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/