Monday, March 23, 2015

Trials

Here locally, we have three open trials in a row on subsequent weekends. This could be a good thing, or a not so good thing, depending on your perspective. Personally I was wishing that the three trials could be a bit more spread out. I only entered one of them, mainly feeling unprepared at the very early date this year when entries had to be sent in. Over the winter I'm really limited on how much I can train or even condition my dogs, so until we change the clocks I only work them on  the weekends and maybe squeezing in a very short practice during the week.

Last weekend we went to Zamora to watch the open trial, one day. It was tough going, even tougher than I could remember the four times that Coal and I ran. I was sort of glad I had not entered Coal. I didn't feel prepared enough to enter, when the entries opened, so I didn't. The sheep were fast and didn't mind turning on the speed if the dog took the tiniest wrong move, at least "wrong" in their opinion. It was fun to see everyone, though, and it was interesting being there in person for a few good runs (or good parts of runs) to see them. I like seeing runs where handlers demonstrate good stockmanship (or stockwomanship as the case may be).  I'm not sure this is a popular view but it is my view. On the drive home from Zamora we discussed what might have been done to better handle the course from this angle, and that. Even when the sheep are tough, we as handlers still need to try to run with straight lines and tight turns. It's a tall order, I know.

This weekend was Sonoma Wine Country. I had entered Coal in one Open class. We did OK, not stellar, but not terrible. I was happy with the outrun, lift, and fetch but our drive was not so good...we skimmed both panels without making them so our drive point deductions were massive. We timed out in the shedding ring, having got there with only about a minute to go. The sheep were very fit and healthy and moved more off of people than I might have expected. It was a beautiful weekend with some refreshing rain overnight which is sorely needed, but not enough to spoil the trial at all.  There were a lot of the very competitive open handlers in attendance at this trial (similar to Zamora) and as a result, there were some very nice runs and some high scores. There were also a lot of uncompleted runs and low scores or no scores so I did not feel so badly about Coal's and my (what I felt was a solid) attempt to attack the flat field course. At least we got the sheep around the course without losing them and I did try for those correct lines and tight turns even if we didn't quite accomplish them all the way around.

Next weekend is McCormack Ranch, which I didn't enter at all. Now I am feeling a bit regretful that I didn't enter Coal in that one. But I didn't enter so I have to live with that. Ahh well it's only a sheepdog trial and we are not that competitive anyway, but since Coal is now 8 1/2 years old I am wondering if I have waited too long to try to get to more Open trials. It's getting harder and harder to get into the trials, too. The waiting lists are sometimes long.

It's always interesting, listening to others' perspectives at the trials. Some of the topics include: working with the dog(s) that you have, vs. ( I suppose) buying new dogs to be more competitive. Another is, those who really enjoy and like sheep and being good shepherds, and in contrast, those who view the sheep (and maybe the dogs too, I am not totally sure) more as tools to a competitive end, a sport, more of a game than it is for me. None of these views are wrong.

Getting a score and looking good to the outside eye on the trial field is not always a barometer of one's success at attaining and working towards goals.  There are so many moving parts underneath the surface in this activity that may not be noticed or viewed. But yet they are all important, and for those working on conquering some more private speedbumps and twists/turns in the road, those little victories are something to cheer about.  All of this, I do know! And such is my rambling commentary on recent trials. :)

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