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TRIALING AND TRAINING
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SHEEPDOG HERDING LESSONS
I was anxious to go, as I have never been to the Finals before, and had been herding for 10 years now. Several years ago, Tam was qualified for them in the Nursery class. But when I went to a certain trial, where both Kate and Tam and I didn't do well, and I decided that none of us were ready yet in our training, for that level of competition.
Two years later, things have changed. Especially this last year. Both Kate and Tam have been running real well for me. I just had a feeling that we might do ok there.
Before I left, I had a phone call with my trainer Shelley. We were discussing the Finals. She mentioned that only the 1% were the ones that win this trial.
That discussion really bothered me. I thought it only takes one good run...
I talked with my husband about it. He said that the 1% basically set the judging standard for the trials. I was still bothered.
I put that out of my mind as best as I could, and got ready. Lots to do, since the store was coming also. I also needed to stretch out the girls as well, we could be facing very long outruns. I hauled my sheep out to a large piece of property every week for about a month to prepare.
In practice they started off rough, got better, then Tam got BAD. What's the deal?
It was like she didn't like my sheep any longer? WAAAA.
I talked with my trainer, and she said that Tam's sire was just like that. He didn't like practice either. So that is what was going on. Great at trials, lousy at practice, FRUSTRATING!!!
The Nationals were fun. Nerve racking, when waiting all day to run, but the best of the best were there. And we were able to be there also, both Kate and Tam. Chris got to go for experience in traveling.
I was able to watch how to handle a problem when certain problems would arise. And that was worth it weight.
Tam was to run first. Not by my choice, but by theirs. She had a really nice run started. Nice outrun, lift, fetch, turn and first panel. But half way through the cross drive a sheep turned on her. And that sheep was determined not to rejoin the group no matter what. It fought and fought Tam, while she stood her ground. I tried many different things to get the sheep going again, even backing her up! Everything that I tried failed. That ewe needed to be stew.
Finally the judges told me to walk, No forward progress. DQ
She is a tuff little girl!
Kate ran first dog on a Friday Morning. Thursday afternoon, I made sure that she saw some of the runs so she knew where the sheep were.
She did great. I sent her Come bye and had to redirect her twice, but the rest of her run was nice. I was very happy that she completed the course, and at the Nationals to boot!
I found out later that day, that Kate's score was good enough for her to go into the Semi Finals. What? Kate or I have never been here before and we get to play again? Yippie! So maybe someday, we can make it to be the 1%.
So Saturday, we waited and waited for our run time. I kept showing Kate over and over throughout the day where the sheep were. You see, they had moved the field. Turned it 90 degrees and made the outrun a little longer.
Finally our run time was here. I thought for sure that Kate had seen the sheep.
I sent her on a come bye, and she started almost immediately to cut in front of me. I stopped her on my side of the fetch panels and redirected her. She took off right, then turned in toward where the field was the day before.
I whistled and whistle her to lie down, nope. I thought "what was wrong"? She minds me well and redirects very well. I kept whistling and whistling and she kept running and running. When she got to the "old" top, where the sheep should be, I whistled a "that'll do whistle, which means come back to me. She acted like she was on a mission of sheep hunting and never reacted to the whistles at all. Once Kate left the area of the fetch panels, about 100 yards, I had virtually NO control on her at all. It was like I didn't exist! What the heck? She ended up running the entire circumference of the field from the day before and landed at the exhaust. Then she saw me walking toward her, but I was not convinced that she could hear me there either. I finally got her off of the field, after a couple more attempts at the exhaust area. RT
I found out later, that something weird with the atmosphere had happened right then and for the next 1/2 hour or so. The air was still, very still, and somewhat warm. Friends, who had been standing on the sidelines between the sheep and the post, told me that they could not hear my whistles -at all. What? I was whistling my heart out!
As it turned out, the run right after mine, the run after that, and the run after that, had all retired because of the same exact thing. Certainly strange. The next run was able to hear, then the run after his, was the same thing. Not able to hear.
An atmospheric phenomena had happened that the sound made by my whistle was not able to be carried for that time period during that specific atmospheric condition.
Sound speed in air varies with pressure, density, temperature, humidity, wind speed, pitch, etc. Most of us experienced handlers know that wind can stop the sound from reaching our dogs. Through some research, I found out that lower pitches travel further than high pitch sounds. Our whistles are mainly high pitched. So maybe conditions were "right" or in our case "wrong", to cause the sound to either deflect to the ground or maybe deflected upward since it was cooler on the ground than it was in the air, or not carry further than 100 yards. Either way, none of us were successful in our runs during that time period.
If I would have known what was going on, maybe I could have yelled or something. At least that would have been a different pitch. I will see about a whistle called a blaster, and maybe incorporate that tool. Several herding friends told me that they work very well.
This was absolutely not due to our dogs not minding. Our dogs could not hear us, and were on their own. For those dogs, like Kate, who thought the sheep were in the same place where they were the day before, such was their luck, and they would not find them on their own.
I really hope I do not run into those atmospheric conditions again when competing. And I will be researching this a little more also. Its physics, don't you know?
Still working on being the 1%.
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