Sunday, September 21, 2008

Photos from the National Finals

I went to the Finals in Sturgis, SD, last week and it was amazing. I met some terrific people and saw some amazing dogs! I took some pictures, but because I was volunteering (scribing and helping with the exhausting), I only got a chance to photograph a few of the runs. But here's a sampling of them:

Dan Keeton and Bingo

Don Helsley and Cap

Larry Adams and Mirk

Marilyn Terpstra's Gin

Libby Nieder and Lyn

Scott Glen and Maid

Dennis Gellings and Jan

Jennifer Clark-Ewers and Sweep

Laura Hicks and Jag

Handlers watching under the tent

Laura and Hub discuss business, while Denice looks on

Sheep were rambioullets

Exhausted sheep moving along

to join their buddies

Judges' tent

The 18 finalists were introduced to the crowd. Here, Don Helsley, Patrick Shannahan, Ron Burkey, Scott Glen, and Amanda Milliken are making their way onto the field.

Set out crew coming down from the hill for the opening ceremony

I spent a lot of time being "Bucket Girl," or, more affectionately, "Bo Peep." We used two sets of three bottle lambs as a draw for the trial rambioullets coming off the field into the exhaust pen, where we removed collars and sent them on their way. One of my jobs was to lure the bottle lambs around with the grain :-)

You can see a few more here. I had a lot of fun, and I look forward to going again, maybe one day as a competitor!

Friday, September 19, 2008


It's been a while since I've updated. So much has happened that it became difficult to know where to begin once I fell a little behind. But I'll try to remember everything. I worked Taz and Craig a few more times right after Faansie's clinic.

Taz and Craig are ready to work!

A couple of times were at B&I's place; both days were about the same. Things did not go so well—the sheep there are so light and really just want to run back to the draw, so it was difficult to insist on a proper outrun with Taz because in doing so the sheep would get away. Craig was able to compensate well enough to drive okay, but he was listening to me less and covering more (maybe this is a good lesson for me in reading sheep, though). The second time, I tried to bring the sheep far out into the pasture, but the sheep were just. not. flocking. and in trying to cover all of them as they split up, Craig invariably lost them back to the barn. I'm going to have to figure something else out.

I worked them again at Steve and Lynn's with Elaine a couple of times as well. These sheep are better behaved. The first time we went out, things didn't go so well for us. I just didn't have it together or something. My driving with Craig was awful. I was slow to give him commands and didn't really enforce anything, so he did a lot of overflanking because he wasn't taking my stops very well. This resulted in a lot of back and forth motion, not really getting a rhythm going. I think having Elaine standing next to me makes me a little more tentative when I'm working Craig because he used to be her dog. Larry was there also, working Raid and Mirk in preparation for the National Finals, and Elaine asked him to demonstrate driving with Raid (who is Craig's half-sister after all) to show me how to not use flank commands so much when driving so I can avoid the excessive back and forth motion I'd gotten with Craig. He was happy to oblige, but he ended up showing me something else entirely. It seems Raid likes to guard against the draw (hello Taz), so the command Larry mostly used as they were driving northwest was come bye, because the sheep wanted to go to the northeast corner. So although the draw was in one direction, Larry worked to place his dog in the opposite direction because his dog naturally covered and she would have turned them back if he didn't actively place her behind the sheep in the other direction. So he kept her on a come bye line the whole way because she was slowly covering the away side herself. The result was a perfect line through the panels. I don't know how well I'm explaining this, but it kind of rocked my world. Instead of looking at driving as an action-reaction exercise, I saw that Larry understood what his dog was likely to do and then handled the entire drive as a whole to compensate for/work with Raid's working style. Brilliant! This is the difference between training and handling! Elaine told me to pay attention to how Larry was able to set up a nice flow for Raid—he didn't do a lot of stopping and starting and having the sheep change direction abruptly. I know this is something I need to work on.

Craig works so much better when I'm confident and in charge!

And when I worked Taz, he was no longer leaving my feet very wide. I was losing my presence again. I walked toward the sheep and then over to him slowly and placed my hands on the scruff of his neck and growled at him to widen out. (I hate doing this. I am so soft.) He did bend out after that, but I had to kick him out with another "get out" command, and he began hesitating a little again, too. Eep. Things were not going well.

We took a break and Elaine and I went to get something to eat and talked about what I was trying to accomplish with each dog. Coming back, I had a clear plan and much better results! This time, Elaine watched Craig and I driving from afar, and we did much better. We definitely had a flow going, and there wasn't much back-and-forth. We hit the panels most of the time, and the pace was good. Hooray! With Taz, I don't really know what the difference was, but he was working much, much wider again. He still needed a redirect after taking a step or two, but he kicked himself way out again. Elaine thinks the difference with both dogs in the afternoon was that I had a clear plan and was ready to take steps to make sure the dogs acted in accordance with that plan. That my whole demeanor was different. My presence was being restored ;-)

He looks pretty silly here, but he was all business once I was, too.

I worked them again another evening last week myself and we had another good session. I was hopeful and feeling pretty good about their work, and ready to take another couple of lessons with Faansie after my trip to South Dakota to watch and volunteer at the Finals. I had a great time there, by the way. I'll post some pictures in a separate post. And I'll post about my lessons with Faansie separately, too—there's much to report about my plan for Taz!

More soon!