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 days...in 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.

1 comment:

livin life said...

And that, my friend, is what I love about YOU! Thanks for sharing....and oh how I wish I could have been there at Hopland with you and Geri and Jack and.....


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