What an amazing summer this has been!
“Busy and exciting” is a complete understatement, for sure. I had the honor and privilege to teach, coach and support so many wonderful clients and students (and their dogs, of course) at home and at clinics and lessons around the midwest. Such fun, and so rewarding to see people and their dogs blossom. It’s a beautiful thing!
I so enjoyed judging a couple of herding trials — getting a front row seat to teamwork, partnership, passion and dedication is priceless. One of my favorite parts of trialing is the opportunity to rehearse being calm, present and connected to my dogs in an unfamiliar environment. It’s also one of the most challenging parts, if you know what I’m saying. 🙂
Sheepdog Trials – Fun!
The new trial season started with a ‘rush’. As president of the Land of Lincoln Border Collie Association, a club that puts on two big sheepdog trials each year, I had to step up to the plate as fearless leader for our August trial. Thank goodness I had the incredible help of awesome board members and club members that are as passionate and dedicated as I am putting in long and loving hours to make this trial a grand success. And it was! So many compliments and such great feedback. I didn’t hear one complaint…simply awesome!
As a bonus, my dogs had great runs at the trial…I was so pleased at how well we worked together. That turned out to be a needed confidence builder going into the next couple of trials, which were uber hard. Oh my. The WWSDA Labor Day trial was held in a beautiful new location and the rented flock of sheep turned out to be more challenging than anyone imagined. As it turned out, the majority of the Open (top level) teams could not successfully put the sheep through the course.
Both Sue and Maya had some difficulty, even though I was so happy with their work. Luc was the star of the family, having little difficulty handling the very challenging sheep with two good runs, earning him a coveted spot in the Top 10 Finals. It was his first try at a double lift in a trial setting and the second gather turned out to be too difficult for him to find the sheep, and we retired after a nearly perfect first gather and failed second gather. But, we came off the field happy and satisfied at giving it our best shot.
As soon as our Finals run was complete, we jumped into the rig and headed out to Meeker, Colorado for the famous Meeker Classic Championship, one of the oldest, toughest and most prestigious trials in North America. We made it out there on Wednesday, giving the dogs only a day to acclimate to the elevation of 6200 ft.
Sue ran first, and she cast off to the left on a spectacular outrun, it was breathtaking to watch her navigate hills, rocks and difficult terrain that hid the sheep from view. I caught a brief glimpse of her as she went deep, hunting for the sheep. Then, I waited for her to lift, saw the sheep shifting, waited some more. Then finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I whistled her recall, but no response. Oh no. Did she get onto the road behind the field? The dog right before her had done just that. Then, the course director quietly tapped on my back and said go ahead and call her back again, she got in the set out and the crew sent her back out. So, I called her back and we retired, disappointed at not being able to give the course a try. She did great at her first Meeker last year, and I was hopeful she’d be even better this year. It was not to be. Deep sigh.
Had to mentally recover from that, because Luc was up early the next morning and I needed to be fully present. This was his first try at Meeker, and I was confident that he could handle the notoriously impossible sheep quite well. I sent him to the right where I could see him the whole way and help him if needed. The trade off is that the dogs can’t see the sheep most of the way and need to trust.
About halfway out, I saw him look in a bit, so I gave him a redirect whistle, which he took beautifully and cast out smartly. About 3/4 of the way out, I gave him another whistle, because it was difficult to assess his depth behind the sheep. He took that beautifully as well. A great start! Very good lift, and a great fetch where he confidently worked the resistant sheep into the fetch gates and finished the fetch with a nice turn.
The drive was awesome…except for my mistake at over-trying to get the sheep into the drive away gate. The sheep hate going thru that gate and we got ‘em in!! However, we lost too many points and too much time messing with that gate, and in retrospect, should have let it go and went on much sooner. One of the old time competitors and a judge who watched my run, said I lost an extra 8 points messing with that panel. Darn it! We missed getting into the semi-final round by only 4 points. And all that time spent kept us from earning shed points too. A deep sigh about that. But: I couldn’t have been happier about how Luc handled those sheep, and I was thrilled beyond words at our level or partnership. It was an amazing run. I am eager to go back again next year!!
Back on the home front
The summer we were busy raising up 8 new layer hens who are happy and safe in the garage, until we transition them to the ‘big girl’ hen house this weekend. They are feisty and beautiful, and will gift us with plentiful brown eggs for years to come.
And, our three new barn kitties are also ready to move out to the barn, where they will have plenty of work and good eating with the prolific mouse population this year. I guess mice like it hot and dry, because they are everywhere! Fiona, Jasmine and their brother Aslan are happy and healthy, and have come around from being feral to seeking out petting and rubbing themselves all over anyone who visits them. They are so beautiful and we are looking forward to many years of purring cat companionship.
In between my active work schedule, I tried to find time when it was cool enough to start training my two yearling border collies. Clark and Raven are growing up, and maturing steadily. I haven’t worked them as much as I planned, but in spite of that, they are doing fantastic. They are natural, smart and oh so willing to please. Which is perfect, because they are very keen and have lots of drive. They learn so fast at this age. I’ll put up some video for you to have a look. I believe you’ll be impressed! I am!
That’s it for now my friends. You are awesome for reading this long, long post!
Tell me: what have YOU been doing this summer?
Have you had success with your dog? Unexpected results? What was your reaction? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear.