Saturday, January 7, 2012

Looking Ahead

This is the time of year when Scott and I take stock of our previous season of trials, look to make improvements, and plan for the next year:

Scott and Don had a very good year in 2011.
Scott and Don in the National Finals double lift
 He won days at Strang Ranch, Dr. Ben's, Wild Rose, and Bow River.  He was also the reserve champion at the Bluegrass, won the Western Canadian/Canadian Championships, won the first round of Meeker (before gripping out in the semi finals) and  the semi finals at the Nationals. He finished up the Nationals in 4th place with a best shed trophy. His disappointments this year were usually due to a turn back that wasn't quite clean enough so Scott plans to help him along with that this winter.  At 5 years old, Donnie is well seasoned and we have high hopes for him this spring and summer.

Scott also had a nice year with Maid.
Maid fetches sheep in the early morning at the 2011 Bluegrass
She won a day at Heppner and won the overall, she also won a day at Wild Rose and the overall.  At Bow River, she won a day and won the double lift.
Scott decided to sell Maid at the end of the 2011 season and he is now auditioning two young bitches for the roll of Open Dog #2. 

The first dog, June, is one that readers of this blog will be familiar with.
June on the third leg of the drive at the Bow River Classic
 June is a daughter of Don's out of his first litter.  Last year, Scott ran her in the nursery classes.  June won days at Dr. Ben's, Wild Rose, and the overall Nursery at Bow River.  At the Canadian Nursery Championships, she had the win within her grasp after placing 2nd on the first day and laying down a good run on the second day but gripped out at the pen.  Fortunately, Scott still took home the trophy with Cy Peterson's Reba.  June again lost her temper at the USBCHA finals and gripped off on the fetch with the difficult sheep.  Needless to say, Scott has been spending the winter smoothing her out and settling her tension before he runs her in open this year.  So far, he is happy with the results and, this week anyway, June is forging to the lead.

Scott's second, second dog is Nan.
  Nan is out of Debbie Bailey's Ben and RC Tomlinson's Dat.  Nan broke her foot in the spring of last year and didn't get her training finished in time for very many nursery trials.  She did win a day at the Fetch Gate Nursery trial but was over her head at Wild Rose and Bow river.  Scott has been spending the winter catching up on her training and giving her some experience.  She is a smoother dog than June with alot of patience.  Add to that the fact that sheep like her and you can see why Scott is having a hard time choosing.  June with power and bravery, or Nan with a cool head and a way with sheep?  He changes his mind from week to week and I don't think there is any predicting which one he will pick. 

I'm excited about Scott's nursery dogs this year.  They are still developing and are a long way from trialing at this point in the winter but they are showing alot of promise.  I will write more detailed entries on them later but his two main dogs look like they will be Diane Pagel's Imp. Wynn (Bobby Dalziel's Joe x Angie Driscoll's Meg) and Scott's Alta-Pete Tick (Scott's Don x Maid).

Last year I had been hoping that my Hemp dog would be my number one.
Hemp turns the post at the 2011 Canadian Championship double lift -photo by Kristi Oikawa
 Although, Hemp is a great work dog, we tend to fight each other on the trial field.  It's mostly my fault because of the amount of emotion I throw at him in a trial.  We started rough last spring but things started to settle and work out for us as the season went on.  He surprised me by placing 6th at Dr. Ben's and missed the finals at the Calgary Stampede by only 0.12 seconds.  He again surprised me by placing 6th at Bow River but started his habit of doing well enough the first day to make me think we had a chance at a double lift, but then fighting me on the second day and doing nothing good.  He apparently likes that 6th place slot (I'll take it!) because he was again 6th on the first day of the Canadian Championships and although we struggled on the second day, we made the double lift. Even though we didn't finish the shed, our  method was losing us no points. We just have to learn how to get those last 3 sheep off!  This winter has been more about changing my style of handling with Hemp rather than changing him.  We continue to work on his pen flanks and practice the International shed, and I am trying to keep his head cool with my handling.  He is still my favorite work dog but has been dropped to second place in line for my trial dogs.

First for me, as always, is Laddie.
Lad's International shed at the Soldier Hollow Classic - photo by Louanne Twa
 He was 7th one day at Strang Ranch, 3rd at Dr. Bens, 10th at Wild Rose, 6th at Bow River, and 5th at Shaunavon. He really raised my hopes at the Canadians when he placed 4th on the first day but when he couldn't find the sheep on his second day I was very depressed. Lad is never a sure thing on an outrun even if he's picked them up in the very same place the day before. He redeemed himself at Soldier Hollow, where I had never been able to do anything good before, when he placed second on one of the days and made the double lift.  Laddie did qualify for the National finals but didn't do anything when he was there.  Fortunately for me, the on line broadcast was sold as a dvd and I was able to go over my run with Scott.  Turns out, even though Laddie isn't a world beater, there is still room for improvement if I change some of the way I handle him.  It was evident that I was forcing him on and never giving the sheep a chance to line out.  Obviously, I have more handling changes to work on this winter.

I'm looking forward to debuting my nursery dog this spring.  Ford is a son of Tom Forrester's Pete and Norma Stewart's Lena.  This cross has been very successful for Lori Cunningham and her Matt dog and I had hoped to get one just like him.  Ford is similar to Matt, and shares his cool head but time will tell if he has anymore of Matt's abilities.  So far I am enjoying training him and this year is just a practice year for us.  He will only be 17 months old at the Bluegrass so my plans (and I BETTER stick with them) are to be willing to step away from the post when and if he has trouble. It is important not to push such a young dog but to keep his trial experience positive to make a better and seasoned dog for next year's nurseries.

What trials we will start this year with is still up in the air.  Other than the Bluegrass, and Dr. Ben's North Carolina trial we are still trying to figure that out.  We are hoping there will be one or two more at the beginning of May that we can get to.  In the mean time, we continue training and keep our eyes on the prize - The National Finals. (link)