Monday, July 25, 2011

Various Photos from the Height of Summer Time

Wow, things have been pretty busy lately! Here are some recent photos of the happenings:

Rime at the Willowside fun trial July 17, 2011 in Pescadero
Photo Credit Barb McPherson
The above picture of Rime was taken at setout so it shows him starting his fetch in the P-N on day two. Yes he's going pretty fast but for Rime this is fairly good - the lift and first part of the fetch have been his challenging area - so the fact that he's holding himself together and his tail is down - is all good!

Rime cooling off - "Wolf in a Bucket" - at one of our sheep fields
Yes all those long legs fit into a teeny bucket. Actually the bucket is larger than it appears in the perspective of the photo but it's a funny one and has created a lot of laughs...

Cookie, a guard llama at one of the other fields where we work
Natchez, Cookie's "partner" who always has his ears back!
We are learning to work with llamas as guardian animals for the sheep. Luckily these two are pretty well socialized and were trained to lead before they moved in. Still it is a bit daunting to be around such a large animal when you are not used to them. We'll get better at it. The dogs are giving them a pretty wide berth - which is fine by me. The grass is drying out enough at this field that we can get back in to work dogs again. We've stayed out of this field for almost two months due to foxtail danger and so forth. It's good to be back!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Pam Cornell Memorial Sheepdog Trial, July 2011

Rime near the cross drive at Willowside

Coal, Chief, and Rime on the Pescadero trial field enjoying the COOL!

This past weekend NCWSA hosted the Pam Cornell Memorial Sheepdog trial at Willowside Ranch outside of cool Pescadero, CA. The Willowside Ranch was indeed Pam's dream and we hoped to put on an event that was worthy of her memory. I am hoping that we succeeded. The trial field is shown above, where my boys were going for a romp on Friday afternoon before things got started. They were much appreciative of a big open field to run in after their car ride down to Pescadero driving through San Francisco!

The club offered Novice-Novice, Pro-Novice, and Open Ranch fun classes for handlers on the Willowside farm flock of mixed Dorper-Katahdin sheep. The adult ewes have been worked in the past, but are not worked often now; about half of them had good-size ewe lambs by their sides and these made up the packets of four, set by our very able and experienced stock handling team. Each packet had two or three ewes plus one or two lambs, so the sheep were workable if treated correctly. The runs were judged, but if a person needed to leave the post to help his or her dog, they were allowed to run out their time allotment as long as things were going smoothly. In this sense we hoped to provide a training and learning experience for dogs and handlers alike. Open handlers were required to run in Open Ranch, with no open dogs except for non-compete. On Saturday we offered fun runs after the trials were over for an additional practice experience.

I cannot say enough thanks of gratitude to the trial organizers who made everything look so easy. I am on the NCWSA board so I was involved with planning this event but did not have an assigned "job" for the weekend - so I had the luxury of being the floater to pick up whatever job was needed at the moment: exhaust, scoring, gophering - whatever! This is the type of assignment I truly enjoy the most as my job keeps changing. We also had tremendous help from the handlers who pitched in wherever and whenever needed to fill any job that needed doing. For this the Board is most grateful!

I ran my boys non-compete: Rime in the P-N and Coal in the O-R. On Saturday, Rime had trouble lifting the sheep - two ewe/lamb pairs who wanted awfully badly to go back to setout. I didn't want to give him his bite command in a trial as I am working so hard to get him to lift softly and correctly. So I walked a lot closer and he was able to lift with encouragement, we fetched them to the post and then retired and exhausted them. I figured a quiet work was much better than a blowup at that point as the older ewes were flighty and could have caused Rime to get into tail-in-the-air mode! Coal and I had a decent go but missed a drive panel, just skimming it low, and didn't get our shed. I was really happy with his engagement on the pen though, which has been a recent issue. He stayed with me and held his ground and while the lambs in each set had no idea what they were doing we were still able to pen. Pens were hard to come by this weekend so it was nice to get them with my dogs.

Sunday Rime was up third and I was a bit worried about him being too fresh even though he had exhausted runs almost all afternoon the day before. Anyway he was a little on the muscle but we managed to stay under control and got 'round the course. That was an awesome feeling for me as Rime has been quite a project!  Coal was up first in the O-R and we again had a decent but not great run - he was a bit too sticky at the turn 'round the post and that ate up time. Again we did not get our shed. You would think it would have been easy to split two ewe/lamb pairs but it wasn't. It was my fault and not his as I never could arrange the sheep to even ask him to come in, before time was called. More to work on.

Rime worked more exhaust as the day finished up and the only casualty in our group was that Coal must've gotten stung by an insect in his foot after his Sunday run. It started to swell and we finally figured out that it must've been a sting and not an injury to explain his limp. I gave him Benadryl and all seemed well soon - which was a huge relief.

Huge thank-yous to everyone who helped out. I am sure that Pam would've been quite pleased with the entire weekend event.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Away to Me

Check out this website promoting a movie following five handlers leading up to Soldier Hollow 2011:

Away To Me - Sheepdog Movie

It should be fun to see how a film student from USC views Soldier Hollow!

But wait...there's already a pretty nice slide show from the 2007 Soldier Hollow trial here:

Sheepdog Championship

This slide show shows Bill Berhow and Pete the year they won Soldier Hollow. Enjoy.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sonoma Marin Fair 2011

Preserving Tradition

Last Sunday Coal and I ran in the RESDA trial that is part of the Sonoma-Marin Fair held annually in Petaluma, California. It's a very big deal for all the FFA and 4-H kids who show their animals in some very hot competition. The very appropriate fair theme this year was Preserving Tradition. All the livestock winners are listed on the fair's website with some great photos of kids who work very hard with their stock. Take a look! These kids are the future of farming and will face challenges in animal agriculture in the future that we can only dream of. No animals, no sheep dog trials; think it over,'s not just about the Ugly Dog Contest in Petaluma!

The RESDA sheep dog trial is held in the back of the fairgrounds, in a very small horse arena; the size of the arena does not make it easier - only more tricky! It is an annual challenge to see which of the local handlers are up to the test on the course. Luckily the weather cooperated better than that last two years when the temps have hovered around 100 degrees. Last Sunday it was mild in the low 80s, and there was a pleasant breeze. The consistent white hair sheep from the Spencer ranch provided the challenge on the course. My goals going in, were to have fun, remain as quiet as possible on course, have fun, respect my dog, have fun, enjoy myself, have fun, stay focused and calm and quiet with my dog, and have fun!

Coal can be a bit creepy and sticky at times so I wanted to avoid that. We've been working some exercises to keep him engaged with his stock and I think it has paid off a little bit. We had a smooth opening and good flow going but in the tight arena I couldn't get the fetch straightened out, alas. The turn around the pen and the lines to the two panels were fairly good. Some handlers had difficulty approaching the second panel, when their sheep ran back to the hay used for setout, but Coal and I handled that OK which made me quite happy! Then we came to the chute. We ex-agility folks all joked on the walk-thru, about how we had to do two front crosses (or two blind or rear crosses, or one of each) on this course the way the handler's position was prescribed for the chute. That comment certainly broke some tension in the handler's meeting! The chute was close to the rail located opposite the spectators. It was really hard for us to handle the desire for the sheep to run down that "alleyway" between chute and rail and Coal and I were not up to the challenge on that day. (Plus on that side of the arena, the exhaust sheep were waiting behind tarps.) After several attempts on the chute without getting it, I regathered the sheep near the end of the chute and went on to the pen which was smoothly completed. Our work was good enough for 6th place with no chute points. We should have gotten that chute and placed higher, but Coal and I still have things to work out related to his extreme eye both in the arenas and in the field. Considering that practicing has been at a minimum due to foxtail season, I was happy and felt like I accomplished most of my other goals. I think this is the best any of my dogs have ever placed at this particular fair. Just because it is small it is still a big challenge. Often times, believe it or not, dogs do not see the sheep at the other end of the arena! That happened once with Bid and me and once with Coal on his first time in RESDA Open there, what seems like a long three years ago.

Anyway thanks are due to the Sonoma-Marin Fair for its continuing sponsorship of sheepdog trials there and to the Spencer ranch for providing the sheep for us. And Redwood Empire Sheep Dog Association for its ongoing preservation of tradition.