Monday, November 19, 2012

Dunngan Hills 2012 - Pro Novice Day

The Dunnigan Hills Fall trial was this past weekend; the pro-novice day was Friday. I had entered Ryme earlier, and decided to go ahead and run him (despite his poor performance at Hopland) since Dunnigan is familiar ground with home flock sheep that he knows. I had also planned to stay the weekend and help out with the trial in whatever ways I could...knowing that it would likely involve the setout pens again especially on Friday. Some help had been procured for Saturday and Sunday in the pens, but not Friday.

But I am getting ahead of myself. The Dunnigan trial this fall was held to benefit a very worthy cause. A young man just 16 years old lost part of his leg in a  high school football game accident. All profits from the Dunnigan trial this year will go towards a prosthesis for Koni Dole. You can find more information on Facebook about the benefit and fund raising efforts to support Koni here:

Koni Dole Benefit Page.

A beautiful handmade quilt was donated to the trial for a silent auction item, as was a handsome man's shepherd's crook. The empathy and outpouring of support for Koni and his family was obvious at the trial. Koni is a very inspiring and motivated young man. They are selling wrist bands for his cause that say it all: Too Strong For Fear.

Friday's weather was good. We had a few sprinkles but not much; the forecast had been for rain but we lucked out. I ran Ryme late in the order. He did all right. We had one precarious moment after turning the post, but most of his run was OK. He got 64 points out of 90. We were out of the placings of course but in our world just finishing a course with a respectable score is a huge milestone. I was proud of how Ryme handled most of the run. He needed a whistle or two to get where he was supposed to be on the outrun, but he stopped and lifted the sheep nicely. Our fetch was good. The post turn was good. On the driveaway to the first panel, however, I let him get too close (the driveaway is down a hill and the sheep pick up speed which may have excited him) and he blew through the sheep. Oy. But we got everything back together, did the whole drive (with a pull-thru on the second panel which was fun for a change) and then penned, all calmly and under control.

The rest of the day, however, was really the highlight for me. We went up top early in the day and both Coal and Ryme helped me in the pens with pulling out the required number of sheep for each run and then bumping  them up the hill towards Mike who was doing the actual sheep spotting. Once we got into our flow, the whole thing moved like clockwork for the most part. Ryme is the most useful of my two dogs for this purpose, believe it or not. He remembered the job from last April and fell right back into the routine.  We don't want the sheep getting out to the trial course too soon, nor do we want them running back towards home. 

When the spotter was ready for the next set, we sent the sheep up towards him and I called Ryme off and we started the whole process again. With six minute runs, we had only a little bit of down time between each run. Any sheep that looked unfit, we sidelined into a pen where they would not be used. I was very careful not to send out one infamous ewe, Penny, (the ewe who cannot be penned) to the pro novice folks.

Since this is a farm flock trial, the sheep have to be reused. I think most of them ran maybe twice a day although some of them probably only ran once a day...when they had been sent to the exhaust they spread out over the hills grazing. At one point about halfway through, the spotter told me we'd need to go find the ewes who had been used once and reload the pens. He handled what I had been doing and Coal and I set off to find the exhaust sheep. The trial is held on a field that is 180 hilly acres and the trial only uses a portion of that land. The rest of the area is where the sheep were grazing; Coal and I walked to the top of the next hill and saw the sheep way in the back area of the pasture. I told Coal to "look"and sent him off to gather the sheep. I could not use my whistle for fear of interfering with the ongoing trial. It made my day to stand there and watch the little guy disappear out of sight behind the hills and then come back to me with the sheep in basically a silent gather. Later I was told that this gather is close to a thousand yards. Whoa. Who needs trial scores when you have moments like this?

The day wound up with a delicious Mexican dinner at Maria's in Woodland. Yum. There was a designated driver so I had a Mango Margarita. Awesome.

Open Day two and three will be next.

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