Sunday, November 22, 2015

Fall Open Trials 2015

I'm feeling fortunate that Coal and I could run in a couple of trials this Fall of 2015. Coal is nine years old but running well and seems to be feeling very perky. I am doing a few things differently to hope to keep him running well. My vet told me that it was OK to give him some Metacam the night before a trial and the night of, so I have done that. I am also giving him a small dose of the Energy Edge (glycogen) before we run as well as a full dose afterwards. So far, so good. His chiropractor gave me some exercises to do on his legs, and that seems to have also helped. So we will continue with whatever trials seem to be a reasonable distance for him, at least for a while!  :-)

Point Pleasant was Halloween weekend and it's a field Coal has run on many times. It is so nice to have a fairly local trial to run in. Both courses had dog-leg fetches and the outrun out through the gate as they usually have at this trial. The driving was, as always, tricky but doable. The run out the gate has become old hat for Coal. We were able to shed both days, but then ran out of time going to the pen each run. I would like to finish a course. Big sigh. 

Coal has gotten some ideas into his head this past year about cross driving. Once I recognized this I started working on it both to try to figure it out and to try to fix it. But, I guess it is good information to know that dogs do change, even older ones who were pretty well trained. His driving has always been a strong point. This year he is very touchy about taking a little inside flank whistle and whooshing it into an outside flank, instead. I worried about his hearing; but apparently he can hear pretty well. He took my instructions by whistle at the top of the field at Spencer's, to complete the dog-leg there is something else going on. Meanwhile, I set it up in practice and work on it. And I have to watch him very carefully!! Most of all I need to set up that drive line way back. There is so much about advanced handling that I just do not know.  We had a really good run going at Spencers' on the second run, but it got ruined by him crossing the course due to the cross driving issue. :-(

Our shedding, on the other hand, seems to be OK. I'm proud of myself for remembering a couple of things that I have been taught by our trainer, once we get into the shed ring. One, is to take a deep breath once we get there, no matter how short I may think the time is. And two, remember that we have the skills to roll the sheep into the position that I need, to take the required shed, whatever it may be. Even if there are three sheep sticking together and one loner, I can roll it and make it two and two, if that is what is needed.

My focus is something I need to work harder on. In our next trial a couple of weeks later, UC Hopland, I simply forced myself to focus by repeating the focus word to myself as we went around the courses. We had two decent, respectable runs at Hopland, which is a true achievement for Coal and me. I have always loved that trial but we have never done very well there. It has the most beautiful trial field, healthy sheep, and a great staff. Coal and I had two nice runs which was wonderful...although we still timed out on our pen each time. Again, I am wishing to finish a course!

The first run had a possible 100 points, with a shed and pen following the outwork and drive. Coal actually got ninth place with 79 points in this run out of about 46 dogs, I think. If we could have penned he would have been well up in the placements. Oh well and oh my. The second run had a possible 90 points; the shed was dropped due to time requirements and the possibility of fog delay (as usual at Hopland). We absolutely had to finish the trial by dark on Sunday afternoon --and dark comes so early these days -- so unfortunately the shed went by the wayside. I was a bit bummed as I thought the shed was fun and I have been having trouble penning! :-) Our second run earned only 66 points; we had some trouble on the cross drive but not our usual/new problem (above), thankfully. I was trying to keep Coal well back on all the drives, so he did not get up into the eye of the sheep and cause everything to lock down. On the second run the sheep started to run on the cross drive and since I had him so far back I did have to flank him to the outside to stop them from going back up to setout. Unfortunately I let him go just a little too high and they did get stuck at the second panel. Finally I got them unstuck and we proceeded to the pen where we ran out of time.

So, there were some good accomplishments, trying to focus and keeping things together. All in all Hopland was a great trial for Coal and me. His outruns were fairly good and that is his weakest element; I did whistle him out because I want him out there and I accept taking the hit on the points. That is fine because I'd rather have him out there paying attention. I'm trying to take charge and manage our runs, rather than just stand there at the post thinking that "gee, I hope he does well."

Something amazing happened at Hopland which had nothing to do with Coal. We had volunteered to be back up exhaust person in case someone's dog got too hot or overexerted. The handlers were supposed to stay and help the next person to exhaust their sheep, but it is nice to have a backup just in case. I took Ryme for this job since he was not entered in the trial and that is just the kind of close to medium sheep work that he enjoys. In the past he has always been worried about people he does not know, and certainly any dogs that he does not know. I had him out with me on leash all day Saturday and Sunday at the trial, and Ryme was actually a social butterfly! There were several dozen spectators, especially on Saturday when it was sunny, and Ryme was making friends with all of them. I was shocked! He was begging for bites of people's picnic lunches, letting strangers pet him, and seemed nonplussed by everyone and everything. This was so nice to see that he is finally (after seven years, almost) getting more comfortable within his own skin. People who know us had to check to see that it was actually Ryme out there with me instead of Coal, since Coal is so friendly and Ryme has always been apprehensive about the world. What a bonus!

Poor Spot got left out of both of these trials since there was no Pro-Novice. But it is he who I will be focused on, over the winter in our training. Chiefie rode along to UC Hopland both days, and seemed to both enjoy himself and handled it all OK. So now we are almost into the holiday season. We have lessons scheduled for Spot and we wait for the Winter Solstice to turn the daylight around.