Thursday, July 7, 2011

Not Nothing

A few weeks ago when I was whining about a disappointing run with Brynn in Nursery, someone said something that made me think....

A small statement left behind one of those annoying kernels, that once planted, sprouts like a noxious weed.  After a while, I started to get irritated by it, not unlike a dirty sock stuck behind the dryer.  You know it is there, you can see it but you can't reach it - finally I am gonna move the damn washer and get the stupid thing, even if it kills me.

Please excuse the previous paragraph, I was going somewhere with this and I seem to have lost my mind.  A washing machine needs soap.  Soapbox?  Yes, I was going to get on the soapbox about something...

This soapbox is firmly entrenched in hormonal moodiville.  I do not claim to know what I am talking about and if confronted, I may possibly deny any knowledge of said post - since it was published by my alter ego - Menopause Moodybiatch.

- Moving on - 

An accomplished handler told me that "competing in a lower class trial is nothing, no one is watching them and they don't care about the results, forget about it, move on."

In this 'sport' (sheepdogs, trialing, whining, drivel...etc.) I have started at the bottom.

The only thing I had going for me was knowledge of how livestock moves and thinks.  I am smart, grasp cause & effect and learn quickly (except in the case of marriage, men and schizophrenic teenagers - I am slower than snot on a doorknob in those departments).

As a novice handler there were countless people who stepped up and helped me.  Befriended me, offered me tips, advice and recommendations to good trainers.

I have been blessed to live near Fido's Farm where I was introduced to herding by Chris Soderstrom.  Many clinics later with Scott Glen, more lessons with Karen Child.  I attended clinics & lessons with Patrick Shannahan and then Dianne Deal.  I found a good fit for me personally with Dianne, choosing her for my main trainer.

Most importantly I have been blessed by having an amazing little dog to show me how much I need to learn, Beth.  Then Brynn and now Bea.

Being a novice handler with a baby dog every trial I attend, sign up for or attempt is a big thing for me.

Let me repeat is a BIG THING for us.  

When I step up to that post and send my dog on a short outrun, on a little course.... that is my whole world - albeit riddled in anxiety, self doubt, and fear.   Still, that tiny little moment in time is a culmination of all our hard work & hopes. 

To be told that a lower class trial is "nothing" is invalidating & a wee bit hurtful, even if they have the best of intentions.

I have worked hard to get to this point.
Sure, it isn't open...yet.
We may not be able to even finish a course...yet.
But running novice, ranch, pro-novice or nursery is not 'nothing'.

For me and my dog, that 'nothing' run means everything to us at the time.  Yes, it may be a stepping stone to one day running 'open'.  But it is where we are right then...and at that moment in time, it is my goal.

I am proud of my 'nothing' rescue dogs.  My 'nothing' trials and my hard work in the heat, rain, muck, miles driven, miles walked, tears shed, books read & endless support that got us to this point.

Dianne once told me that my long term goal should not be to win a lower class trial.   I agree with her.   My long term goal is to train a healthy dog (with everyone's support) that will one day run in open.  That said, when I am standing at the post for a lower class (Ranch, Pro-Novice or Nursery) trial - my goal at that moment in time is to ensure my dog does good work.

Sure my ego would like to win.  But my head needs to overcome my ego and anxiety to enable my dog to learn and work correctly.

But any of the lower class runs - are NOT unimportant, or nothing.  For me, they are everything.

(Stepping off the menopause supported soapbox and taking my foot out of my mouth.  If I have offended anyone...please forgive me, as it was not my intention.  I am trying to learn how to support myself and my goals instead of minimizing them.) 


susan said...

Novice is the hardest class of all!

It IS.

Ya coming to Athena?

Ann said...

Good post, Carolynn. I'm a few steps behind you, but I know exactly what you mean. Walking to the post takes quite a bit of courage from me. . .I've only done it a few times. I cannot wait to be past Novice! :)

The girl behind the lens said...

It is a big deal!!!!!

This (probably going to be somewhat disjointed dialogue) is coming from a girl with her first dog, first BC, who is 9 months, a herding machine with an owner who knows just enough to generally get her friend's broke dogs to get the sheep where she needs them when she's babysitting the place during breeding season and the sheep don't stay where they belong... (And, incidentally, from a girl who manages to get run over by the sheep, when using the MOST broke dogs. So no, I'm not very good at this whole herding thing ;-))

I'm going to guess that the "it's nothing, nobody's watching" was meant more as encouragement - don't worry about it, do your best, you and your dog won't be blacklisted for struggling at this level, because it's where the youngin's are started and nobody judges the problems ;-)

Personally, if I can ever manage to even try arena trials (nevermind field trials) with my pup, I'll be thrilled. Maybe someday. First, I need to learn a few things, and Lex needs to learn what can and cannot be herded (kids = no. horses = HELL NO! cows = I'd really prefer not!)

For me, walking onto any trial field would be a HUGE Deal - heck, just getting her to work-for-real on the farm would be!!! just like winning show high point with my nice little green horse was last year.. it was a tiny show, but we'd worked hard all summer, average rider and green horse, with good ground help but no one "training him" for me, and we were finally consistent, and it showed that day... It was probably "nothing" and "unimportant", but for me all the little shows we did last year, culminating in that one, were the stepping stone for the ultimate goal - to step up, progress, and hopefully have a kids 4-H horse with some really nice training someday... (Unfortunately, colic has a way of shoving you off the stepping stone, permanently).

The fact that a novice handler can get a baby dog going well enough to trial Nursery while they're still young enough to do Nursery would, to me, be a pretty big deal in and of itself. I think I admire you :)

I have the same self-and-goal-belittling problem. It's a hard one to overcome.

Been following your blog the last little while.. and really enjoy it. I love the pictures - Brynn's snarl especially (reminds me of my friend's Dot dog...Dot thinks very highly of herself... she is Super-BorderCollie, Princess of the house hold, and the rest of the dogs best remember her elevated status and treat her accordingly!), and, well, just all of them. If Lex and I ever venture down from Canada, we'll have to hire you for some pictures. :)


Patty in NM said...

What you are doing is not "nothing"!! It is for you and your dog to spend time together, to learn and grow, to meet new people, to stretch a little at a time outside of your "safe" zone. These are all tremendous accomplishments and I hope you are justifiably PROUD!

I have been reading your blog for a while. I love your beautiful photography, sense of humor (I feel sure we would enjoy each other's company!), and your courage in sharing your personal story with us.

You are an incredibly strong, courageous, and talented woman. I am proud to know you even if it is only online.

Erin said...

definately not nothing, those first steps are huge, they are the basis for the rest of your training, even if no one is looking those ah-ha moments where it clicks and those struggles(little or big) are still important moments. keep at it.

BCxFour said...

Thank you everyone for the encouragement! I love you guys! L&L I agree with you, I think you are correct, she may have meant it as encouragement and to make me feel better by saying "no one is watching"

BCxFour said...

Susan, not coming to Athena this year...although I wish I was. I am running the dogs in Highland Games in Mt Vernon this weekend.

Country Girl said...

Of course it's something. And quite frankly - if it makes you happy, and you're (sometimes) having fun - then it really doesn't matter what level you do it at. As you grow and develop you can decide what level you want to progress towards.

As L&L said, you're light years ahead of myself and my dogs. And I agree the comment was most likely intended in a kind manner. Feel good about what you've already accomplished. For me, working with the dogs is the cake, the icing is going to trials - but I like my cake just fine without icing too! (We're all different... which is good...)

PS - novice is HARD because you need to have great timing and you have a shorter time period/distance to make your corrections.

Keep up the great blogging! It's always an enjoyable read. And I LOVE the pictures!

Laura L. said...

Darn it, I had typed a comment & it's been sucked into the black hole of internet.

Basically I said that you need to come to the midwest where not only do the big name big hats judge, setout & exhaust the novice trials, but there's also a big contingent that watches them too. I'm sure that there's one or two who pooh pooh things, but I haven't heard them.

You remember that everyone starts out at the beginning and whoever has their panties in a bundle & said that to you is a small, mean person who shouldn't matter to you.

: )

Jim Kling said...

I try very hard to view trials as learning experiences, and actually a natural extension of our training.

It's very easy on the field that we train on, and the sheep we use, to begin to think that we're getting good at something. But then we go to a trial with different sheep, in a different environment, and struggle. Many times those struggle are illustrating a problem that I was blind to when training on our familiar field with familiar sheep.

I tend to be a little too competitive sometimes and can get quite frustrated if we don't do well. Thinking about trials this way helps me to relax and enjoy myself more.