Sunday, February 19, 2017

Near Horizons

I've taken as a new mantra lately, the advice of a management guru, who says (and I may not have the quote exactly correct) to "move to the near horizon; when you are working on a project and it feels like you are unclear on the final objective, start moving in that general direction." There are lots of things going on that folks (including myself) can get wound up about, projecting too far out and worrying about things out of our control. I'm trying to keep breathing and stay centered on that near horizon, and in the present, while still focusing on the steps toward the longer-term achievements that I believe I can work toward if I am diligent. We'll see. :-)

This pretty little blue bird was a merry addition to our Saturday afternoon sheepdog practice.

Coal, still handsome at ten years old.

Spot, focusing on our Scotties

Spot watching carefully this morning.
With all the rain and mud we are experiencing, it is really hard to work dogs, let alone do lots of other things. Many of the roads are closed. You really need to plan your route from point A to point B before you set out. Landslides, flooded roads, and more, are abundant. We are expecting a few more days of rain and wind and then we are hopeful for a break. I am hoping so! We really need a dry out.

It is small potatoes in the big picture of things, but with all this weather, I wonder if we will have any of our spring sheepdog trials this year? Again I'm trying to stay focused on the near horizons and just keep practicing with Spot on all those skills that he and I need.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Virtual Sheepdogging

I subscribed to this series and am really getting a lot out of it. When the days are short and the fields wet and muddy, I can still watch and try to learn. Determination; it's what it's all about! :-)

2016 Working Dog Trial Series


Broken Horn

Broken Horn. She was a good sheep; always feisty until a couple of weeks ago.

Coal and Broken Horn, January 2014
To quote a friend, "she was sent to the other side" yesterday, which is a great way of putting it. It's all part of having livestock and pets; not our favorite part, for sure, but part of it, regardless.

Thank you Broken Horn, you helped to train up many good sheepdogs. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Stake in the Ground

I'm putting a few stakes in the ground. The first few entries for our area's spring series of USBCHA style sheepdog trials have been dropped in the U.S. Mail box, or are waiting patiently at the front door, post-it noted with opening dates, and anxiously awaiting the right day to be mailed.

It's also a good time to be re-reading Vergil Holland's fantastic book, "From the Handler's Post'".

One of the points made in that book is that it is very important to get your dog out to different places to work so we have been doing that whenever possible. It is not easy, and in fact it is probably the most difficult side of trying to prepare for trials. Spot can get a little tension when we are away from our usual training fields; but, so far he has dialed right back down when I insist on his proper work and let him know that our structure is just the same, our framework is all in place, despite new field, different sheep, unknown draws or conditions, and so forth. We are partners with our stake in the ground to work together.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Good Luck RESDA

I'm not going to re-join RESDA this year. If I had, it would have been my 20th year of membership. I joined in 1997. That's a long time. I always saw the club as a local venue where I could get sheepdog trial experience on my dogs. I was never competitive nor interested in running for the high-point year-end award. What I have now decided is that the club is not a good fit for me, or my dogs, any more. I'm sad, but moving on.

We saw a few years ago, that there were issues with the dog work and the judging. We tried to make suggestions to improve, and those ideas were often times not well accepted. When I judged I would start off my handlers' meeting by saying I did not want to see any chasing and that it was not warranted.  I explained what type of dog work I wanted to see. I laid out clearly what type of movement of the sheep that I expected to see. The club rules state this explicitly, but only a few handlers are doing it. Dogs are still chasing and running too tight.  Not a good fit for me.

Last year at the start of 2016 I decided I no longer wanted to judge in the club so I withdrew my name from the pool. It was a relief for me not to have to judge RESDA. I don't mind judging AHBA or PN/Nursery, and in fact those are fun and it feels like you are giving back to the sport that mentored you.

In 2016 I only went to a couple of RESDA trials as a spectator but I saw some dog work and some handling that probably should have been called off. And, members were not entirely respectful of one another. This is not good and it's not where I want to be. I was often told over the years, that the club was a good place to get started but you didn't want to stay there too long or get stuck there. I'm moving on with head held high.

Many folks deserve thank yous  for trying to hang in there and maintain the club and improve the situation. It's an historic organization with a proud tradition but no longer a good fit for me.

One of my suggestions to improve the club would be to put more of the responsibility on the Open handlers. Do not give a seven-minute warning except possibly at the farm trials.  At the fairs and the other trials where prizes and high-points scores are awarded, put the onus on the handlers and make it part of the handling challenge. Especially if the judge has chosen to use time as a tie-breaker, then the warning needs to go; it only makes sense.  The handling and the dog training and dog work just has to get better, overall. That is what is most needed in addition to respect for one another as peer judges and handlers and course directors.

Good luck.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Water, Water (Mud, Mud)

January 2017. Water water everywhere. Water and more water; mud and more mud. Our worries about drought have subsided a little bit.

Spot's face is mud-splattered.

Everyone gets a shower when we get home from the fields when it is this muddy!

Only a little mud. Ryme has to have a haircut.
The boys do not mind a little mud as long as they get to work sheep. Unfortunately, they have not gotten to work sheep very much. There was a hiatus because of just too much rain and mud to safely move the sheep around for such a silly activity as sheepdog training. Lately we have been able to get back to it...thank goodness...the natives were getting quite restless. As if they were not restless enough already, having to wait from Sunday to Saturday in order to work, if a whole weekend was cut out due to torrential rain then we were really starting to have a problem.

Whew...back to it. Working Spot on just three ewes.

We would like to come out in the mud and help you to feed those sheep!
The water is welcome. Our drought was getting scary and serious. It is great to hear that snowpack and reservoir levels are becoming healthier. At least there is some good news. It is winter, after all, and we are supposed to take a bit of a rest. Soon and before we know it, the spring trial season will be here and the pace of things will change. Meanwhile I have caught up on a book or two in the evenings, and have been studying sheepdog videos in the working series on Vimeo.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


On a whim, I pulled a notebook off the shelf this morning, in which I had taken notes on a sheepdog training clinic and subsequent lessons, from ten years ago. It is so interesting to read back through my notes on the clinic and the dogs. The advice from the Welsh  clinician resonates so true today.  Even though  as a beginner, I didn't know  much about some of the things he was talking about (like shedding), I wrote them down anyway...and I am glad.  :)  It is also neat to re-live the memories of working a dog who is now gone (Bid) and remembering how Bid and I learned to increase our confidence and skills together early on.

"Your shed and pen start on the crossdrive"

"You learn more from a bad run than from a good run."

"Don't force and fall out"

Build the outrun so the lift is in the far end of the field, and you walk. This way the dog is going to the 'same store' every time - and knows where everything is 'on the shelf'

When training new skills, just because the dog does something on today's course does not mean he can do it the same on next week's course in a different situation. The first time the dog may respond and do the new skill on just one command; the next time it may take (for example) a stop and redirect in order to get it.

These were really good clinics and lessons, with the information delivered in a practical manner, and giving the dogs a real job to do. Good times! :)

The Boyz at Carmel, our favorite place