Thoughts on ASCA trialing

I wasn’t sure what I expected going into an ASCA trial. I know I was expecting to see some good dogs, and I did see a few, but not too many. I am sure there are some good working Aussies out there, but I think they are few and far between these days. So many lines have been convoluted by conformation lines. I am glad BCs will never go there, at least not to the extent that Aussies have.

There was a lot of poor stockmanship at this trial, especially on Saturday and quite frankly, I was appalled that the judges didn’t disqualify a lot of the runs. They didn’t qualify, but they should not have been allowed to continue their runs. What organization would set up a trial course were an extremely inadequately trained dog would be allowed in a 20 foot x 20 foot take pen to take sheep out? That’s hard even for a well-trained dog, especially if the stock panics when the dog comes in. If you look at the videos that I posted yesterday of the sheep run, you’ll see how nervous the sheep were when the dog came into the take pen. Imagine if the dog came barreling in there and sent them in every direction. A number of dogs did just that on Saturday.

On Sunday, the judges cracked down and didn’t allow a lot of what went on Saturday, but most of the guilty teams were not there on Sunday so it didn’t matter. A fair number of Border Collies and their handlers came on Saturday, but they didn’t do so well in the sheep runs. These sheep were not accustomed to being worked by dogs with eye and got very nervous when they were. They kept turning around wondering what the deal was with dogs who didn’t bounce up and down and bark at them and when they saw that eye, thought they were on the dinner platter.

All in all, I am very pleased with how Gel worked. I wish I had taken more time to prepare for the cattle runs, but I’m a quick study and we’ll be better prepared for the next show. I thought long and hard about whether I was even going to go to the second show, but I’ll do it. I am on a mission here. I am not entirely sure what this has become important to me, but it is. I know most Border Collie people look down on arena trials, and I can see why. At first glance, it does look like you are simply walking the stock around the arena, and some runs are just that, but not all of them. In USBCHA trials we have to free pen the sheep, but the dog does not have to go into the pen to take the sheep out. A lot of BCs are too tightly wound to do that and would grip in such tight quarters. If I could have sent Gel around the outside of the take pen, I would have much preferred that than sending him in there as it would have been less stress on the stock, but that wasn’t an option. Once the sheep hit the arena from the take pen, they are already unsettled. These are certainly not trained sheep, they react to how the dog runs them. If the dog isn’t right, the sheep are not going to walk around the course.

What I did like about this trial was the opportunity to work ducks, sheep and cattle, and to do it two times a day. That gave us plenty of experience. Not all dogs will work ducks, sheep and cattle and I like that Gel can, and all in all, he does it well. We’ll see what the next trial brings. Hopefully we can finish his open and advanced cattle legs. I have no doubt he’ll finish his advanced sheep and duck legs in the trial. The cattle, I don’t know, it all depends on how they work and whether I can handle Gel in such a manner that he is not put in the position of being injured. I found another ASCA trial in May that I can get to if need be to finish whatever cattle legs he doesn’t get in this trial. Then we are done with trialing in other venues.

I won’t trial AKC or AHBA. I don’t want to see what goes on in these trials. I guess I’ve become a Border Collie snob. In fact, I am not going to compete in AKC agility anymore. I am not going to support an organization that is primarily a conformation-based organization with other activities that people with their show-bred dogs can compete in. In AKC agility, you can go over time in a class and still qualify. You cannot in USDAA agility, where you have to be both fast and accurate in order to qualify. USDAA is an organization that honors excellence in performance. AKC does not.

The mindset that I need to acquire for trialing in USBCHA is that it is unlikely that I will win. The best I can do is to go to a trial and do good work. If we accomplish that, then we’ve won. There are very few handlers who win on any regular basis in USBCHA. It’s just too hard, as it should be. Even if you and your dog are prepared for the course work, if you draw a bad batch of sheep or run into environmental problems (i.e. wind, rain, terrain, etc.) then no matter how good you and your dog are, you may not do well in that trial. This is something for me to strive for in the future. That and agility in USDAA. That will be enough for us.