Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Lad's Double Lift

I'd been wanting to get in the Bluegrass Double lift since I started herding. That and the double lift at the Nationals is everyone's ultimate goal (eclipsed only by winning either of those two trials), but when I finally achieved it, I realized I was woefully unprepared. It was a good lesson. I'll be ready next time. I had done some double lifts at smaller trials and I even finished one and got a pen when Bob was a younger dog but that was nothing like this. My first thought was, "Where's Hemp? I need Hemp!" He's a good turnback dog and Lad doesn't like going back - he doesn't even like outruns so you can see why a turnback would not be his favorite thing. I was pretty sure I wasn't going to have to worry about a crossdrive or shed since it was just a formality that I tell him "Look back" before we have to walk off. I have to say, because of my unpreparedness, I didn't enjoy the day as much as I would have liked. Everyone kept saying, "Have fun." Good advice but I couldn't follow it because I was so uneasy. I was, however, keen to participate in the ceremony/parade before I ran. Just the honor of getting to dress up and parade in front of the crowd with my fellow finalists was great.
Lad and I on the left in the parade. Lad is looking for the sheep behind me up the field. A good sign.
That little distraction didn't last long and since we had drawn up 9th, it was soon time to go to the post. The first outrun was to the left. The sheep had been moved closer to the left hand fence but it was the same direction I had sent Lad in the first two rounds so I was pretty sure he could get out clean that way.

Lad and I walking to the post.
I'm not sure he saw the sheep when he left but I knew he'd probably go to the fence anyway and he couldn't miss them then. His outrun was great and for the first time I didn't worry about him stopping. His confidence is really coming around. He always likes to stop short and quietly drift down onto his sheep (I've been told this trait goes all the way back to his great grandpa, Butcher's Mac) and in this case, where he needed to do just that to start his lift at a diagonal line towards his fetch panels, it worked perfectly. He didn't have any problems bringing the ten sheep down and we made our fetch panels without much trouble.

Lad starting his first lift
As he came upon the turn back post located just past the fetch panels, I started setting him up to turn back. Hey, it's worth a try right? I flanked him away to turn the sheep up the hill towards my right because the exhaust was to my left and I knew the sheep would drift that way and Lad would not leave them if he thought they were getting away. Then I flanked him on a big comebye, hit him with a hard down, and told him to "LOOK!" He raised his head and looked at me to ask, "What?". I told him again in my cracked voice, "LOOK BACK!" This time he did but then came right back to his sheep so I flanked him again comebye to try and avoid a crossover and again asked him to look. This time he tried pretty hard to go back but went just far enough that as he started to come back to me he was behind the only large tree in the field. I couldn't see what he was doing. I told him to go back again but I was only guessing as to what he was doing. I was told later that he tried to go back a little further but then started to come back to me.

So close but so far away. He can't see them because they are on a hill and I can't see him because he's behind the tree.
As he came back, I could see he had crossed and I could see he had it in his head to go back to where he found the first set. I guess he figured it worked before so maybe it would work again. I decided to go along with it. He had already lost all his outrun points so there was no reason for me to be stingy with whistles and voice. I couldn't lose anymore than I already had so when he got to the left fence I told him to keep going. He went all the way back to the set out pens and I kept telling him to go comebye. He kept moving and trusting so I kept talking. All the way across the pens and as he passed them, he saw the sheep. I gave him several more comebye flanks to get him to the right side of the sheep so they would lift at an angle to the fetch panels. He lifted good and had a good line to the panels and made them.

Finally he found his second set!
Right after the panels the sheep tried to run to their buddies to the left but they weren't parallel with them so it wasn't time to join yet. Lad did a good job of keeping his second flock on line and not letting them get away until I told him he could go get his first set. I think this is the only thing that got us to 11th place. With the second outrun being gone and the drive was not any good I expected to be at the very bottom of the prize list but I think the good fetches kept us in the middle of the pack.
By this time, Lad was done. The day was cool but his little mind was failing. My plan with the drive had been to keep the pace up to keep the flock together and not let them spread out. There were alot of dogs that were not strong enough to do this but I knew Lad had a nice driving trot and I thought we'd get that going but he had had enough. We struggled just as much as many of the other dogs. Lad wasn't pushing and the sheep kept spreading out so I had to flank him over to put them back together. We lost a few back through the drive gates and I think we had some that didn't get through the crossdrive gates. (I can't remember much except that I was blowing a TON of whistles)

Lad struggling on the crossdrive
After the turn at the crossdrive panels, Lad jumped into the sheep. He never opens his mouth but just sort of chest bumps them but it's enough to get called off. I thought I'd just keep going until the judges called thankyou, but they never did and the sheep got moving better after that.
Meanwhile, in the spectator tent, people told me later that Scott was a mess. I guess he said he was more nervous while I was running (for good reason!) than when he runs. They said he was pacing and switching chairs and just couldn't sit still.

Scott having a panic attack over my run!
So we made it to the shedding ring but our troubles were just beginning. The turnback was Lad's fault but the shedding was entirely my problem. I have always hated the international shed and I don't practice it much. BAD IDEA! I know the theory and I can talk to anyone about how it's done and I've certainly seen a ton of them done correctly but I just don't do many myself. Lad has the concept too because we don't have sorting chutes at home and we have to sort off a set from the flock whenever we go out to work, but that isn't the same thing as picking specific sheep to work. I must say, that as I was walking around the flock, it was interesting to put pressure on a specific sheep and see it move. Our sheep at home are kinda dull and don't respond as well. I knew I wasn't likely to get this shed so I just decided to train myself and puzzle it out. Not really the place to practice in the middle of a double lift at a trial but I had no other option since I wasn't prepared for this. I did manage to get a first cut and hold it but I also had a collared ewe that wanted to rejoin and an uncollared ewe who also wanted to go.

Photographic proof that I got a first cut.
My sloughed sheep weren't in any hurry to walk very far away so when I got greedy about the uncollared ewe who wanted to leave and let her go it backfired. The collared ewe went with her and there wasn't enough space between the flocks for Lad to understand who I wanted him to bring back so I lost her and had a regroup. We did manage to get one more first cut but I was looking for a flow and never could get it and they mercifully called time.
I have learned so much from this experience, mainly that I need more experience. I think it will light a fire under me that will next time leave me more prepared. Now, if I could just get into the double lift at the finals, I promise I'll be more ready!


Laura said...

Congratulations on getting in to the finals, Jenny, and it sounds like you did pretty well for someone who doesn't practice this stuff much! Well done, Laddie!

Sarah said...

Congrats on making it to the double lift!!!!

Jenny and Laddie, great teamwork, that must have ben such a cool experience!!!!!!!!

DeltaBluez Tess said...

Congrats on the Double Lift. I was nervous as heck at my first one. Great report!!

BoPeep said...

I remember watching your run and seeing how 'cooked' Lad was. I said to someone "I bet she'll be glad to get to the shedding ring and let Lad just lie there."

What impressed me most was that you didn't give up and you helped Lad get to the second group of sheep. Well done.

Jenny Glen said...

He wasn't cooked but I wouldn't have done that with any other dog. I knew he could take the pressure, but it did exhaust him mentally.