The weather forecast for yesterday said 30% chance of rain; it rained all day, sometimes downpours with thunder and lightning. All in all, pretty miserable weather for trialing, but I can’t get upset with rain, never again.
Our results were a mixed bag. For our Pro-Novice run, Gel lost no points on his outrun and lift. His fetch line was straight as an arrow, but on the wrong line (my fault, for the line business in USBCHA). We made the fetch panels (that’s success from the last times we ran USBCHA when we couldn’t make fetch panels). Just as we made the post turn, sheep that were in the adjoining field came to the fence and started talking to my sheep, who decided they were going to go over there and join in the conversation.
That was not a good thing. It was reminiscent of the issues we’ve had here where I had sheep on one side of the fence I was trying to pull away from other sheep. Too much pressure for Gel to handle. I finally left the post to help him, but it didn’t make much difference. I was not too happy with Gel at this time as I think he was being a jerk at that point. We had talk afterwards. A little while after our run, I pushed a large group of sheep down to the set-out point and that seemed to help Gel’s confidence.
Another thing that may have factored in there was the thunder and lightning. Gel is not thunder-phobic or even noise sensitive, but I think going through the storm at the last trial where the tornado was so close may have rattled him some. He was scared during that storm (I was too). Who knows.
Anyway, our Ranch run was better. Again, he lost no points on his outrun (300 yards), lift or fetch. This time we stayed on the right line. The draw to the left hand side of the field was rough, you essentially couldn’t send your dog to the right. In fact, in some runs, the setters lost the sheep they were so drawn to that section of the field. The sheep did not want to go down into the first drive panel either and the dogs really needed to lean into them there. There were very few straight lines down to the first drive panel. When you came out of that panel and headed up the cross drive, the sheep were pointed right where they wanted to go: the exhaust, so they picked up the pace, sometimes too much so.
We made the post turn and got the sheep going very nicely towards the first drive panel, but missed it … need to have my eyes checked or something here … Got them going into the cross drive, which again was pretty nice, but I flanked him too soon because I was nervous we were going to loose them towards the exhaust and we missed that panel too. I think making panels is so over-rated (smile).
Didn’t get the full pen either (got one sheep in). They switched out sheep for the Ranch run to younger sheep who were not at all pen broke (like the sheep that they ran in Novice and Pro-Novice were). I had one who kept breaking away from the group and during the pen she headed over to the fence where the other sheep were, a/k/a the “point of no return” for Gel, but he redeemed himself. After I called my run (the sheep were doing the ring-around-the-rosy routine around the pen and I didn’t want to play that game, once sheep start circling the pen, it’s often useless to continue to try to get them in), the judge came out of the car and asked me to flank Gel around to the left to bring her back before she went out into the road (the field is fenced, but the gate was open so people could come and go). Yea, right, I said to myself, Gel’s going to pull a frantic sheep off the fence in the exact same place he bombed out before, but he did! We picked up the other two further on up the fence and sent them to the exhaust. Two handlers came up to me afterwards and said he did a good job managing the group we drew and dealing with the situation after the run.
So, all in all, for our first time back in USBCHA for almost a year and our first Ranch course, we did okay. I know what I need to work on before the next trial. That’s the whole point of trialing (for me), not to win, but to see what you need to fix to prepare for the next trial.
I decided to go back down today (Sunday). There is even a higher percentage of rain forecast for today and it’s going to be a lot colder, but we need the mileage. This is a very low key trial, the lunch they served yesterday was excellent, the field is very nice and in general, the sheep are nice too. The sheep that they use in the Novice runs are tricky. They know the deal. They test the dog and if they figure out the dog isn’t going to make them stay on the course, then they are not going to stay on the course. This is one disadvantage of dog-broke sheep. The sheep they are using in Ranch are a bit easier for us to manage.
I learned something today: the trick is to not let the sheep beat your dog; know your dog, figure out the sheep and keep your dog where it needs to be to stay ahead of the sheep. Tricky creatures: sheep.
Off to put up the sheep, let out the ducks and load the car for the two and a half hour drive down to the trial.