Sunday, February 15, 2009

Zamora Trial, 2009

This past Friday we went to the Slaven family's famous Zamora Hills sheepdog trial. Pro-Novice and Nursery ran on Friday, and then Open ran Saturday through Monday. The sheep were big commercial range ewes, who did not like a dog on them but would move easily with little pressure from people or 4-wheelers. If a dog pushed them even a little bit too much, they would turn on the dog, or split off, jump the fence, or just lie down. Moving them was tricky to say the least.

The P-N/N outrun was about 200 yards, I was told. It did not include the famous swale where the sheep dip out of sight in the Open fetch, thank goodness. Still, it was hard for many of the inexperienced dogs to find their sheep, and when they did many did not manage to hold their runs together. There were more than 40 dogs in the combined class, with 15 Nursery dogs, meaning that the top three would get nationals qualifying legs.

Coal was up 23rd in the class. I wasn't sure if he had spotted the sheep but he did. His outrun was not stellar but not bad. I whistled him out at one point as he seemed to hesitate. He bent nicely around his sheep and picked them up, although not without some resistance from them. From the start there were two of the four ewes who wanted to fight him. He fought those two all the way down the fetch. The draw was incredibly strong to my left at the post. He tried very hard and never let them go. Unfortunately we timed out but he showed incredible tenacity. I was very proud of him for finding and bringing the sheep and not letting them get away from him. Many of the other handlers lost their sheep or lost part of them. There were many RTs and a few DQs, and only a handful of good runs.

Unfortunately Bid had to be scratched from the P-N class. His back has been injured so he is on the bench for now, possibly for good, although I am hopeful that he can get better.

Coal and I worked the exhaust all afternoon on Friday and then all day on Saturday for the Open class. He showed me a lot of good things and was endlessly enthusiastic for whatever I asked of him. I saw some really good runs in the Open but a lot of even the best handlers and dogs were unable to hold their sheep together. Five sheep would go into the swale out of sight, and only four, or three, would come out with the dog behind them and the run would be called. There was very little real estate for the handlers to make the fetch panels after the swale. I guess this is all why they call it Open. It was a treat (although an incredibly exhausting day) to watch the best in the West work out one of the most difficult trial courses in the U.S. At times it was quite a challenge just to get the sheep off of the field.

Coal and I will look forward to our next chance at the trial field. Thanks to the Slaven family and all who help to put on such a challenging trial opportunity.