Monday, May 20, 2013

Bluegrass Classic 2013

Once again the Bluegrass and it's volunteers demonstrated why it is one of the premier trials of the country.  We never miss this trial and I was so happy to hear announced at the handlers dinner that for the first time all the helpers were making plans for next year instead of thinking about not having it again.  Top dogs and handlers come from all around, and this year, we even had a Welsh competitor, Nigel Watkins, a former judge of the Bluegrass, compete in addition to the usual handlers who come from as far as Oregon and us, of course, from Western Canada.
The Bluegrass is great for seeing what our young dogs have under the hood.  The underclass' field is quite a test and weeds out the men from the boys because of it's hill, small course and difficult sheep.  Ford showed me he wasn't ready.  He brought me sheep each time, which was oh, so brave for a dog who is afraid of them, but he wasn't competitive and the wheels started to fall off after 4 runs so I didn't run him his last two times.  He was listening better but was starting his "not calling off" game after the pen when his sheep were to be exhausted.  I decided this wasn't doing us any good so I didn't run him anymore and we will work a little while we are visiting friends this week before our next trial and we'll see if we can make any improvements.
The other young dogs got better and better.  Scott was a little peeved with Alice and her no stop but she actually did quite nice, making it into the top 10 in the nursery more than once.  Skippy was very nice and over the 4 days of nursery, he put himself into contention for the overall nursery dog, but Scott didn't realize this and on the last day, he thought it would be easier not to run him so he could concentrate on June's run, so that took him out of the race.  Erin improved every day and even got a leg in the nursery one day.  Her top score in Pro Novice was pretty impressive when she got an 89 out of 90!  Bliss won the first day of Open Ranch and then placed second the next day (to Jimmy Walker's nice dog) and won the overall!
The open dogs pleased us too.  June started everything off by getting a good score on the first day and late on the last day, we all held our breath hoping her second run would be good enough to get into the double lift on Sunday.  She had a dramatic crossdrive panel and an audible cry was heard from the audience when she flanked and almost missed, then corrected and flew on the other flank to save the other side and finally a happy sigh when she pushed them through and finished with a good score.
Don ran at a very difficult time on his first run.  The sheep had tuned sour and runs around him weren't getting getting sheep around.  When he lifted them, Scott tried to help him by whistling some commands but he realized that Don knew better what was happening up there and by following Scott's flanks, it was getting harder.  Scott finally just gave him some walk up whistles and let Don bring them down the difficult fetch by himself and he did a great job and when he got them to Scott's feet they had a nice drive and finished the course nicely.  It wasn't a a great score so his second run needed to have very few mistakes and it didn't.  We were very excited when Don hung in there to get in the double lift on Sunday.
Laddie didn't have a very good Bluegrass which is unusual for him. I found out when he finished his run on the first day, that he had picked up a little virus that a couple of our dogs had, and had very bad stomach cramps and diarrhea.  It probably explained his multiple stops on the outrun, but he bravely did the rest of the course.  I had a couple of handler's errors that unfortunately made things alot harder for Lad.  Had I known he wasn't feeling well, I wouldn't have run him but it was only a 24 hour problem and he was good to run the second day.  However, his handler's errors continued and when he drew tough sheep I tried to correct his line too soon and Laddie being the biddable boy he is, did what he was told and the sheep got back to the set out.  He got them off the set out 4 more times, but the sheep had a taste for it now and got him beat.  I had to call poor Laddie off and we both made the walk of shame down to the exhaust.
Hemp blew me away this trial.  Neutering him was obviously the best idea and he is now working like a charm.  I've never had him work so nice but he's been getting better every trial and it was nice to walk to the post with some confidence. He ran early the first day and just trotted his sheep nicely down the fetch and around the drive.  I wanted to turn around to Scott in the audience to say, "Are you seeing this?"  It was like I was working some other magical dog and when I finished the shed I knew we had something special going - unfortunately, when we got to the pen, I think, as I started to get nervous about how well it was going, it translated to Hemp who was was pretty tired (remember he has been injured since August and is very out of shape) and he slid through his stop and missed 3 flanks so we didn't get a pen.  It was no matter, and he finished the round in 7th place.  His second run wasn't as perfect around the course but was still quite good and he had a dynamite shed and this time we penned and qualified for the double lift in 5th place overall!  That night, at the handler's dinner, we found out he had won the "Top End" award which is given by the set out crew to the dog they think handled the top end the best.  They said he walked on the most confident and courteous of all the dogs.  I was so honored.  Especially since this was the trial that caused me to neuter him after last year's lift when he left the sheep to try and breed the set out dog.  It's a different solid minded dog that I walked to the post with this year and I am so excited to take him to the finals this year.  He hasn't qualified since his nursery year because we usually get a few points at the start of the year and then when the bitches come in heat, he would fall apart.  Not this year.  Our fun ended there though. I knew the double lift would be difficult for him because with his injuries, he hasn't heard a turn back in over a year, let alone tried an International shed.  He wasn't sure when I asked him to turn back and crossed over and I had to ask him a few times before he finally went back but I think it was good practice for him. It was very hot and his sheep were heavy and Hemp is out of shape so getting around the course was like pulling teeth but he had decent lines and made all his panels but at about 20 yrds from the shedding ring, Hemp had enough and gripped.  I thought it might help us and the judge let it go but it didn't do much for motivating the sheep into moving, so Hemp tried again and this time, when he grabbed the sheep's hock, he was called off.  It was ok though, I was so happy to get that far.
June was nice around the course.  She did need a second turnback whistle but then she took off and had nice lines.  In the shedding ring, it was just starting to heat up and the sheep only wanted to graze.  They got down to one sheep who just wouldn't leave, and one collared ewe, who was willing to take her place.  Scott fought with them to the very end but didn't get the uncollared one dug out so no shed.
Don was a star!  Usually, the Bluegrass is won by someone who draws in the morning in the first second or third spot.  Alasdair MacRae had drawn the coveted 3rd spot this time and he didn't waste it.  He had to use two turn back whistles but the rest of the run was beautiful and his dog did a spectacular save in the shed.  Scott and Don had their work cut out for them to run in the heat in the 9th spot and beat such a nice run, but they did it.  Don did his best turnback ever and only needed his first whistle when he went back with confidence.  They also had no points off their shed and no points off their pen to win the trial!  Scott has won this trial twice before, once with Dan and once with Pleat but it meant alot for him to win it with Don because twice before he had almost won it with him but lost out to Don's mother Star, when Scott made a handler's error.  This year, there was no handler's error and he was proud to win.
Many thanks to everyone involved in the Bluegrass Classic.  We appreciate you all and are so glad you will be back next year!
Thank you to Alice Urquhart for the pictures!
The ceremony before the double lift

Hemp and I
And then there was one - June and Scott fight one last sheep in the shed
Me setting up Hemp for the first outrun
Hemp argues with a sheep on the 3rd leg of the drive, leading to a grip off
Don navigates the first leg of the drive
Donnie cools down before starting the International Shed
Scott and Don close the gate and end their run
Scott and Don the 2013 Bluegrass Champions


Canines 'N Ewe said...

Is Erin the gunner one?

Kelpie and Collie said...

Jenny- you look great!