Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lucy's trials, my tribulations

Lucy and I ran in a three day sheepdog trial this weekend, in Massachusetts. The Friday trial started at noon, so we were able to go to work earlier in the day, and then head out, but the Sat and Sun trials started with novice at 7:00 am, so we had to leave the house at 4:15 am. I am just now beginning to catch up on some rest. I just don't handle debits of sleep like I used to..

So, on Friday, we walk up to the post. I made sure Lucy saw her sheep, and set her up to go away. She took the away, but was a bit tight. Nevertheless, she picked her sheep up well, and brought them to me rather quickly, only taking a down once the sheep were barreling up to me. We got them around the post in the right direction, and headed for the panels. I had to keep berating Lucy to keep her off, but we got around in a fashion. Then it was time for the pen. I could not get there before the sheep. They were jiggered, and at one point they headed, and made it to the exhaust. Lucy got in there, and after a bit of a commotion- (the sheep thought they could make it past her, and she made motions to grip a couple noses), she brought them back in a nice line 3 abreast, looking like they were very happy to go wherever she wanted them to. We did run out of pen points, so the judge told us this, and we stopped our run. It wasn't great, but it could have been worse (visa-vis Saturday). We got 6 place out of I think 15 dogs, so not bad.

On Saturday, I had a very hard lesson taught to me by the judge. I missed the handlers meeting, and at that meeting, he had said "don't use your stick aggressively at your dog". That was important information.... So, I set up Lucy to go away. She started out okay, but started to drift in and ACK!!!! she crossed over. That started me being jiggered. I was an idiot out there, and was hitting the ground with my stick at my dog when she would not take the flank I wanted. She would take what SHE wanted. We did manage to get them penned. At the end of the run the judge came up to me and told me he said not to do that. He hit me very hard for doing that, as in took off most of the fetch points and ALL the drive points. I spoke to a couple of fellow trialists, one gentleman in particular from Virginia was very supportive, and said that everyone has things like this happen. I then started to cry. It wasn't because we scored badly (I didn't even look at my score), it was because I had been such a complete jerk out there. It was poor sportsmanship, and it was ugly. The judge later came up to me, and tried to make me feel better, by saying that we all do this elsewhere, but at a trial it isn't cool. Anyway, I cried more, and thought that maybe this trial stuff ain't for me. I went home that day very tired and defeated. I didn't think I would go on Sunday. I decided that Saturday would just be canceled in my memory book...

But, when Sunday came, I decided yeah- I will go, and end this trial on a good note. I will NOT yell, and I will NOT swing my stick. When it was our turn, I walked out there calmly- I think I was more exhausted than anything. When we went out to the post, Lucy immediately set herself up perfectly for a come by. It was like she does in training- this I took as a good sign. I sent her, and she performed a very nice outrun. It was pretty. She brought the sheep to me quickly- well, THEY ran without help from her. I then did something different. I said "please" before all my commands. I also said everything much calmer. I kept my stock stick ramrod straight into the ground. The only time I used it was to block the sheep at the pen. We didn't have great lines (because I didn't know you needed them in novice!) to the panels and back to the pen. At one point the sheep thought they would escape to the exhaust pen, like they had done to many dogs the previous days. Lucy was ready for this though, and when they turned and bolted, she had them covered and back before they made it 15 feet. Lots of silence from the crowd when you see a young dog running to cover sheep- will they grip? Not Lucy, it was just a simple jag out to get them and back. Anyway, we got them in the pen, and I shut the gate. Lots of applause from the gallery, and I was so happy. Lucy didn't score much better than she had on Friday (remember, Sat doesn't exist), but MAN did the run feel better- all because I my attitude. Turns out we took 2nd place. We were tied for 2nd, but Lucy's better outwork broke the tie. It was a great way to end our first trials for the year.

Lucy is my girl. Kelpies rule!

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