Yesterday was the first trial of the RESDA season, the annual Spring Trial. This is when handlers traditionally dust the cobwebs off of their handling and the Johnson Ranch range ewes demonstrate their ability to find escape routes in places where no dog or handler had possibly anticipated.
We had a lovely weather day. Coal ran late in the open class and we had a very challenging set of three ewes. He tried his best but we did not have a pretty run, and while we got the two panels on first attempts, we did not get the chute or pen and timed out. But, I was very pleased with Coal's attitude and how hard he tried. I'm not sure what else we could have done to try to smooth out our sheep packet and get them working together more quietly. Sometimes it just doesn't happen no matter how hard ya try!
After a potluck lunch anchored by tri-tip barbecued over a wood fire, we ran the pro-novice class, in which Ryme was up mid-roster. This was Ryme's first time in a trial in about six months. He ran out really nicely in a beautiful outrun. I stopped him at the top and then he got flummoxed, I think, by the five big range ewes who gave him the stink eye and then they ran to the fence where he did not want to pull them off. I don't really blame him! After a few attempts by whistle, I retired, walked up the field, and helped Ryme to pull them off the fence. Another day, we will get them. RESDA is a great place for Ryme and me to practice as the atmosphere is so low-key.
Thanks to all who helped to put on the trial as RESDA is really a hands-on affair even more so than ever, this year. In order to save the club some money since finances are low, the members voted not to have the paid helpers for setout as we have done the past few years - which meant that handlers have to help work the pens, set out sheep, set up and tear down the course, and everything else that makes a trial a "go". It certainly makes for less socializing, but it is somewhat satisfying to know that you are putting together nice quiet packets of sheep for others that have been handled with good stockmanship up top at the letout. It's messy work but I do enjoy it as long as I don't have to work the whole trial!
In sad news, we lost one of our youngest sheep -- an almost yearling mixed hair-sheep ewe -- to pneumonia this week. It came on very suddenly and took her down very fast. It seems we learn from every experience with sheep.