Left Friday morning after working Z on sheep. I had a lot on my mind, but wasn't very worried or anxious. A few weeks before I had a lesson with Patrick Shannahan and he sent me home with a short list of home work, which I began immediately. I began overhauling Z driving, so I hope that I hadn't changed so much that it cause a serious communication break down between Z and I. I have been working also on the out run shape as he has been running too wide at the bottom, again. The weekend before we ran at Rocky Ewe and things went really well. So well in fact we finished second in the Open class. It was a nice car ride out to the trial, which is in the middle of nowhere. Friday night was a cold night in the van, but very manageable.
On Saturday we were up fairly early in the running order, spot #6. The sheep were moving more or less and being fairly reasonable sports bout the whole thing. They were yearling Rambouillet crosses fresh off the range.
Set Z up and sent him left, had a nice shape out run at the bottom, didn't feel like he broke wide and he ran with purpose. Looked like a snow cone, but was a bit flat at the top. He busted through them and 2 went air born trying to make it back tot he set out. He fixed his mess with out much help from me. I had a hard time seeing the white sheep on the flat brown field @ 400 yards :) He brought them down the line ok, listening really well. Typically on day 1 there's not much listening on the fetch line going on. I was having a hard time finding the sweet spot on these sheep and kept letting Z get in their eye too much, so they'd turn or stop, grrrrr! No fetch panel for us, the sheep were taking TONS of pressure from the panels. They would get real close and then squirt out the side. It was like having a force field there, kind of weird! We made it around the post and off on the drive away, appalling line, but at least they were moving, just skimmed the panel wide. Good turn and the cross drive line was ok, again I was just happy they were moving along in the general direction I wanted them to go. Actually made the cross drive panel and a good turn! Tried to work the line to the shedding ring best I could. We got our shed on the first try and hustled to the pen, I knew we were running low on time. I got the gate open and the sheep stalled in the mouth of the pen. I knew I was putting too much pressure on them, but couldn't figure out what to do before time ran out. In the end we posted a score, which at this trial was a miracle. Working these sheep was much like pushing rope.
Well, I had the whole rest of the day to sit around and devise a new plan for the next day. I watched a lot of great handlers run their dogs and tried to take notes. I also watched how much the sheep changed as the day went on. I tried to take note of what they were like at about the time I'd be running the next. The second half of the day the sheep got super heavy and a little bit fight came out in them. Nothing too nasty, just flat out refusal to move, a little bit of foot waving and head lowering. Lots of dogs/handlers RT because the sheep refused to move and stood the dog off.
Saturday night, had a lovely dinner with friends and got a room at a B&B in Ione.
Sunday morning came quick. I had several hours to work out my plan. We drew up 28th about half way through the day and about 6 runs after they brought fresh sheep up to the set out. The sheep were getting tough as the day wore on. I decided to go with a similar plan as the day before, but with even greater emphasis on keeping things moving. I was fortunate enough to watch 2 great handers run before while I was waiting on deck and paid close attention to how they were managing their sheep.
I stepped up and sent Z right today as they changed the set out location from the day before. Still too wide at the bottom on this side, but MUCH better top end. He dropped in way behind them and walked up giving us a nicer lift. He had to squirrel around a little to convince them to come down the field to me and not run for the exhaust. Got them on line and then they just flowed and I just kept egging him on to move up and keep the pressure and movement up. Nearly had them around the post and they started to bounce around, but we got the turn. They began to stall and I egged him on and he jumped at them a few times and even poked them in the butts with his nose. They began to move and it was a painfully long distance to the panel, but an ok line. I knew we were going time out and was hoping to at least make it to the shedding ring. They stalled out completely just in front of the panel and that is where we died. They began to graze and Z tried to lift them. There was one ewe that would turn on him just as he about got them lifted. She finally broke rank and jumped at him. Z tried again to move the group and she charged at him the second time and then I called the run and went to help him. A big RT for us on day 2, at least we got them to our feet :)
It was a lovely ride home. I was pretty happy with him over all for the whole weekend, Z just kept trying to do what I was asking. I didn't feel like he let me down at all on the second day, he was way out of his scope of experience and over his head when the sheep act like that. I had two great handlers that a really respect complement me for making the decision to retire my run.
Ruminating on Letting Go
2 weeks ago