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 http://www.topnotchdog.com/. I especially like this first photo where Twist is looking up (at me?).
Waiting to go onto the field.
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.
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!