Monday, November 29, 2010

2011 National Finals Video

Check out this nice video promoting the 2011 USBCHA National Finals!


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 Photos

I took some photos on Thursday and Friday of my dogs and a few others' dogs. They are in a Picasa album, so take a look and enjoy.


"That'll Do"

I saw a notecard in the Border Collies in Action catalog titled "That'll Do", and had to buy it. The painting reminded me so much of my Bid. Then when I received the card, on the back was a website for the artist. I found the original post about the painting.

Enjoy. This painting and all of the other work is just lovely. Cowgirls, horses, dogs, cowboys, steers, all done in oils and beautifully captured.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dunnigan Hills Trial, November 2010

Sunday we ran in the Dunnigan Hills trial near Zamora, CA. The day was clear and brisk, in sharp contrast to the heavy overnight rain and wind storms. Local folks in the Zamora area had been without power overnight. The weather gods were smiling on the sheepdog trialists and trial hosts, however, as it couldn't have been nicer (and there wasn't a strong Zamora Wind that we all know so well!). David Rees was again judging and we had another left-hand drive but no single or shed, because the terrain at the ranch just doesn't allow much room for a shedding ring.

Coal ran twelfth in the order so once again I didn't have to wait too long but had plenty of runs to watch before we stepped up to the post. I sent him left, to his better side, and that worked out fine. He could have been deeper but it was adequate. The lift was a bit offline though as a result. The fetch was fast and furious; I should have gotten hold of Coal sooner on the fetch - my bad. Since Coal is sometimes too careful and creepy, I often get sidetracked in my handling when he is fast! In theory, I can deal with too fast much better than too slow but it's something I need to adjust for more quickly on the fly. It must've been the cool crisp weather that made both dog and sheep really light on their feet. We made the fetch gates, and brought the sheep up the hill and 'round the post to start the drive. The sheep are very "educated" as one top handler put it, and they gave each dog and handler team a run for their money on the drives. The cross drive is right on the path to "home". I thought we were going to make the first drive panel, but didn't, and ran just low-- disappointing but it was my mistake and Coal's exuberance that I wasn't up to speed with. The cross drive was adequate and we did make the second drive panel, turned for home and I tried to remember to keep my eyes on my sheep the whole way up the hill and over to the pen. I couldn't see Coal but I could see the sheep and that was enough. The pen was successful in spite of Coal deciding to be sticky and not take my flanks close at hand (another issue to put back on the "to-work-on" list). We ended up with a generous 71 points which is a new high for us in the open.

We've run in six Open trials in about the past month and have gotten a score in each one. This little "circuit" has shown me a lot of what I need to work on over the winter, but more importantly, has shown me that we can indeed be somewhat successful in the Open. I have no regrets about moving up in class last April. I'm really happy with the little black dog. We are having so much fun!

Thank you to all who helped to put on the past weekend trials; they were both great and I know very much appreciated!

Kurrajong Trial, November 2010

This past Saturday Coal and I ran in the Kurrajong sheepdog trial, near Plymouth, CA. The weather forecast was for rainy and cold but for most of the trial, the rain stayed away other than some light sprinkles and showers. The temperatures were chilly, though, and it was often hard to recognize our fellow handlers because everyone was all bundled up in order to stay warm. Just a few miles away I knew there was snow in the Sierras but it didn't visit us at the trial. I was glad I bought a heavy waterproof parka last season, because I was plenty warm and dry.

We ran a left-hand drive on three very well-fed farm flock sheep and had to single one off the back before the pen. The course was designed to fit with the layout of the field and the lines were well visible for the most part due to the terrain. This was my first time participating in the Kurrajong trial and I really enjoyed it. David Rees from Wales was our judge for the weekend. It is always good to see David as we had all gotten to know him locally when he spent several years in California a while back. David always has a positive outlook and greets each handler with his warm smile. He had tremendous knowledge about border collie bloodlines and sheepdog trial judging.

Most of the experienced handlers sent to the right so I followed suit even though that is Coal's poorer side. On the left was a large tree which would have partially hid the sheep from the dog's view on his outrun. If we had a second run I would dearly have loved to send left to see how that would have worked out. In trials, Coal is sometimes tenative on his outrun especially to the right. In practice, he rarely shows this, so it is something hard to train for. I will be working on understanding this issue over the winter. Anyway he did finally get to his sheep, and had a nice lift. We made the fetch gates and turned the post a bit wide but the sheep were very light and touchy (and big!) and I didn't want to monkey with them too much. Like any green handler, I am always just a bit joyful when the dog gets the sheep to my feet!

We made the first drive panel after crossing over a little ditch to the right of another large shade tree, then turned for the cross drive, which put the sheep on their path to "home" (and kicked them into really high gear). I thought we were on line for the second panel but in fact, we just skimmed it on the top. We got them turned tightly without threading them back through the panel and turned for the shedding ring. It was hard to set up the single because the sheep were -- as one handler put it -- so "spirited". Finally we did get our single and were headed to the pen when David honked the truck's horn saying that our time was up. For me it was all over too quickly! I think that tells me that I am starting to really have fun. It was good having a quick visit with David, and also nice to meet a handler from Colorado who was in the area visiting family and running in the weekend trials. On Sunday we ran in the Dunnigan Hills "sister trial" to the Kurrajong and I will write about that in my next post.

Monday, November 15, 2010

UC Hopland Sheepdog Trial, 2010

My last post was titled, "Winter is Here", but now that is far from the truth. My subtitle should be, "Summer is Back"! Or perhaps "The Summer that Never Was, is Here". We've had 80-degree and sunny weather the past few mid-November!

Regardless of the weather, which was glorious and almost too warm for the dogs and sheep, we had a wonderful time at the UC Hopland sheepdog trial this past weekend. Held at the University of California research farm in Mendocino County, the trial ran Friday through Sunday with Pro-Novice and Nursery on Friday. Saturday and Sunday there were two one-day Open USBCHA trials. Fresh sheep from the university's flock were used for each and every run; how often does that happen? Not too often. I figure they must have used close to 500 sheep. Just the thought of that is mind-boggling.

The trial field is a huge grassy bowl surrounded by beautiful vistas of hills, vineyards (in their various fall colors), trees, water, and wonderful country side. The trial itself runs like clock work due to intrepid organizers, tons of savvy volunteers, and help from the university staff. The Hopland trial is one of the really special treats for sheepdog triallers in this part of the country.

Coal and I ran in the Open both Saturday and Sunday. We are very much the rookies in the field of Open dogs in our area, but I felt good about our runs. The outrun was long and foiled a lot of even the experienced dogs. The draws for the sheep back to setout and later in the day, up to the exhaust, were very strong, even though none of the sheep were re-run. These draws made the fetches, drives, sheds and pens, sometimes very difficult. But everyone loves the challenge at this site. Our Sunday run was better than our Saturday run and I walked off the field smiling at my little dog who tries so hard for me. We have lots of things to clean up but overall I am very proud of Coal and just happy to be out there livin' the dream.

So without getting too sentimental, I'm going to tell another story about livin' the dream. Twenty years ago, after I got my first border collie Alix, I started wanting to do this sheepdog thing but at the time there were just no resources close to me to pursue it. Fifteen and more years ago, with my second border collie, Augie, I finally got to do a little bit of sheepdog work but without much direction, no mentor, and no guidance, it was almost an impossible task. I had a couple of books. I had been to a clinic or two, one clinic with a very bad experience and one or two with good experiences. But Augie and I both wanted it so badly that I kept at it, no matter what improbable situation we found ourselves in. We were both green as grass. At the time I had made friends with the shepherd at the University of Illinois. He asked me to do a little demo on the sheepdog for one of his Animal Science classes. He selected some sheep for me to work with there on the farm, to prepare for the demo, with Augie. So there I was, knowing almost nothing, out in a pasture trying to practice with some blackface cull ewes who had never been worked by a dog. My dog was young, fast, tight, grippy and terribly keen. Impossible? Yes. Did I keep at it? Yes. We did that demo. It was Augie and that shepherd and those blackface ewes that I was thinking about on my drive up to UC Hopland on Sunday, and it was also Augie who was on my mind, along with my good boy Coal (who had just worked so hard with me), as we walked off that big open field with a score even though it wasn't one of the high scores. We were an improbable team but sometimes life is just too short to wait for the most probable team.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Winter is Here

The clocks have "fallen back", and the rainy season is upon us -- winter is here. After a nice sunny day yesterday, it's raining off and on "cats and dogs" here today.

Another of our winter rituals is complete. We moved some of our sheep today to the winter place that we have been offered so graciously, now for the fourth year. It is hard to believe we've done this so many times now. The three bred ewes and two young wether lambs that we trailered across town were so happy to be turned out on lush pasture. They joined the three new Scottish Blackface ewe lambs that we got this past week, along with their very own guardian dog who seemed to accept the newcomers within minutes as part of his flock. Our sheep have never had a guardian dog but they also seemed to accept the dog almost immediately.

Yesterday we had lessons in Zamora for the first time since August. As I kind of expected, each dog had his ups and downs. There is much to work on with the dogs, and with me. I am thankful that winter is training time in Northern California and I am hopeful that we will get in more lesson sessions over the coming months.

It's time to get ready for Thanksgiving...but Hopland is next on the calendar. I know it's not just me who is saying this, but the year has certainly seemed to fly by!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Point Pleasant Fall Sheepdog Trial 2010

Last Friday and Saturday Coal and I ran in the Open at the Pt. Pleasant Sheepdog trial near Elk Grove, CA. We lucked out with good weather both days even though rain had been predicted. It was only our second outing in competitive Open and the first time in Open since last April, so I was viewing the whole thing more as a practice/warmup rather than anything else. We had a really good time; the sheep were fit, the courses challenging (including a Maltese Cross instead of a pen), the company oustanding, and the dog work, of course, excellent.

Both days Coal's outrun was lacking since he has not been trained to run out through a gate in a fence, and/or do what I am calling for better or worse, a "keyhole" outrun. On Friday we ran late in the afternoon, and his lift and fetch were off line but the drive was pretty good. A split of sheep in the shedding ring was not pretty but performed well enough to move on. We timed out trying to complete the Maltese Cross but I was happy overall with Coal's purposeful, forward attitude throughout the run.

On Saturday we were up second in the early morning. The first run ended in RT because the sheep were beating up on the working dog, which was not something to give me confidence! Our sheep packet worked OK although clearly the sheep were behaving differently for everyone on Saturday versus Friday. Coal's outrun was not great but the lift and fetch were much better  than Friday's. Our drive, though, was very poor and we deservedly lost almost all of the drive points. We ended on a good note; completing the Maltese Cross assignment, but then we timed out before getting to attempt the single.

Thanks to the Spencers for putting on the trial and to everyone else who helped make the event happen.