Monday, July 30, 2012

Fun in the Sun, Santa Rosa Style

We had way too much fun over the weekend; way more fun than anybody should have when they are "working". Ha!  The working kelpie-club sponsored ranch trial at Shephard Ranch was a complete success. Everyone seemed to have fun. I really enjoyed judging the ranch classes on Saturday. The course was challenging and well designed and forget anything about AHBA being "easy"...it wasn't.

The course for the jackpot started with a blind gather of 5 sheep. Neither handler nor dog could see the sheep due to terrain. Then they took those 5 sheep and added 10 more from a take pen to run the rest of the course. The blind gather made for a really interesting beginning but it did not turn out, as it happened, to be the hardest part of the course, which in my opinion was the sort through the race. Especially on Sunday, when everyone including the sheep were getting a little tired, the sorting race took its toll on those who had their eyes on that jackpot. Some of the most experienced handlers and dogs found their undoing right there. In addition to those exercises, there was a graze, a drive, another outrun-lift-fetch, a y-chute and a freestanding pen. Twenty minutes - believe it or not - was almost not enough for some of the jackpot runs. It was hard work...and fun to watch.

The other levels did not have to do the blind gather and had slightly easier race sorting...but the courses were still challenging and fun.

Since I was judging, of course I did not run my dogs competitively. Coal got to help quite a bit on Sunday with setting the sheep for the blind outrun. Ryme got to run noncompete in Level 3 on Sunday. He mostly held his head together and I was so grateful to get a chance to run him in a trial atmosphere, providing us with much-needed "mileage".

The advanced handlers had to accumulate scores on both days to run in the "jackpot" for the big-cahuna money prizes. We judges got to hand out a ton of lovely loot to the handlers who placed in all the classes, all weekend. Such nice prizes!  The jackpot winner was totally shocked when her name was called with first place.

While three flocks of sheep were mixed for the trial, for the most part they all worked together beautifully. Only occasionally did "friends" split off and cause any troubles...but in most cases they worked back together with just a nod from the dogs. Lots of fun ranch work simulating real chores.

Another really nice thing about this trial was the super-smooth and consistent setout and stock handling provided by a young couple who were dedicated to this task all weekend. They worked really hard and their effort was much appreciated! They and a couple of kelpies single handedly kept a near three-ring circus going behind the scenes, accepting exhaust sheep and setting out "blind gather sheep" as well as "take pen sheep" all at the same time. Awesome!

All in all, just too much fun. Lots of old friends from Willowside days as well as lots of RESDA and other handlers enjoying a new or different venue. The thing about AHBA ranch is it teaches you to think on your feet, handling different problems as they come along, and not always in the same order. I love this venue for this reason.

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