Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Dark and Stormy Night...

No, not a Peanuts cartoon....but I'm getting way ahead of myself. This post may end up as a bit of a novella itself as there is much catching up to do. We ended up driving home from Zamora last night in a driving rain storm in the dark with heavy traffic - none of which are my favorite conditions for driving after a long afternoon of good dog work.

RESDA Novice Program Event

The RESDA novice program sponsored a mini-clinic with Bill Berhow yesterday afternoon and there were eight dogs worked. The RESDA novice group is always ready for any challenge and many folks want to improve their ability to tackle USBCHA type courses in addition to RESDA, but they just need some help expanding their dog's and their own experiences. Yesterday, everyone showed improvement on the hills and on their outruns and drives. The weather started out just grey and threatening, but about two-thirds of the way through the event, the rain came down in earnest. Luckily I had already put on my rain gear so I was somewhat dry, but it was still cold.

Coal and I worked on our outrun again, as we did in our last private lesson. I took Coal to this novice event rather than Ryme as I normally would (the program is for novice dogs as well as novice handlers) because we have the Hopland and Dunnigan trials coming up in the next two weekends. This seemed to be the only chance to get coaching before those trials. Coal showed improvement on the outrun in our clinic session. We also did some driving and attempted again to shed those Dunnigan sheep (which can be an exercise in frustration!).  Happy with our clinic session, Coal and I went out to take the setout person's place so that she could have a break. Then the real work began. It's a long walk from the holding pens to the setout point, especially bringing the sheep down lower for the less experienced dogs. Coal got a good workout from all this, plus we got to pick up the sheep from the clinic group several times, resulting in more outruns to both sides. It was a really productive day for us. And the bonus is that Coal appears to still be sound. This morning he is gangbusters! And we have a chiro appointment for the dogs this week. I hope this is all good timing.

What made my day was seeing Coal's half-brother two-year-old Angus (who has never worked at Zamora before) take off in a beautiful wide outrun on the hill face, on his second attempt at it, as if the exposure the first time had released his inner hill-dog self! It was a thrill to watch. Angus also made a lot of progress on his baby driving. Angus has beautiful natural flanks from which to build on. The other dogs belonging to our friends also worked well and stepped up to the challenge...all nice to see. Bill is a great coach and draws on so much experience it is an education just to sit and listen.

It was dark out by the time we headed home from Zamora though. And the rain was coming down heavier and heavier. Saturday night traffic was thick on I-80. I was really glad I had company other than canine for the ride home. Thanks Teri!

Spencer Pt. Pleasant

Things are busy as always lately. I never wrote anything about last weekend. On the Friday before Halloween, Coal and I ran at Spencer's Pt. Pleasant 9th annual fall sheepdog trial. That day was nice and sunny; the weather could not have been more beautiful. I only ran Coal on the Friday event. The judge was Michael Shearer from Scotland who could not have been more gracious about his judging duties.  At Spencer's the challenge is usually presented for the Open class to send your dog through a gate in the cross-fence line on the outrun, or to send from the center gate. Last year it was not made much of an option so Coal and I fumbled through, sending through the side gate. This year Mr. Shearer said we should send from the center gate and then walk back to the handler's tower if we were not absolutely certain that our dogs would run out freely through the side gate. I took this as a message straight to me (even though we had practiced sending through the side gate at home the weekend before) and sent Away through the center gate.

Coal's outrun was a bit tentative at first but then he bent out. I did redirect him twice. We've been working on his outruns getting him deeper and lifting from the top and not the side. Despite the points lost for the redirects, they were worth it, as he went deep enough, and his lift was good and from the top. The fetch was fairly good and for once we made all of the gates on the course. Yes! I was really pleased with the run up to this point. After the drive you brought your sheep back through the center gate again and to a Maltese Cross. This obstacle should be do-able for us after all our RESDA work but it was not to be, on that day. We had a devil of a time with it, taking at least four (I lost count) attempts to get all four sheep through it. By this time we had used up almost all of our course time, got into the shedding ring, and time was called. It was a somewhat disappointing end to what had started out as a really good run for us. I was still really pleased with the outwork and drives. I do think we are showing improvement over our Open runs from last year. Coal's maturity and our experience last year are helping a bit. Now if his handler could step up with a little more grit!

Jack Knox Clinic - Hopland 

Last Saturday and Sunday I spent with notepad in hand, auditing from the comfort of a lawn chair in the shade of a large tree at the Jack Knox clinic at Hopland. It was very educational to sit and watch many dogs working under Jack's knowledgeable tutelage. Lately I've been feeling sort of left behind since I currently have only one dog to run at the trials, after deciding that Ryme is still not prepared enough to run in Pro-Novice. My new strategy is to try to make up for that lag by as much observation and visualization as possible when the opportunities arise. So, watching clinics, lessons and videos will help to take the place of more opportunities at the post, I am hoping. It certainly can't hurt! The Hopland university facility could not be a more beautiful and nurturing setting for a sheepdog clinic. One feels spirited away to a magical landscape of rolling hills, trees, and well-cared for sheep--hundreds of them.

A variety of dogs and levels of training and handling were presented at the clinic. I took notes on all of them! I have found over the years that collecting my notes on other people's dogs has been very fruitful - because sooner or later either one of my own dogs or one of our training partners' dogs has an issue that is helped by one of the comments or suggestions made by those past clinicians. Since my memory is poor I don't rely on it. Paper and pen work much better. I recommend that anyone interested in sheepdog trialling or training go and audit one of Jack's clinics.

That brings us up to date! The time change has come, shortening our training time after work. Year after year I dread this date but year after year, I find ways to adapt. Happy November, everyone. I am very thankful.

No comments: