Sunday, August 12, 2012

Summer Trialing

Well. It's been quite some time since I last blogged. It's amazing how fast the days go and how much I am able to cram into any given week.  Josie is nearly 10 months old now, growing like a weed. Her teeth are coming in, she's crawling all over the place and she is babbling up a storm, even saying Dada, and as her grandma claims, says the word "pretty." I am pretty sure she said dog the other day while eating in her high chair with Mattie looking on intently. Jude is particularly fond of Jo, letting her pat his head and feel his face. At a recent trial we brought Josie to, Jude was sitting next to her and guarded her from other dogs. He seems to adore her already, which is good since the master plan is to have her trial him in about 7 years!

I miss Scott a lot. It's the worst though when I'm driving the dog-car to the Farm or driving to a trial and he isn't in the back seat. I miss being able to reach back and feel his soft fur and big, hard head. I also miss him when I get coffee through the drive-through in Snoqualmie... he always looked forward to that as the baristas would always give him not just one, but two dog cookies. They also remarked about how nice he took his treats and how beautiful his eyes were. He now sits in his little cedar box atop the bookcase above his bed in our family room.

So, the weekend after Scott died I had my first weekend of trials with Jude, running him in Nursery. It was the MacDonald's Memorial Day Weekend trial. I ran Jude all three days. It was bumpy but we did post scores in two out of the three trials. It was clear to me too that Jude had a bit of a phobia about set out people, so that was our homework going forward to the next trial. All in all, I had Jude entered into 12 nursery trials in which my goal was to get him qualified for the national finals in September - just had to place high two times. Unfortunately, Jude's birthday is May 18, 2010 meaning this is his last year he could qualify for nursery finals. Running a 2 year old can be interesting for any handler too!

In early June Diane and I drove down to Turner, OR to compete in a small-course one-day trial. Not letting the course size fool you (yes, it was just about a 150 yard outrun and 70 yard drive), the compressed area and the fact the course was next to a busy playground with a fair going on beside it was a bit distracting to Jude who is influenced still by outside distractions. Again, Jude was confused at the lift, wondering if he was truly supposed to get those sheep that the set out person and set out dog had such nice control of already! Although it's a bit of a let down to not get your sheep down the field and complete your course, the fact that Jude looks back to me for help and takes my guidance proves he is partnering up, trusts me and signals that things are going to get better as he and I get more 'miles' on sheep.

Also, in early June, Diane took Jude to the Wessels Dirt Blowing trial and ran him three times there in Nursery. At that trial, he had issues at the set out again. The first day, but improved and completed the course the following two days. Jude was getting better and better at each trial, but he was clearly showing his young age and inexperience and the fact that my training with him hasn't been the most rigorous. I'm finding that it's quite difficult juggling a full time marketing job, an infant, being sick all the time (and yes, I am sick again) and then training your sheep dog when you don't own any sheep (we do have chickens though)! Considering all these "distractions," Jude is doing very well I think.

The next trial we ran in was the Eweful Acres trial at Sue and George's. This time, Diane ran Jude all three days as she had a good run with him on Friday and I was feeling sick still from a bad cold I caught in mid-June. Jude ran well for Diane but there were some trouble-areas again, including the lift and 1st leg of the drive, that were hard for Jude.

After Eweful Acres, the following weekend I had two more nursery runs on Whidbey Island. Now, the Whidbey trial has always been defeating for me and Scott, simply because those hair sheep RUN and Scott always had a hard time running fast enough to catch up to them when they bolted to the exhaust. Well, Jude ran very well, especially the first day and I think I got a higher score with him than I ever did with Scott on that field! Jude is a very fast dog and had no issues getting to those sheep and getting between them and draw. Jude is fantastic at feeling his sheep and covering the pressure on all elements of a run - he never fails to recognize those draws at a trial or at home during training; the only problem I have is getting him to trust me to let go of that pressure!  The 2nd day of the Whidbey trial was a bit troubling from a points-accrued perspective. I think we crossed the course on two elements and that totally kills one's score.  Regardless of the cross-overs though, my dog listened to me quite well, taking redirects on his outrun and even doing a look-back to get a ewe that took off. Again, indicators that he is trusting me, listening and trying his best.

After Whidbey I had two more opportunities to get Jude's Nursery legs. Honestly though, I had  let go of qualifying Jude a few trials ago and changed my focus to using these opportunities to improve, train and have fun. I have to keep reminding myself he is only 2 and only gets to work sheep once a week and I don't want to ruin him by putting a ton of pressure on him in a trial environment - the last thing I want is for him to sour on the trial field. As he isn't the most confident dog right now, I know he will certainly grow into one if I work him the right way, which I think means don't put too much pressure on my dog and let him feel his sheep and get a hold of sheep. Again, building that partnership and trust is paramount. So, as I let the Nursery Finals goal go, our goal now is to run in the Finals in Open in 2015 - I think that's feasible!

So, my last nursery trial - the last 2 opportunities we had for our Nursery dream, was 4th of July weekend in Roseburg, OR at the Magnolia Farm trial. This was my first time running at this trial and it didn't disappoint! Jude and I did well on both runs we had, finishing 4th out of 13 dogs on Saturday and 3rd out of 11 dogs on Sunday. We were just out of qualifying but honestly, I was so happy with my dog and my handling.

The weekend after Magnolia Jude and I then ran in a time-points arena trial at the Mount Vernon Highland Games. Getting Jude on new sheep in a new environment was my goal for entering him here. Arena trials I liken to a pressure cooker really, and for a hot 2 year old dog, I knew this was going to be challenging! Our first run we gripped out because I put Jude in a bad spot and with a fleeing single leaning hard against a gate, Jude had no other option than to grip to peel her off. The 2nd round on Sunday, I think because of the grip on Saturday, Jude was over-conscious and slow, and we timed out at the 4th element. He and I both had a ton of fun at this trial and learned that we need to work on up-close, practical skills more!

Below are pictures taken at the Magnolia SDT and the Highland Games.  So while we didn't win any of the trials we ran in, Jude definitely gets a winners gold-star from everyone who sees him run when it comes to enthusiasm and his pretty-boy style! I have to say, he is one of the best looking Border Collies I've ever seen (of course, I'm biased but he is stunning, really).

First Leg of Drive at Magnolia SDT Saturday. We made the panels.

Cross Drive at Magnolia SDT Saturday

Jude tucking in an escapee at Magnolia SDT Saturday
Coming to the Pen at Magnolia SDT Saturday

Jude pushing to hard on the fetch at Magnolia SDT Sunday
Jude settled on fetch (note both ears are up!) at Magnolia SDT Sunday

At the pen - Magnolia SDT Sunday

Timed out but a good job for 3rd place - Magnolia SDT Sunday

Jude driving ewes through first obstacle - MVHG Sunday

Jude keeping distance to make the obstacle - MVHG Sunday

Getting them through the laundry chute! - MVHG Sunday

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