Friday, August 31, 2012

Soldier Hollow 2012 - Day One

Today was a shutout for the sheep against the Alta-Pete dogs.  Both Lad and Don ran today and both were the victims of difficult sheep.  All morning long, dogs had been having a difficult time bringing them down the fetch line.  The sheep this year are wily and really want back to that set out.  Laddie had a faultless outrun and lift and had good control of his sheep until shortly before the fetch panels, they got a little off line but then were behind the trees (I swear they are bushier this year) I stepped away from the post as far as I dared to try and see but it was no use.  I couldn't see Lad and I was afraid to really throw him over on a come bye for fear that the sheep would take off for the set out when I couldn't see them.  We missed that panel but got back on line and I tried to not push on the sheep but let them think they were going the way they wanted to go.  As we turned the post and started on the drive there were only minor hints of the problems to come.  We made both the drive panels but the sheep started stalling out on Laddie.  On the third leg of the drive they were really giving us trouble and as one ewe attacked Lad, he gripped her and she moved on.  However, when we got into the shedding ring, she felt it was open season on him and kept attacking.  He was allowed to grip to defend himself but we never got the shed or pen and got a 59.  I don't know if I gave her too much freedom and she got thinking too much of herself or if Lad just wasn't enough dog (or the third option - she was just baaaad) but I am hoping the sheep get better for me on our next run.
Scott didn't have much better luck.
Scott sets Don up on his outrun
 He ran during a terrible windstorm and although it appeared the dogs could hear their handlers during it, the sheep were obviously not happy.  Donnie was slightly off before the drive panels  but then got back on nicely to make the panels.
Donnie brings his sheep on the fetch
 The sheep were hard to move but Scott and Don kept them on the line and made both of their drive panels.  When they got into the shedding ring they were very jumpy and it was difficult to get the shed.  When they finally did, the shed sheep then tried to jump over Don with a spectacular leap.
Sheep jumping Don in the shed ring
 There was not enough time to get the pen but on the way, Donnie tried to pick up their lagging pace and hit a low hock on a late sheep.  It likely lost him some serious points because he finished up with only a 68.
The sheep did an uncharacteristic change in the late afternoon as it cooled off.  They got good.  Really good. Usually this is a bad time of day to run but today it was nice.
The highlight of our day was rooting on Lori Cunningham and William(they ran early in the day- before the sheep got good)  who led most of the day and  finished in 3rd for the day (winning them a spot in the double lift on Monday).  Sure, it wasn't my favorite dog, Matt but he'll have his chance tomorrow.
Today's scores are posted HERE!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Away To Me - The Film

I was privileged to see a screening tonight of Andrew Hadra's sheepdog documentary, Away To Me.  We were invited to see it at Robert Redford's Sundance resort about 20 minutes from Soldier Hollow.  After a delicious dinner at the Foundry Grill in the resort, we saw the movie in a screening room.  Away To Me was filmed primarily at last year's Soldier Hollow and I had talked to the director several times about the picture so I was eager to see what it had developed into.  The opening of the film is an early black and white British newsreel about a sheepdog trial.  It's entertaining from a handler's point of view to watch the kneeling competitor direct his dog to put sheep in a pen that he was standing a few feet away from - not holding on to a pen rope.  In an interview, the handler  turns out to be the great Alex Miller.
The film then turns to modern day.
It follows three sheepdog handlers from three different countries to their destination at the Soldier Hollow Classic Trial at Midway, UT.  Although this movie is about sheepdog handlers, it's not really about the dogs.  It is more about these three people from different places who's lives are shaped by their love of herding.  Amanda Milliken from Ontario, Canada is eccentric and humorous at her beautiful farm.  There is no doubt that Amanda's dogs are well loved and the center of her life.  Faansie Basson from South Africa, is composed and noble as he speaks about his daily work that is dependent upon his dogs.  The heart of the film is Hailey Howard, from Northern California.  Hailey's class and beauty are accented by the great vistas of the mountains and high desert of her home.  We feel like we are her best friend as she shyly tells us of her courtship by her cowboy fiance. In the background of these characters is their bond with their dogs and it's this that brings them all together.
The film has some beautiful images of the world that these handlers live in with a strong Western thread.  The climax of the film is at the Soldier Hollow trial and we are led along with their runs by the great narration of Ray Crabtree as he explains it for the spectators at the trial.
I didn't see anything in this film that a handler would think was a bad representation of our sport and the three handlers were presented with dignity and even though I knew each one of them, they felt like characters in a story that I was enjoying following.
The director, Andrew Hadra is hoping to take this film to some of the big film festivals around the world and then it will be available for you and me to buy on DVD or (hopefully) rent on Net Flix.
Have patience, but keep checking the website for screenings near you or instructions on how to get a DVD of this enjoyable film!

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Cedarville Experience

We are in Northern California at Geri Byrne's place for Scott to do a clinic.  A couple of weeks ago, Geri asked us innocently if we'd like to go to a fun arena trial in Cedarville the night before the clinic.  Sure, I said.  I mean, Scott and I are pretty good at arena trials.  He won the Calgary Stampede twice and I was Reserve Champion once.  I was sure we could do a good showing at this little trial.  When I got there, I looked at the course drawing and said to someone, "Are we supposed to have the sheep go around the handler at the post?" 
I was told, "Whatever you want to do.  There are no rules." 
So then I asked someone else, "When does the time start?  When the gate closes or when you send your dog?" 
I was told, "When the gate closes.  Just kidding.  I'm making that up.  No one really knows." 
So this is just for fun then? 
There was a swell belt buckle up for the winners of each class.  Geri proudly showed me hers from last year with her Danny dog. 
I want that. 
No way was I getting that. 
Laddie had the best lines.  No sheep came off the lines.  The problem was that they didn't want to go anywhere.  Laddie would take a step forward and they'd take one step back.  Just one.  Only one.  We made two panels in 5 minutes and never made it over to the chute, let alone the pen (which I  have been informed has only been made about 3 times in the last 5 years)
Scott and Donnie went out to show us how it was done. 
Well, they showed us better than I did. 
They did actually make it to the pen but the sheep had no ideas about going in.  He had one Suffolk ewe who kept threatening to hit Donnie but she was all bluff.  Trouble was, when Don called her bluff, she kept trying it again and again.  She was very odd (to be nice).  There wasn't really supposed to be grips but if your dog was appropriate and hit a ewe that was looking at him and didn't hang on, you could stay on.  Donnie had a couple of hits.  I didn't let Laddie bite until we were informed we had only 30 seconds.  Then I told him to but it didn't make much of an impression on them. 
Weird sheep.
I'm sure you all know how June's run went.  I said "appropriate grips that didn't hang on".  June hit a shoulder, for a bit of a drag.  She moved on in the course and made her first couple of panels before the judge decided he just couldn't live with it and called her off.  Oh, well.  It was only $10 to enter. Scott and I were totally shut out of the prizes but our host Geri managed to run off with the second and 3rd place dog collars. 
Then 5 people were chosen for an extra run to try to put the sheep in a trailer at the end of the runs.  We had 3 minutes to do it.  Scott and I both got picked in the random draw.  Scott got them in the mouth with Don, and Laddie had them really looking in (I was running around alot to cover my side too - remember, there are no rules) but that was as far as it got.  Mike Hubbard took the no rules to a new level and grabbed a sheep and stuffed it in the back of the trailer and shut the door when he had 13 seconds left.  No one got the prize money  but they gave Mike a dollar for his effort and creativity.
We enjoyed the kids class quite a bit and there were several mini cowboys and girls there trying their hand at the sheep.  Some of them did better than me and Laddie.  Lana Rowley's daughter Katie was one of them and got second place in her class (Family friend Shawna went into the arena to help her but she didn't really need it).  She wasn't even nervous and will be one to watch out for in a couple of years.
This trial was a blast and taught me to not take every trial so seriously.  Some trials are just for fun.
I bet this guy could have done it better than Laddie and I!
Studying the competition
Katie Rowley confidently walks her dog to the post
Katie and Shawna move towards the chute
An early bluff on Donnie
Donnie makes the chute

Still trying to bluff Donnie at the pen, and now she's got her friends in on it
Geri Byrne pleading with her sheep to go in the pen
I'm sure you can guess how this confrontation ended with June