Sunday, September 30, 2012

2012 USBCHA National Finals

Whew!  Well I'm glad that's over.  We had a wonderful time and the local trial hosts were great! But that is no surprise to anyone who has been to a finals at Klamath Falls.  The biggest thanks go to the woman at the top, Geri Byrne, who picks good people to help, and her right hand gal, Lana Rowley who never stops working and her whole family - right down to her young son James who sorted sheep at the top all week (really, James?  That's the set you gave Scott this afternoon? Remember we talked about putting the collars on the lazy sheep?  What did I pay you for?)
The double lift this year was broadcast on a live streaming so I hoped you watched.  I always think it is important that everyone have a chance to see what is happening at a finals and how the dogs perform even if you are too far to go.  Just looking at stats on a page doesn't always tell you the real story.
In the double lift, it was very important to draw up early.  It was so dramatically cooler in the morning and that affected everything - how the sheep behaved, how the sound traveled and how much you could ask your dog to do.  I'd like to say that since June drew one of those coveted spots, that she won the trial but she didn't.  It was a little over her 3 year old head, but she behaved admirably.  June's sheep (and a few other runs had the same problem) drifted so far away while she was busy picking up her second set of sheep, that when she was ready to pick them up again, she had another 300 yard outrun to do so.  While she was regathering her first set, (on her third outrun) her second set found the water by the judges tent.  June got them all together and slid into the water, right under their noses to get a dip.
June politely tells the sheep that she's the only one allowed to have water
Several sheep tried to join her and I have to say I am proud of her for not gripping them and getting called off.  When Scott asked her to get out of the water and move the sheep along, she did with no fear or temper grips. 
June gets on with the job and moves the sheep away from the water
June moves the sheep around the post
Unfortunately, that restraint wasn't rewarded when she was called off in the shedding ring for defending herself when a grumpy ewe tried to hit her.  One judge felt it was good dog work and did leave her on but the other three judges quit scoring her so the points were only a  lowly 93.  That's why the live streaming video was so good to have.  Without it, you only see a 93.  With it, you saw heart and drive that you can't see in her score.  We are proud of her and she can certainly chalk this trial up to a learning experience.
If only... If only... Donnie had drawn up in the morning.  But that's dog trialing.  Donnie's experience would have really helped him do well if he hadn't had to run in the heat.  It wasn't that Don got overly hot.  Quite the opposite actually, his stamina was far better than I ever knew. 
Donnie making the fetch panels and approaching the turnback post
It was that the hearing on the field with the second set of sheep just went to pot in the afternoon.  More than one dog was lost and straining to hear their handler's commands to no avail. This happened to Don also.  Scott set him up for a wonderful swallow tail turnback that he took like a good thing, and he bent hard to the left the way he should.  But going back blind, he needed just one directional bend and when it was time to get it, he was already too far into the no sound zone for him to hear it.  Scott spent alot of time and points trying to communicate to him where they were.  He finally found them but when they pulled hard to the handler's left (they were very determined to get to the nursery exhaust which was in the same field and where alot of them had already been - knowing it was a place of water, shade and no dogs) he couldn't hear Scott well enough to get where he needed to be to make that dog leg fetch.  The line was terrible but he did his job and got them to Scott anyway.  The drive was amazing.  Donnie never took a break to go to water during the entire run, even after all of that but never looked too winded on the drive.  It was smooth and they were quiet and calm sheep that walked into the shedding ring, with less than 3 minutes to get the shed.  That's just not enough time and so that was all she wrote.  I have to say, I'm Donnie's biggest fan and with the obvious exception of Scott, I know him better than anyone, and he impressed me even more by how deep he dug within himself to do his job today.
I hope Klamath Falls invites us all back in a few years when they have recovered from this one and we'll now be setting our sights on Virginia for the 2013 Nationals!
See ya next year!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

2012 National Finals - The Semis

I hope you all watched the on line feed today.  They did a really good job and it was free!  Assuming you all did, I will just give  a brief mention about how it went.
Scott hates it when I brag on him but the reality is that he was awesome today.  Sure, we expect him to be good with Don but the real kicker was that June beat him by a half a point!  Not much to say about those runs except they did everything they were supposed to in a smooth and on line manner.  Scott got a 195.5 with Don and a 196 with June. (out of 210)
Of course, Scott will tell you that he'd rather give up the win today to have a win tomorrow and I will be keeping my fingers crossed and sitting on pins and needles, probably forgetting to breathe while he runs them.
Laddie, Laddie, Laddie.  It takes both of us to get the job done.  Sometimes it's me, sometimes it's him.  Today it was him.  He got lost on his outrun and I gave him a couple of redirects to widen him out.  Then he went too wide and tried to go get the exhaust sheep from the nursery field.  Fortunately, there weren't any there and I was able to get him back to the correct sheep.  After that, it just wasn't very good.  He was just kinda late on getting over on his flanks.  We made our fetch panels and actually had not a bad drive away making the panels nicely but had a pretty sloppy crossdrive and just missed the panels high.  We again had a good shed, and this time a nice pen but when I called Laddie in on the single, he came in and held it good enough for most trials but this is the Nationals and they wanted a little more so they didn't call it.  We tried one more time before the time ran out and ended up with a 113.  I thought we'd be the last dog with a score but actually we weren't and we ended up 28th overall, which is nothing to brag on but it's higher than I've ever been at the finals.  Laddie will probably be an old dog by the time I get in the double lift but we'll keep trying.  And in his defence, alot of dogs didn't listen to their handlers when they told them where to find the sheep and had to retire early.  Lad did listen, and got there, and perhaps getting lost is what put him off his game. I knew the single was going to be a problem ahead of time.  Spoiled dog will probably still get to sleep on the bed.
They will do a draw tonight for the finals order tomorrow so all I can tell you right now is to tune in at 8AM and see who runs when.
Oh, and a big shout out to Brian White from California (his wife has the Honest Dog store with really cool border collie themed clothing) who is in his first finals and made the double lift today!  Scott and I are really proud of him!!

Friday, September 28, 2012

National Finals 2012 (day 4)

The day is not over yet and neither is the first round of the 2012 National Finals but I decided to blog now because I will likely be going out to dinner later.  I think I am safe enough to say that Don, June and Laddie will all be returning tomorrow for the semi finals round!  Donnie's run today was just beautiful.
Scott preparing to send Don
 It was hot and the sheep were turning into very determined beggars. Many dogs appeared to hear but with the pressure the sheep were putting on them, they didn't want to let go and flank off or push on them to get them on the line.  Scott sent Don to the right and he came in deep behind the sheep.  It seems that if you get ahold of the sheep within the first 20 yards, you will be ok, but if not, you will rarely recover. Don had some work to do moving back and forth at the top to hold the sheep but he got them broke and they were very nice the rest of the way around.
Don brings them in on the fetch
He had straight lines and was smooth all the way around, making all his panels.  It took a little bit of time before Scott got a shed lined up for Don to come through on but when he finally opened a gap, Don came in and took a hold of the situation.
Don controls his shed
  After that, it was a fairly easy pen and they ended up with a score of 162!  It was the highest score of the trial at the time but as this afternoon goes on, a couple more have topped him with Amanda Milliken in the lead right now.  No matter, they are more than well into the semi finals.
Bliss was also nice and smooth today.  There were runs before hers and after hers where the dogs had the sheep just running around the course,
Bliss makes a nice turn around the post
 but Bliss walked them the whole way around and made both her fetch and drive away panels.
Bliss makes her drive away panels
  They had a great crossdrive going but right before the panels, the sheep had a burst of speed up the hill and missed them high.  They moved on and had a good pen.
Bliss and Scott at the pen
  Their score was a 140.5 and that placed them in 11th overall!  Good job, little Bliss!
It was pretty hot when Wynn ran his last nursery run and in the words of one handler, "there had been much carnage" by the time his turn came.  He actually ran very well but his set had wandered quite a bit off the drop point by the time he got there.  Unfortunately, that meant that Wynn's first contact with his sheep was him having to run like hell and get into their faces  to turn them to try and make the fetch panels.  He missed by just a little bit but by then, his sheep were running and Wynn was having to work hard to just contain them.
Wynn gives everything he has to catch his running sheep
It was a wide turn around the post and then on to a very quick drive with the panels made.  Halfway across the crossdrive, things settled down but Scott missed that panel again on the high side when the sheep fooled him and took a quick jump up the hill right in front of the gate.  It didn't take long for them to pen with Wynn enthusiastically trying to help Scott get them in.
Wynn and Scott at the pen
They got a 135.5 and that finished up 12th overall!  Wynn will be leaving us when the finals are over and going home to his owner, Diane Pagel.  I will miss him very much.  Diane imported him from Wales and had him sent directly to our kennel when he was 8 months old and Scott and I have been mummy and daddy ever since.  I know Diane will love him.  He's a good boy.
There have been some complaints on the finals facebook page that information is hard to find so I'll post some places to find it again.  I'm sorry that people are wanting more when there is so much out there to read about what is going on!  I haven't had any trouble finding information when I am away from the fields in the camper and I want an update.  I would suggest looking for the scores here: then move on to the descriptions of the open runs here: and if you want to read about the nursery runs, go here:
The facebook page for the nationals has some information but since they are posting so quickly on the finals website, they decided to just let that be the place to get the scores.
There is only WiFi in the open tent and everyone posting information is a volunteer so please be patient and they will get the info out as soon as they can.
Top 40 to the semis tomorrow.  Starts at 7AM - information here on the live webcast:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

National Finals First Round (day 3)

This morning was nice and cool just like the last few days.  I was happy since I was running Laddie 4th up in the morning.  Scott ran June at that time the morning the day before and it turned out well. (the hearing seems to run out in the afternoon).  Scott gave me strict advice not to flank too fast on these sheep and not let Laddie bring them too fast.   I was sure I was going to be ill walking to the post, especially when I was hoping to send Laddie to the right and he wouldn't look down the field.  He had seen the sheep down the field before our run but when we got to the post he was sure the sheep were hiding in the barn to the right of the field.  Nothing I could do would convince him otherwise.  I put him on my left and he spotted them just fine.  I didn't want to send left though so I put him back on my right and he wanted to go to the barn again.  So.  There was nothing for it and I sent him to the left.  It turned out to probably be a good idea because the sheep were often running off that way anyway.  He started his lift and I could see there was something funky going on up there but wasn't really sure because I couldn't see that far.  It looked like one sheep was just going to finish her breakfast and not move on with the others.  He had some sort of talk with them up there (and thank goodness he didn't get angry) and they moved on.  They were a little off line on the fetch but straightened out and made the panels. We had a nice turn around the post, if not a tad wide and started off on a straight and calm drive away.  So many people had cut that panel short so I made sure I was very deep before I turned Lad on the crossdrive.  Only, I wasn't deep through the panels.  I wasn't through the panels at all, and turned them short.  I decided not to dwell on it and moved onto the crossdrive.  Scott had warned me not to make too many adjustments on that line so we kept it to a minimum and fortunately, the sheep were helpful in making the panels.  We had a good 3rd leg and moved into the shedding ring.  I took a deep breath and prepared for the fact that I was likely not going to get it called.  The judges did not want too much man and Laddie needs help that way.  I made a big gap for him, stood still and called him in.  He came right in and turned on his sheep!  I walked up behind him to keep him engaged until the judges called it good and we went on to the pen.  It didn't take us long to get the pen but before I closed the gate, they popped back out again.
Laddie and I make one of our several attempts at the pen - photo by Diane Pagel
 They did that 3 times before I ran in, with less than a half a minute left, and got the gate closed.  We scored a 141 and should be good to make the semis!
Wynn ran in nursery in the afternoon.  Scott sent him to the left and he went wide but didn't get stuck on the set out pens.  He went by them like a good dog and came in deep behind his sheep.  He didn't stop on his lift as Scott asked, but he didn't rush them either.  They had a nice line on the fetch and made the panels. 
Wynn makes his fetch panels
The sheep liked Wynn much better than they did Bliss and were waiting on him. The turn was good and it was a great drive away line to and through the panels.
Scott and Wynn turn the post
 The sheep started to pull to the set out as they went through the gates and Scott flanked him to turn onto the crossdrive. It would have been a good turn but Wynn got a little worried about the pull and over covered, causing the sheep to go back through the panels.  They moved onto the crossdrive line and made the panels well.  They had a good line to the pen but when they got to there, Wynn got jumpy and started to push on the sheep.
Wynn and Scott at the pen
There were a couple of times where he tried to grip but Scott got him stopped before there was any misdeeds.  Unfortunately, they ran out of time before they got the pen and scored a 128.5.
Both Wynn and Bliss will make the second round of the nursery tomorrow but unfortunately, it is a combined score to win and with the leader, Lyle Lad, sitting with a 163 on one dog and a 158 on the other, the best they can do is try to improve their placings.
Donnie drew up in the afternoon tomorrow.  Today that was a very bad place to be and many a very good handler ended up with a DQ or RT because there was no hearing.  We are hoping that the same doesn't happen tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

USBCHA National Finals - First Round

The Klamath Falls crew always puts on a great show.  There are more vendors coming all the time (it's all about the vendors isn't it?), and the hospitality is genuine. In the past, there had been complaints from handlers about the dust, so they have a water truck spraying down the isles between the rows of campers.  There had been complaints about the mosquitoes, so this year they actually sprayed for them.  And, there had been complaints about the smoke from local fires so they made sure they got them extinguished in time for our arrival. The weather gets down right cold every evening so that your camper never gets too hot, and it warms up every day so you don't have to watch the runs all bundled up and shivering.  They thought of everything.
For me it has been like old home week - reconnecting with friends from my California past. (hey, Sarah and Michelle!)
Yesterday was the first day of running and I think we all realized that it wasn't going to be that easy.  It's not that the sheep are belligerent or heavy.  Its just that they aren't going to run around the course in a straight line for you and the judges in the open (Alasdair MacRae and Michael Gallager) are going to make you work for a good score.
Yesterday the top score was a 150 by Erin O'brien layed down by her at the end of the day.  I missed it but I hear it was a beautiful run.  The other two big scores were a tied 148 with Amanda Milliken and Roz and Don Helsely and Ash.
This morning, Scott ran June and she didn't disappoint.  Her outrun was a tad big and the sheep were quite a ways off the set out spot by the time she got there.  She didn't help her lift when she came in short but Scott put her over and all went well after that.  The sheep can be touchy at the panels and Scott had to do a couple of quick flanks to make sure he got the fetch gates but June's speed came in handy.
June holds her line to make the fetch panels
 They had a tight turn around the post and started off on a good drive.
Scott and June turn the sheep around the post
 They made the panels with not too big of a turn and marched across the crossdrive.  June looked good, confident and smooth.  They were a little tiny bit high in front of the crossdrive panels but a small movement put them through.  Unfortunately, it was a deep turn and they had to work to get them back on the line.  When they got into the shedding ring, Scott lined up the sheep, and when he saw a gap, he stepped in and called in June, keeping everything calm and not taking any chances.  Instead of taking a point or two for what maybe was considered too much man (that's the only thing we could see wrong with the shed) the judges didn't like it and called for Scott to reshed.
The first shed
 Very quickly and efficiently, he and June put the sheep back together and did it again.  This time the judges accepted it. ( I really really fear my shed with Lad now) Scott and June did a very nice pen, making it look easy.
Scott and June work the pen
  Several people came up to me and told me what a beautiful run it was.  They scored a 148.  It should take them to the semi finals.
Miss Bliss had her run on the nursery field today.  The field is deceptive in that it seems like it should be pretty easy because it's not that big but it is actually difficult!  It has a slight hill
Bliss lifting off of the hill on the nursery field
and that is where it gets a little tricky when, after the drive panels, the sheep want to bolt to the set out.  The dog's need to make an away flank to catch them and put them on line to drive to the crossdrive panels on our left.  However, the dogs believe it would be faster to go downhill to catch them instead of up hill and they end up taking and incorrect comebye and crossing their course.  Bliss tried very hard to get in the favor of these sheep but they felt she was too quick on her movements.  She stayed way back on the fetch but it still didn't make them happy.  After making that drive away panel and doing as many others had by crossing her course, she struggled to get them back on the crossdrive line and didn't have a very good crossdrive.
Bliss on the crossdrive
 When they approached the pen, Bliss had to be on the handler's side to turn them into the mouth.  Fortunately, she has a deep, fast flank that got her to the other side when it was time for her to work her own side. After convincing one particularly jumpy black faced sheep that she had no choice but to go in, they closed the gate with a score of 128.
Bliss works for her pen
 It put her in 8th place for the time being but they will finish up the class tomorrow.  No one knows how many will be going back for a second run but Lyle Lad is the clear leader with a 163.  The winner will have a cumulative score for both rounds so Lyle will be difficult to catch.
From a personal point of view, I was rooting for Ron Enzeroth and his young Pete dog who is a half brother of my Ford (from Tom Forrester's Pete).  They ended the day in 4th!
Laddie and I run in open tomorrow, 4th up in the morning.  It's a very good time to run.  I really hope I can keep from wasting it.
Scott and Wynn run tomorrow in nursery and Donnie will finish up the open on Friday afternoon.
The best place to catch the scores is on the USBCHA page here:
They are also on facebook with scores and info about the runs:
and Diane Pagel is giving short summaries of the runs on her blog:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Soldier Hollow Double Lift 2012

First things first!  Congratulations to Jack Knox with Jim for winning the 2012 Soldier Hollow Classic.  Scott's run is probably better told in pictures so I have put quite a few up here but I'll just mention a little about it.  He had a good first outrun with one very nice bend out (it was common to give a few of them) and a good fetch.  He had difficulty on his turn back and on his second fetch his sheep tried to join up with the first lot waiting at the bottom of the field while they were still at the top of the field.  So his fetch lost quite a few points.  After that, they had a nice drive and a good shed but when they got down to one they had trouble cutting her out - well, they didn't have trouble cutting her out, they just had trouble keeping her out.  She kept coming back.  Once they got her out, they had a nice pen and ended up with the silver medal!
Tommy Wilson and Sly (rumored to be retiring this year) took home the bronze - congrats, Tommy!
Another run worth mentioning was Faansie Basson's with Don.  It was a very nice run.
Scott and Don preparing for their run
Scott and Don spot the first lot of sheep
Don catches his first lot of sheep to put them through the fetch panels
Don brings his joined sheep towards the post
Don holds off a collared sheep
Then Scott danced a little with her
Scott and Don pen the sheep
The pipers start the medals ceremony
Scott, Jack and Tommy on the medals stand
Scott and Donnie with their silver medals

Soldier Hollow - Day Three

Scott and Don ran early yesterday and knew it was a do or die situation.  This was their last chance to get into the double lift.  Donnie didn't disappoint.  The sheep were happy and cool in the early morning as a fog rolled over the tops of the hills.  Donnie kept them that way.  They didn't mind him as he gently moved them around the course, put them through the panels and walked them on the lines.  In the shedding ring, there was only a little bit of shuffling before they opened a hole up for him to walk through and hold them apart.  When they got to the pen, they tried to make a couple of breaks for it but Donnie caught them and pushed them back in to the mouth for Scott to scoop in.  It was a beautiful run and earned them a 95 to top the day and get into the double lift.
June ran a little later in the day. It looked like she had learned her lesson about how to get up the hill and started out on a nice outrun.  However, as she got to the top, she went a little deep and spotted the set out pen and got stuck up there.  Scott had to call her back and call it a day.  His only comment was, "How was she going to be any help rustling sheep if she only brought me the 5?  She was helping me by bringing the whole flock."
Lori Cunningham ran Matt in the early afternoon too.  Matt had been a little perplexed the day before by these western sheep that were different than anything he had ever seen.  Yesterday, Lori kept him moving and didn't let him get careful and even though the run didn't end up placing, Matt looked much better.  It was of particular interest to me because his little brother, Ford, is my next dog and I was wanting to see if that line of dogs was going to be able to handle these sheep.  Matt showed that with a little practice, there was nothing to worry about.
Last, in the afternoon, when it was hot, I ran Laddie.  I can't tell you how proud I was of our run and yet just as disappointed.  Lad went out a little wide on the outrun which made me think he was not happy about getting to his sheep but that was a premature thought.  When he got up there, I gave him one flank to the comebye and a lift whistle and he brought them right on down the line and through the panels.  A nice turn around the post and we both checked our patience and took it easy moving the sheep up the dangerous drive away line, keeping the sheep from dashing off to the nearby exhaust.  The wind picked up as we went through the panel so I leaned into it and blew for all I was worth to help him make the turn and start on the crossdrive.  I hollered his name twice to loosen up his inside flank and keep the sheep on the line and before I knew it we were in front of the next panel.  A little wrestling with the sheep and we got them through, back on the third leg of the drive and into the shedding ring.  I had 5 minutes to finish and I panicked.  It was a run that was going to put me in the finals.  Probably challenge Scott for first if I finished clean and I had never run such a nice run.  But that was where it ended.  In my haste to finish the shed, I pushed on the sheep.  One girl was trying to get to the exhaust and I ended up losing her and she promptly jumped the fence with her buddies following. 
But good boy, Laddie. 
Bad girl, Jenny. 
On to the finals...
Scott and Donnie watch the fog roll in on the top of the hill as the prepare for their outrun
Scott and Don turn the post
Don holds his shed
The pen
Lori Cunningham's Matt
Matt on the drive away

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Soldier Hollow - Day Two

The sheep are winning against us.  Once again we didn't get a dog qualified for the double lift.  It was June's chance today.
Despite June not scoring, she did better than we expected.  I must confess, we thought these sheep would make her mad enough to bite right from the top but she didn't.  She lifted nicely and controlled them at the start but got off line before the panels as the sheep tried to bust back up the hill.
June made her fetch panels and continued on down the hill and made a good turn.  The sheep tried to string out on the drive line because the front three were hoping to make it back up the hill again but the last two were content to stop and graze.  June worked her tail off to keep them all moving and still didn't grip  as she hazed them through the drive panels.
 They got off line a little on her crossdrive, moving low on the hill and they made the crossdrive panels with some difficulty.
June brought them into the shedding ring on the line and they had a quick shed.
They hurried to the pen and Scott got the gate open with time to get it finished but on the way, June gave a quick low grip on the hock, just like her dad did the day before.  Unfortunately, the judge deemed June's grip unnecessary because the sheep were moving at a good pace and she was called off for a grip.
Tomorrow Scott runs Don at a good time in the morning. 5th up.  Fingers crossed. 
June runs 24th which should be around 1:30PM
Laddie runs in a not so great time (but we've done well in this spot before) at 29th.
Today's scores are HERE