Our first competitive run in Open Ranch (O/R) was amazing! The sheep were tough, very, very light and essentially all over the place. When I walked the course, I thought to myself, we are in way over our heads. When I watched the runs ahead of me, I thought, we are doomed. The sheep at Red Creek are usually very nice sheep, but they are not often worked in small groups and it was cool so they are very flighty.
When we got to the post, I was shaking so bad I thought I was going to fall over. Gel had been eying the cattle across the street and I was afraid he’d try to head that way after them. I knew he saw where the sheep were coming from and trusted that he’d go where I needed him to. I sent him to the left; that was really the only way to send the dog given how the sheep were heading back to the exhaust.
My depth perception is horrible. I knew I wouldn’t be able to see if Gel had run deep enough in order to correct him if I had to. I didn’t have to correct him. His outrun and lift were picture perfect. He didn’t loose a point on either (the only dog that day who did not loose any points on the outrun and lift). Many of the dogs ran too shallow and if they lifted those sheep incorrectly, they were like pool balls going in three different directions.
His fetch was good. I had a bit of a hard time keeping him to the left. I was shaking so bad and my mouth was dry. I was having a hard time blowing my whistle. Our post turn was good. Luckily, the sheep wanted to go in the direction of the drive, but they wanted to go very fast and to keep on going back to the set-out. Many dogs lost their sheep on the first drive leg. We did not. We made the panel, but the sheep wanted to keep on going.
I could tell that Gel was at his outer limit, beyond actually, of his driving comfort, but he listened to all of my commands. The sheep kept trying to escape on the cross drive. The squirted out a few times, but Gel got them back on course and we got through the second drive panel.
All we had left was the pen. I really should practice penning! If I had not given him the wrong flank command, which he took, we might have made the pen. The sheep started going around the pen and I couldn’t get it fixed. We ran out of time.
There was one very nice run by Dwight Parker. I knew he would win with that run and he did.
When they posted the scores, most were RT (retires). I thought I came in third, which I was thrilled with, but I misread the score, we came in second! That was second out of about fifteen dogs!
A few open handlers that I know came up to me afterward saying people on the sidelines were saying, “where’d that dog come from?” Remember, I haven’t trialed in USBCHA much. I’ve run a few pro-novice runs, maybe three total, one open ranch noncompete and I think novice/novice twice.
When I came off the field, I was still shaking so bad I couldn’t stand up straight and then broke into tears.
Now I know darned well we could crash and burn in our next trials, maybe forever, but that’s okay. I’ll be riding on this high for a long, long time. All of our hard work paid off.
Kessie didn’t do so well. I tried to send her to the left because I knew that’s where the sheep were going to head if she was off on her outrun. The little shit crossed right over my feet to the right and ran straight up the middle. In retrospect I should have grabbed her fuzzy butt and carried her off the course then in there. Of course the sheep busted up when she got there. She did do a good job of rounding up the sheep and putting them back where they were set. The sheep were very fetchy and ended up back with the man who was setting them out. Kessie had a bit of trouble taking them off him, but she managed. She brought them to me and we finished the course without any other episodes. Darned, if the sheep I had in my run with Gel penned as easily as these did I would have been golden. These sheep all but ran you over to get into the pen.
Better luck next time with Kessie. I need to nail it down with her that running up the middle is absolutely unacceptable. She only started doing that when she started in fly ball. She’s smart enough to know the difference between running fly ball, where she will run straight up the middle of the course, and stock work.
More later. I got a call from a friend of mine who is hunting in Virginia today. He said he’d have at least one deer for me, maybe more. Guess what I’ll be doing tomorrow morning?