Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pleasanton Scottish Games Wrapup

Last weekend NCWSA hosted a sheepdog trial at the Caledonian Club of San Francisco's Scottish Highland Games in Pleasanton, CA. Our purpose is mainly crowd entertainment and education about working dogs and  sheep. Two courses - one judged on driving and one judged on obstacles -  were offered in a covered arena setting, and each dog had the opportunity to run four times daily, two times on each course. Each course had a day money payout to the top five dogs and an overall champion and reserve belt buckle is offered for dogs who ran in all eight runs over the two days. There are hundreds of spectators who come to the Scottish Games to view all kinds of fun events; our trial always draws a good crowd of people, especially by mid-day and on into the afternoon.

Consistency paid off for the dogs running all eight courses. Despite the small arena, the trial favored a very experienced dog and handler team in all of the classes. Complete results are available on the NCWSA website. Our overall weekend winner was Stephanie Summers and her very capable Tam. Reserve went to Suzanne Anaya and her consistent senior dog, Jet. Both of these dogs had laid down one good run after the other over the weekend. It was not a surprise that they ended up in the top of the overall scores. There were a few other teams in contention but if those other teams had one or two "off" runs, they were beaten out by pure consistency from Tam and Jet.

Stephanie and Tam on course at the Scottish Games (photo by T. Tucker)
There was a bit of excitement on Sunday afternoon as second place in the driving class was tied up between two very good handlers. In order to provide good entertainment for the crowd, we decided to do a runoff on a modified course in order to determine the second and third placements. This little friendly competition really got our spectators involved and excited. The runoff was between Stephanie and Tam and Charlotte Jones and  her young Bet. Eventually the runoff was won by Charlotte and Bet. Charlotte's cool handling brought her the win!

Charlotte and Bet get ready to run off for 2nd place in the drive class (photo by T. Tucker)
I hope that everyone who attended had fun. It was an experimental year for NCWSA, as we had changed the format of this trial from a time-and-points arrangement to a judged trial. A few growing pains are always to be expected when changes are made. I was really pleased at how everyone was willing to adapt.

Since yours truly serves on the board of NCWSA as its vice president, I felt like I should support the trial by entering my own dogs. I hadn't been to the Scottish Games in almost ten years but still I knew what the arena and the courses would entail. I really thought my dogs could both handle it and be successful. In fact, however, I was wrong about both of my dogs. Coal had some good sections on both courses, but his extreme eye again rose to front and center and his stubbornness about releasing pressure on the sheep kept us from scoring well and on each run we ran out of time. He's good on some things but not on others. At least one run I retired with Coal because he simply wouldn't listen and take commands that required him to release even a step off of the sheep when I asked him to. Frustration...

Coal and me working the Maltese Cross. Look at the crowds! (photo by T. Tucker)
I have a wise sheepdog trialling friend who is always saying that the reason she goes to trials is to "test her training". What a good motto to have about trials. Poor Rime was unnerved by the situation in the arena and the best he could do was to complete the gather (with my help) and then we retired each run. I scratched the afternoon runs each day when we had the largest crowds. Jennifer, our announcer, was most kind about talking about Rime's issues as green dog training issues that we all work thru at one time or another, so that I did not feel so badly about taking my turn in the cool of the mornings. I wanted Rime to get the experience and seasoning of participating. It seems that his experience a few weeks ago with the blowing tarps in Boonville really made an impression because as of last weekend he refused to take sheep off the rail that had tarps on it. I've been working with Rime for nearly two years now and we have worked steadily on taking sheep off of fences of all types - he has not had any problems with it. Until now. Rime is flexible without Coal's extreme eye and normally quite obedient about taking his flanks and stops..except last weekend. So for those who wondered why I had entered Rime in the trial, I had every reason to believe that he would handle it just fine. Until he didn't. So as a "test of training" the trial worked very well. We aren't there yet!

Again, I hope that most people had fun and I want to say thank you again to all the many handlers who pitched in to help with making the trial run smoothly.

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