Sunday, June 15, 2008

CHP SDT report: WOOHOO!!!!!

I just got back from the Colorado Horse Park sheepdog trial, and we did great! Taz won the novice class Saturday (the only day they ran novice), and Craig came in second on Saturday and fifth today in pro-novice. I'm so proud of them!

The course was really difficult for the open, nursery, and pro-novice classes, and the sheep were really tough for everyone! In fact, nobody in the eight-dog nursery class managed to post a score at all on either day! There were also some dips and rises throughout the field, so some of it was completely blind for the handlers. The sheep were very heavy yet prone to running blindly forward at breakneck speed ;-) They were actually the same range ewes used at the Colorado High Country trial on Memorial Day weekend. For the open course, I heard the sheep were set up about 400 yards up a hill that sloped more gradually to the left and was steeper to the right. I am not sure how much they were able to bring the sheep in for the other classes—the set-out crew reported that if the sheep were set much farther forward, they would break. There was a bunch of scrambly brush midway toward the post, with a clearing just wide enough to place the fetch panels between. Then a bit further down the hill was the post, with the judge's stand set back from that a bit. To the left up another hill were the first set of drive panels, and then across the field the second set of panels stood (these panels didn't actually see much action...), with the pen maybe a third of the way out on the right toward the second set of panels. The exhaust pen was partially hidden behind a brushy berm on the right, just below the area where the competitors and spectators were sitting. Jack Knox was the judge.

Most people sent their dogs to the left, both because the slope was a little gentler and there was less brush to get through. Many, many dogs had trouble finding their sheep, even in the open class. Some dogs ran straight up the middle (erm, some dogs like Craig); others ran so far out they tried to pick up the sheep in the set-out pen. And once the dogs who managed to find their sheep picked them up, the sheep pretty much charged forward toward the exhaust. It was crazy! It was fun, though, and I didn't hear anyone complaining about the level of difficulty of the course. Actually, most of the competitors seemed pleased to run on such a challenging course.

I was nervous before running Craig, but the course seemed so beyond my ability that I figured I had no chance to do well, so I really wasn't that nervous. And I think this really helped me. He wanted to go to the right, but I just didn't think that would be a good idea, so I sent him to the left. He ran straight up the middle. This was Craig, not Taz, so I was shocked! Craig nearly always does a nice outrun. I tried to redirect him and he ignored me. At the last minute, he looped around to the left (someone from the set-out crew said he somehow managed to do this without disturbing them at all!) and picked them up. Then, at breakneck speed and too far over to the right, he brought the sheep to me. He ignored my whistles and commands to lie him down in the first half of the fetch, but once he past the brush, he did lie down and the sheep calmed down. We got around the post and started the uphill drive away. Here, Craig was fantastic! He listened to every thing I asked him to do. We didn't make the panels, but we were able to get a line going for a pretty long way before the sheep had other ideas and Craig turned them back to me to prevent them from breaking off course. Jack waved me on to the pen, so I ran over and tried to pen them, but we timed out. Jack later told me that I stopped Craig too short when he was going around at the pen—I kept lying him down when he had two of the three sheep's heads turned, but not necessarily the lead sheep's head. I will have to remember that for the future.

Well, even though the run was a little bit of a disaster, most of the other folks had even more disastrous runs, so we managed to get second place :-) I was kind of shocked at that but obviously thrilled. Yay for Craig! His run today was much the same, but today he crossed on his outrun (so I wonder what would have happened if I'd sent him on an away, like he wanted to do yesterday). His drive was even better today, though, and our overall score was actually higher today—even with the crossover—but we placed fifth overall today. I am very, very happy with Craig!

For the novice class, they set the sheep out on the open part of the bottom half of the course, so there were no hills, brush, or blind spots for us to contend with. The challenge for us was mainly these tough sheep! Keith Fassbender judged the novice class. We sent our dogs from the pen. I was first (why am I always first?). I sent Taz to the left. He didn't go at all when I said "Come bye," so I immediately hissed a "get out of that," and off he went. He was too tight and ignored my commands to lie down, but he didn't slice and the sheep didn't move much when he came around, so being a little tight didn't really hurt us. He lied down as soon as I asked him to at the top, and his lift was nice. His fetch was also pretty nice, and he took my couple of flanks perfectly to bring them straight to the pen. Unfortunately, I had no more luck penning them with Taz than I had with Craig (none of the novices were able to pen them). We had one sheep that was really stroppy. She kept breaking off from the others, and she really challenged Taz. Taz stood his ground, I'm happy to report, though by the end I think he was starting to lose it a little. I did get two of the sheep in the pen once, with the stroppy one in the mouth, but she squirted out before I could close the gate. I sent Taz around to start over, but we timed out. We ended up with a 44 out of 60 points, enough to give us first place. Hooray for Taz! I got a fancy leather collar for his novice prize :-)

So I am very happy with my dogs this weekend! I got lots of very nice compliments about my dogs and my handling, but one stood out for me. A fellow competitor took me aside and told me that he really liked the way I ran my dogs because I looked like I was having so much fun with them. He liked that I was able to laugh at myself when things went wrong and said I looked like I was enjoying myself more than anyone else out there. What a great thing to hear! I just had a great time, and, well, my dogs are fantastic :-)))

8 comments:

Robin French said...

Congratulations!

Laura said...

Thanks Robin. I was told I make my runs sound worse than they were, but it's so hard for me to not pick every little thing apart! In spite of how I might have made the runs sound, I have a little more confidence in myself and my dogs now, and I'm inspired to get back out there asap :-)

Tansy said...

Excellent! And fun with that Course! When is the next trial?

Laura said...

Well, sadly, I didn't get into any more field trials this summer :(
There are so few field trials in this part of the country! So I'll be doing a couple of arena trials in August and seeing if I can get on the wait lists for the other trials...

Samantha said...

What a great weekend Laura, well done to all three of you. :-)

Laura said...

Thanks Sam!

Rebecca and Molly the Border Collie said...

Congratulations! The best thing, says this ignorant person, is that you and the dogs had fun and didn't get too upset about anything. It means you all come home from the experience feeling good and ready for the next time.

With that rough course and difficult sheep, your next trial should be a breeze!

Laura said...

Thanks Bexie! This trial was a real confidence booster for me :-)))