Sunday Trial

The weather was much nicer on Sunday. If only the cattle were as well. They had plenty of hay to consume overnight so they didn’t look quite as thin on Sunday as they did on Saturday. Unfortunately, one of the cows died over night. It’s quite disconcerting to come to a trial arena early in the morning and see a dead cow lying there. I feel bad for the cattle and sheep to have had to stay in the same area with the dead cow all night.

The first cattle run didn’t go well. We couldn’t get the group away from the exhaust. Oh well, another one bites the dust. Our pattern has been the morning cattle runs go bad and the afternoons go better so there was still hope that we’d obtain another Open leg.

The duck run didn’t go all that well either. I think Gel was a bit tired, or maybe he was feeling my fatigue. His work was not as sharp and precise as it should be. We still qualified (although we didn’t need the leg) with a score of 107. They did the duck runs back to back so that the trial wouldn’t go as late as it did Saturday night. Gel didn’t work much better on the second run and we received a score of 91.

Because there were duck runs available and the ducks were fetching nicely (in general, ducks don’t fetch, they need to be driven) I decided to put Fern in Started ducks. They were not pretty runs, well, they weren’t as bad as a lot of the other Started runs, but Fern had a ball. We qualified in one run and missed qualifying by one point in the second. The judge for the first run wrote in the comments section of my score sheet “nice puppy, great sense of group” and sought me out afterwards to compliment her.

When it came time to go in for the sheep runs, I decided to use my whistle rather than verbal commands. I’m glad I did. The first sheep run was picture perfect. I don’t think it could have gone much better. We received a score of 121 (the highest score you can get is 125). We got 117 on our second sheep run. Sunday was a good sheep day.

It was not a good cattle day. In the last cattle run, the cattle came out of the take pen and bolted to the hay that was left over in the arena. While I understand it is common practice, it seems to me leaving leftover hay in a trial arena is not good practice. Gel hit those cows numerous times and we moved them off the hay, but we didn’t get them going very far before they bolted back for the hay. It’s awfully hard pushing starving cows off food. Gel came out of the arena with cow hair in his mouth. He actually went up over the top of one cow and bit it at the top of its head. It didn’t matter, the only thing that we could do to get them to come off that hay was to open up the pen for them to go back to their buddies.

Even with three botched (no scores) cattle runs we still went high in trial for the weekend. We went high in trial in sheep in all four shows and ducks in two of the four. In addition to a rosette, I received a gorgeous hand-tooled leather belt buckle. It has a Celtic design of a cow and dog. The neat thing is, the dog looks more like a Border Collie than it does an Aussie. I met a lot of really nice people and had a wonderful time. Even though they tried to get through with the trial early, I didn’t leave until 7:30. I drove for a little more than an hour, then decided to get a hotel room and finish my return trip Monday morning. I stopped at Red Creek Farm on the way home and rented sheep which was fun.

I toyed with entering Fern in the next ASCA trial in Started sheep and ducks, but after working her at Red Creek Farm, I’ve decided to shelf her stock work unless I’m working with an experienced handler for a few months. She’s running much too hot right now and I don’t want to put too much pressure on her. I don’t want to take any of the keeness out of her and I certainly don’t want to spend any more time in a field getting run down by sheep because Fern is doing everything at wharp speed. Fern will go back to agility for the next few months. I’ll wait until after the clinic with Alasdair Macrae to really get her going.

Back to the drawing board for Gel and I as far as cattle are concerned. Last year at this time, I was saying I couldn’t understand sheep and they drove us nuts. Now I feel pretty comfortable around sheep (and ducks). We’ll figure out cattle in due time. I know the cattle in the next trial I plan to go to will be reasonable. I’ve been told so my reputable sources. Even though I do not need any more sheep or duck legs, I’ll enter all the runs again. If I’m going up there, I might as well take advantage of the training opportunities arena trialing offers. In the next trial, they are running Course B on Saturday and Course A on Sunday. I haven’t done Course B yet so that will be a new challenge. There is a gather in Course B and a center pen vs. a Y chute. Can I tell you how hard it is to get ducks through a Y chute?

I have learned a lot in these two trials. Trialing in an arena is sharping my handling skills. You need to be able to read stock and react much quicker in an arena setting where things can go wrong in a heart beat. They can go wrong on a USBCHA trial field as well, but generally you have a bit more time and space to correct the problem.

We are running in a USBCHA trial on March 29 at Red Creek Farm. I e-mailed the trial manager to see if I could run in Open Ranch noncompete. Hopefully she’ll let me. Gel may not be up for that length of a drive yet, but he can handle the outrun, lift and fetch. He’s familiar with working on that field and the sheep at Red Creek are very nice. I’d love to move Gel through Pro-Novice sooner rather than later and get him into Open Ranch and then leave him there for a year or two. He’ll do better in a bigger field.