Thursday, June 16, 2011

State Of Jefferson Last Chance Sheepdog Trial July 30th and 31st

State Of Jefferson Last Chance Sheepdog Trial(USBCHA sanctioned OSDS pending)
Exact location TBA but in or around Tule Lake/Malin ( depends on hay cutting)
Date July 30th and July 31st
Judge Mike Hubbard
Sheep 10-7 Ranch fall replacement lambs( undogged and wiley)
$30 entry all runs. No pay back all proceeds go to 2012 USBCHA sheep finals
Camping on site no food service
This will be a very low key fun trial please being your happy faces :)

Entry out soon contact Lana Rowley 541-274-1113
Entries Open until day of or we fill which ever comes first

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Soldier Hollow Classic Part II

2008 was an amazing year for Kell and I.  That spring we won the cattle finals and that fall we made the double lift at SH.  The rest of the year we were just in sync as a team.  It will probably always be one of my favorite trial years ever.

When I came to SH in 2008  I did not put a lot of pressure on myself, or on the dogs. I was honored to have been invited to run my dogs, and i nobody else had any expectations of me either. mom and dad may have, but the other handlers were not too worried.

As i watched the first 15 runs there were many DQ's and RT's, with many hands not finishing the fetch.   I have a very clear memory of thinking to myself, that one thing i did know, was that both Kell and Blue would bring the sheep.  That one thought helped me relax and just run the dogs.

The whole time I was at SH I just enjoyed the expercience, and went with the flow. Any success i had was just frosting on having been invited to such a prestigious trial.  Looking back, I am sure that attitude  was a substantial piece that allowed me to have the success i did that year.

Having made the double lift with both dogs, I was invited to SH in 2009.  This time I did not come with the same expectations or attitude that I had in 2008.

In 2009 I felt like I HAD to try and do at least as well as i did in 2008. I put a tremendous amount of pressure in myslef and my dogs. I was tense, and I had trained the dogs with that same tension and worry.  I did not enjoy the process, or the moment, like I did in 2008.

The result in this change of attitude was the fact that I did not do well with either dog.  Kell was tense and not supple, and we went on to have a very frustraing trial year in 2009/2010. We just could not come together as a team, and the more I tried to "fix" the problems, the worse we did.

In the summer of 2010, my friend/training partner/neighbor Geri Byrne had Alasdair Macrae out for a handling clinic. During this clinic Alasdair told me I was not being fair to Kell in the way I was handling him.  That statement had a profound effect on me.  I love and respect that dog, and I don't want to ever not be fair to my dogs.  Make mistakes yes, not prepare well enough, ok...but not be fair? That was something I did not want to live with.

 Alasdair showed me some exercises that made Kell more supple, and allowed me to handle him much more effectively.  I think I went about training with Kell differently from that day forward. That summer and fall Kell and I got back as partners. I trusted him and he trusted me.

  Late 2010 and into 2011 Kell and I had our most successful trial year ever. Kell was in the top 10 USBCHA points for a while, and after his last trial he sits with over 50 points.

This year I got a call from Mark Petersen the event director of SH. Mark invited me to compete in the 2011 SH classic. I was as thrilled this time as I was in 2008.

In 2009 I took our daughter Katy(almost 4 at the time) with me, and my folks from MT came again.  This year I hope to take our 7 year old son James. In 2009 I wondered if taking Katy did not distract me from the competion, but I have a different take on that now.

SH is a very family friendly atmosphere, and our kids love one on one time with mom/dad, and with their grandparents. The road trip and the expercience at the event that is SH will be a wonderful adventure for our son.

I think taking one of our children with me will also help me keep my mind it was in 2008.  My dogs are ranch dogs who trial, and I am a sheep rancher who loves to compete.  I am not a pro handler, I don't get to a lot of trials. I don't begrudge the people who are pro's, and in fact I admire many of them, but I am one of the little gals.  The chance to go to a world class event and compete ( and on a good day beat) the pros is very intoxicating.

The chance to handle my dog in front of a crowd of 25 thousand people is an amazing opportunity, but above all else it should be enjoyed.  I took the fun out of it in 2009 and i hope to not make that mistake this year.

I am not sure I can do it either.  I am very competive, and I love to win. I can get too focused on the goal, and it can effect my handling and my attitude. I am the women who sent her dog from the wrong post in the double lift of the 2009 cattle finals( after coming into that day the high combinded dog) because i was SO focused i could not see the forrest for the trees. This is not a helpful personailty trait, and i am sure my family could add some mommy gets too focused stories :)

  I struggle with my character defects that come into bloom when I don't temper my competitive spirit, with the proper amount of grace, humility and perspective. Having a good time and enjoying the journey is so much easier when you do well. I also handle my dogs better when i keep the trial in perspective. Even SH is "just" a dog trial. My family and our ranch is my real life.

I hope to train wisely this summer, both with my dogs and in keeping my spirit where it should be.

The Malin Valley Photo by Dan Byrne

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Soldier Hollow Classic Part I

Kell with the 5 collared sheep


In 2008 i was invited to Soldier Hollow after Kell and I won the USBCHA national cattle finals. I wrote an article about that expercience,  and the event director Mark Peterson published my article in the 2009 SH program.

I was invited again in 2009, and recently was invited for the 2011 trial. My expecience the second year was quite different than the first year so i am sharing the first year here, and i will follow with SH II.

Last year I had the honor of competing in my first Soldier Hollow Classic
Sheepdog Championship.  I received an email in May from the event coordinator
Mark Petersen.  Mark congratulated me on my National Cattledog Finals win, and
asks if I would like to attend the 2008 Soldier Hollow Classic.

  Soldier Hollow is set in beautiful Heber Valley Utah, which was the 2002
venue for the Olympic biathlon.  The trial is invitation only, and brings in
handlers from all over the world.  The setting is breath taking, the sheep are
the toughest of western range ewes, and the crowds are the biggest of any.


 Would I like to attend?  I read the email about 10 times, called my
husband, and then sent the email to some of my friends with a caption that said
“holy cow??!” Competing at Soldier Hollow is a dream of most sheepdog handlers,
and I was incredibly honored to have been asked to attend.

 I spent the summer trying to prepare my two dogs and myself so we would not
embarrass ourselves in front of the big names. Fortunately I live near several
of the bigger west coast/range ewe trials, and I have a very supportive husband
who is my number one fan.  I also have some amazing friends in the State of
Jefferson who helped me train up.  I took both dogs off working cattle, so I
could polish them up, and work on both of our finesse.  Ok and our shedding, and
our penning, and our turn back!

 For years my parents had wanted to attend a trial I would be competing in. 
They had seen me work the dogs on the ranch, but never in a competition. A good
friend told me her father’s first trial was watching her at Soldier Hollow, and
that it was the perfect first timer trial.

 Soldier Hollow is set up to educate the public about the incredible working
border collie, and the crowds are very appreciative.  The incomparable Ray
Crabtree is the announcer, and his smooth voice and knowledge of the dogs and
trialing, leave the crowd with a good understanding of the many finer points of
sheepdog competition.

 Labor Day weekend I traveled from my home in Malin Oregon, and my folks
came to watch from Montana.  No pressure here, not wanting to look bad in front
of the big names, the crowd, and my parents. GULP!
The venue at Soldier Hollow was unlike any trial I had ever attended.  The
officials and staff of Soldier Hollow made you feel like you were truly
attending an Olympic caliber event.  If I had to pick one word to some up the
staff and event of Soldier Hollow it would be classy.
I ran both of my dogs on the first day, and lets just say the reputation
that is the Soldier Hollow course and range yearlings are not exaggerated in any
way.  The course is not huge with an outrun of 400 yards or so, but the terrain
and sheep are vicious.  The sheep are set atop a steep hill, with a valley of
trees, and an old cabin that draws the sheep off of course and into the tall
grass and brush.  There were 11 DQ/RT the first day, a high score of 72, and
many 40s, 50s and 60s.  I got two scores, but they were pretty tiny.
At Soldier Hollow they take the top five teams from each of the three days,
and those dogs and handlers go on to run in Monday’s Grand Championship, which
is a double lift and international shed.  After a disappointing first day, I was
happy to know I had a clean slate to try again.

 My parents were old pros by day two, and they were explaining the course
and happenings to anybody who had any questions.  I only ran Kell on day two,
and we worked well as a team that day.  Kell let me get a hold of his pace
better, and I trusted him to do the right things.  When I came off of the field
with a 73 the crowd was very appreciative and cheered loudly.  Of course the
section my parents were in was even more rowdy as my dad proudly told all in his
section “that was my baby girl!”  The 73 held up for third place that day, so
Kell was in the Final. Seeing my name on the huge reader board with some of the
legends of the US sheepdog world is a feeling I will never forget.
My parents were hooked on sheepdog trials. They loved it.  My mother told
me she now understood why my husband Martin and I “take those kids (James, four,
and Katy, three) all over the country to compete in these trials!”
     I ran Blue on the final day, and the sheep were just as tough as they were
day one. Blue is a very special dog to me, and I knew that this might have been
one of his last trials. Blue is my first border collie, and buying and training
him changed my life.  Four years ago Blue had a massive chest infection, and
even after surgery they told me he would not live. When he did live they said he
would never compete again due to scar tissue in his lungs.  Blue ran in a trial
less than four months after the surgery, and happily has been proving them wrong
ever since.  Blue beat the odds for both of us on Sunday when his 73 was good
enough to take us to the final day.  My feet did not hit the ground all day, and
my parents were beaming with pride.

Walking through the crowds at Soldier Hollow is very surreal.  People stop
you to shake your hand, pet your dog, and have their picture taken with you. 
When the sheep make the panel, pen, or shed the crowd goes wild.  Even in the
intense state that is that kind of competition, you can feel the crowd.  Of
course you can also feel the crowd when there is complete silence when you miss
a panel.
     Sunday night at the handler’s supper we drew our names for the run order on
Monday.  I admit I about passed out when I drew Kell to run first in my first
ever double lift and international shed.  I had really hoped to watch the pros,
and hopefully glean some last minute insight into the double lift.

At the pen after the sort
The experienced hands were happy to answer some of my last second questions
the morning I took the field on the final day.  The support of the other
handlers was really incredible, and watching their dogs and handling was a high
point for me.
Kell and I did our best, he was on the muscle and I made some rookie
mistakes, but we did not embarrass ourselves.  We did not make all of the sheep
through all of the panels, but we saved our pride in the shed ring.

 My husband Martin and I run our sheep at home on irrigated hay pasture in
the spring and summer, and alfalfa stubble during the fall.  We manage our grass
by using electric net to graze the sheep. This requires moving net and sheep
several times a week for most of the year.  When I want to train the older dogs
I can not bring all of the sheep into the corral to sort out a few to work, it
is too stressful to the sheep, and not practical.  Instead I go into a group of
100-200 sheep and sort out 3-5 yearlings to work.  I have mostly used Kell to do
this sort, and when we came into the shed ring I told myself “this is just like
home”.  Well just like home with thousands of people and only a few sheep. Gulp!

 As I worked the shed I realized that I had one uncollared sheep left. Rule
number one in the international shed is to try and not leave just one sheep,
which will be desperate leaving on her own, and things usually go wrong.  I
could hear my heart beating loudly in my ears, and the crowd was stone quiet.  I
did not have a stellar run, but I REALLY wanted to get that shed.  I let off of
the pressure and let the uncollared sheep head towards the rest of the
uncollared sheep just outside the ring. As I let the uncollared sheep go a
collared sheep suddenly bolted with it.  The two were side by side as I called
Kell to come in-between them.  Somehow Kell got between the two sheep and the
collared ewe came to a screeching halt as her buddy ran to the other sheep.  Now
I was holding my breath and I felt a little dizzy, nobody moved as Kell and the
collared sheep stood nose to nose.  I turned quietly and asked Kell to walk up;
the sheep seemed to weigh her option for a second or two, and then she rejoined
the collared sheep so I could attempt the pen.  The crowd went crazy, and I was
so proud of Kell.  We went on to get the pen, and that last ten minutes was
something I will never forget.
When I came off of the field Scott Glen stopped to congratulate me on the
save in the shed ring.  Scott is a former National Sheepdog Champion, and one of
the premier handlers in North America.  I asked Scott if he had any advice for
what I could do better on Blue’s run later in the day.  Scott looked down
thoughtfully and in his Canadian accent said, “you might try and make some more
sheep though the panels”.  Humor is always good at sheepdog trials.
Blue and I drew up sixth and to be fair to Blue I was still pretty
distracted by my first run.  Blue was off, and I really did not concentrate
well.  I was proud of him all the same, and after all that we have been through
I felt so blessed to have been able to run him at Soldier Hollow.
Watching Scott Glen and Pleat’s winning run was the most flawless work I
have ever seen.  Getting to know some of the well-known handlers from all over
the country, and seeing them work, was really a treat.  It was very special to
me to have my parents there to see and understand why I am so passionate about
the dogs.  I was very proud of both of the dogs, especially Kell for the special
year that he carried me through.

 Competing at Soldier Hollow in 2008 was the high light of my sheepdog
career, and I hope to be able to compete again there next year.  If I am ever
lucky enough to make it the final day again, maybe I can even make a few more
sheep through the panels.

They are in!!

One of the best feeling ever :)