Well, folks...you would really need a wide angle lens to do this course justice. I couldn't even fit in the cross drive panels or show you where the handlers stand. But, this is how in my dreams I think a sheepdog course should look like.
I'd like to say I got numbers instead of letters, but it just didn't happen this year. But, I learned a wealth of new information. And, for the first time, I think Kilt really needed me. Normally, Kilt is the type of dog that would rather do the course herself and have me wait for her in the truck.
On day one I sent Kilt to the right and she started off nicely. I really don't think she ever saw her sheep set at 650 yds away on the ridge. There are 3 large hilly swales where the dog can disappear into on the right if they don't run the top of the ridge the whole way. She dropped down one of the swales and by the time I saw her she was in the fetch line about to cross over. I redirected and she kept going straight. I stopped her and redirected her again and she finished the cross over without ever taking the redirect. She started up the hills to the left in between the two hills and started to drop down. I tried look backs. Probably not the brightest thing to do, since there was no way she could see the sheep, but she did turn back and I gave a wide left flank. She took that and climbed almost to the top of the left hills. But, then she dropped back down instead of going over the top. I eventually called her in. :0( The judge was very lenient in giving us all a chance to find the sheep. That was very nice.
On our 2nd try, I sent her to the right again. This time I was semi sure she had seen the sheep on the ridge. She took off in the same trajectory she did on day one. As she disappeared over the swales, I didn't see her for the longest time. I started counting slowly to 10. I looked high on the ridge (knowing I probably wasn't lucky enough to have her run the ridge) and I scanned the fetch line looking for her to drop down to cross over. No dog. I gave an away redirect. The judge was already out of his truck looking for her. The spectators way to my left could see her. She had stopped in one of the swales half way up the mountain and was looking back to me for direction. This is a GREAT stride for us as a team. She has NEVER looked to me for anything. She took the redirect and headed on towards her sheep. She stopped at about 3 0' clock from them for some unknown reason. I think her eye stopped her. I redirected her again and she finished the outrun a bit tight on the top. The sheep pulled back behind the mountain putting pressure on her until I couldn't see them anymore. I'm sure they wanted back to the set-out.
All I could do at this moment was to give some blind walk-ups.
Kilt isn't known for her finesse and I'm sure her introductory handshake with the range ewes lacked politeness. My guess is she punched them at the top when I couldn't see her. She likes to take control of the situation and she hasn't learned to do it any nicer than that with tough sheep.
She came back over the ridge with her sheep and weared them down the fetch line at probably too fast a speed, but the sheep held together and were on a nice line. As they neared the handlers post, the course director walked out to me and said, "Suzanne, there are only 4 sheep." Uno, dos, tres, quatro.....aw shucks NO cinco! Bummer. Cinco must have stayed at the set-out. We exhausted our sheep and Kilt got a large pat on her head for giving it the ol college try.
You gotta love the range sheep. They are oh so much fun. No wonder Kilt likes to get to them before they can get to her. They aren't for the weak at heart.
This is my friend Mike Burks' Sport. Sport handles range ewes like a seasoned veteran at just 4 yrs. of age. CONGRATULATIONS Mike and Sport. They received a 62 and a 64......what a FINE showing. I was so thrilled for them I was teary eyed. We practice together in the desert.