Quick recap of the Ninety Farms Sheepdog Trial. Set on over 50 acres, the course proved to be the undoing of many dogs and handlers. Sheep were set over 480 yards away and while this doesn’t seem to be a big distance, coupled with the fact of a blind outrun, undogged wily ewes, a road that crisscrossed past the fetch line and undulating hills made this a very challenging course. When the dogs ran out, they stopped at the fetch panels or hit the roads, turned down and ran down the road for a cross. A few refused to look past the road and thus were retired. The ewes had to be handled calmly and quietly and with short, easy flanks or you were a step behind the entire time. Too hard and they bolts and if your dogs was unsure, they faced your dog off. Maid was the first of my dogs to run and she went out deep on the away side and much to my surprise, she popped up on the other side, after crossing over on the road. She hit the road, took a 90 degree turn and ran down the road and crossed. I stopped her and redirected her and she took it. However she was on the muscle and it was a offside race to the left and we managed to get them back online past the fetch panels but it was tough. The ewes had to turn at a flower pots that was about 25 feet in front of your and also go between a pen as well. They wanted nothing to do with that and the bolted as soon as they rounded the post. One lamb veered to the left and Maid snagged her to show her for manner and was given a DQ for her efforts. The drive was a full 450 drive, then a shed and pen. Since these ewes had never been shed, it proved to be challenging but they penned if you handled them properly.
Nan ran at the end of the day and it was blazing hot. I sent her on the come-bye side as it seemed like she could see the sheep better. She cast out wide, stopped at the road, then I gave her a redirect but she crossed. I got her going proper but we did cross. Hard lift and offline but recovered on the last part of the fetch. The drive was spectacular on the fact that we missed all the panels and were too high, then low on the crossdrive. However, we made up for it but having a tidy shed and she marched the ewes into the pen. She got 7th place with one of the lowest scores that I have ever gotten.
On Sunday, they kept the course the same. Nan was first and she went out on the comebye side, stopped when told and cast out wider to have a nice outrun. We got hit for the commands but she went well and picked up the sheep but they busted to the right. We got them back but it took some effort and she was on the muscle. Decent turn and nice first line but as soon as they got through the panel, they bolted to the right to the exhaust. They had figured out the exhaust and were busting as soon as they got through the first panel. Once they bolted, they went behind a huge berm and you could not see them. I waited until I had thought the sheep were at the gate, then gave her big away flanks to scoop them off, waited a few seconds them gave her a walk up and sure enough they came marching out. (I had a handler who was watching on top of the berm tell me she handled it perfect and my timing was right one- go figure - my timing sucks when I can see the dog and sheep and when they are out of sight, it is perfect?) We went high then low on the crossdrive and were super high on the turn, then she made it to shedding ring. The ewes were clumped together and I ran out of time.
Maid ran at the end of the day and again, it was blazing hot. She went out nice and I gave her a redirect and she cast out sweet. She came in hard and forgot her down and the sheep bolted to the right. So would flip to the heads but not hold the pressure so we were offline for most of the fetch. She was very much on the muscle. Decent turn and a wonderful first, steady first leg and the ewes calmly walked through the panels. Sent her for a tidy turn and she stalled on her comebye and marched them high before I got a hold of her and got her to line them out. On the crossdrive turn, she either didn’t hear me or was confused as she took a swirly turn that cost us dearly. She was hot on the heels in the ring and wanted to hock a ewe but I shouted her out and we timed out.
The trial was very tough but very challenging. It highlighted what my dogs were good at and what we really to work on. Areas that were good was my dogs believed me and cast out blindly for the sheep. That showed the deep trust we had for watch other. Areas to work on were down and holding the pressure and feeling the bubble more. Both of my dogs were pushing through the bubble. Anyways I really enjoyed the trial and hope they put it on again. It is a high quality trial with fresh, tough ewes, super tough work and lots of hard mental thinking. The scores maybe low but it showed that we need to step up to the plate and get better, especially if we want to go to the Big Show.
They had food and drinks so no lack there. I ate well and had some nice rich coffee. On Saturday night, they had a beach party and provided food and drinks but I didn’t go. I went home to have my “date night” with my spouse and promptly passed out and didn’t wake up until the next day.
Truly a tough, challenging trial and a must go to! Hope to see you next year.