Monday, April 18, 2011

Handler Error

What a busy weekend!

The days leading up to this weekend were busy, full of days spent at Ronnie's working dogs with Cindy, stretching Brynn out on long outruns.  She is consistently running 400-500 yard outruns now.  Since last week's adventure with the ewes and lambs it has been rather hard to rein her back in and get control back.  Oddly enough it seems to have improved her flow on the drive - not so much stickiness.  However it has been a challenge to dial her down a notch.

My brain still does not think as fast as she moves.  

 (All the pictures in this post were shot at an earlier time - I just put them in because I like to look at them).

I took a risk and put Brynn in Nursery this weekend.  Not because we have any hopes of actually qualifying for Nursery finals, rather it seemed like a logical step.  A challenge for her, and a HUGE challenge for me.

Holy mother of molasses, this weekend was a learning experience.  

The only option on this field for a outrun was on the left (comebye) restricted by a fence line (the fence was a pressure point for Brynn).  The sheep were set behind a large pool of water that covered the entire right side of the field (which is why away/right side outruns were not possible).  After the lift the dog needed to push the sheep through the water in order to have a straight fetch.  I think I would be close to say that approx 90% of the dogs were unable to have a straight fetch or even hit the fetch panels (in all classes) unless the dog was able to pull off a dog-leg fetch.  The minute the dog made contact with the sheep, they bolted to the left (the direction the dog came from) and ran like hell, refusing to go through the water.  Either that, or they bolted back up to the set out pens where the dogs were unable to lift them & called off. 

On Saturday, Brynn's outrun was quite nice, but she came in a bit too tight and the sheep bolted like hell, then she started to chase them, put too much pressure on them and they split up.  She brought two sheep down the field, at which point I tried to stop her and let the sheep regather - no dice. I said "Thank You" then walked up the field and helped Brynn put the sheep back together and out to the exhaust pen.

Sunday I knew we were going to have issues at the top again. Brynn still tends to come in a little tight on the top when she is unsure.  The course was the same as Saturday, the sheep were still set behind the pool of water.

Her outrun was wide and fast, but I had to give her several redirects around 10 o'clock.  She took my correction and kicked out, but not quite enough.  In my opinion she came in at the right spot, she was very careful walking up to her sheep.   The sheep bolted to the left again, Brynn maintained more control than Saturday, then I started to blow stops - which was stupid as rocks in a blender.  Why was I blowing a stop when her sheep were running hell bent for leather?  This only caused her to start chasing the sheep and at one point she circled them.  I am happy to say she did get control of them and some how we got them through the fetch panels.  Then they ran right past me on the wrong side of the post.  Ooops.

The first leg of the drive was a wee bit squirrely because I had to unwind around the post - then she settled down.  We made the drive away panels with a nice tight turn. The cross drive was a bit high but I got her back online and got across the field to the crossdrive panel - then I blew the wrong damn flank and she took it causing her to cross the course.  Then the sheep bolted for the exhaust.  I could have sworn we didn't break the plane at that panel, so I had her bring the sheep back online and we tried to hit the panels again, she got them through and went to the pen where we timed out.

Then the judge, Brian Ricards, who knew I was a 'newbie' came out of the truck to explain to me why I just lost almost almost all our drive points.  Because Brynn crossed the course and I reattempted an obstacle.  He said I made a legitimate effort to hit the obstacle. I should have moved on - by reattempting it I lost all but two points.  Big mistake, but a HUGE learning opportunity. We ended the run with a score of 26.  8-0-18-28-10

The score may be dismal, but I am happy, very happy. Brynn brought me sheep on a very challenging field.  She listened to me, took my flanks and ran her heart out.  The major errors were my fault and hopefully I will not repeat them again in the future.
  • Crossing the course on the fetch or the drive will cost you dearly. ('Doh!)
  • Stand on the side of the post where you want your sheep to go, if they are a farm flock.  If he sheep want come to you...then stand on the side of the post that they are supposed to go around.  (yep, I think I mentioned something about this from a clinic I attended?  Shows you how much I apply what I write huh?)
  • If you blow the wrong flank and your dog takes it...don't blame the are the idiot with the whistle in your mouth. (another 'doh!)
  • NEVER reattempt an obstacle - if in doubt, move on. (*sigh*)
  • TRUST MY DOG AT THE TOP - she knows better than I where she needs to be - unless she is obviously wrong, when in doubt TRUST MY DOG.  
  • Don't put chapstick on right before your run, the wax can muck up the holes in your whistle and sounds like you are strangling a pig. 
I hope someday I able to do this lovely dog justice as the handler she deserves.

We have gone from Novice/Novice to Nursery in less than a year.  Those are big steps for a new handler and baby dog.  We are up for the challenge.  It is going to be a fun summer filled with lots of learning.  Hope my head doesn't explode by the end of the trial season.

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