Monday, November 22, 2010

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.

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