I think it's important that you break down the trial 'pieces.' Look at the outrun, examine the lift, any problems with the fetch, around the post, the first drive, the cross drive, the shed ring and the pen. Different dogs may have different problems with pieces of the puzzle. It is easier for me to break down each piece of the trial course rather than looking at it as a whole.
I learned a huge lesson two trials ago in Scio. That last leg of the drive needs to be on-line. So many people were just happy to catch the bolting sheep, they never had their dog put them back on line to the shed ring. That can eat up a lot of points.
I learned another lesson to put the sheep back into the shed ring before moving on to the pen. Yes, different judges can call for different things, but if you get into a HABIT of doing it the way the majority of the judges ask for it, then you won't have to worry about it. Makes good sense to me.
Coming to the post on the fetch and making a good turn has been my nemesis of late. My dogs have been pushing too hard. I am working on that now. I watched Jo Ferguson's Brite at Scio literally WALK the course, Sure she broke into another gait to cover, but then went back to a walk which was very calming for her sheep. Jo and Brite are such an AWESOME team. I love watching her handle.
At my last trial where Yoko won the first day and then was so-so the next day, I watched in awe of Maggi's handling of Don and Donna's Buster. It was poetry in motion. When I found out she gave lessons, I contacted her. Vashon Island isn't that far a drive for me. Along with practical good tips she was inspiring to me. Great that a pro knows how to work with dogs, but important that they know how to work with and set goals with the handler.
I'll never forget one day when someone phoned me for a referral for a certain specialty doctor. I gave her a couple of referrals. She told me, "I don't care what his bedside manner is as long as he is good." We differed there big time. Too many docs in the sea. I want and NEED both, a good bedside manner and expertise. I feel the same way with sheep dog training.
Someone asked on a Novice and Beyond FB page how to know which is a good clinic to take. When I bought my first BC, I went to the ABCA Board of Directors and I looked at their standings on the trial page. Today, I do pretty much the same thing when looking for someone to take lessons from. I look at their handling and placements. The more you grow, the more you learn. I don't have time for cliques, egos, and bullshit. Life is too short. I just want to better myself and the dogs I have. Period.
And, if I'm going to put out hard earned money for lessons I expect expertise, goal setting, and an occasional inspirational comment or two :0) To inspire the handler to WANT to be better is really half the battle. Inspiration feeds working harder to reach your goals.
Buddha says, "Everyone is gifted - but some people never open their packages." Ohhhmmmm....
Suzanne says, "Some need to be shown how to open their packages. Then it is up to them."
See ya at the next trial......