I enjoyed myself so much at the Vashon Sheepdog Classic. The camping amenities are superb. They are within a few blocks of the trial site, park like grounds, and free to us exhibitors. Bonnie, Lasoya and I were camping neighbors. That made it even more enjoyable.
I love this big trial. Last year I ran Pro-Novice with Champ. He came in 4th overall. This year he was in open and too BIG for his britches. He has gained a ton of confidence and is taking over at the helm. I have been taking lessons with Maggi McClure for the last couple of months. I feel her training is very much in accordance with how I would like to be able to train my sheepdogs. I work my dogs 2-3 times a week, sometimes less at a friend's 4 acre field. Thankfully, both of my dogs did desert work (wide open spaces) before moving to the PNW plus both are excellent sheep spotters. So, even though I work in a small area, they have not forgotten their desert skills. I have bitten the bullet and Champ will be going to Maggi's for a few months of training on the island. Island boy :0) The nice thing about Champ is that he is very amiable with other dogs and people. He is NOT a one person dog. That may be some of my problem. He is just like his mother in that respect.
Yoko who is 7 years old now; is a ONE person dog. I have always done all of my own training with her. She is Jet's daughter and we share the same birthday :0) Hopefully, we will have a couple of more years of trialling left. Yoko is starting to get the hang of the BIG trials. She is feeling more confident. She is a smart ranch dog and I enjoy her immensely. She taught me a HUGE lesson....to get over my ego. She can humble me and has more times than not in some very big trials she has attended while here for the last year in the PNW. She likes to EAT (must be a Capricorn thing) and she has teeth. She was quite excited to see that the local trials set their sheep on grain. She could heel those sheep off their grain, eat it all and then pick them up bringing them down the field. She knows she isn't to grip in a trial, but she despises dawdling sheep. Yo is a natural born heeler. When a dog doesn't have a lot of push, a heel nip works for her. Unfortunately, it does tend to surprise sheep and send them every which way. LOL
Sheep trialling is not easy. We as handlers/trainers sacrifice much time and money to get our dogs working well. But, the flip side is that we are in the great outdoors enjoying new parts of the country plus the social aspect, and the teamwork and camaraderie is like none other. It is like an extended family plus you are always meeting new people from all walks of life. Once you get the herding bug, it becomes an addiction. Get a good placing and the addiction becomes even stronger. LOL Each field and each set of sheep are different and your dog is going to react differently, too. Yes, the pros will always be fairly consistent because they have farms and sheep. They can work their dogs regularly and sometimes several times a day. And, then there are people like myself who don't have livestock, but enjoy the trialling experience, working their dogs every once in awhile. We may even pop up with a blue ribbon locally or a placement in a really big trial. It gives you the encouragement to keep on training and to keep on trialling.
You NEVER stop learning in this venue. In that respect, it is just like the nursing profession I hold so near and dear to my heart. There is ALWAYS something new to learn, about your dog, about the livestock, about people, and about yourself. When you stop learning, life is over.
Misty Isle farms, Vashon Sheepdog Classic