We had a trial this weekend. Just a one day affair- only novice/pro-novice, and ranch. The sheep were Scottish Blackface. Day's weather was decent. Sheep? Hmmm. I am really tired right now, but I don't want to forget to list the details. First, Scotties are pretty well, feral. They don't really "warm" up to dogs, or people. The novice classes were first. The set out was not far from a row of trees, behind which stood the holding pen, on the left of the field. HEAVY draw on the right- through a hole in the stone wall, back to the holding pens. HEAVY- did I say that? Well, it was. So, we were up some where in the middle. Several dogs that were sent right lost their sheep. They saw the dog coming- even on a nice honest lift, and BOOM- they RAN to what I called the "black hole". There was just no retrieving them after that. They run fast. So, at my turn, I decided to let Lucy tell me which way she wanted to go. I tapped my left leg. Lucy got in front of me ;0) So, I tapped again, and this time she set up on my left. Good choice Lucy. I sent her. Out she went nicely, and came in nice too- though it was hard to tell. Then, the sheep BOLTED. Lucy kept it together for a little bit, but soon, they were near the suck zone of the black hole. One decided to split off, and I KNEW Lucy would not let that go. Lucy took off in hot pursuit. After I got Lucy back to me, we exhausted the two others. That run sort of sucked. It couldn't be helped- I don't think. We were only one team of many who had the same outcome. IF Lucy was a little lighter on her fetch- but, no, not really, because that sheep was just leaving, hell or high water. So, we only had a score for out outrun and lift- a 20/8. Not sure what was wrong on the lift- but I am never sure about how things are judged ;)
So, then we had our second run for the day. This time I vowed to try and finish the run- not leave my post- if they didn't bolt for the black hole. I have been doing that a lot lately- just giving up, and it hasn't helped much, so...
Anyway, we go up to the post, and I send her left again. She came around and in nice, and this time got them to the post for me- this is no easy feet with these sheep, and a high test, instinctual girl (dog, not me). So, we turn the post and begin our drive. Sheep were being bumped by Lucy, and this causes them to run ahead, and then she runs to cover- can you hear the adding machine MINUS button being pressed? I could. OH JEEZ Lucy, please just COOL IT. I said a lot of that. I even had someone comment that they liked that term ;) So, we finally got to the pen, and no, no freakin' WAY these sheep were penning for that dog. Don't blame them- well, except that they could have saved a lot of running if they did ;) So, we ended our run, and exhausted our sheep.
Now, this second run was tough in other ways. Now that the sheep had been run once, they knew where the exhaust was... Some dogs were left having to cover once the sheep were near the gate. Lucy was smart enough never to let them get that close- even if it WAS ugly- she ran in right and headed. Some dogs really had to walk up and then walk up more- the sheep were getting a bit ornery. ******** Our score was pretty bad, because, well, when you only get 1 point on the drive, and no pen, even with very good other stuff, you still suck pond water. But, at least we finished the course, right?
The trial was run really well, and the sheep sorted out the dogs, as it should be. There were some very good runs, and many not so good. Basically, what you expect. I don't begrudge the sheep anything. They are sheep- we have to deal. I should say LUCY has to deal- did you hear that Lucy?
So, after the trial, we had some fun runs. Well, not runs, but you were basically able to work the sheep, and work on anything you liked. Well, Lucy and I went out there, and had 4 fresh sheep to work. We picked them up nicely, and Lucy fetched, and was getting a bit high. I tried to do basic flank work with her, but she would not take a single down. She was too busy trying to cover them. They were high, and so was she. That's bad, in case you didn't know. So, at one point my friend had come into the gate that was part of the exhaust and the sheep were all crowding him. Lucy didn't know how to get them all off, but once my friend moved off the wall, she was able to get them to me. Lucy's brains had all but fallen out by now- she was hot, instead of downing she was leaving me, and looking for shade. It was time to quit. We headed toward the exhaust, and were leaving, and someone said we should exhaust those sheep. No big deal right? I sent Lucy on an away- and that was to bring them to the draw- do you see where a high/spent dog might go astray? Well, I didn't. What happened was, I sent her- the sheep came running full speed to the exhaust, and Lucy, at the last minute decided to run in front and stop the leader. Now, they are running FULL TILT. The leader jumps up in the air as some jumpy sheep do, to leap over Lucy. Lucy at that same moment jumps up to stop her, and they SLAM together in mid air. BOOM!!!! The sheep was thrown a over tea kettle, and landed on her back, legs flailing, and Lucy also on her back/side, and let out a yelp. MY LORD Lucy, what were you thinking? Anyway, the sheep got up unscathed, though, maybe she won't try and jump over a dog again? No, she probably won't have learned a thing. Lucy got up okay too. At that point since it was SUCH a hit, I wanted to make sure she was okay with the sheep. I walked her up to them where they were squished against the exhaust gate, and she moved them off no problem. Wow. Seriously. I have seen dogs hit a LOT less than that, and been cowed. Not her. I was though. Another friend of mine and I had less than good times with those sheep, so we asked if we could use the sheep in the other smaller paddock. We did. It went way better. Lucy took her flanks, and downs and was generally calmer- good way to end the day.
On the whole, it was a good weekend with sheep, but we've lots of mileage to put on to be able to handle sheep like this well...