Sunday, July 31, 2011

On the Road: Day 14

The work: Vergil Holland

I love Kentucky, and I especially love the Lexington area, so stopping at Vergil’s place in nearby Cynthiana gave me that feeling of being right at home. That morning was quite similar to the previous; very hot and very humid.

Knox playing in the hotel room.

Little Knox was a bit fussier that morning in his crate on the ride over, but when we arrived, Vergil was still working dogs with a previous visitor, so I had a good chance to take the pup out and let him play. It also occurred to me after all this traveling, that if I couldn’t get photos of the dogs while I worked, I could at least get a few photos of the place so you readers believe I was actually there. ;)

This way to the trial field!

Guinea fowl. Love them!

A peacock showing off, unfortunately facing the wrong direction for photos! 
(and inconveniently behind a fence)

Not sure if this is the same bird as above.

Typical Lexington-area barn, likely an old tobacco barn.

When it was my turn to work, we took a short drive to one of his larger fields. I thought it would be fine, as I don’t have to use the entirety of a large field just because I’m working in it; we can still work as close as need be. I worked Seamus first, and he went out tight, and ignored all information I tried to provide to him about how he needed to approach those sheep. The results were predictable, of course; sheep scattered and running and me needing to do my own share of running too—not fun on that hot, muggy morning!

Naturally, we revised the plan and moved back to a smaller field closer to the house. I think it was similar in size or possibly slightly larger than the one we’d worked in at Jack Knox’s. Vergil observed that Seamus was not taking much control or responsibility for the sheep on the lift and the fetch, which I agree with. He showed an exercise that in basic practice was somewhat similar to the corner exercise that Nyle had used. We’d send the dog a fairly short distance, and move laterally back and forth to meet him if he overran at the top, and continued to meet him on the fetch. He wanted him to feel the balance better, and we did some balance work using this type of exercise. Vergil wants the dogs to be responsible for what happens to the sheep basically until they are told not to, that is, until the human takes responsibility off the dog by telling them to lie down (or of course, that’ll do). Seamus really shaped up and got tuned in to me much better, but we needed to give him a break as he’d gotten very hot (me too!).

Two of Vergil's fields. The field in the foreground is where we worked 
(this is only a small part of the near end of it.)

We put Seamus up for a bit and worked Dare on the same sort of exercises, also with very good results. He felt that generally, my dogs were not taking responsibility because they were basically always being told what to do with the sheep (flanking, take time, etc). I did see a difference in both dogs, both in their work and their attitude, which softened and became more relaxed. It gave me some things to really think about, the first being that they probably really do need more balance work. Secondly, I’d need to decide what I wanted to do about the top of the outrun and lift. Some folks, perhaps most, think it’s best to let the dog find the balance. Others feel that in a trial situation, it’s best to tell the dog where to turn in, because the pressure at the top in a trial is artificial, and when the dog on course takes the sheep away from the pressure of the setout dog and handler, the sheep are likely to react to the pressures of the field. If the dog on course has found the balance based on the feel at the top when sheep are being HELD, it may well be in the wrong spot when the setout dog has released the sheep, so it may actually push the sheep off-line. (I understand this way of thinking but I’m not sure I’m explaining it well!)

Anyway, after working Dare, it was quite a bit later than I’d meant to be on the road, and the heat and humidity was wearing me out. Vergil really wanted us to work Seamus once more to get second chance to practice and reinforce what Seamus and I had learned, and I agreed, so Seamus worked again, in place of Bran. It was worth it as Seamus worked quite nicely and I had the chance to reinforce the methods for myself, too.

After some deliciously cold water and a chance for all the dogs and the puppy to play a bit and potty, I loaded up and got back on the road.

The takeaway: Make the dogs take more responsibility, rather than constantly telling them things (such as that they should flank to cover).


The trip: Kentucky to Pennsylvania
The mileage: About 430
The time: About 8 hours

This was a nice drive through beautiful country, but by the time I got going, I was quite tired, so I had no motivation to try to get snapshots, and sadly, I don’t remember any little interesting or amusing details about this drive. But here’s a neat flower from the day before (somewhere in Missiouri, I think), that I forgot to post in the last entry.

Next: Working with Jack Monsour.

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