After fairly nice weather on Friday for the Pro-Novice, the Saturday first day of Open at Dunnigan Hills was horrendous. The rain and wind and blew in near-hurricane fashion. At times it felt like you could barely stand up if you were up on the crest of the hill to see the trial field. For the handlers it was fortunate that the wind was at our backs. For the setout crew, however, the biting rain and wind was straight into their faces. It was hard to believe that the diehards on both ends of the field stayed out there and persisted, but they did.
Coal was up midway through the order. By the time it was our turn, I think the wind and rain had laid just a little, although not much. I sent Coal away (to the right) but he was focused on the setout helpers up on the horizon rather than on the sheep far to their left which blended in with the grasses. Ouch. It took three whistles to get him out where he needed to be and after that he put in a beautiful top to the outrun, and lift. It was not a poor outrun, he was just understandably focused on the wrong, darker, more prominent thing...which several other dogs did as well.
Good news; we made all the gates and our fetches are improving. Whew! I was quite happy with the run. There were a few squiggles here and there but overall it was a nice run considering everything.
Coal came out of it with an 82 out of 90 points which held up for fifth place in the trial and a handful of USBCHA points. Yeah! Judy Loflin and Cam were the winners with first place. By mid afternoon the rain and wind had quit and it actually got pretty nice out for the last ten or so runs of the day. We were finished early and all went back to their quarters to dry out and warm up to get ready for Sunday's runs.
SundayOn Sunday the weather was much nicer although the access into the pasture was very muddy and each trip in and out was a bit more precarious. Coal ran #41 - late in the day. The sheep were re-used, and tired. On Sunday they didn't want to move. Changing their line at any given time required some doing, and some big flanks. Despite the improved weather, the running was much more difficult on Sunday than it had been on Saturday.
When our turn came, I sent right again. Several dogs sent left - come bye - had gotten drawn back to the holding/setout pens. The first part of Coal's outrun was not good...there were no setout helpers for him to get drawn into this time but for some reason he was not where he needed to be. With a verbal correction from me he shot off like he should to the right and the rest of his outrun was gorgeous. The top of the fetch was difficult; the sheep were leaning on him and we missed the fetch gates. The rest of the fetch and the post turn was all good, except - I realized when the sheep got close to me that I had drawn up Penny - the ewe who normally can't be penned - who was not supposed to be used in the trial.
Thinking really fast with sheep and dog on the run (or trot) I tried to aim for a perfect drive even though I knew we probably couldn't pen. The path to the first panel was good but the sheep - especially Penny - were leaning really hard on Coal and we missed the first panel. In trying to recover I blew too many whistles, and Coal crossed the course. So much for mental management when things go awry! Knowing that we had already missed two gates and had a poor top half to the fetch, as well as corrections on the outrun, I decided to retire. It was just not happening that day and there was no point in pushing the tired sheep through the rest of the course when I knew we would likely get a poor score. Being objective about it, I am really happy with the weekend's gos. The outruns I continue to work on but at each trial the outrun truly is in Coal's hands (or paws!) and so I do my best and send him and see what happens. The element where I have more influence on the trial field that I had identified that really needed work - the fetch - is showing improvement so I feel good about that. There is a lot of time to think it over and train for our next trials which will not be until March 2013.
|Coal on the fetch at Dunnigan Hills (photo by Barb McPherson)|
|At the post - Dunnigan Hills - photo by Barb McPherson|