Monday, June 29, 2009

Breezy Hill Sheepdog Trial and Other Stuff

We spent the weekend at Roy and Debbie Johnson's Breezy Hill Farm in Gladys, VA, for the Virginia Border Collie Association (VBCA) Summer Trial. There was a really good turnout for the trial, and so both the novice field and the open field ran simultaneously. It made for some running around for those of us who were running dogs on both fields.

Actually I ran only Phoebe on the small field in the pro-novice class. Her first run (Saturday) was a little rough and we timed out as the sheep were going into the pen, but the good news is that Phoebe was being sensible and listening.

Pip ran first in the open ranch class. He had a nice gather, but was rather slow on his flanks. He still managed to make it around the course with a reasonably clean run to place third for the day. Lark had a terrible time. She was not listening to my whistles at all--uncharacteristically. It got so bad by the time we missed the cross drive panels that I decided to retire her rather than try to salvage a run gone really bad. We had missed the fetch panels (barely) and the cross drive panels, so it wasn't as if it was going to be a placing run anyway. I fussed at Lark and she promptly rolled over on her back with her feet in the air as if to convince any onlookers that I beat her on a regular basis.

Twist was my first dog to run in open. Roy decided to run sheep in groups of four at this trial and I think it made a big difference in the way they worked. The field still had the same pressures, and everyone had to contend with sheep who were really heavy to their right on the driveaway, drawing the dog way over to the right, only to require a fast, sweeping flank to the left to turn them for the cross drive before they bolted for the set out. I had been concerned about Twist because she's not as fit as she should be, and because the annual membership meeting was held in the middle of the day, we didn't run until around 3 p.m., even though we were 10th on the running order. It was sunny and hot, but there was a pretty steady breeze. Anyway, Twist went out and laid down and absolutely beautiful fun. We lost 3 points on the fetch for some bobbles just after the lift, and another 2 on our drive. The sheep were hesitant at the pen, but we got them in without too much trouble. Roy's sheep are notoriously hard to shed, but I thought it might be a bit easier with the fourth sheep, and we were to do a split. Unfortunately, my group had a sheep on either end who wanted to split off and then the two in the middle who clung to one another. Shedding is where Twist shines. I don't really have to say much to her; she'll just work the shed with me. Finally we had maneuvered the sheep to where we had a space less than a foot wide between the two clumping sheep. I knew I was taking a risk calling her in such a small hole, but Twist will come in like a bullet so I decided to chance it, figuring this may be the best I'd get as far as separating those two sheep was concerned. On command, Twist flew into that small space and took control of the two back sheep for a clean shed and a final score of 95, which ended up being the winning run of the day.

The photos below were taken before Twist's run by Barbara Shumannfang. Check out her Web site at I especially like this first photo where Twist is looking up (at me?).

Waiting to go onto the field.

Kat's open run wasn't too bad, but we had trouble penning. At one point, they were going in and I took my attention off Kat, who got up and flanked to the right, pushing the sheep back out of the mouth of the pen, and shortly thereafter we ran out of time and so never got a chance to shed and didn't get a placement.

Sunday morning it seemed like I did a lot of running between the two fields. Lark ran sixth in the ranch class, and Pip was scheduled to run last, with Kat running third in open. I ran Lark, but once again we had difficulties. The gather was fine, but on the drive away, I flanked Lark too soon, allowing the sheep to scoot to the inside of the drive panels and bolt high across the field in the direction of the exhaust. Lark was flying to catch them, but she also ran really wide, nearly to the set out, giving the sheep too much room and they made it past the cross drive panels, and the creek and all the way to the fence on on the right side of the field, where she finally caught them. Again, I retired her as any hope of placing was lost, and it didn't seem worth asking her to fight those sheep back over to the pen. It just wasn't Lark's weekend. She had a good time swimming in the pond after her run at least.

Once I finished exhausting the run after mine, I took Lark back to the van and got Phoebe, figuring if the pro-novice class had started I could squeeze her in and get back down to the big field for Pip's ranch run. Phoebe's sheep left the set out when she was between 10 and 11 o'clock on a left hand outrun. I stopped her (she actually took the stop) and flanked her hard back to the right to catch them and we had a pretty straight fetch. Once the sheep turned the post, they were heavy toward the exhaust, so I held Phoebe over to the left (she never even turned the post herself) and kept them on line through the drive panels. She held the pressure nicely back to the pen, and we penned with just one escape attempt by the sheep. The sheep on the novice field can be very sensitive to a fast, pushy dog, and that coupled with the increased pressures in a small field can make running in the two lower classes rather tricky, but Phoebe had her listening ears on, and her run was good enough for third place.

I gave her a moment in the tub and then went back to the van to trade her out for Pip. I got down to the big field to find that the run right before me was on the field. Then I got lucky, in a twisted sort of way, because one of the sheep in the run before me decided to go for a swim in the pond. That gave me just enough time to get a potty break for both me and Pip. Unfortunately for Pip, we had a group of sheep with one ewe who didn't want to stay with the others. She kept bolting off, making the entire run rather rough. When she bolted on the cross drive and the rest tried to follow her, Pip managed to catch them after they had crossed the creek behind the cross drive panel, but I could tell he was getting pissed and so I had to remind him that he wasn't allowed to take it out on the sheep. He got them back under control and we had a decent line to the pen, but that same ewe was a world of trouble at the pen as well. At one point she broke past me at a dead run with Pip in hot pursuit. Again I had to be quick to remind him not to vent his frustration by trying to pull her down. We timed out before ever penning (we might have eventually gotten them penned, but certainly not in a timely fashion), and despite Pip's clear frustration over some of what happened on the field, he still had some very nice work, so I wasn't too disappointed.

Since Kat was third up in open, I let Pip have a quick swim in the pond and then headed back to the van to get Kat out and let her walk some before her run. As I was coming from the van with Kat, a couple of people came over the hill and said "You're up!" Huh? There were two runs before me! Well, it turns out, the first run was Debbie's Abby, and as Debbie was still judging the novice field, she wasn't there to run. The second dog was given a re-run because of some problem I didn't see. So by the time I got down to the field, the set out crew was already bringing my sheep across the field. Nothing like rushing out with no time to think. But it turns out that maybe that was a good thing. Kat had a very nice run. We had a bit of trouble getting the sheep penned, but nothing serious, just a lot of wiggling and hesitation at the mouth of the pen, which cost us a point or two. Then on to the shedding ring. Kat is not a good shedding dog, and yet she's very fast, so we usually end up with a ton of time in the shedding ring to flounder around and try to get our shed. Her speed on the course can be handy, but it also tends to unsettle the sheep, and this can haunt us in the shedding ring. The time we have there often seems interminable, in fact. But lucky for us, the sheep were being pretty tolerant of her quickness. They split once, but I didn't have Kat in position to call her through. But shortly thereafter, they split again, and I called her and she came through very nicely. We lost a point I think because when she came through, she looked back at the sheep we were letting go before taking control of those I had called her in on. Still, in addition to the 3 points we lost on the pen and shed, we lost just a total of 4 more points, split between the fetch and the drive, for a total of 7 off and a score of 93. That score held for the rest of open to be the winning run.

Here are some older photos of Kat. This first one was taken when she and the rest of the pack were playing in the Cowpasture River at Don McCaig's farm. We were there trialing, but the river is so lovely that I always take the dogs for multiple swims on the weekends when we trialed there. The following photos are working shots taken here at the house.

My trialing curse (the one wherein I can't seem to do well with both open dogs on the same day at a trial) continued with Twist. The run started out very nicely, but once again on the cross drive the sheep took off and Twist was out of position to fix it. She caught them before they officially went off course, but they went up onto the dam, which left Twist no room to flank around them to get them back online (she will take flanks in the water, but had she gone in the pond they would certainly have gotten away from her). As it was, once they came off the dam, they skirted the pond, still not giving her a chance to flank around, until they broke for the exhaust in the barn. Twist was able to flank then, but the sheep were up a steep incline from her, so she could do little to influence them until she came around to their heads right as they got to the barn. Tommy Wilson, who had run before me, probably thought I was trying to run him over with the sheep. In fact, both times he exhausted on the open field, it seems the sheep had it out for him.... Anyway, at that point we were so far offline that I decided I couldn't really lose any more drive points, so I didn't try to get them back on the line from the cross drive panel to the pen but instead had Twist bring them straight from the barn to the pen. I knew our run was pretty much shot, but Twist had been trying hard, so I thought I'd give her the chance to complete the course. We had a clean pen and shed and ended up with a score of 80, which put us somewhere around 9th place.

Although there were some really awful parts to some of our runs (especially poor Lark's runs), there were also some very bright moments. Both Lark and Pip managed near-silent gathers on Sunday, even with sheep who were not at all inclined to stay on line on the fetch--they had to work to hold them on a straight line and they did it with practically no help from me. Pip kept his cool better with that difficult ewe than he would have in the past, and Phoebe was responsive and working as a team member instead of following her own agenda (which is usually along the lines of an out-of-control freight train). I was very pleased with both Twist and Kat this weekend, for obvious reasons.

Willow Medical Update

(Photo by Dan King)

Willow had a vet appointment last week to follow up on her prednisone treatment for the mast cell tumor. All looks good, and she finished the prednisone yesterday. She'll go back on furosemide for her heart in a week. Dr. Redding had several staff members listen to her heart because the murmur is so loud that it completely obscures the typical lub-dub heart sound. Even though she's got a bad murmur, her heartbeat is slow, which indicates that her heart isn't having to work overly hard to move blood. It would seem that the Enalapril is doing its job in that regard. Dr. Redding also checked both knees and said both joints appeared fairly stable, so we are leaving them along for now. We did prolo therapy on her one knee last year and he showed me how it had created a thickening in that joint compared to the untreated knee. We may eventually go ahead and do the prolo therapy in her other knee, but he thought it was okay to wait until I am in a better financial situation. Willow turned 12 in mid-June, but she's still going strong, and is still the Queen of the Household Dogs (though Jill often disputes that).

Finally, when Dan came by the week before last after picking up a camper from Joan, we all got together and worked dogs over the weekend. Here are some photos he took of Lark, as well as some other stuff around the farm.

One of the karakul ewe lambs.

Twist bringing the group up to hold them for another dog to practice outruns.

A chorus line of roosters perched on a stall divider. Can you spot the lone hen?

How much suffering should one Maremma have to endure? Actually Maia is fearful of electric shears, so this was the easiest way to trim her mats. She may have looked rather moth-eaten when I was finished, but I'm sure she felt better and it did help me find any ticks she had picked up on her (mis)adventure away from home. Of course I don't think Darci will be offering to teach me to groom any time soon after seeing this most excellent trim job!

And last but not least, JellyBean is the lord of all he surveys....


Robin French said...

Congrats again on your wins with Twist and Kat - they were really nice runs!

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

Reading your posts teaches me there is SOOOOO much more to working dogs than meets the uneducated observer's eye. Huge congrats on your two wins!

Darci said...

Sounds like a lot of fun! Congrats to you and the puppers.
Now that that is out of the way, I have a suggestion to make, a request, if you will.
I miss my Chris so very much, please, post some pics and some thing about my girl, she has been away to long and Oct is a very long time to wait. Humor me will ya! I needs me a Chris fix! LOL

Laura Carson said...

Congrats on some jobs well done this weekend - awesome.

PS - poooooooorrrrr Maia. LOL!

Darci said...

I just realized you had your hair down in the pic of you um....grooming? Mia. lol
Ive never seen you with your hair down!
not really significant,just noticed.

Rachel said...

Congrats on your weekend runs!!! Hope you are doing well.

Julie Poudrier said...

Thanks everyone. We can pull off a good one now and again.

I posted more pictures with some commentary that you might enjoy.

I have a whole new entry full of Chris pictures for you. And as for my hair, I think I had just washed it and pulled it back in a low ponytail. No way could I have been doing such a great groom job if all my hair had been in my face! lol!