Thursday, September 22, 2011

Best Shed Trophy - Addendum

I wrote in my last post that Scott had won the best shed trophy more times than anyone else. I was wrong. As I was placing the cup on our shelf for the year, I noticed that Alasdair MacRae had also won it four times. Does that surprise anyone? He won it twice with the great Nan, and twice with Star.
I remember talking to Alasdair in 2004, the year Scott won the Nationals, about the upcoming double lift. He told me that Star couldn't win it because she was too hot mentally and she would tire herself out before she could finish the shed. It turned out that no one got the shed that year and Scott won it based on the best outwork. However, it is a testament to Alasdair's handling and training that he was able to bring out her best work later on and win that best shed trophy twice. Happy retirement, Star.

Monday, September 19, 2011

2011 USBCHA National Sheepdog Finals - Carbondale

The 2011 National Finals is in the books now: Alasdair MacRae is again the National Champion! This is his 3rd win with the 10 year old Star and it was her last run as she entered retirement when it was over. She is Donnie's mother and we hope he can win it as many times as she has.
Reserve Champion is Vergil Holland and Brooke who happens to be a half sister to our Donnie (they share a father). 3rd place was the 2008 National Nursery Champions, Suzie Applegate and Buzz. Congratulations to all of them!
Donnie ended up in 4th place in the finals and made a heart stopping save in the shedding ring. His biggest shortcoming was his 2nd fetch. I had been praying for clouds to cover the sun since it was the warmest day of the whole finals. The thermometer would not have told you that it was very hot out but with the high elevation, that sun burned. The sheep didn't need excuses to be any heavier in the heat. My request was answered and just as Scott and Don took the field, it cooled down. Unfortunately, the clouds brought with them a wind that happened to be coming right from the 2nd lift point. Donnie couldn't hear Scott's whistles to stop or flank until he was well past the fetch gates. All he knew was that he had to bring them so he brought them - but on a very left hand fetch and lost all his points for that part of the run. On a good note, Donnie and Scott did a great shed and once again, Scott won the best shed trophy. He has now won it more times than anyone else starting in 2001 with Fly, 2002 with Cub, 2009 with Maid and now in 2011 with Don.
On the nursery field, the heavy sheep were the undoing of many of the youngsters. Many of them couldn't move them and it wasn't really a good time in their careers to come up against these kind of sheep. Traditionally, nursery is where you mold your future open dogs, not take away their confidence by putting them on sheep that can beat them. Nonetheless, some of them still got it done. Alasdair MacRae's Li showed particular strength in the first round and won it, but was called on a grip in the second round. Suzie Applegate's Tru (a big rough coated sable son of Alasdair's Nap) was third overall and showed great promise for the future. Bill Orr's Sly ended up as the Reserve Champion which wasn't a great surprise for us since we had seen him when we were last in Carbondale this past spring. He had ruled the sheep back then and did it again when it counted at the finals. The champion ended up being Amanda Milliken and Dorey. June moved them just fine but couldn't resist a chomp on a hock as she neared the post in her first run. Scott has plans for her this winter! Reba showed great heart and ended up in 11th place overall. You could tell these sheep were hard for her but every time Scott told her to get up and move them she did.
The town of Carbondale was charming and the people were welcoming. Everyone I met had been or was going to the trial and early estimates of the gate were 9,000 people and that was with a rain storm every afternoon! I heard several residents ask if we are coming back and I heard it is a possibility. I hope we do. Despite the troubles with the WiFi (which wasn't the fault of the hard working finals volunteers), it was a classy, quality finals that ranks right up there with Gettysburg (my favorite), Virginia and Klamath.

Scott and Reba get set for their first nursery run - they ended up 11th overall on very difficult sheep

Reba moves the heavy nursery sheep

The Hotchkiss sheepdog trial brought their sheepcamp wagon to the trial to educate the public

In Don's qualifying run he had a lagging sheep that almost kept him out of the semi finals

Handlers traded off the "Ask Me" position to answer spectators questions

Donnie and Scott had a spectacular semi finals run and won the round!

Volunteer "Vanna Whites" paraded the scores around - this one is Scott's semi finals score

Horses grazed on the top of the surrounding hills and had the best view of all - often they stopped eating to watch

Meg looks to Louanne Twa for direction before their semi finals run

Meg and Louanne move the sheep around the post

Between the rain storms, we had rainbows!

Scott takes a risky shed with Maid in the semi finals - it didn't pay off as she gripped off right after the photo was taken

Overlooking the trial, Mount Sopris was dusted with snow from all the afternoon storms

Scott and Don take the sheep around the post in the double lift finals

During the International shed, as Scott let two uncollared sheep pass, a collared one slipped by

To the crowd's delight, (and Scott's) Donnie made a spectacular save and sent her back to the collared sheep

The sheep gave no quarter at the pen and it took 6 minutes to pen them!

Donnie and Scott won the "Best Shed award". Scott has now won this award 4 times. More than anyone else.

Back row: Vergil Holland and Brook, Scott and Don, Mike Hanley and Moss, Don Helsley and Tag, Herbert Holmes and Juno and Suzie Applegate and Buzz. Kneeling: Alasdair MacRae and Star, Roy Taber and Craig, and Amanda Milliken and Roz.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

National Finals 2011

I'm so sorry for the lack of posts but unfortunately the finals was, shall, I say, screwed over by their WiFi supplier. The story I was told was that when they went to ask for their password from the company who supplied the emergency phone and the included WiFi, they were told by the people who set it up that they had no idea 'cause they were new at this. Not cool on that company's part.
Louanne has been kind enough to take me to town and we are now parked outside of the Carbondale Post office using their WiFi.
The trial itself is going very well. I understand you can watch the runs a day after they happen if you go to the finals website and sign up - so you don't need my daily updates anyway. I am taking pictures where I can and I'll load them when the trial is over. Yesterday, Maid was a good girl and got around but no pen. She should have no trouble getting into the semi's. June had a nice lift in the nursery trial this morning but gripped off on the fetch. Laddie battled hard but despite decent lines, we didn't make a single panel and no pen so we are out of it.
That's all for now. If I go to town again I will try to write another quick update.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Meeker 2011 - Semi Finals

Both Maid and Don's runs went a little like this...Need I say more?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Meeker 2011 - Day Two

Donnie ran late this afternoon. The sheep were much more lively today. Yesterday they weren't as happy due to being soggy after the rain. Don had a good lift and then true to Meeker history, the sheep tried to run off to the handler's right. Scott flanked him over hard but it took a little bit before he got over there and then got ahold of them. Donnie got them back on line just before the fetch panels but they still tried to go back and forth around them. He got them through though and marched them right down the field. Many dogs were stalling out after the fetch panels and several runs have ended right there in the middle of the field, but Don never hesitated. They went around the post and then the sheep took off on their customary run up the drive as they tried to get back up the field. Don caught them and put them through the panels and made a quick turn and on to the crossdrive. They still try to get up the field on the crossdrive so it didn't get any easier but Scott and Don's aim was true and they went through the panels and on to the shed. A quick shed and they had 1:30 to get the pen. Most dogs needed more time than that but not Don. He had one sheep dash about a little bit but he got her broke and in they went with an 85 score! At the end of the day they were still in the lead.
One more day of qualifying. Laddie runs around 13th tomorrow and Scott should be running Maid around noon. Lad needs to concentrate on lifting them and keeping them on the fetch line (instead of his usual right side of the field fetch that he does here) and Maid needs to concentrate on keeping her mouth shut! Oh, yeah, and both of them need to get their outruns!

Scott sets don up for the difficult outrun

Making the fetch panels

Don starting the turn around the post

Don makes the turn around the drive away panels

Don turns the sheep through the crossdrive panels

Holding the shed

Don and Scott pen the sheep

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Meeker 2011

The bad news is that I'm having a terrible time getting computer reception at Meeker so I am sitting at the community center where there seems to be decent service. The badder news is that Hemp didn't have a good run this morning. He had a wonderful outrun to the left (most people are sending to the right because you can see the dog the whole way but most dogs are trying to cross that way) but was slow to lift them as they started heavy. Then they raced down the fetch with Hemp hot on their heels. I couldn't ever get them to go in a straight line. When I stopped or slowed Hemp down, they changed directions. Back and forth. The turn was nice and easy but then they ran hell bent for leather up the drive. I got them through the panels but not the crossdrive panels. Easy shed (any 2 out of 5) and then got to the pen. Most people think we need another minute on our time and even though I had almost 2 minutes, I needed that last minute. They were looking like they would finally go in when they called time on me. Hemp wasn't bad at the pen but not perfect. These might be killer sheep for Lad and I have no idea which way I am going to send the terrible outrunner but I don't have to decide until Friday. Scott has been away since yesterday at a helpful person's place (I've never met her) training on his dogs. He runs one tomorrow so I'm hoping it pays off.
I'll try to get service again tomorrow night for another update but no promises!
PS I left the field late this afternoon and there have only been 2 pens!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Soldier Hollow Classic 2011 - Double Lift

I didn't get a chance to blog the final qualifying day of the trial but as you probably saw from my Twitter feed, Don made it in the double lift. He did a really good job. It was a difficult time to run and there had not been any changes of the top scores since around noon. Nonetheless, Donnie ran well and got on there, launching himself into the final round.
This trial is top class. There just isn't anything like it. From the great handler's gifts (vests donated by Woolrich with the Soldier Hollow logo and the handler's name embroidered) to the fancy dinner on Sunday night right down to the free bug spray table to deal with the last few mosquitoes of the season. Every year, I am amazed at the people who come to watch. Last year, over the 4 days they had over 25,000 people and early reports say that there were even more this year. On the final day the spectators come with their umbrellas, their coolers and their chairs and they sit down in the early morning and they don't move (except to go eat some of the SUPER good food at the vendors) until the gold medal is on the winning dog. I think the biggest reason for that is the announcing of Ray Crabtree up in the booth. Having been a professional DJ, he's got the voice and also being a trialer, he has the information right. He gives the audience explanations about the course and why the dog running is doing what it's doing, and he puts a personal face on each trialer and their dog by telling the spectators about their accomplishments.
This year there was some extra fun with a film crew following the action. A documentary crew had been chronicling some of the competitors through their trial year and the climax of the film is at this year's Soldier Hollow. If you haven't seen the information on the movie, check it out at
Donnie was first at the post on the morning of the double lift. We had a right hand outrun for the first and then turned back towards the left and the place where the dogs had picked up the sheep all week. On the right almost all of the dogs came in early where a dirt path crossed the field. Donnie was no exception and needed a blow out. There was one more place on that outrun where all the dogs tried to come in and then they disappeared behind the score board. They had told us at the meeting that we could wander 5 yards from the post and it was needed. Between the scoreboard and the trees the view of the dog and sheep was often obscured from the handler. As the dog walked up on the first set you couldn't really see them until they had lifted. Donnie had an easy lift and made his fetch panels but didn't turn back perfectly. He needed a redirect and Scott will be working on his turnback before the Nationals. After that, he had a very nice run, making all his panels and they had an efficient shed. The sheep challenged Don at the pen but they got it closed! In the end, they finished up in 4th place.
Laddie ran 4th up and although it wasn't the greatest run compared to everyone else's, I felt we had improved from the last time we did a double lift. Lad did need two redirects on the first outrun like most of the dogs, and made his first fetch panels. I stopped him for the turn back but he ended up hidden behind a grove of trees so I had to guess at what he was doing. I told him "Look" but I figured he wasn't ready for a flank yet. I was told he did look behind himself and probably would have gone but since I couldn't see him, I was afraid to send him. I tried one more, "LOOK BACK" and thought I saw his body swivel so I gave him a comebye flank and low and behold! He went back clean. He had a tough time lifting and from my buddy, Connie Fontaine who was holding the second set, I learned that Lad approached them kindly and politely asked them to move. Obviously, he didn't know the Baa Ram Ewe password because they didn't shift. By this time, I was telling Lad that he better get moving so Connie said he launched himself into them, hitting them with his chest as he often does when he's frustrated but this time, both Lad and the sheep shot into the air with all four feet off the ground. I could see that from the post and it looked funny to see Lad's whole body shoot straight up! Once he gathered up his mess he moved along on the fetch but our first set was still sitting at the drop off post and I missed the fetch panels as both sets rejoined. After that it was a slog getting them around the course. Laddie has just enough forward on most days but these heavy girls really tried him. Finally, we got them into the shedding ring. This shed is a little different than most international shed's as they have only 16 sheep in your group and 8 have collars. You have to hold on to 5 of those collars to pen. Scott said I had a great shed going which made me feel good with a nice "gate" that Lad and I were constructing but when I got down to the last sheep, I had trouble. The sheep had gotten broke to people and just kinda brushed me aside. While I was trying to dig that last girl out, one snuck around my back and rejoined. I tried again but never got the shed finished and we timed out. Still, I see our weaknesses and what we need to work on but I've got to say that I was pleased with both of us.
Scott ran Maid when the heat was awful. However, she wasn't too affected by it. It did make the sheep stay heavy but she marched them around anyway. Her turnback was perfect and although she was a little zippy, she took Scott's every command and made their panels, even if some of them were by the skin of her sharp canines (which she politely kept in her mouth). The shed gave them some challenges and there were a couple of join ups before they got it finished and moved on to the pen. The great distance between the shedding ring and the pen seemed like trouble with the sheep trying to split up and get around the dog but it gave Maid a chance to get them broke away from their companions and she kept her cool. The pen was still work and it took a little time to get it but they got it closed before the buzzer went off and ended up in 6th place.
The prettiest run of the day and the clear first was Bill Berhow and Pete. Pete is 11 years old now and every year we think he's going to retire and then he goes and lays down a great run. Scott's Pleat was 10 when he won it so maybe it takes some experience to tame the wiley sheep and tackle the complicated course. Congratulations to Bill and the reserve champion Amanda Milliken with Roz. Also a special mention that the third place spot was well run by Faansie Basson and Don.
As always, a special thanks to Mark Peterson for inviting us and putting on this classy event that promotes our sport.

The peanut gallery

Scott being interviewed before his run for "Away To Me" a sheepdog documentary

Scott and Don bringing his 16 sheep to the post on the fetch

Scott and Don at the pen

Laddie and I spotting the first set of sheep

Lad and I making a cut in the International shed

Lad and I being interviewed for the movie after our run

Scott and Maid waiting for the first set of sheep to arrive

Scott and Maid turning the sheep around the post

Maid just barely making the first drive panels with all of her sheep

Maid almost missing her crossdrive panels low

Scott and Maid make a cut on the shed

Monday, September 5, 2011

Too Tired

I'm exhausted after today's runs and dinner this evening. I will blog with pictures tomorrow. Congratulations to Bill Berhow with 11 year old Pete!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Soldier Hollow 2011 - Day Two

Well, the Alta-Pete dogs have changed their luck! Maid and Scott ran early this morning - first in fact. At this trial, first is a chancy place to run. It's nice and cool but the sheep sure do hate to leave the set out. Maid had a great outrun, a nice lift and was on line to make her fetch panels but then the sheep in the set out started to call the ones on the course and Scott and Maid were a little fooled. The sheep dodged Maid and ran back up to try to get back to set out. It hurt her on points but she quickly fixed the problem and brought them back down the field.

Maid on the fetch (the second time)
The turn around the post was a little tough when some sheep tried to back track but again, Maid caught them and took them on a nice line and turn through the drive panels.

The drive away leg and score board
A good crossdrive with a bobble at the panels

Maid turning through the crossdrive panels
the third leg

The third leg of Maid's drive
and into the shedding ring.
The shed

Scott and Maid shed two off

and pen were uneventful and at the finish, they had a score of 81!

Camera crew from the documentary "That'll Do" film Scott and Maid penning
They led until Dennis Gellings and old Jan ran a beautiful 89. Then Scott and Maid never dropped below second and made the double lift!
Laddie and I ran in the late afternoon and the heat was very strong. I just wanted to concentrate on getting around because I really thought it was too hot to be too careful. Lad had a good outrun but I flanked him over the top and talked him through his lift. The sheep were laying on him down the fetch line and although I asked for a flank I got nothing. I asked for a stop to correct him, and got nothing. I started demanding but no, he still was holding on to his line which was off from the real line. He had decided that he had them moving and he wasn't going to listen to me maneuver them around. I wasn't really sure what to do when Laddie wasn't listening- it's an extremely rare thing. Just after he missed the panels, he got them on line and became the old, biddable, Laddie again. After that, he was just a gem. He had a good line to the pen and kept his flow. His crossdrive had some wobbles but he made his panels and we fought hard to hold the third leg on the line. In the shedding ring we had over 3 minutes and the sheep settled quick and we took an immediate shed (I got alot of compliments on it) and then ran to the pen (it's quite a jog over there!). I thought it was nice to get the rope in my hand again. Laddie caught them as they tried to pass the pen. This time we had luxury of more minutes on the clock than last time and low and behold, they went in! I was blown away. I have said for years that I wanted a pen at Soldier Hollow but I hadn't even touched the rope in years and this time, they went in. Mission accomplished, but wait! Then there was the score - an 81! Third place (Scott got us on the outwork) and we are in the double lift on Monday! Bonus! I am so proud of Lad.
Tomorrow morning I will be sure to root for Faansie Basson and Don who drew up in the good spot of 3rd and George Stambulic will be in the 12th slot. Scott drew up 29th with Don and 39th with Maid so we will keep our fingers crossed that they will overcome the heat.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Soldier Hollow 2011 - Day One

I love the Soldier Hollow trial. Good people, lots of people, good food and a good time. However, today, the Alta-Pete dogs don't have good scores! We are hoping our next runs will change it. Actually, the dogs are not running so bad.
Laddie drew up 5th in the morning and did a really nice job. I've had alot of compliments on his run. He slowed up a little on his outrun so I gave him two blows over but the set out crew told me he did a really nice job at the top (thanks to Anna Guthrie and Connie Fontaine for doing such an outstanding job up top) He got ahold of the sheep and didn't rush them down the course. Made his fetch panels and had one challenge him around the post but she wasn't serious and changed her mind when he walked up on her.

Lad and I turn the post
Then we had a nice drive away but just in front of the panels they looked like they were going to bust up the field. I flanked him fast but it was too far and they shot the other way and missed the panels. We had a nice turn though and stayed on the crossdrive line. We made the crossdrive panels but had a very off line 3rd leg. I just couldn't get them on the line but we had a good shed.

Laddie and I doing a nice shed
We only had a minute to make the pen and it just wasn't enough time but I was glad to have had a chance to hold the rope of the pen which I haven't done at Soldier Hollow in about 5 years!

Look, Ma! I touched the pen rope! (FYI it's a heavy gate)

We had a 67 which was nice for a while and then the real handlers showed up and we dropped off the board.
Scott and Donnie's run started out really nice.

Don on the fetch
A good fetch and they made the panels. Nice turn around the post and made the drive panels dead on. His crossdrive was a little low

Don on the crossdrive
and he barely missed the crossdrive panels. A good third leg of the drive

Donnie on the way to the shedding ring
and he had over 3 minutes to get his shed but the sheep didn't settle and alot of time was eaten up there. He finally got the shed but didn't have enough time to get the pen. His final score was a 73.
Scott is up early with Maid tomorrow and Laddie is 35 which runs about 4:30PM. Keep up on the scores and twitter at