Sunday, March 31, 2013


"You’re not working with just a machine; you’re working with a mind. The horse is a thinking, feeling, decision-making animal and each one has a distinct personality.
But the human always acts superior. The human thinks it's smarter; it always wants to have things its way and right now. It wants to be boss.
If trouble comes up, the human turns it into a contest with the horse. But if you do that, watch just may lose." ~ Ray Hunt
I'm working a new dog. The ins and outs of this new dog are not important.....the learning and opportunity she is giving me is something I am thankful for every day.  I'm starting from scratch with this young dog; this time eyes wide open, mind watching for details and absorbing all she is trying to show me. Where there were days and even months where I felt Bella was being so "bad".  I've learned that dogs really don't have that mission statement or agenda.  They don't try to be "bad". 
In the past I used to lament being here "by myself", hardly a  local trainer available for regular lessons.  This time I am sort of enjoying the challenge of sorting this myself.  Every day, digging deep to see if what I am doing is creating a better relationship of understanding.
I'm not really alone so to speak...I've been watching the Buck Clinics, talking on the phone to those I respect, watching runs intently; but when I go out to work Dot (that is her name btw) I am relying on all that I have learned from my past of learning.  I'm also really working hard at listening to that inner voice.....the one that says "hey you are not being fair", "you might want to change your approach to this", or "keep at it, understanding is coming". The thing about Dot would be real easy to slip into what Ray Hunt calls a "contest" of using force to make her do what I want her to do.  Instead, I want her to use her brain and attitude...because I believe its all in there when she does.
I recnetly had the opportunity to work her with a person I respect very much...seeing him two days in a row.  I'll admit, I was a little nervous. Dot had only worked with me off my place once before and we have spent more time than I can put here discussing "that'll do" and "lie down" and "respect"...I think Buck would call this ground work while others might call it preparation.  The notion of walking on a leash with me and not taking off to run at the sheep just because we walked through a gate into a field of sheep has been hard earned. I've passed on working Dot with another friend/mentor/trainer because when the months of advance notice for sign up was announced, she was not ready. So when an offer came up with short notice I felt it was time to get some feedback.
The lessons were fabulous:  for the outside world, Miss Dot was not a rock star taking the spectators breaths away with her brilliance.....but she was a rock star and breath taker in my mind.  Each day she learned and tried and gave and worked with us, the clinician and me.  I saw her opening up and blooming a little rose bud just starting to realize how freaking beautiful she is going to be.  And you know what?  I felt myself blooming a little too.  The magic of my Heppner runs with Bella......everyone and everything blowing away, sandy particles, to leave just me and Bella and the sheep on the field....just us and now and nothing more...... happened again with my two day experience training with a friend/mentor/clinician.  My time was about looking at this dog on this day; seeing, sorting, observing, sharing and realizing that the answers for me will be within myself if I am open to sorting out what the dogs is "saying".  Discussion and 'what ifs' and 'how abouts' were all good.  And the final verdict for homework: Attitude.....if she has the correct attitude she will figure most of this out herself. 
The answers are within me.....I've had the most fortunate experiences of being able to train with some very knowledgeable folks in and outside the world of working border collies.  I've been allowed to drive all the way across the country to trial, fly all the way around the world to learn and bring back a dog.  Friends and mentors have encouraged unconventional ideas.....learn from a fabulous horse trainer they have I've gone to a horse clinic, read a few books, signed up for newsletters.  A good friend told me, he believes that "OBSERVATION" is a huge key to success in training and trialing.  I've played with developing  stronger observation muscles.  The cake is iced with the quiet voice of before, during and after, don't be afraid to make a mistake....Don't Be Afraid To Make A Mistake......DON'T BE AFRAID TO MAKE A MISTAKE.
"The successful live on the edge and their gift is that, when they make mistakes, they respond so quickly that mear mortals don't even realize a mistake has been made" ~ ME
Seize the Day!!!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ah hA

Okay so I have that out of my system....documentation for my graying years. Now on to my Heppner Ah hA at your own risk!

1)  Sunday was freaking cold.....everything of mine was cold including my marrow.....I am not a cold person but the wind was blowing and it had ice snowed the night before.  I wore mittens to the post....mittens that I could indeed stick my pinkie fingers out of; I wore mittens.  Well, darn it anyway, I can not blow finger whistles with mittens I went to my brass whistle, thinking "what the heck" and all the sound was blown behind me!  Now, having just recently gotten Bella's hearing tested......I know she can in an effort to make my whistles "hear-able" to her (regardless if those behind me could hear them) I ripped my mittens off, shoved them into my pockets and finger whistled my run!  First time my finger whistles were the go to, well after they weren't!

2) I talked over a first run with a friend.  They was sharing with me some of their disappointments in handling.....we moved on to what they were going to do the next run. Then on Sunday, I sat and watched them do exactly what they told me they were going to do.  Their dog augured a bit (maybe) or maybe it was just lack of "comfort" but they stuck to the method and got the job done very well!  Very well indeed!  Amazing to be allowed into the mind of a top handler....hear the whys and what fors...and then watch it all come together.  Me, I might have folded and allowed the more familiar method to silently slip back in.  Amazing!

3)  I was talking with another friend about trials that run to a standard. Regardless of the topic, I was shown, yet again, a glimpse into my mental management for sheepdog trialing!  Just when I think I am making progress, I see weak mental muscles that need some serious training to develop strength and memory. 

4) Having all bitches means.....I have bitches that cycle together!  The whole truck was making cat calls out the window (well except for me, I was good) and attempting to flag down any boy dog all the way to and from Heppner.  Good to get this over with!

5) Watching different styles of handling fascinates me beyond words. When I asked a person who had put down a splendid run, how they did it...I was is all about knowing when to put the pressure on and when to take it off the sheep.  Period.  Fodder for over-thinking for...oh.... about the next 10 years! I'm all about concise answers!

6) When asked what I had done with Bella to remove all the tension...I realized that there is no one answer.  It is a culmination of ever so many 'things'.  All the big flock work and the shepherd who brings a four-wheeler out so I can make sure I am there to help if the gather goes south.  My mentors who have shared ideas and given feedback on training. All the friends who have held sheep for me, letting me work through the tension.  All the friends who have listened so patiently while I've cried and yelled and wanted to give up and sell her. Mostly, it is about commitment and trust...and I do believe those are the words spoken to me by those who have invested in me;  Bella is about commitment and trust.

Now it is time to settle back down...get lambing done....a story for another day.  Last but certainly not least is 7) I could not do "this" without good friends. Friends that will cover my back to work a schedule to keep my little slice of Heaven running while I am off experiencing palindromes.  Friends that keep me awake during exhausting drives through high winds.  Friends who talk it out, listen, hold me accountable, with transparency and authenticity. 

Off to check for lambs....

Seize the Day!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What The Heck?!!!!

I can't remember much of Heppner 2012.....I do know Nell gripped out close to the top with a "thank you" from my judge friend. And then the two of us, Nell and me....laid down the prettiest darn exhaust you ever saw!  I remember that!  But what did Bella do......and I can NOT believe I did not blog about it!  My blog is supposed to be my what I was not going to say about Heppner 2013 now becomes post number one from the trial.  I have to remember my runs!

Saturday morning dawned clear and crisp, high desert mountain air leaving conversations visibly hanging; greetings of the day.  One could almost feel the vitamin D absorbing into the skin and taking sunshine into the sorely needing muscles and blood.  Bella drew up to run past mid day, but I was not really worried. The field had a hill to it and though the course felt nice and "normal" the whole field was very very huge.  Its funny, my conversations with friends about trust....I trust my Bella to spot sheep and this helps me trust her to be a good out runner.

My good friend was filming, helping me to achieve one of my goals for this year: to film all my runs.  He who allows for over thinking without judgement was scribing.....teasing me about running Bella-Nell and checking to make sure I did indeed have the correct dog.  The walk from the judge's car to the handler's post was the exact length of the tunnel from the locker room to the football field...and as I broke out onto my playing field...the wind had whisked away the spectator; their voices not even an echo.  It was just Bella, which means beautiful in Italian, and me; she spotting the sheep and me listening to the voices that remind me "if she lands at 12 be sure to spend the point to get her over to where she needs to be" and "stick to your plan, it is a good one".

I always wonder what makes a dog land correct on a dog-legged fetch?  I've seen it, and experienced it with Nell who enjoys a good over-run.  And yet Bella landed just right, more towards the 1 o'clock spot, pushing out of the pressure caused by the set out pens.  One tiny move in the mix of one billion moves per run, but I paused right there to reflect on the amazement of this dog. 

Now the sheep were yearling lambs of the fine wool sort; possibly Targhees and definitely a mix of challenges. I could review my run, point to moments that stand out in vivid technicolor, me tasting dust and feeling the pulse of Bella's work in my veins. The thrill of the shed and the wholeheartedness of giving her all to me, allowing me to close the pen, four lambs inside, one of just a few for the day. Indeed, Bella, Bella Mia....My Beautiful....won the day for Saturday, Heppner 2013.  But I don't want to do a play-by-play, I've got some footage for that. 

What I can't stop thinking not her first ever open win, but instead how she has given me her heart.  One person said she did not see a lick of tension in Bella...where a few times there really could have been.  Me remembering the trials where Bella had ham-strung a sheep and had killing on her mind......that Bella has become.  She has become all her ancestors laid into her genetic map and more.  I can't stop thinking about how the sheep tried to roll over on her during the fetch, and Bella loved pushing them back and getting ahold of them.  Me, arguing with myself to get involved and hit that darn fetch panel.....mentor's voices whispering to me to give her the sheep/don't be a tease/let her work/hold her accountable/TRUST HER! I can't stop thinking about her Sunday run, she was so supple and open and allowing.  . 

I've got work to do.....I think I might have over-corrected a bit on her course for Sunday.  I need to work on penning sheep that don't want to pen; letting her push and sort and figure this out together.  I've got some more work to do on my finger whistles.....though they are coming along I can fine tune them more.  I need to watch my runs and see if they are what I remember.  It is good to have things to work on!

Heppner 2013.......thank you for letting me introduce you to L&M Belle.....Bella......Bella Mia.....My Beautiful.  I feel so blessed to be the one to sort this journey with her....and ever thankful she lets me come along for the ride!

Seize the Day!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Closed For Spring Cleaning....

Indeed...if winter off was not enough, I am closed for some dearly needed Spring Cleaning....mostly of the soul.  However, I have grapevines that need pruning and blackberry vines that need burned and leaves racked and grass mowed; all at home where the sheep are not welcome.  It says so in the pre-nup. 

I'm also wondering if a new hobby might be in order.....spinning looks better than knitting.  Maybe working out.....but in the mean time it is back to taxes so I can stop flogging myself and get this hair shirt off! 

Thank goodness I've committed to limited activities after Heppner.....well that is until the BIG trip.  I've got some stretching out to do...and a little bit of opening the top end of the outrun on Ms. Gypsy Rose.  She has some serious Pro Novice trials ahead of her......we will see what she is made of.

Seize the Day!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

This Is The Song That Never Ends.....

It just goes on and on my friends.
Some people started singing it not knowing what it was,
And they'll continue singing it forever just because . . .

Indeed.... the jokes on me.  I've gone back and read and re-read all my blog posts about synchronized breeding....being done in one short week....isn't it just great that we can take lambing into our own hands.....control freak!!!!!  And low and behold....that hernia on one of the cull fine wool ewes I brought in to give Nell and Bella some experience.....well its actually udder development.  And at least four, if not five, of the six (did I mention, cull?) ewes are showing signs of being bred! 

The good Lord must have a sense of humor....because He is laughing at me right now.  Me, who has fed grass hay and kicked those girls out into the big pasture only bringing them up top because they would not come in when it rained.  Indeed one of them has a little moss growing on her hiny!  See fine wool sheep are not meant for the Valley of the Garden of Eden. Nope, their feet are like jello, their wool rots, and no matter how many groceries I pump into them....they still look like concentration camp survivors.  But they have been ever so much fun to work my dogs on.  And now, just like a super Clique gift with purchase cull ewes....which have been culled for reasons unknown to me until now, are lambing!

My friend, who sold them to me, has given me some good dates......hoping the ewes can keep everything inside until I get back for Heppner. I think I made a bold statement that I would not lamb again until I lived where my sheep live.....better put my tent up!   Until then.......this is the song that never ends.....

Seize the Day!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Take Down

Yesterday I wrote and posted a blog...and then thought about it and fretted about people misinterpreting what I had written.  Thankful for a reader confirmed I did not do a very good job of expressing myself with written word...I talked through my thoughts with another friend. Here is what I meant to say:

I have been thinking about the mental game of competition.  Mental Management fascinates me!  Not only because I am a competitor but because many in my family are as well.  I have discussions with my college football playing son about mental management all the time.  I have dialog with friends, all of whom I respect as handlers and trainers.....we talk about mental management and ideas that fall "outside the box" of traditional training.  I then do my homework of analyzing what, if any, self limiting beliefs I hold that might need to be addressed; old tapes destroyed, walls torn down, bridges built, baby muscles strengthened to create stronger memory.

For me, Mental Management does not apply just to sheepdog is life; weight control, negative thought control, relationship development.  I believe looking at thoughts, habits, actions and their application to goals and dreams is important in my life.  I'm not sure I ever want to fall into auto-pilot when it comes to my brain.....partially because of my upbringing and partially because of my own personal choices that have created strong Neuroconnections, some of which I am working on lessening while I build up new and positive, powerful connections that will serve me better. 

When handler friend says to me, "I am going to a specific trial to get points", without judgement,  I wonder about that statement.  I have not said that in my life of sheepdog trialing.  Why?  Because truth be told there are days I just hope to get around.  So I have taken a step back and am looking at my fears and how I address them as I head off to a sheepdog trial...namely Heppner, where sheep are feed little dogs for afternoon tea snacks! Thin sliced with a bit of cucumber and cream cheese.....crust of bread trimmed off.   This will be my third Heppner.....second with the two open dogs I am running now...each of which ran one day last year because of personal commitments non-dog related by me! How does one find the confidence to head out seeing points.....time, miles, experience, confidence, precise training,  good/strong mental game?  This fascinates me.  My Heppner goals are to 1) finger whistle with nuances (and not just different tones of loud) 2) remain calm at the post 3) be a good, fair, and helpful partner to my dog 4) remember the Gambler song is applicable...and yes, Heppner would indeed be a good trial to get points at!

Though it can be very vulnerable to share the process of working through Mental Management, I am going to be doing some of that this year.  I am thankful for my friends who will talk to me about Mental Management Strategy with authenticity and transparency.  I look to those who are successful in other arenas of life to provide tools as well. As one of my "mentors" from antoher world tells me, "sheepdog trials are about the most challenging dog sports I have ever seen" there are so many influences to a run that are beyond the control of the handler participant.  My job is to make darn sure I have the tools to control what I can....including my brain!

Seize the Day!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Lamb Musings

My 2013 lamb season came and went without much ado.  Just like I dreamed it.....sort of.  Last September, I gave CIDRs another try.....following the instructions, that had been modified from my last CIDR attempts, so I was hoping for a better outcome.  I put in/pulled five CIDRs followed with a half dose of PG-600 (only because I did not order enough!) every three days until I had the girls I wanted bred in with the ram. Then I left town and went to the finals.

The good news is....I lambed my CIDR ewes out out in just over a week.  The bad news is.....more than what I wanted did not take and I did pull the ram out before they went through another cycle...I wanted to be done more than I wanted every ewe to lamb.

So why did ewes not take: 1) I used less than the recommended dose of  PG-600.  2) Five ewes might have been too much for the almost 9 year old ram to cover every three days  3) The PG-600 was 6 days old when I dose out the last of the shots; might need fresher hormones. 4) I do not know what the weather was like while I was gone, might have been affecting my ram 5) messing with Mother Nature can...mess with Mother Nature.

I have two more ewes to lamb out...I did not use CIDRs on them.  They lambed last year and were in with the ram the whole time I was breeding. They did not take their first heat cycle, nor their second but are due any day.  I know this because I did indeed remove the ram and know the day I hauled his ornery butt out!

Next time I lamb, I will live where my ewes live.  That said, I would most certainly use CIDRs again.  I'll be more diligent with the program....but since I will live where I can be at peace during lambing, I will just as certainly leave the ewes in for a second cycle.

My Shepherd friend also gave me a really cool tip of an idea for ear tags.  I've always done right for rams...I remember it more by left for ewes because I wear my wedding ring on my left hand and I'm a girl. But that obviously won't work for every sheep right for rams it is. I use those small bend over snap ear tags because for all the years I've tried all the different tags Premier sells, these seem to stay IN the ears!  So my Shepherd friend told me he puts these tags in the back of the ear for singles and in the front of the ear for multips.  He can look at a sheep from his flock and tell you exactly what is up.  Right back would be single ram lamb...where left front is a ewe lamb with siblings.  Makes it easier in the years ahead to see what is what without having to pull records.  Great tip and I used it this far I love this method's ease!

For now, I think I will just take a few moments and watch the lamb races.  I'll worry about the next lambing season later.  These critters grow up so fast...I don't want to miss a single silly antic or any wild and crazy frolic....

If you need me, I'll be at the ranch....getting nothing much done but doing all that is most important in life.......

Oh and if you are betting on the lamb races.....#314......tag on the back of his right ear........he is a sure bet!

Seize the Day!