Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dunnigan Hills Spring 2011

Last weekend we traveled to Zamora again for the Dunnigan Hills Spring 2011 sheepdog trial. It has been a few days but time passes so quickly that I never seem to quite find time to write about the trial, or anything else for that matter. As with everyone else in this day and age, the daily and weekly routine keeps a person so busy. If anyone is wondering what happened to the remaining twin lamb born on Easter Sunday, he is thriving, fat, happy and growing. He has a good mom. We also had another set of healthy twin ewe lambs that were born yesterday. So life goes on......without photos. I have a funny superstition about taking lamb photos.

Anyway the Dunnigan P-N/Nursery classes were run on the Friday. The post and course was returned to the "original" layout from a few years ago (basically turned a quarter turn or so counter clockwise from what the course has been the last couple of times). I had always liked this earlier arrangement and it reminded me of running Bid in Pro-Novice a few years ago at this trial. It was a bit of a walk down memory lane for me. Rime had two runs in Nursery. He is really not ready for Nursery/P-N and is not what you call a "true nursery dog" other than in birthdate...he is not one of those early-maturing, super-thoughtful and capable youngsters except in the enthusiasm department! However I thought of all places where Rime should feel comfortable it should be at Zamora, so I went ahead and entered him, just for mileage. There was a large turnout for the Friday classes and it was a very full day of runs. A lot of really nice runs were laid down in both the P-N and the Nursery.

As for us, in our first run, after what started as a beautiful outrun, Rime was fairly naughty at the top and on the upper part of the fetch. He rang the sheep at least twice. Frustration! I could not get him stopped. Finally I got him under control and we were able to complete the whole course, including remaining part of the fetch, the drive and the pen. Whew! That was a first and gave me a bit of confidence. I know he can do the work. It's just getting it done when we are away from home that is the current challenge. In his second run, he was a bit better on his outwork but the sheep were getting a bit tired and when we turned the post and started the first drive leg they opted to snake left around the hill and Rime did not handle this well. He was showing a bit of frustration himself, so I retired. I made a mental note that in the past Bid always did more poorly on his second run in a day at a  trial too. More runs are not always a good thing in one day. But at least we got one course completed; that is huge for Rime and me.

I haven't mentioned the wind. The wind dominated the entire first two days of the trial, with gusts of up to 35 mph according to the TV news. It made spectating really challenging and turned faces into dry burnt toast.  The dogs appeared to have no trouble hearing their whistles, however. On the P-N/N day, most handlers sent right (Away to me) with only a few sending left; but both could be successful.

Days two and three were for the Open dogs. Coal had one run each day. The outrun was lengthened from P-N. Fetch gates were set up near where the P-N setout had been. The drive was longer with three sets of drive gates instead of two. A single was required following the pen. It struck some of us who had been there on Friday as a little strange, because on Saturday and Sunday most handlers sent their dogs left (Come Bye) with only a few sending right. In past years either direction has been successful with an equal number of dogs getting lost on the outrun to either side. This year was no exception. A few dogs went back down to the parking area looking for their sheep. One or two went back to setout. Most made some semblance of picking up their designated sheep. There were a lot of really nice runs, especially on Sunday. It would have been very hard for me to separate out the top four or so runs in placement order if I had been judging. In particular Tom Spencer's run and Anne Mock's run were both just spectacular.

Coal and I got around the course both days and in both runs ran out of time attempting the single. I was happy that we got to the shedding area (no marked ring) but would have liked to complete a course at least one of the days. Coal had no trouble finding his sheep. He is running out from the post with a lot of purpose which is a big improvement over our Open classes last year. At the top, though, I feel he sometimes still lacks confidence but seems to be improving. Our fetches and drives had good and bad points but as usual most issues were handler-oriented. We also have much to work on in the singling department. I felt like our Sunday run was better than our Saturday run. It would be nice to get out to trials more often to kind of keep that momentum going. But our trial season is winding down and the travel budget is low. It was a nice relaxing weekend spent among good company, old friends, and new. The summer will be mainly for practice, for us, with a few one-day trials and a couple of fairs in the RESDA circuit. I will say thanks once again to all who helped to make the Dunnigan trial a success.

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