A Border Collie's Mistress' Place for News and Musings

Travels, Trials and Tribulations

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Silver Spring and L&M Stock Dog Trial- South Dakota

It was a long drive out there, but it was worth every  mile.  We arrived Thursday night and it was pretty warm.  Z traveled ok and so did I, have to say it was a bit of a slog for both of us.  At least we got some good rest Thursday night.

Friday morning the sun came up early and the Silver Spring Trial just outside of Sturgis.  We got under way around 7 am.  The field we ran in was a big alfalfa field with a nice hill and couple of ridges and there was a good dip on the fetch line. We ran on Columbia/Rambouilet cross yearling ewes.  They were so big I could have saddled one up and rode it. They were tough, green and wanted nothing to do with this thing called sheep herding.  Though as any sheep we'll ever have to run on.  For the Open we ran a 450 yard outrun.  On day one they were run in groups of 4 and set just down from the peak of the hill.  The dog had to duck around the hill and come up over the top to be right.  They were tough to lift, many dogs retired right here because the ewes just stood there and refused to budge.  If your dog got them down the hill they just fought the dog the whole way around the course.  Mainly splinting and running or just refusing to move.

I sent Z to the right and he didn't see the sheep.  They were difficult to see even for me for some reason they blended right in with the background.  He came in about 75yards too short and I tried to blow him out but he was sure they were where he was coming in.  He crossed over I got him stopped and told him to look back.  This time he saw the sheep and swung out and came around behind.  He worked hard and got them lifted to move them about 50 yards, where they just stopped.  He tried hard to lift them again 3 moved and one ewe broke from the group a little and turned on him.  He took his time and I flanked him back and forth a bit hoping she'd just go with her buddies who had stopped real close by.  No such luck she reared up and tried hard to put him in the dirt.  Don't know if he gripped her or not but he held his ground and when she thought about turning he backed off a bit to relieve the pressure.  He went right back to work, but it was no luck for us that ewe was going to give us bad trouble the rest of the go.  I figured between the cross over and now we were so off line I wasn't going to make him fight that sheep for the next 10minutes to get nowhere.  I called the run hopped on the 4 wheeler and gave him a hand getting the sheep to the exhaust.

Day 2 went much better.  The sheep were still pretty rank after spending most of day 1 beating dogs.  I sent him to the right again.  Z still had a crumby out run, too wide this time, still didn't seem to know where the sheep were.  He finally did see them and came in on his own to end up in the right place behind the sheep.  This time we got them lifted and brought them nice and tidy down the line.  Made our fetch panel, whoopee!  We made a good turn around the post and had a nice drive away line, made that panel too!  Our crossdrive was bumpy, but made that panel too.  By this time the sheep were REALLY leaning on Z and he was working his butt off just too keep them going forward together.  We timed out a whisker short of the shedding ring so no drive points for us, dang it!  We scored a 40 on out work alone.

Day 3 found us 2 &1/2 hours east near the Badlands National Park at the L&M Ranch.  We ran on 2 aged ewes and 3 weanling lambs, they appeared to be Rambioulets.  Not nearly as large as the last sheep.  Those old ewes would quite gladly leave the group and run off.  The split was usually one ewe would take a lamb and the other would take 2 and they would go in opposite directions.  The one with the 2 lambs would head for the exhaust and the one with the single would stand the dog off. In general they moved a little easier here, the dogs had to work their tail off to keep the groups together. The out run was nearly 700 yards with 2 deep draws across the fetch line.  Egad, what was I thinking!

It was defiantly a left hand out run, the dogs could run up the farm road most of the way, to the right the terrain and brush was rough.  Z spotted his sheep very well this time.  I walked up to the post and sent him.  I had to whistle him out 3 times, could have just done so twice, but I really wanted him to get the lead out once he re spotted his sheep.  Came around and hit his mark behind lifted nice and we got them down the fetch line fairly well, he took every whistle I gave from top to bottom.  We made our fetch panel and out post turn was ok, they at least didn't get too wide or away from us in general.  I had a fair drive away line and crappy cross drive line missed that panel high.  We basically worked 2 groups of sheep at the point, spent a lot of precious time sticking them back together.  Made it to the shedding ring and took the 2 that wanted to be their own group all the way around.  We tried to hurry to the pen I got the gate open and was in the process of setting up when we ran out of time.  Score of 55 for us.  It ended up being over 100 degrees that day and we ran around 1130 in the morning.

The final day found us hot and beat.  We ran early.  Z spotted the sheep and then took a nap at my feet while waiting for the 2 dogs before us to run.  I sent him off and did not have to blow one whistle on the out run.  he went the whole way with gusto.   Lifted them ok and got them down the line and we worked for every on line step we  got on that line.  He was beat by the time he got them to my feet.  Made a nicer post turn and had a good set up for the drive away.  Had a nice line and turn got them lined out on the crossdrive and did ok.  We made the panel and on the return fetch there were a lot of bobbles. Again we were a whisker short of the shedding ring and I have know idea what the score was.  At that point I didn't care my dog worked his butt off and kept trying even when I knew he was dead tired.

After that I got on the road and headed home.  In Idaho I stopped for some gas and pasted a saddlery.  Of course I just had to stop in.  This is what I bought for Z.  You can check them out here http://www.hickmansaddlery.net/
A big boy collar


 You can also check out Bev Lambert's write up on the 2 trials here.   There are some pictures as well. http://www.sheepdog.com/sheepdog_news/bevlive/

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lesson with Scott Glen

"If you make excuses mediocrity will follow" -Scott Glen

I will say I did not have a mind blowing experience or a training altering revelation.  I was reminded about things I already knew.  Sometimes when I get focused on one or two things in training I forget about the other stuff.  Mostly maintaining it, especially if I have taken the time to train it and train it right in the first place.  

I was encouraged to find that we are in an appropriate place in our training given the dog's age and experience.  Also I was encouraged to raise the bar and expect and demand more finesse from Z.  Another part of the lesson was working on actually handling the dog and having me make more and more decisions about the sheep work thus requiring more obedience from him.  I see more willingness for him to come forward, so I worry less about the amount of structure. As in I can put more structure on.

Above all else Scott reminds me not to rush Z and be patient with him, it will pay off.  I'm sure there is other stuff but that is all I have processed so far.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Super Shoes and Other Ramblings

First off last Sunday 7/25 I ran a gather practice at Fido's.  I enjoy offering this to folks a lot.  It is extremely cool to see how much people's dogs change and improve.  It is also really fun for me to try to help people out when they ask me questions. It is even more fun to give someone a little tip and then watch their dog be successful the next time around.

My dogs did some excellent work.  I mainly used Molly for this task.  I keep trying to find something she is good at.  There are days she dazzles me with brilliance and other days, not so much.  I'm trying not to use Z too much for this job.  It seems to effect his performance right now.  He seems to get a bit lazy and complacent, thinks once the sheep are held to me, he can just sit down and take a rest.   This means his shed is getting a tad sloppy and slow.  Also the setting tends to make him slice on both sides, I think this is just from the repetitive nature of the job.  What I love though is he gets a some chances to move sheep off the feed pan and either fetching them to me OR walking up and driving them off down the field away.  I also can set up that he has to go up through the gate and find his way a bit to bring sheep down to me.  We do set up some thinking games, but once he starts to get tired it is all out the window.

Back to Molly though.  She did work she was totally capable of.  She stayed with it and together for the whole time.  I had to get after her a few times, but she settled down and went back to her job.  She has a never say die attitude that I am used to with bitches.  Molly pretty much set the last set of sheep with the same enthusiasm and gusto she set the first group with, this was five hours of work from start to finish. Hopefully she will be reliable enough to use for at trials soon.  I'm not certain she is sea worthy just yet.  I also plan to take on some AHBA trials with her again this Fall.

Next in my effort to prepare for the coming trial in South Dakota I am focusing on Z fitness level.  I am still training on him.  I know he needs to work on his finesse, a fair a mount.  He's still pretty young, so I don't want to train on him too hard right now.  He will be 2.5 years old just before this trial in South Dakota and I have to keep reminding myself he's just a pup.  I'm still so please with his efforts in the Open and Nursery class at Whidbey Island in June. Gosh, he and I have been together barely a year now, what a trip it has been!

As far as the fitness plan he's been running next to my bike or going on jogs with Tanya 5 days a week with one day of sheep work. How I wish I had time these days for 2 or 3 days of sheep work.  Two days a week 3 miles on the bike to Sandel Park.  Two days jogging 3.5 mile with Tanya on the nice running path down to Puget Sound and back.  It is a sand running path with good hills. One day of intervals on the Interurban bike trail.  I have a .5 mile section where he can run off leash on the grass.  So we ride . 5 mi from the house to the trail on the road.  Once on the trail we do .25 mi sprint<17 mph> then .25 mi fast trot <8-9 mph>.  We do 3 set of this with a brief rest between sets.  Then we do one set of .5 mi sprint and .5 mi fast trot, rest and then do the .5 mi cool down on the ride home.  Then one day a week we do a long run.  This week we did  nearly 7 miles in 55 min.  I just kept him at a comfortable pace for him which seems to be 6.8-7 mph.  I was able to run him a majority of the time on the grass shoulder.

 For our sprint and long runs we are using a product call K9 Energy Edge. This product was developed by a vet for her working dogs, you can read more about it here http://www.k9energyedge.com/inform.html.  I use this mainly in the summer on when I work the dogs on sheep or when we do any kind of hard physical work.  It is a carbohydrate and protein  mixture that doesn't cause the insulin to spike, but provides a sustained energy release.  I find it is most awesome as a recovery drink.  The dogs bounce back quickly to pre-performance levels over night after using this immediate after the hard work.  Used during the hard work it keeps them going stronger longer.

We also ordered some Ruff Wear dog boots http://www.ruffwear.com/.  On top of that I have been painting Z's pads in the effort to tough them up with http://www.tuffoot.com/.  The Tuf Foot has been amazing in it's ablity to help heal the pad burns and blisters.  It has kept his back feet in great shape, so I only have to boot the front ones for now.  It may be asking too much to go boot free in the front considering all the pavement around here.  We only boot up for the long runs and the interval training.  I find with the boots on I worry less about glass and other foreign objects on the road shoulder.

These are the Ruff Wear shoes brand new out of the box.

Not mark a on the pretty soles!

Z says, "Paint them gold like Usain Bolt's track shoes!"

So far I'm happy with them.  He needs socks for the long runs, they rub his heals a bit. He's nearly blown the toe out of his left shoe, but a little bit of duct tape seems to cure the issue.  Essentially they are keeping his pads in perfect shape and his sound after having to cover long fast distances on some rough surfaces.  They are wearing out a little faster than anticipated. I think is is due to the fact they are a hair small front to back just on the one foot. Over all they are great, it is just the toe wear on the one shoe.  Next time I will order the next size up and see if that works.  I may if I put socks on all the time.   I know, the pain I go through to keep him fit in the city.  I wish for open spaces and a four wheeler.