I found the above mural online (see the web link for more, which are really beautiful) which really captures the essence of the area we visited Sunday and Monday while traveling to the San Joaquin Valley Border Collie Association sheepdog trial in Porterville, CA. The area is surrounded by orange groves galore, which were in full glory and being harvested while we were there.
Coal had two runs in Nursery on Monday. We ended up third in the first trial. After a shaky outrun where he did not seem to see his sheep, he had a really great fetch which was difficult for many handlers and dogs to accomplish with the range ewes. We timed out on our drive. I was proud that he did not lose his sheep and that we held it together. But it would be nice to get further on the course than we have been getting the last few trips out. In our second run, he had a poor outrun (crossed over at the last second) but still managed a decent fetch and did not lose the sheep at the post turn (where the sheep would book right over the dog and spectators to the exhaust if given any slight opportunity). We started the cross drive but I retired because Coal was not listening. The range ewes really seemed to get to him, training-wise, so we have some work to do to get past it. He's not afraid of them but seems concerned (rightly so!) that they may get away. We've had three tough trials on western range ewes in a row, and I don't know about Coal but I am looking forward to a little something different in the coming weeks!
It's a long drive to Porterville but worthwhile for the mileage on the dog and learning more about trialling and handling. The field was an open cattle pasture next to a sandy shallow stream that was great for the dogs to cool off in. The SJVBCA has been putting on a spring driving trial near Porterville for the past 26 years. The beautiful trophy for Open at Sunday's awards contained the names of many great dogs who have trialled in California, including Rime's great-grandfather.