Tuesday, June 26, 2012

In a State (or Three)

We were in a State this past weekend. We were actually in three states over the weekend: Oregon, California, and the State of Jefferson. Just one month after traveling north to the Cal-Oregon border for Dry Lake, we went back up for the State of Jefferson June trial at Geri B's home place. What a fun trial it was! I came away from it totally stoked. That will be our last USBCHA trial of the summer until either September or October, depending on how things go. I felt like we wrapped up "our" trial season on a really good note with many accomplishments and much to work on and clean up. Slowly we are inching our way into being more competitive and especially, more confident, Coal and I.

I loved Coal's outruns despite the fact that he was a bit too focused on the letout pens; it is all good experience. The outruns were strong and confident; they were a thrill.

Saturday's course was pretty standard, outrun, lift and fetch; left-hand drive, shed two from two, then pen. It may have been standard, but it wasn't easy. The young Gnos replacement ewes are still pretty fresh, even though they've been staying here since Dry Lake. We timed out working on the pen, which we should have gotten, but I was slow and behind the curve realizing which of the four ewes really needed to be controlled. Overall I was really pleased. While we rightfully lost a lot of points on the outrun due to the whistles it took to get Coal off the setout pens, the fetch and drive were both really nice. We made all the gates. Our shed was clean. I walked off the field wanting more. There is that old slot-machine effect again!

Coal at the pen on Saturday (photo by Erin S)

Walking the other dogs at the trial site (photo by Rhonda L)
Sunday's course got changed up. Fun! We had the same outrun but with five sheep instead of four, and we did a right-hand drive and came into the shedding ring. There we were to sort three sheep away from the five, and pen the three. Discarding the other two was up to handler's choice, so to speak. Those who were successful found a way to push the extra two ewes off someplace. I really enjoyed the challenge of this and it was fun to watch. Just farm work, just ordinary stuff we do all the time. Yeah!

Coal had a much better outrun lift and fetch on Sunday. I blew my "pull-in" whistle at the top so that he would stay focused on his packet of sheep, and not on the letout pens. The fetch was fast but we made the fetch gates and turned the post OK. Then we got into trouble. There was a BFL mix in our group who was the high-headed leader. Coal wanted to work her and not the others. We "argued" on the drive, much like we sometimes do on range ewes when Coal wants to "get up into their eye". There was also an orange-y colored ewe in the mix who had a mind of her own. Oh, so not the bo-peep set of five matched cheviot Xs that I had hoped for...but perhaps a better lesson for us, in the end. We did have our argument and the drive was not pretty but I won, for the most part. We fuddled around at the first gate and missed the second drive gate. Points off the drive were hefty and we deserved all of what was taken off (and probably more). But we came to the shedding ring, got our three separated from two and I hazed off the two while Coal held onto the three. We just had them in the mouth of the pen ready to go in (and I think even Miss BFL would have gone in) and time was called. Too bad!

This was such a fun trial and I want to send thank-yous out to all who judged, clerked, worked the pens and setout, and helped in so many ways to make it happen. We also had some more fine hospitality and fellowship with friends and in such a beautiful and rugged surrounding, it just takes your breath away. I am hoping I can return to the State of Jefferson again soon.

It is a seven-hour drive each way, to that State of Jefferson, which gives one plenty of time to think. I replayed both of Coal's runs in my head several times on that drive home, and found many places where it would have been nice to "woulda-coulda-shoulda"! Poor Chiefie and Ryme got hauled along and didn't get to do much at all. Chiefie likes to schmooze with people inbetween runs so I think he was okay with it but poor Ryme got pretty antsy. Ryme doesn't schomooze very well with people he doesn't know, and he really just wants to work. He deserves better than just being hauled along. So I am hoping that next time we haul to a trial that it will be for Ryme, too. For once I am looking forward to fall while I enjoy the summer.

Yes, definitely we are in a State!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Solstice Girl

Augie and Alix in 1994
I've had these two on my mind a lot lately; generally I do think back on happy days with Alix (above on the right) around this time of year since her birthday was on June 21 (1990). Above she is only four and Augie (on the left) is only two, so they are in their prime with beautiful young faces and lovely black and white coats, and no gray. It's good to remember them...it's all part of the fabric that brings me to where we are today.

Happy Summer Solstice!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sunday Fun

So instead of complaining about lack of dog work due to the foxtails today we headed over to the one place we can work "safely", locally, in Karen K's smaller, mowed, training area...where she had set up an interesting challenge for the dogs.

After an outrun of lifting (hungry) sheep off of hay you worked in the arena as you wished with panels, pen, and RESDA chute...or doing as you pleased. Then when ready to finish your turn, you took your sheep to a passageway that connected to a bridge structure that went over into the next pasture. Freedom. Grass to munch on. (Foxtails). No dogs. Humm... you'd think the sheep would be eager to fly up and over that bridge and out of the dog training area. The sheep who had done it previously were fairly easy to push over the bridge. Ryme's sheep went over easily; prior to that we worked more on taking sheep off the fence, which is one of his challenge areas, and pulling sheep off the hay, which is another. Each time I had Ryme bring me the sheep and we fetched them around a bit, so that it's not just schooling, but seems like a "job" to the dog. This is one of the gems of wisdom that I've gotten from Karen over the years.

Karen has a litter of puppies who are really at the cute stage. Oh my. There is a "black" puppy that would fit right into my group. I must be strong!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The sheep who had not been over the bridge before, needed convincing that we were not sending them over into boiling oil. It made for an interesting confidence-building session for Coal who got the fresher sheep. I am so thankful to have Karen around to invent these schemes to change up our training sessions and give us so much to work on despite limited resources.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Saturday in June

A Saturday in June brings random thoughts. There is nothing gelled enough to write a complete post about, but there are several things that can be said that don't totally stand alone.

First off, it's hot. Whew! We are such heat-sissies here in Sonoma County but today, it's HOT.

Next, the foxtails are still bad everywhere. This has led to very little dog work or practice. Coal's fur is very fuzzy and with him being closer to the ground with shorter legs, he seems to pick up everything. Ryme works more upright and his fur is coarser and slicker, and seems to shed the stickers better. Neither of them are immune however, and I am grooming them carefully to remove whatever foxtails get into their coats before they cause trouble. They've had partial haircuts already and I will thin them out more this weekend. And with Chiefie's fluffy coat, he is not being allowed anywhere near any dry stuff. Which leads me to my next random thought:

What in heck was I thinking - entering a dog trial in June? (when we have almost no chance to practice, due to foxtails)... Next year I hope I am more prudent and will just block out the month of June as a month of rest. Maybe I'll try to find a place to swim the dogs instead. But yeah, we have trials next weekend and we'll be going in with little practice, especially practice at any type of distance. It's the journey, right? That's what they all say.

Dog trials ...and more about bloggers. It is my opinion that we bloggers have some responsibility. Yes our blogs are our personal expression space. But I believe that just as in my speech with others, I need to monitor and filter what I say here a little bit, so that it doesn't cause harm or hurt to others. Say that a blogger was pretty down on a trial and blogged about a bad experience for them. That information finds its way back to the trial host. The problems discussed are mainly things that are totally out of the trial hosts' control, mainly due to good old Mother Nature. But this type of criticism is very discouraging to trial hosts, especially when they hear criticism from those who do not put on trials. In some cases that criticism may be enough to cause a trial host to reconsider offering trials any more. When I go to a trial at someone's place (and trying not to sound preachy here but I don't call Sunday trials the First Ecclesiastical Church of the Border Collie for nothin'...) it is, to me at least, a privilege and not a right. If there is something that doesn't suit my dog(s) or me then that is (usually) my problem and not anyone else's. I also try to volunteer and help at trials whenever possible. Just think about who might listen to or read what is said or written about trials. Trials are very fragile items. End of sermon and time for the chorus.

On that note...stay cool.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wool Handling and Much More...

I think you all will enjoy this blog about farming in Northern California. Here is a link to one post that I particularly enjoyed:

Through Another's Eyes

There are some nice pics of a wool handling workshop, and yes, some border collies!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Pics from Pt Pleasant

Patti was kind enough to take a lot of pictures last Sunday at the Point Pleasant trial near Elk Grove. There are some nice shots! She got a picture of Coal and me shedding, and one of Ryme and me headed to the pen. The whole album is located here.  Enjoy!

Coal shedding, by Patti Sowell

Ryme in his first successful P-N run, by Patti Sowell

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

It's The Sheep

Great minds must be thinking alike. Several of the other sheepdog-bloggers are visiting a similar subject right now...like what makes sheepdog trialling?...well, it's the sheep. And how do we handle those sheep with our dogs to keep them at  walk (Lora). How do we learn to handle them that way better,more efficiently (Jorgen) with less of a learning curve. Keeping the sheep in the sheepdog (Monique). I love this topic. Rock on, folks, let's hear more. For those of you who grew up with livestock, you can take a break and go read some of the bloggers on my page who write about other topics (Brian for example, who is exploring time travel right now). LOL!

For those of us who did not grow up with livestock, we have to study, study, and study it some more... until we can "just do" and not "think" when we are handling sheep with dogs (or just moving them ourselves without a dog). I don't know any quick way to learn it, any more than I know a quick way of learning how to handle a dog. Maybe I'm slow. I have gotten to know a few people who are amazing to watch around animals, and whenever I can, I try to study what they do. Recently I've noticed a few others who have this gift and I watch for them too. I do know that some sheepdog training and handling methods and ideas work better for me than others. I know that there are some training practices and ideas that click for me and there are others that I won't tolerate. So I don't choose to work with trainers who do those things that I can't tolerate. I gravitate towards those who make sense to me.

As for bloggers and blogging...I have a list of blog links on my page that is really for me, as a shortcut to those blogs that I want to keep track of. Blogs come, and blogs go, from my list. (Amazingly, not every link on my blog list is about sheep or dogs! Oh my!) Recently I removed a link to a blog that is quite popular. I figure that anyone who wants to find and read that blog knows how to do so; they won't need my little link to find it. I realized that while at first it was sort of a fun farming soap opera, that more recently I was sort of shocked by the things that kept happening with this person's sheep (and other animals).  I've added and subtracted blogs from my list all along. But this one was the first that really bothered me. So it's gone. You all know how to find it if you want to. I have a lot of blogs on my list, and many of them are written by friends. Some of them are just links that I want to keep, for me. Several are written by people that I've just gotten to know in the sheepdog world, and those folks write quite well and take nice photos. They are worth keeping on my list! It's my blog; so be it.

This is a Navajo Churro lamb. I don't remember who took the photo! :-)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Pt Pleasant "Mother's Day" Trial 2012

The rescheduled Mother's Day trial at Pt. Pleasant happened this past Sunday. With the hay in the barn, the field was ready, only a couple of weeks late for the traditional Mother's Day. So bright and early we motored out again, still a bit weary from the RESDA trial the day prior. At Pt. Pleasant, Coal was entered in USBCHA Open, and Ryme would make his debut in the Pro-Novice class. It was supposed to be another hot day but we were blessed with relatively kind temperatures and a nice breeze all day. Whew!

Nursery ran first in the coolest part of the day. Angus put in a good round to hold up his end of the Oneforthebook team, getting a nice second place in that class with a smooth run.

Next was Open, and Coal was up mid-class. For Open we had four sheep and we were to run an outrun-lift-fetch, left hand drive, and then a Maltese Cross, shed (split two from two), and pen. I was a bit slow again and I'm kicking myself now that I didn't whistle Coal out and onward a little bit sooner and more enthusiastically on his outrun. It was on a good path, but slow and sticky near the top again. Operator error. Normally at that location I seem to attract the train to rumble by during my runs and Sunday was no exception. While we made the fetch gates and the first drive gate, the train had to come merrily whistling along as I struggled a bit to find the path for the second drive panel, and we missed it. Drat.

The Maltese was smooth, however and we moved to the shedding ring. I don't remember the shed at all but a friend came up and complimented me on the "nice shed". So I guess it was good! When sheds happen quickly I can't remember them, but I guess that means the shed was good. I had my hand on the pen when time was called. The pen was bonus points if you got there in time, since the sheep were pretty easy to pen if you opened the gate for them.

After a bountiful potluck lunch we ran the Pro-Novice class. Ryme was up and I was a bit nervous as to how he'd do. He has not had good luck lately in practice trial situations, and I really wanted to see if we could pull it off in a driving trial. I also realized that he'd never run at Spencers before and was worried that the flat field might throw him off. But fortunately Ryme rose to the occasion and went out on a nice trajectory Away from the post. When he started to come in a little too soon, I stopped him, and whistled him out. Ryme bent out beautifully and while he was a little tentative (so I whistled another Away) he kept on a nice wide path around to the top of his sheep and then stopped when asked to. Woo-hoo! I didn't try to tweak him too much on his fetch and drive; he is not ready for micro-finesse and I just wanted to get him round the course.

We missed all the gates but I didn't care. The Maltese took a second attempt but that was OK too as I am working on Ryme "recovering" from things that go wrong, and just calmly picking up where we left off and putting the scenario back together again, as he knows how to do from practice. We even got the sheep penned before running out of time. What a happy day for us! It's been over a year since I ran Ryme in a driving style trial and it felt like a true victory to get him out there successfully and get a score. We are both enthused. He has been a challenging dog to work with and has taught me a great deal about patience and gratitude. Thanks to all who helped to put on the trial as any event like this is a lot of work and we all appreciate it very  much.

Monday, June 4, 2012

7 Oaks Trial 2012

It's hard to follow Dry Lake. But, the calendar marches on, and Saturday found us up early to help set up the course for the RESDA trial at the nearby beautiful 7 Oaks Ranch. It was a traditional RESDA fetch course in a nice sized newly-mown grassy field surrounded by lovely oaks. The weather was not as warm as predicted and a nice breeze kept things tolerable.

The sheep were challenging range ewes trailered in from Mendocino County. The older ewes were pretty tractable, really, but the younger ones were quite difficult. It depended on how many and which of each type you got in your set, how your run proceeded. My dogs and I did not perform particularly well as far as scores go. Other handlers were much more successful. Still, I learned a lot about what I need to know to move forward. My dogs tried hard so we can't ask much more than that. Coal ran early in the RESDA open class, and the sheep were fresh and unforgiving. We timed out with the three ewes poised perfectly in the mouth of the chute to go through. Ryme ran in the RESDA "pro-novice" and he drew up three of the younger ewes, which did not go well for him. We retired and exhausted them from the field with help from another handler and dog.

Many folks put in a lot of hard work to make this trial happen, before, during, and after. The day of the trial was a long one and ended eleven hours later. Along with a few other club stalwarts, I helped with loading the sheep back on the trailer to go home. I think the highlight of my day was watching the sheep's owner handle the ewes with the respect, finesse and ease that comes from growing up around livestock.

Photos of the placements are here.