The course is tough, the sheep are tough and the judging was tough ; all great ingredients for a great sheepdog trial. The Vashon Island Sheepdog Trial was held on Misty Isle Farms and was on thirty acres or rolling hills, heavy draws and wily range ewes from the Blue Mountains of Oregon. These ewes run in bands up to three thousand, fend for themselves in the mountains, have survived against wolves, coyotes, bear, and thus held their own against the Border Collies.
The trial was set over three days, first starting on Friday where the ProNovice, ranch and Novice, then followed by Open on Saturday and Sunday. The PN outrun was about 250 yards with the drive over hills and gully and then to the pen. The ewes quickly sized up the inexperienced young dogs and ran some off, the ewes refused to move, or they ran off. Those dogs that did move the sheep were hard pressed as the ewes would challenge anytime they felt the dog would weaken or was too close for comfort. Having a forward momentum was the key to success but also making the ewes feel like the dog had the power to back it up if needed.
I sent Rainey on the come bye side and she ran out a full Open run up to 450 yards and I spied her at the top of a hill, so whistled her back, then flanked and she spied her sheep and came on nicely. Her lift was spot on and the ewes respected her and moved easily. I was not sure if she was able to move these ewes and was happy that she marched into the lift with authority. A few days prior, she had to work reluctant ewes and ram that charged her every step and she had to grip repeatedly, got rolled, but got back up and kept on until the ram moved. That helped her a lot, as it gave her the courage that she could move a stamping ewe or ram and grip as needed. She didn’t back down at the farm and I was by she side, helping her and I saw a dog that grew in confidence. Therefore, when she met the range ewes, she marched into them with the confidence she had recently obtained and they respected her. Her fetch line was spot on and when they tried to go to the draw, she took the flank, held the line and had a tidy turn. The ewe would stand up to her and she never wavered, even when they charged at her. When they did charge at her, she stood her ground and the ewe never completed the charge, well aware her teeth might be ready and she was not wavering. I was happy to see that she held her ground, took my whistles, and did as I asked. They fought her at the turn, with two standing at her and two bolting. She turned the skeptical ewe then regrouped the runways and proceeded on the first legs of the drive. The rest of the first leg was clean and she pushed them through the panel for a turn but they were slow to go on the cross drive. She slowly began to work them across but timed out. At that point, she had a very sweet drive. She ran her heart out and not once let the ewes back her down or run her off. She is turning into a tougher dog with bidability. There are some areas that she needs to improve on, such as more forwardness on her drive, push but other areas as her outrun, and lift which are superb. In time, she will be an Open dog and I am in no rush to put her in Open until she is ready. My game plan is next year and once her drive is more solid, we will revisit this. On a side note, she only lost two points off her fetch and it was the best PN fetch and on the score card up to her time out, she didn’t lose a single point on her drive.
Patrick had a near flawless run with Abby. As he came off the field, I asked him that breeding on her as some of her moves reminded me of my Nan. It turns out that she is Nan ¾ sister (or something like that). Abby’s sire is Jaq, who is a full sibling to Nan. I think I need to sneak her home; do you think Patrick might notice that?
Ron and I left after the PN runs so we could our rooms at the Youth Hostel all squared away. The rooms had out our private shower and heaters that worked great, and places for the dogs to stretch their legs. Dinner was at “The Hardware Store Restaurant”, Dick Wilson showed up later, and he joined us. I guess I was pretty hungry as I polished off a huge prime rib, potatoes, salad and then dessert. I think I waddled back to the car. My cell phone didn’t get service for more than a couple of minutes where we stayed so I was not able to update the blog. So then, I spent the evening by reading a book and putting my feet up and relaxing.
Saturday morning came excessively early as we made out way to a restaurant that was called Shorty’s (?) that had wonderful breakfast. I ordered a half portion and the food covered the plate and it was more than I could eat. With full bellies, we made out way to the field and saw the course. The outrun was 425 yards, down a draw that leaned to one side of the fetch panels, around the post, which then had the draw to the exhaust; first leg had the draw to the exhaust, most of a blind cross drive. Up a hill for the second panel, down the hill to the ring for a shed, then pen and a single and all in eleven minutes. The ewes were more than ready to take on the dogs as they had won most of the day before and were tough. I really appreciate that they brought in the range ewes as it make it a fun but tough trial and will show where you need to go back and fix the weak areas and also shines the good work. It is a must go to trial.
Roo was the first of my dogs to go up. As I sent him on the come bye side, he saw a white van going down the road on the away side and start to cross. I blew a hard down, let him sit for a few seconds until he looked up the field, and then blew a couple of redirects. He went out nice to the sheep, started a nice lift, went about 30 yards then shouldered a ewe. He was fast on their butt and refused to do as I asked. I ran off at him and he acted surprised. I asked the set out if they could hear me and they could, so Roo chose to ignore me.
Ron ran Tigr right after me and she kept the sheep offline, despite Ron’s effort to get them back online. The drive was wavy but they got through it and as the sheep entered the ring, the time ran out.
Patrick ran a run that highlight his talents with the determined Riggs to get a score of 101 out of 110. Everyone learned a lesson on how to handle the range ewes with this run. He also laid down a sweet run with Java and Andi to sweep first, second and third place. It was quiet and showed the crowd that these stubborn ewes could be moved around the course with ease. I talked to Patrick after his runs and he was generous with tips on how to handle the ewes and course. It was very kind of him and showed that he is a very humble and sweet person and we all root for such a classy gentleman that he is and what we should strive for! Patrick never says anything negative to you but words how to fix your errors in a helpful manner and as a result, he is known as a top handler/trainer and just a great person.
Karen had two nice runs that were on the heels of Patrick to take fourth and sixth place with Jim and Rock. Dave Imas and Cap snagged fifth place and Jeff Marroni and Carmen were in seventh.
Nan was very close to the end of the day and the ewes were hungry and wanted to bed down. She ran out nice then looked like she was cutting in so I gave her a redirect and she kicked out wide and went behind her sheep. She and to work to get the lift as the ewes did not believe her but they came down the fetch. She held the fetch against the draw and only lost a couple of points until the panel, where at the last second the ewe slipped to one side. She had a very nice fetch and turn at the post. One fat ewe and I am sure it was the same one that had been giving her issues from the first, kept turning on her and then trying to run away. She tucked them in and again at the last minute, they slipped around the panel. They had a nice turn but began to fight her when she decided she had enough of that one ewe and slung her ass around for a DQ. The ewes decided to behave now and she was quite happy with the wool in her mouth as we walked off the field. I can’t be mad at her as she did everything I had asked but our homework is for her to walk into the sheep with more authority with the threat of a grip than a hollow threat that she has now. Nevertheless, she gave me her all and did as I asked and if the dogs do that, I am happy. If they do not listen then I am not happy.
Janet Thorpe came out and hung out with us all day and she took photos. Her Jude was watching the runs, his jaws ajar and perhaps dreaming that next year, he will be on a course, hot on the heels of a packet of sheep with Janet at the post with her new (George MacDonald’s crook)
Ron, Janet and I went to the “Red Bicycle” for dinner. I had a huge platter of sushi and life was complete. The food was outstanding and portions were generous. Ron ordered the shrimp platter and it was covered with shrimp, so many that he was hard pressed to eat them all. Janet had the fish sandwich, which had a huge deep fried fish slab, smothered with the toppings and she gave up trying to eat it all. I was so full that I even passed on dessert.
Sunday morning, Ron and I went back to the breakfast restaurant and again, ate the huge portions, downed it with hot coffee and arrived fat and full for the handler’s meeting. They had reversed the course, with the drive going on the right, with a shed then pen and time of eleven minutes.
On Sunday, the weather was taking a turn for the worse. It would offer us a few moments of sun as a teaser then the wind would sneak in and chilled us to our bones. By mid afternoon after, it began to ran and at the last runs, it was a deluge. Karen ran when it began to deluge and we saw she had gotten soaked within a minute but still was game. It beat upon the tent so hard that you were hard pressed to speak in a regular voice to the person next to you.
Ron ran Tigr just before lunch, she did not hold the fetch line despite Ron’s efforts to make her, and on the drive she and Ron had a difference of opinion so he retired her.
Patrick ran Riggs and a few times the sheep challenged him but he held his ground and once again laid down a sweet run to nail first place. We all watched his run so we could learn from it and it was a real revelation. Momentum was key to these ewes and if you stopped, you would be in trouble. Your dog had to be on the edge but not catch their eye as well.
They offered a non-compete Open and Rainey was the first dog up. She ran out clean to the top, got in a gully and began to look for her sheep. Not finding them in the gully, she double back, her head turning every which way, looking for the sheep. She found them and then walked straight in with a purpose and had a sweet turn. The setout person was very impressed on how she was using her brain to find the sheep and then set herself up for a proper lift. The ewes never questioned her and came down in a straight line. She held the pressure flank that I had her do and did not unwind. She lost a few points on the outrun, none on the lift and only four on the fetch. It was a nice fetch and she was on the bubble and reading the sheep well. The turn was wide as they tried to bolt back to the exhaust but she marched them to the first leg of the drive. She got them on the hill, then over the hill to the panel where I lost sight of her. I could not see what was happening but she reappeared with the sheep around the base so we started to do the leg over again. The ewes would stand up to her and she would not back down. I did notice she did over flank a wee bit to catch their eye and that caused the ewes to stop, So that will be my homework to stop her further back. We finally ran out off time on the drive but I was quite pleased with her that she did try, took my commands and never flinched when a ewe took a run at her. On other runs, when the ewes would charge, the dog would give ground and the game would be lost at that point.
Roo was right after lunch and went out deep on his run, but at the last minute came in tight. His lift was nice and I got him to stop and he wavered on the fetch, and we lost a few points and missed the panels at the last minute. The turn was not at the handler’s post but at a red cone about 30 feet in front of the handler’s post. He had a nice turn and on the drive, we began to have the battle of wills. I would flank him and some of the time he would take it or not. I made him work through it and it was a struggle, we got to the shed. I opened a hole and he did not come to hold the hole and them time ran out. I will be working on him to take the flanks I want when the sheep are facing him and not what he thinks is correct.
It was dusk when Nan ran and the sheep had enough. The first set ran back to the trailer several times and they got a second set, which tried to run back numerous times. Nan ran out deep, came in proper and the ewe faced her. She dashed in with a quick grip to move them and they slid to the side of the hill closer to the trailer. They faced her off again, she busted them to move them, and they went into two packets. I gave her a look back whistle, she spun like a reiner, took the flank and started to get the sheep when we got called for a DQ. At least, she tried to move the sheep and did the commands that I told her. She was quite happy when she came down the field with a happy expression on her face that she did finally did move the sheep.
Well, out of four open runs, I got one score. Out of one PN run, I got a score and my non-compete run, I got a score. Guess I won’t be buying a lotto ticket anytime soon.
I see where my dogs did shine and where the edges are rough. I will be working on the rough edges in the next week in preparation for Fire ridge, where they have range ewes. Last year, Roo did wonderful on the fire ridge range ewes and got into the Double Lift. My goal this year is to have both Nan and Roo in the Double Lift. But as it stands now, we have a fair bit of work to do.
The Vashon Trial was a great success, with tough sheep, tough course, wonderful venue and just plain fun. It is a return trial for me and I hope they keep it the way they have it now. It’s not often you can get tough range ewes on our side of the state as well as a tough course. Our judge was Leslie Scruggs from Mississippi and she was tired by the end of the weekend. She had a great sense of humor and did a great job!