Friday, October 17, 2014

Judging AHBA Recently...

I had a really great time judging an AHBA trial a couple of weekends ago. There were two courses offered, the HTD and the HRD.

HTD is a small "border collie" course, i.e. it is like a pro-novice course except that the level III handlers must also perform a ribbon pull (instead of a shed, although a shed can be used in this class) after the pen. Some black-headed Dorper sheep were used for this class and they were a challenge to keep within the boundaries of the course area. If handled correctly, however, they were very workable. It took proper dog work to make it happen and no mishaps.  In the level III class, however, on this course, I felt a bit like the Grim Reaper. There were very few to no qualifiers...ugh. The ribbon pull and the pen were the downfall of the level III folks: flanks and stops... oh my.

HRD is the ranch course with a series of exercises that resemble real-life "chores".  Some more broke sheep were used for this course, and the success level and the scores were higher. But it was not easy and those who did it well and scored higher, had to work at it.

The Vacaville facility is a joy to work in because it is impeccably maintained and the number of volunteers normally exceeds the number of jobs available to be done. What a concept! The people who train there have a club atmosphere and they cheer for each other as if on a team. It is so nice to see. They had a cake for one of their folks who had won an award at the national level, from their breed club (it is a breed not really known for working livestock). Everyone cheered for this gentleman's achievement.

I do enjoy judging, in small doses. One day, smaller trials, are the best for me. It requires a lot of focus and stamina and sometimes it is hard to maintain both at a consistent level, all day. I want to do a good job and I try really hard. It pains me when I have to call someone off the course or take major points off because of neglectful handler choices.

Normally it is not the dogs in these situations, who lose the points; it is the handlers. Several people had really nice dogs, and they reminded me of myself about a dozen years ago when I was in their same boots.  I talked to some of these folks after the trial, and told them that they had really nice dogs. Everyone is on their own journey.  This activity has such a huge learning curve. The more I learn, the more I feel that I am really still at the bottom of the mountain, just starting up the trail.

One really practical thing that the more novice people needed to work on, was in keeping an eye on their dogs and the other eye on their sheep. They tended to go for one or the other but couldn't handle keeping both in their perspective at the same time, which led to their downfall at places on the HRD course where they needed to open or close a gate, or perform a gate sort, etc.  Their dogs were (understandably) just trying to cover.

Overall though I had a really nice day and enjoyed the company of the several volunteers who clerked and timed for me. They were an enthusiastic bunch who wanted to help out, and to learn. I'm sure everyone is very appreciative of such a nice facility where folks can go to AHBA trials and further their learning experience.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Tune Up

Coal and Ryme had their tune up this week, that is, their chiropractic tuneup that is way more than just that. Coal was pretty good, with just his inside toes flared up, most likely from running on the concrete-hard, dried-out ground.  Coal is in good shape, body-wise, with good muscle tone and strength, which was all good news for me since we have two trials this month. Ryme was (again) a mess with his troublesome right rear leg. I checked back through my journal notes and this leg has been plaguing him for some time. What to do? I am trying to keep Ryme together in one piece so that he can work sheep at least on some level. Working sheep is key to keeping Ryme somewhat together, mentally and emotionally. I'm adding in some different supplements and herbs. I had already changed the dogs to (mostly) their "winter diet" back in August but there is some frozen lamb and mutton in the freezer waiting for a few cooler days, to be added to the dogs' food.

Another birthday pic of Chiefie with his pal, Ryme
Spot gets to see the chiropractor once in a while, but for now he is mostly made of rubber so he doesn't really need it. We have to budget our time and expenses for the ones who really need it. Chiefie used to have treatments but he doesn't tolerate it well, so he doesn't get an appointment any more. The main thing I try to do is trim Chiefie's long tail so it does not drag on the ground and thus pull on his back unnecessarily (this a tip from our doggie chiropractor).

Other than Ryme's leg, the boys are all doing well. I haven't posted on Spot's progress in a while, but there isn't a whole lot to report. It feels sort of like Spot and I  are treading water; we're not losing any ground but we haven't gained much either (or at least that's how it seems). The days seem to be on a crash course careening to getting shorter and shorter by leaps and bounds each week...so my evening dog training will soon come to an end for a few months. I am still hoping for another breakthrough for Spot, similar to what happened just before he turned two.

For the first time we did fall shearing on the Scotties, last week, so they got a tune up of another sort. It's an experiment so that we can perhaps better observe and manage their body condition over the winter. Some of them had six to seven inches of wool growth, since April. Our shearer said he had done several hundred head of sheep in the past week in addition to his regular day job. We were not the only ones. We'll see if it helps us.  Our shearer always has such interesting observations to share, about sheep. He noted that sheep in the fall, are stronger and fitter. They are better able to fight with being held off balance by the shearer for clipping. They have had to search more for their food to find it rather than in spring when they loll about, munching on clover. It does make sense that they would be more fit in the fall. I always learn something from the shearer.

Sunday, October 5, 2014


The Boyz at Carmel, our favorite place