Thursday, August 29, 2013

Six Weeks


In six short weeks, I'll be back on the road again...this time pushing past Kentucky, further east...all the way to Virginia.  As I sit here and put words to my feelings, this is what I see.....all the way across America.  There are days where I can not believe I am driving...and days where I am very excited for the adventures that are sure to fill trip.

Bella and Nell are all signed up for the 2013 finals.  Gosh, pinching myself, I write again, Bella and Nell are all signed up and in on the first cut for the 2013 finals. 

Me, well I have six weeks to continue to get ready.  Bella has a soft tissue injury that I am working on rehabbing.  It is good to practice the art of letting go. Where I might be drilling and adding in a bit of more drill......stops and open flanks and look backs, oh my.......Bella and I are taking time off from sheep.  Nell and I work a on reading sheep....her on listening; however, no drilling.  Just sticking to relationship and knowing the finals are not an end destination but just a scenic stop on the road to where I'm headed. 

Then there is me, I have six weeks to get me ready.  I'm continue my whistle work and I'm looking at my brain and thoughts: Mental Management and Toughness.  I love listening to sport psychologist and their take on what keeps the athletes from reaching their full potential. How to really access the most from my brain is a challenge for sure.

So the count down begins......and I'm right back to working on me. Funny how dogs bring perspective to life......all about me becoming if I'm up to the challenge.

Seize the Day!

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Don’t just count your years, make your years count.
Ernest Meyers

What matters most in life is often viewed as peripheral to the things that we usually focus on.  Passion takes a backseat to production, wellness to working, and balance to busyness.  The old adage that "life is not a dress rehearsal" is so true, and yet we act to the contrary by putting off what is truly important or indulging in things that are not.  On your birthday, stop focusing on your age and start meditation on your life at this exact moment.  How can you make it better?  During the next year, reshuffle your priorities.  Spend more time with family and friends, take care of your body and health by eating well and exercising regularly, and offer to help others in need. Discover what matters most to you, and make your daily life into a true reflection of those ideas, beliefs, and attitudes.

From SparkPeople

Time to seize the day at a time! 


Thursday, August 22, 2013

I Was Talking With A Friend of Mine......

Okay, okay I got me a little Tom Petty on the brain today.  Lambing season was Tom Petty too...the waiting is the hardest part.  If life is a country song.....then Tom must be some southern rock country!

I've spent the summer with a few new friends.  Many an evening was spent with Buck Brannaman, Ray Hunt, Tom Dorrance, and his brother Bill.  Ideas were shared and, though based on horses and training, they crossed over the species barrier allowing me to  find much application to dogs; more specifically my dogs.  When I took a bigger step back and really looked at the ideas shared, not so surprisingly they transcended four legged species to include all of life.  The emphasis was on relationship: digging deep and listening to the animal's feedback while presenting opportunity to learn at that animals pace of readiness.  Tom Dorrance simply said, "people are like that too."

"The best thing I try to do for myself is to try and listen to the horse. I don't mean let him take over.  I listen to how he's operating" What he's understanding or what he doesn't understand; what's bothering him and what isn't bother him.  I try to feel what the horse is feeling and operate from where the horse is." ~ Tom Dorrance

When taking a break from these training writers, I filled in time with Deepak Chopra, James Loehr, Barabra  Schulte......people who invested in my mind and how I think. "You attract what you are", Deepak told me. Brene Brown shared about shame resilience and ordinary courage, while Katherine Center shared what she might tell her "buck tooth self at eight", if she could go back in time; "See yourself with kinder eyes."  I step back from my new friends a changed woman, and I ponder what I would tell myself taking the first steps into the world of the working sheepdog back what will be nine years ago this Sunday.  I know the date because that is exactly what I did on my 40th birthday.....I took my first step into the world of the working sheepdog with my frightened, broken mirror of a Snook dog...and it changed my life forever. 

I'd tell myself:  *Sheepdogs are a journey and if I listens with all my senses the dog and sheep will tell the entire story.  * Trying to make things happen by force will lead to no sheds and timing out at the pen or maybe even too wide of an outrun. * Avoiding the hard topics can leave tension that rears its ugly head later in uncontrollable circumstances. * Who I am is not defined by winning nor by beating anybody.  * The quality of my run is not determined by my scores or placement. * Beauty and improvement can be had in a retire, a dq, and a score, but I have to look.  * Beauty and improvement with my dogs might not be seen by other people and that's okay.  * I'm not a good person if I win nor a bad person if I loose. * Win or loose, few people will remember who won Heppner the first round in 2013 nor will they remember who gripped out 5 of 7 runs on the way to the Bluegrass and back in the same year.  * Relationship; deep understanding and working together is what I long for with each of my dogs. * Other people are on a journey of their own and it is none of my business. * When I make other people's journeys my business, my judgment is who I really am.* Instead of passing judgment, I might want to see if I can figure out why a run is going wrong or right. * Mistakes happen, I can work to minimize them but they will happen. * "See myself with kinder eyes" but don't expect others to do the same. * Negativity and criticism is like an infection...the tiniest of seeds can grow into an oak tree over time, especially if fed and watered regularly. * Good and true friends are to be cherished, gather them up and be thankful. * Sheepdog trials are not life...they are just a small part of my life. * Nobody can make me feel any certain way. * Whether somebody agrees with what I do or not, I do not have to accept shame or change to fit in. * When I go to a trial, put down the best run I can for the day...there is greatness in that. * It's good to work at getting better.  * I can't expect my dogs to function at their peak all year long, nor it is fair to expect myself to function at peak all year long. * The better I get, the better my true friends get.  * The dogs that are put into my life are going to teach me something if I am up to up to the challenge! * Seize every day with my dogs as their lives are short and time flies by; there is no stopping that.

I really believe this; deep in my heart I believe this.  When challenged, I might have to ruminate over and over but I come back to my roots of belief.  Bella and Nell are qualified and signed up to go back to Virginia for the 2013 finals.  My Bella is struggling with a soft tissue injury.  I am working on finding a good and functional rehab plan to see if I can get her all healed up and ready to go.  I also have some work to do in myself with my mental management, toughness training and self discipline.  My recent trials showed me some work I need to sort out.  "Avoiding the hard topics can leave tension", I remind myself.  These dogs and my journey with them, as I've said a few times over, really it is about me finding the beauty and improvement in myself. So with great thankfulness to my dogs and kindness to myself, I soldier on...........I am!

Seize the Day!!!!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

It's True

Every year, from what feels like the beginning of time, I attend one ASCA trial.  I started my journey into sheepdogs with an all-breed trainer and competing in arena trials.  True confessions, I really enjoyed "them".....the people I met, the trials I attended, and the relationship I developed with my redheaded rescue border collie.  Where distance created much insecurity, the arena trials allowed me to give her great confidence; I was right there for Miss Snook and she liked it.  At one of my first ever AHBA trials, I met the folks from Vaquero Australian Shepherds; finding they were "local", had lots of property and sheep, were pretty darn knowledgeable about stock and handling, and were willing to share all the above plus their friendship. They host an annual ASCA trial and every year I attend.

I took a quick trip down memory lane as I packed up panels and a few other odds and ends to take out in preparation for their trial this year.  Gosh could it have been so long ago when Snook and I were new to "herding" and together we gave the started course a try some seven years back.  That year, the sheep were brought in and I remember they were quite the challenge in the arena, as they were not used to being worked in groups of five nor confined in a field of that size.  I was so scared, I think I laid Snook down most of her run but we got it done and all the sheep were taken off the field ; twenty legs moving through the gate opening.  That evening, Ken asked if I wanted to give Snook a look at ducks as two runs the next day would be more fun. And so the entire duck flock was turned out and Snook was hooked on; the beginning of a long love affair with ducks for Snook. I remember watching people get their awards at the end of the trial and thinking, "Someday, I want to put a WTCH on a dog" (Working Trial Champion)

Time ticks on, Snook got older, new dogs arrived and buckles became the prize for high combined.  Yes, BUCKLES!  Buckles required a dog to be able to work all three stock because, regardless of the scores, a dog had to be entered in sheep, ducks and cows to be qualified for high combined. So I took a quick lesson on cows with Nell and Bella thinking they would be a lot like ducks and all it would take is "hooking on" or at least the knowledge that it was okay to work the cows. 

That year, Bella became the "Most Promising Started" Dog and I received my first buckle.

The next year, I decided to lay off the cows for Nell while Bella seemed to enjoy working Bella continued on.  Maybe Bella, with her cow roots from her L&M breeding, would help me attain my WTCH goal. The stakes were raised as moving to open required penning cows which, after the fact, I realized was a little more difficult than what I had anticipated. 

For 2013, I needed all my advanced runs to WTCH Bella.  Sheep are familiar both of us, ducks are funny and Bella takes them very serious, and then there are cows.  I knew I needed some counseling on my half of the cow run.....little known to most is the fact that I raised registered horned Herefords while growing up and so I have a deep respect for what a cow can do.  I did not want to just get around, I wanted to gain understanding and have a good and decent relationship for my run.  So I packed up Bella and Gyp (who was debuting in started) and headed down to Shane Harley's for a couple of cow lessons.

Funny how life unfolds.  Gyp seemed to enjoy the cows at Shane's once she gained some confidence and started fetching them.  The cows brought out some tendencies in Gyp that I was not consciously seeing on sheep......they are a little more subtle while she works sheep and I manage them. As I left the cow lesson with Gyp, I had a list going of things we needed to look at and work on with the sheep.... developing confidence while driving distances, holding pressure longer, sticking the pressure if need be, and biting a head when called for.  Gyps' cow runs at the trial were very hard on her and as I left, I wondered if I might have damaged some of her confidence and trust in me.  Time will tell and I do plan on taking her back for some more cow time with Shane....not to make her a cow dog but to further develop her confidence on cows that are honest and not sour.

Then there is Bella....Bella, Bella Mozzarella....Bella Mia....Beautiful Bella.  Her cow runs this year at my one ASCA trial were a thing of beauty.  She was the only dog to get any cows in the pen one day, and the only dog to get her Y chute the next.  And while the last year she was on cows, the judge told me I held her back and it was like watching paint dry....this year, Bella worked the cows with the quiet authority that I know would make her cow heritage proud.

It's funny, after her Saturday cow run, her Sunday sheep run was crazy!  All day I fretted and laughed....would it not be an irony if it was her one sheep run that kept her from her WTCH! Oh but it all worked out in the end and Miss Bella is now L&M Belle WTCH.  That plus High Combined "other" breed which indeed earned a buckle.

So what did I learn from all this?  As I continue to read and learn from the horse masters of years gone by, I learned a lot from running my dogs at an ASCA trial.  I learned that both my open dogs have square flanks verbally but not as open on whistles.  I learned that any day working dogs with friends is a good day...although I already knew that one.  I also learned that striving for knowledge and understanding with my partners brings amazing results.  My lessons with Bella on cows allowed her to really work, me to trust her, and her to trust me...which at the end of the day, is what I am striving for with each of my dogs. 

The journey continues and now I watch the Finals list, obsessing, hoping, praying Nell has enough to get through to Virginia.  After the months of trialing and working to keep my head "right", the ASCA trial was a fabulous way to end the year.  Now it is time to get serious........there is work to be done.

Seize the Day!