The trial itself was filled with challenge, this is no dull and boring trial, and filled with all kinds of excitement. 
 
The big barn had been set up as shelter for the trialers and to display awards.  A few vendors were also set up in the big barn.  Many trialers were grateful for the vendors, as forgotten items were available for purchase right there at the trial.  Beautiful gifts for sale of many sorts were also displayed; from hand-printed shirts, Border collie caution signs, hand-made wool scarves and hats, to engraved wine glasses and general dog supplies.  Many herders liked to get out of the weather and go shopping.
 
 Tables were set up in the barn isle displaying lots and lots of items up for raffle.  This is a very big raffle trial where all of the proceeds go to a local FFA group.  There is even a large Border collie quilt that gets made just for this trial, that gets separately raffled.  Many and most of the trialers buy tickets for the raffle and most of them end up winning something.  And each day after lunch, brought a new raffle, with new items to win.
 
The first day they were on the "flat field", which is not really flat.  However, if compared to the other field at the trial, it is relatively flat. Friday was the ProNovice trial, and nice and rainy. However, due to that rain, there was quite a bit of run-off. One part of the field, was a low spot, and it had become quite the creek. This was located right smack in the middle of the last leg of the drive. 
 
As most of us trialers know, sheep do not like swimming, and these sheep were in agreement with that.  Handlers had to negotiate the sheep in a straight line, right through the creek that had gotten about eight feet wide or greater by the time the trial started.
 
Though the course was on a pretty grassy field, by the end of any certain dog's run, both the sheep and the dog were pretty muddy.  Most everyone had to spray off a wet dog to remove tons of mud, then towel them off to aid in their drying.  All of this done while standing in the rain.  Yuck!
 
One sheep during the trial got pretty hurt and required staples.  She freaked at the pen and took off by herself away from the pen and toward the road and the fence.  She hit the fence so hard that some people tending to her thought that she had broken her nose. 
 
I have never seen that before.  I have seen injuries to both the sheep and dogs at trials, but have never seen a broken bone.  I have seen tears and rips, hurt feet and legs, and the all-never wanting to have this in my run, lamb born.  We had a veterinarian on the grounds and he doctored her up, and she was retired to the barn for the rest of the trial.
 
As for the rest of the trial, it was pretty uneventful as far as injuries to the sheep were concerned.  There were a couple of sore feet and legs of a few dogs, due to slipping on the wet turf.
 
The next day, Saturday, was the first part of the Open trial.  Two fields were used concurrently so each trial became a two-day trial.  This allowed for a very large trial which is quite nice for accumulating larger amounts of points for the National Finals.
 
The handlers and their dogs, which there were over 80 for each field, were grouped so that they only trialed one day on one field, and the other day on the other field, even if they had more than one dog to run. That helped the handlers a lot as they didn't have to go from one field, concentrate on it and watch some of the runs, then run over the other field, and repeat.  I think that grouping the handlers to one field per day, allowed for better concentration and allowed the handlers to settle their emotions better.
 
By the second day of the trial, the rain had stopped.  The flat field still had a creek running through the last leg of the drive, but the size of it had gone down to about six feet wide, and not quite as deep as it was the day before. 
 
The "hill field", which is run jointly with the "flat field" to make for an over-all great trial, is the other field that is used for this trial, and aptly named.  The hill is very big and steep.
 
Dogs that don't have good away-side outruns are at a slight disadvantage, due to the terrain.  But Open handlers train both sides on their dogs, and they should be able to handle this challenge.  And a challenge it is!  The great elevation change is one challenge, the other is a deep creek on the right side of the course.  If there has been a lot of rain, this creek can fill very rapidly and get quite deep.  It can make just getting to the course an event in itself!  Last year, they had had tons of rain, and this creek almost overflowed.  But fortunately the creek was able to hold all of the runoff, and not overflow its confines. 
 
During the third day of the trial, bad weather threatened, and fortunately it was just a threat.  Through the day we got a few sprinkles, and even one episode of hail, none of which was long-lived.  More run-off had diminished over-night, which made for better trialing for Sunday.  But the sheep were getting tired of being pushed around, and were challenging our dogs more often than the previous two days.  Only the tough-in-mind dogs were able to withstand the onslaught and move forward.  These are the same type of sheep that will be used at the National Finals this coming September, so most of the trialers used the opportunity to "practice" on these range ewes, and get more experience with them, and were grateful for them. 
 
While this trial may have been filled with challenge, most everyone enjoyed themselves.  Many herders took learned lessons back home with them and that is something to always hope for.  Learning what to do, or what not to do, with a particular event in a sheepdog herding trial.  Learn from our mistakes and successes.

High Combined Winner Suzy Applegate with etched wine glass award from Operation Sheepdog Herding.
http://www.sheepdogherding.com/herding-dog-glassware



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