheared! Now I am on to May....and life gets more exciting and less heady....okay...maybe not less heady....


So here's to the 2009 trial season.....a fresh slate....all 100 points waiting for my next run......waiting to see how little I can give away under the eye of the judge. Scio is next....


Seize the day!!!!