Or, “You Weren’t Thinking of Moving UP, Were You?”
Me? Move out of Novice/Novice? Why do that? I mean, it’s only been four years since my first NEBCA trial. No, I don’t have my own sheep, I don’t think I went to any trials in 2009, and just one in 2010, so we haven’t exactly been racking up tons of trial experience. But still, we’ve been out to work at other fields--including all those miles to Colorado and back--and attended our share of clinics, so it’s not like we never leave our “home” field. It’s really time to get moving up; and yet I can’t seem to get it together with Dare out on the trial field. I get extremely nervous about trials, and no doubt I transmit some of that to Dare, but even so, I know we can do better than we have been doing. There doesn’t seem to be any point to moving up unless we are consistently doing reasonably well in our current class, because once we move up, there’s no going back.
Fetch Gate Farm's Benefit trial was Novice classes only; Nov/Nov, Pro/Nov, and Ranch, and was a benefit for their big trial in July. I’m so glad that Heather and Roger Millen are willing to have Novice/Novice handlers and dogs at their great trials, and I was happy to be able to attend, support the trial, and get more experience.
The trial was August 13-14, and the judge was Ron McGettigan. I entered Dare, but barely considered entering Seamus. He’s still quite young, and we have so much to work on. It didn’t seem worth it to rush him into a trial. However, Gene said that Ron is great for helping novice handlers and young dogs gain experience, and encouraged me to enter him; Heather echoed the sentiment, so I sent off an entry for Seamus. We’d been to Sheep Camp at the Millens’ in June, and I thought having been on the field before might help Seamus a little, too.
Seamus has had issues with his away side outrun since I got him back from Scott; that is, he was going fine with Scott or with me when I worked with Scott, but when Scott was out of the picture, Seamus’s weak areas started to become more evident. He doesn’t like to run out to the right, and at first he would run straight up the field, my “Lie down!” and “Whatareyoudoinginthere!!” seeming to do nothing but spur him on faster and with more determination to get to them. After a Come to Jesus meeting…or two…he finally took me more seriously. He started at least trying. He’d run out slowly, with his head turned in on the sheep, and stop, usually turning to look at me. I’d tell him to get out, and he’d carry on a ways, and stop again. He’d stop two or three times on the way out. Of course I didn’t want him to develop a habit of stopping, but for the moment, this was a much less serious infraction than running straight at the sheep with intentions to chase them all over the place. We were working on this from lesson to lesson, and one day as I walked him into the field, he saw Gene bringing the sheep out from the woods, past a pen to our right, where there was also another packet of sheep. Seamus then decided he’d go look for sheep in the woods, or in the pen, even though he was looking right at Gene and our set of sheep who’d just walked past us. On another day, Gene had the sheep settled at the top before we got to the "post." Shadows were falling across the top half of the field were the sheep were, so it may have been harder for him to see them, but he just didn’t see them at all, and kept trying to go to the woods to look for them again. All these little hiccups, yet I decided to add more to the training stew, and asked Gene to start holding the sheep further out, so I could start lengthening his outruns again. He was going out well for Scott, but in trying to get a handle on his issues, we’d been working fairly short distances of 100 yards or sometimes considerably less. With all these recent challenges, I had some concerns about how his outrun would go at the trial, but hoped that having been on the field before and the sheep being up on a hill in front of us would help him see and get to them. If I could get him to his sheep at the trial, and he didn’t break them apart, I’d be happy.
Dare had been working well, overall. Her outruns were generally good, and she’d been driving pretty well; in fact we’d been driving Ranch course distances in the last few weeks. I’d made plenty of handling mistakes causing missed panels and crooked lines, but she’d generally done all I’d asked of her. I had hope that we might do better than our last outings at PA State (Hop Bottom) and Borders on Paradise (where we placed 3rd out of a small class of 11 or 12 dogs; although we were 3rd, I felt the quality of our work wasn’t what it should have been).
The trial was well-attended, and had the largest number of dogs I've seen in a Novice/Novice class except for Hop Bottom. There were 27 dogs on Saturday and 29 on Sunday. I was surprised and pleased to learn that Gene was setting for N/N, which in addition to the familiar field was a nice little bonus for Seamus to lift off a familiar person. The setout for the class was quite far for N/N; close to 160 yards, up a hill. Gene and I were both glad we'd been asking Seamus to go further recently!
My first dog up on Saturday was Dare, early in the running order. She ran out a bit tight and not quite deep enough, pushed in and broke them apart on the fetch and started to chase (but surprisingly, listened to me when I yelled for her to stop), and got them around the post. We did an assisted drive but missed the panels at the last minute because she didn't do as I asked, and we managed an okay pen. They were pretty easy to pen and it should have been a "gimme" but she wasn't quite right so we got dinged for a point off. We ended up with a 50 out of 80, and I think that put us 13th.
Seamus ran near the end of the class. He went out to the right slowly and with his head turned in. I was SO close to giving him a flank or an out to encourage him along; I was almost literally biting my tongue not to say anything. I'd have to give him a redirect if he stopped, but realized in time that I’d take points away from myself that I didn't need to if I pushed him on before he stopped. I managed to keep my mouth shut, my little dog got himself all the way up and around them, and he ended up with a 20 point outrun! He turned in at the right place, but after he got them moving it was a race and they pulled hard to the right, and he was quite excited. Still, we got them down the field as far as the post but in trying to get around it, he wouldn't quite listen and had them jiggered up, so ultimately lost one and then they all ran to the exhaust corner. The judge had told us that if they got to the exhaust, we'd have one chance to get them out of the corner, but if it was a mess or if they got away a second time, that would be it for the run. Seamus had no intention of doing it nicely and ran one along the fenceline, so I retired. I wasn't happy that the run ended in the corner, but I was very happy he got out around his sheep without stopping or redirects.
Saturday Novice/Novice scores.
The sheep were difficult about the pressure on the field to begin with on Saturday, because the'd been used for four days at the Sheep Camp clinic in June, then for a four-day trial in early July, and now for a two-day trial in August, so by Sunday they were pretty bad. Seamus was very early in the Sunday running order. He went out all the way again without stopping, but didn't go out quite so well this time and came in fast at the top. He got them to me but it was very ragged, and we got around the course in a hurry-up-and-stop kind of manner. It was not pretty but he was at least making an effort to be a team player, and we got all the way around. He was going way too fast all the time. He earned an 18 on outrun, 8 on lift, 6 fetch, 13 for the wear, and a 10 point pen, for a total of 55. There were three 55s and his outwork was in the middle of the three, placing us 9th of the 29 dogs. I certainly didn't expect to place with him, but he was the only one to come home with a ribbon!
Sharon Nunan was kind enough to take photos of both my runs on Sunday, however, I'd messed up the focus setting on my camera and didn't know how to fix it. Out of focus shots are not Sharon's fault.
Here's Seamus on his Sunday fetch, sort of covering.
He got them to me instead of letting them get to the exhaust, so I guess that counts as covering the pressure, but they traveled a lot further than the 160 yards or so.
Seamus coming around hard at the post to cover the pressure of the exhaust.
Photo by Sharon Nunan.
Trying to get things sorted out at the post.
Dog and handler are both in the wrong spot...especially the handler. Photo by Sharon.
I was trying to pay more attention to what my sheep were doing and not be so focused on my dog, however, I should have been paying attention to him here.
I’m lucky they didn’t squirt left in front of the panels. Photo by Sharon.
And the return leg, heading to the pen. Not a good line, but least he covered. Photo by Sharon.
Into the pen, and he’s right where he should be. Photo by Sharon.
Good boy! Notice he’s not trying to run after the sheep who are bolting
towards the exhaust after being let out of the pen. J Photo by Sharon.
Dare's second run was near the end of the running order, and wasn't pretty. I was surprised to see that she’d earned a 20 point outrun, because as she went out I didn’t think it was as good as the previous day, and I didn’t notice the sheep trying to get away from the setout or anything that would have given us a “default” 20. Her outrun isn’t her best attribute so I’ll take a 20 when I can get it! Got them down the field and though she's usually a pretty good listener--at least at-hand!--I couldn't get into her head and we made mess as we were trying to turn the post to start an assisted drive. I was also not in the best place at the post for these sheep, so between my unfavorable position and her state of mind, we ended up pushing the sheep slightly back in front of the post and then across the fetch line to the wrong side. I couldn't get her to do as I asked and in trying to fix where the sheep were, they ended up going completely around the post the wrong way. Then as I tried to push them back, she came in too hard on them, split them up, and chased, so I retired. That's the sort of thing I expected from my young dog, not the 6 year old dog. I have my bad days too and make plenty of mistakes, so I guess it would be fair of me to accept that she just couldn't do it that day, but I admit it was disappointing as she’d been working better than that. I guess that's the typical trialer's lament: "She's working great at home!"
Dare kind of covering the pressure on the fetch (they are offline to the right). Photo by Sharon.
Dare walking up on them near the post. I’m not in the right spot to make things better.
Photo by Sharon.
I don't think she actually gripped, but she was still A Very Bad Dog. Photo by Sharon.
Sunday Novice/Novice scores.
Dare is qualified for the NEBCA Novice Finals, which is over Labor Day weekend. I'll spend the next few weeks working on the issues we’ve had at trials this season, and continuing to get a handle on Seamus.
Next: NEBCA Novice Finals.
A few more photos from the trial, taken by my with the screwed-up camera settings. Full results are available for a little while at the NEBCA Trial Schedule page.
Diane Sobel-Meyer’s Aussie Magnum on Saturday. Magnum won the class on Sunday.
Gene Sheninger’s Teg driving in Saturday’s Pro/Novice.
Mackenzie Murphy and Hemp in Saturday’s P/N.
Cindy Schmitt’s Imp. Jaff in P/N on Saturday. They placed 9th.
Peggy Chute’s KC working the pen in Ranch on Saturday, where they placed 4th.
Judy Gambill’s Tweed waiting to be sent for his Saturday Ranch outrun.
Heather Millen and Chip turning the post in P/N on Sunday.
They had a beautiful run but timed out a few seconds before the pen.
Chip is Dare's nephew; he is a grandson of Perky.
Sharon Nunan and Will head to the post for their Sunday P/N run.
Will fetching to Sharon.
Will doing a fast flank to fix the drive line. The P/N drive gates are the red ones.