Saturday, June 27, 2015

Bone Dry

For all those in areas where it has been raining too much (Michigan, Illinois, the Carolinas, Texas, etc.)... here is what "bone dry" looks like:



Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ryme Has His Dogleg Day

Ryme got to run in the PN at the Point Pleasant Father's Day trial. I have not trialled him in anything but RESDA (and very sparingly there) for several years. I am not sure exactly when I put him in a PN class, last, maybe two years ago, maybe three... but Ryme has been working so well that I decided to enter him on Father's Day. He is my best ranch dog; he sorts, he has a turnback, he sheds, he does it all and is my right hand when we go out to practice with multiple dogs. I thought I'd just see how it goes for him in a trial. 

The PN course was a challenge. The outrun was moved back to sort of the normal position from the prior nursery class, but the fetch was a dogleg with two sets of panels to be completed before getting to the post. Then you drove around the post, right-hand-drive, and went to the drive panels as normal. After completing the second drive panel, you drove back through the second fetch gates  and then turned the sheep again and drove them to the (three-sided) pen. The handler stayed at the post for the whole run. It was a lot of driving.

Happy Ryme, in a picture from last year (you can tell from the green grass which we don't have this year).

With Ryme I am more worried about the outrun and lift than anything else. The rest, I thought we could do. Ryme lacks confidence, the further he gets away from me, and long outruns sometimes elicit some poor behavior on his part as a result. He is pretty good at driving although he does overflank at times. He's a good stopper (or so I thought before the trial-LOL!).  At this trial, his outrun was not bad although I had to blow a stop whistle (he slowed down for that ) and redirect him with an away whistle, which he took. He got to the top, started the lift, and then ringed the sheep which he has not done in a long time. Bummer. :( But we continued down the fetch and went on around the course...he was not stopping very well for me and it felt like cold molasses to get him to change his directions, when normally he is so pliable. As is often the case you often have only 50% of the dog you have at home, when you go to a trial. So true in this case. Ryme hung in there though, as did I. I felt like I was too loud of a handler though. But, we got the sheep penned with me at the post, on our first try.

I praised Ryme to the skies as he was a (relatively) good boy. He's had so many issues with his fears of the entire world that it was amazing to put him around a tricky PN course and come out with a score. In years past he might have run through the sheep and blown up, on any segment of the fetch or drive that overwhelmed him...but this time he stayed cool once past the lift section.Yay, Ryme! Is what one of my friends yelled after our run was over. Nice to hear that vote of confidence. Finishing a run was a confidence builder for me, as I have been RT-ing so much with Spot and timing out (and/or RTing) with Coal.

The trial was very nice and low-key. It seemed to be a great experience for most everyone who was there. In deference to the expected hot temperatures, they had moved the start time to 6 A.M. for the nursery handler's meeting and the PN followed after that. There was to be a BBQ at first, but that was postponed until another time. They did have the same awesome ice cream (and cake) that they had for Mother's Day. That ice cream (berry and vanilla) is wonderful and tastes like home made. I didn't have the cake because I am trying to stick with my gluten-free diet. But the ice cream was well worth getting up at 3 A.M. in the morning to get there. I really appreciate that the Spencers put on these trials so that we can get out there and practice in a trial setting with the less experienced dogs. The sheep worked very well and were as always very fit. The weather cooperated beautifully and it was not too hot, with a nice breeze.

The only bad part for me, was that the normally two hour drive, took almost three hours to get home (again). It was only a slightly shorter drive time than getting home on Mother's Day. Just too many cars and too much traffic on I-80. But I was glad I went, anyway.

Thanks to all who helped to put on the trial!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Found and Lost

Found. One outrun at Point Pleasant, for Spot.  We went to the Father's Day Nursery/Pro-Novice trial, which was Spot's third sheepdog trialling trip to Point Pleasant in 2015. In his other two attempts, earlier this year, he did not find his sheep in the nursery classes, so we RTed both times. This trial, I am pleased to say that Spot FOUND the sheep. In the nursery class I sent him come-bye which appears to be his favored outrun side at this point. Spot did a really nice outrun on that flat field. Found. Yippee!  We still RTed because while there was a decent fetch most of the way, listening to commands except for one faux pas, there was a difficulty getting Spot to start and continue the drive towards the first panel. After we flustered about with it for a bit, I walked. I am still learning about patience. :)

Spot had another run in PN later in the trial. I sent him to the Away side, this time, just for sporting's sake, as one of my old bosses used to say. The course was different from Nursery and the drive was tricky and long; I knew Spot would not be equipped to handle it. This PN course was built for all the really competitive PN dogs in our area...not for beginner nursery dogs like Spot. So I told myself, just do the gather. I sent him Away and he ran out...and stopped partway, just like our other trips to this field. But this time I was able to convince him to look and bend out and he did get out to the sheep on the away side, without crossing over, after much ado. But he got out there which is a huge victory. Again we RTed on the drive. He is just not ready for that part, away from the home fields. We have much work to do on the drive and just keeping Spot settled behind the sheep. His peers in the nursery class are far ahead of him in terms of smooth and polished execution of the trial courses. I am trying very hard not to make those comparisons.

I will write more in another post about the trial, which was very nice, and Ryme got to have a go.

Spot and I run nursery at Dry Lake back in May
Lost. One lamb disappeared. We were babysitting two ewes and their lambs, over the summer, for a friend. There was a single boy and a pair of twins. One Friday night, I checked the sheep and everybody was fine. On Saturday morning, when someone went to feed the guardian dog, the single boy lamb was gone. Just gone, with no trace. Several of us looked and looked all over for any sign of his disappearance, but he was just gone. There was no blood, no wool, no body, no nothing. We looked all over, and found nothing, nada, zip. We suspect mountain lion but it could have been that or any other predator who was quick enough to grab the largest and slowest lamb. It is really unfortunate since this is the lamb we worked really hard to pull when he was born, as he was too big. As a result, his front legs were messed up at first but they were coming around and he was walking sound. We moved the other ewe and her twins to more safety, at a friend's house who was very generous to offer to put them in with her ewes and lambs that live practically right under her nose. So on we go as such is keeping sheep. It is very strange. There have been no reports of mountain lion kills in the area when I talked with the county trapper. Our sheep were not jittery, at all, which is also strange; it must have happened really fast.

Overall, I'm very much enjoying the summer with long evenings of daylight when I can work dogs. It feels like I am burning the candle at both ends right now, with multiple candles. It's light so early and light so late. I love it.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Through the Open Gate

Over the years - in addition to this blog -  I have kept a journal. I don't always write in it daily but almost. Mostly it is for recording my dog training activities but my personal stuff sneaks in there as well. I have kept a dog training journal for a long time. It is fun and sometimes very bittersweet, to go back and read through the entries about dogs who are now gone. I don't have a very good memory at times. It is amazing to go back and read journal notes written in my own handwriting about days out with the dogs that I don't quite remember very well. I'm glad I wrote them down. :) I also write down ideas that I have used later with others of my dogs, or with dogs belonging to other folks who ask my opinion of their dogs and how they might help them to work better. This year I went to some clinics and I just wrote all my clinic notes straight into my journal instead of using another notebook. It's all in there...

That said the nice thing about keeping a training journal is that it gives you a place to start with your next training session. If you write down at the end what you want to work on next, there is your to-do list for the next session,  in case life gets in the way and you forget. I really learned this back when we used to do tracking. Sometimes weeks would pass between training sessions and rather than rely on my bad memory I would nearly always write down what we needed to work on next time. It was very helpful. It's always good to go out with a plan.

With sheepdogs, and working with the third species that is sheep, it is also always good to be open to opportunities that come up that you didn't plan for. And sometimes things happen, no matter how good our plan, that take us in a different direction for that session than what we had in mind. We have to be flexible enough to leave that gate open for opportunity.

One day this week we had actual rain for part of the day. It was wonderful. In the afternoon/evening when I went out to train, the rain had stopped but the air had cooled down and it was just lovely out. It was one of those evenings when I really enjoyed myself despite the long work day that preceded it.  I felt mentally fried when I first got there but that feeling soon drifted away. We were working at one of the other places where I get to work my dogs. There were some new sheep, recently acquired, who were not into hanging with the resident group. Together they all made a much larger group. I love to work on a larger group. The bonus was having a smaller part of the large bunch who was happy to settle elsewhere. Two groups who do not yearn to cling together = opportunities knocking for the dogs.

It's a great time to work on shedding. Once you have the groups split apart, you can work with the dog on holding the pressure of them wanting to run back together. This pressure is something we don't always get with the broke sheep.  You can work on the dog being a gate such as in the International shed, but it's also just a darn good skill to have for a ranch dog.

For Spot, I took advantage of the two groups to begin his look backs. That is something I have not done with him at all but all of a sudden there was the opportunity to start it, so I grabbed onto it. He had no idea what I wanted but at least we have started. I walked him through it a few times, with me facing the other set of sheep and telling him to look. Eventually he got it and I didn't care which way he went or how he got there, if he just gave up the first set and went for the second set. Sam and Ryme both have pretty good look backs. So I worked with all three of them on shedding, the International style sort, and holding and walking into that pressure.

Before all this started, I sent Ryme and Sam out through the gate into the pasture on their outruns for the first time, when they each had their turns. This is another good skill for a ranch dog and it's also done at some of the trials. Coal already knows it as we have worked with him on it a lot. Spot will get some of that very soon as I want him to learn it as well.

I'm always trying to keep the gates of opportunity open so they can learn. We also had a ton of fun.

Coal was lame after Dry Lake/Little Horse Mountain. I am giving him some let-down time to heal and recuperate. I'm saving some small chores for him each time we work, and letting him run on his own to keep fitness, but not pushing him. This week Coal and Ryme and Spot also got to see their chiropractor. She found Coal's front leg to be pretty sore. We now have exercises to do. :) I was not off base in giving him a little let-down time. Right now I'm pushing harder with Ryme and Spot. I'm going to see what Ryme can do. He's trained.  So we'll see. Keeping the gate open when we can.

Gloria took some nice photos of Spot at Dry Lake. :)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Sense of Accomplishment

The sheep were sheared yesterday afternoon. They went from looking like this:






To this:


We were pleased to find all of them in very good condition under all of their wool. Some of them are downright fat (OK, pleasantly plump) and they have been eating nothing but pasture for a while. They are in good shape going into the driest part of the year with declining forage.

Our shearer is great and does a very professional job; obviously he puts a lot of care into his work. It was he who remarked last evening, as we were finishing up, about the sense of accomplishment that one feels, turning the freshly sheared sheep back out into the pasture. You could hear the sheep calling to each other. I'm sure they are trying to find their friends who now look totally different. The ewes with lambs who were already sheared, called out to the dry ewes as well. Now everybody looks the same. :) It's nice to see that our older girls still look fit and are carrying good weight. But it will be a little bit harder to tell them all apart until we all get used to their new looks.



Our shearer has a new pup who was watching intently over the wall, while his "dad" would catch a sheep and then shear her. Soon this pup will make a nice new sheepdog, we hope. He had a nice calm demeanor but was gaining interest with each sheep that was sheared.



It is so nice to have the shearing chore completed. We have a great team that comes together when sheep chores need to be done. Now on to more dog work for these girls with their new dos!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Timing is Everything

Timing is everything, or so it seems to be when handling a sheepdog, but this post is not about trials.

Today some of our sheep got loose, including a few of the adults plus the two ewes with lambs that we are babysitting for a friend. There is a ewe with a single and another ewe with twins; all of the lambs are a little over a month old. So, the lambs are old enough to get into trouble but not old enough to be out on their own.

When I went out to check the sheep this evening, and work my dogs, there were not enough sheep in the pasture. I thought maybe the late afternoon sun was in my eyes and I just couldn't see them all, up against the tree line. Nope; several sheep were missing, including the ewes with lambs. Ryme and I went to look for them. We found a gate pushed open and it wasn't far after that to find them, munching on green things along side the driveway. Ryme and I started to trail them back, and here came the neighbor to alert us of sheep getting loose. Ryme had it under control.

The timing of our arrival vs. the escape was somewhat scary but serendipitous.

One of the ewes, the one with twins, has been particularly pesky to our dogs as we have tried to very diplomatically move she and her friend about and into a safe pen, so that we can work our dogs, over the past few weeks. I guess Ryme and I had about enough of her, tonight, trying to ease her back inside the home fence. She stopped underneath the apple tree and was gobbling up some fallen fruit and did not want to come back inside. I told Ryme to get her and he nailed her square on the head. I have been waiting for that to happen. She came back inside and her twins came with her. All's well.

Tomorrow is Friday!! :)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Dry Lake 2015, Day Four and Final

Memorial Day, 2015. And, Dry Lake/Little Horse Mountain sheepdog trial, Day 4.

Today was Spot's day. They ran the nursery and pro-novice on two separate fields because there were so many entries. How the very tired crew accomplished splitting itself in half and running two fields simultaneously, is beyond me but it is a testimony to the rabid dedication that this SOJ bunch has for sheepdog trials! As a result I did not get to watch any of my friends run PN though. We stayed on the nursery side of things. Spot was down for two nursery runs.

For run number one, I sent Spot left again. I figured it worked on Friday and why mess with it? He needs confidence so repetition seemed like a good plan. His outrun was good again. The lift was more headstrong than on Friday. I will have to take a bigger role. We completed the gather again. Woo hoo! I was not trying for finesse as we missed the fetch gates but just skimmed them. Turned the post, trying to do as we were taught in our recent lesson, keep the sheep moving around the post, don't let them stop. Got the drive started, then started the cross drive. Spot did not want to take the requested flanks so it turned into a banana (a deep banana!) but I kept working until time ran out. The allotted time was 7 minutes. Super pleased with Spot. His first-ever run with a resulting score I think. :) Smiling! 

I waited four hours for run number two. Meanwhile everyone was leaving out as soon as they were done. I was questioning my sanity at waiting to drive home an extra few hours. But I kept telling myself that Spot needs the mileage on the field and as long as we're already there we should stay. So for run #2 I sent left again. Maybe I should have sent right, but who knows. Spot did another gorgeous outrun but overflanked too much at the top which sent the sheep squirting the wrong direction. He did not want to take my flank whistles to cover. Sigh. RT and start up the field. The sheep were heading into the rocks which foiled many of the open dogs as well. Geri and Li drove off to our rescue on the quad. Disappointing, yes, but a good thing to know about. Why and when does he overflank at the top...something I need to nail down. All good stuff.

Pedal to the metal, home...so much to think about. Thank goodness again for Sirius radio!  I was happy to go pick up Chiefie from his babysitters' and grateful that he had such a nice place to stay for the weekend.  Ryme was very, very glad to get home; he was a good little traveler.

Super proud of Coal for handling the huge course and challenging sheep. He acted like a puppy all weekend instead of an eight year old. I just need to step up and handle him. I can't let the idea of long distances and range ewes shut me down.

Spot wowed me with his big outrun. We have lots to work on. Shedding. Work in corrals to get him relaxed when close to the sheep. And more. I'm super stoked. So glad we were able to go to Dry Lake/Little Horse Mountain, 2015 version. :)