Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Thank Ewe

Thank Ewe…to the judges and handlers who were so generous with their time and information, to the awesome dogs (and the not-yet-so-awesome ones who are trying their best to get there), and to the wooly ewes who gave both handlers and dogs a hard time.  I had a great time last weekend at the Texas Sheep Dog Association herding trial on Brent Swindell’s lovely ranch outside Gatesville.  Rue and I aren’t quite ready for prime time yet, so she stayed home with John while I helped out by scribing (keeping score) for the judges on the Open Ranch and Nursery courses.  

I had some time to watch runs on the Open course where the most experienced dogs and handlers were working.  There was a long outrun where the dogs looked like speeding black dots circling to approach the sheep.

Then, after bringing each set of sheep through a series of panels, dog and handler worked to perform a “shed” where the sheep (which usually stick close together for safety) must be separated.   

After a successful shed like this one by Allen Mills and his dog, the sheep must be penned, and that’s a whole other story.  I can almost hear these ewes saying “It’s a trap, Gladys; we'd better run for it!”  

Or like this one, who seems to be asking the dog, “You want me to do what?!  I don’t think so!”

Or, “What do you think, Ethel; can we take him?”

There was applause from the gallery when the pen was successful.

I had a better vantage point for the Open Ranch and Nursery classes.  It was sometimes excruciating to watch the less-experienced dogs trying to move those big ewes.  They would circle, walk in, and use their best ”eye” to get the sheep to move.  Sometimes it worked, and sometimes the sheep just stamped their feet and stood like statues, or ignored the dog and ate grass.

These courses did not require a shed, but each dog and handler were expected to pen their sheep.  There were valient efforts, and for some of the teams, success. 

It was great fun to watch these beautiful animals.  Dodge, owned by Susan Harris, was nice enough to let me take his picture while he scanned the pasture for sheep.

So did Nighinn, with Handler David.  David was younger than most by several decades, but that didn't stop him from entering and turning in a good performance.  I wish there were more young handlers like him working dogs. 

It was a good time to connect with friends and to enjoy the teamwork between handlers and dogs.  Hopefully Rue and I will be back on the trial field before too long. 

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