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