First Trial Experiences
Well, where to begin. I guess at the beginning! I have only been working dogs for a short time. Actually my family always had Aussies while I was growing up, but we never utilized them like we now know they could have been. Anyway, I decided it was time to put our new found skills to the test and jump into this trial scene with both feet! (Although I'm not sure if I was even standing on both when I got to the handlers post.)
I have two young Border Collies, Whit and Gypsy, that I use around the place all the time. Whit is my male. He is a sensitive dog that doesn't really care to have a lot of people around. He can handle just about any amount of pasture work that needs done though. Not to mention he has that die to please you kind of attitude. Gypsy is my female. She is very intense but usually stays back off her stock well. She weighs a whopping 25 lbs but I'm pretty sure most of that is heart. I figured, "How hard can this trial stuff be, my dogs do this kind of stuff every day around here." Live and learn I guess!
Whit was my first dog to run and my stomach felt like it was doing somersaults. I sent him on a "come by". He came in way to tight on his outrun. Then he must have been thinking, "Lift, what lift, I thought I was suppose to see how fast they can run!" I was trying to remember to make my whistles sound calm. (I sure didn't need him thinking he needed to run faster!) We managed to get through it though. Not a really great run, but nonetheless we survived.
Now on to Gypsy. She is my little reliable gal that I always pull out when we're in a bind with something on the place. So I thought, "I know my little girl can breeze through this course." I sent her on a "come by" and the last thing I remember was a streak of black fur running right up the middle. I was blowing the down whistle. Nothing. I tried calling "lie down". Still nothing. The next thing I'm thinking is "strike" as she bowls through the sheep and splits them every which direction! I was still trying to figure out who's dog was on the field, because that sure couldn't be my faithful working partner! She doesn't do that kind of stuff!
As I ran up the field (trying not scream any obscenities) Gypsy seemed totally oblivious to me. Once I got close enough she did lie down. Then the sheer amazing part of this was the look of pride on that little black hairballs face! I couldn't believe it. I was in shock. It just amazed me that she was expecting me to tell her that she was the world's greatest dog! I told her "that'll do" and what a good dog she is! Notice I didn't use the word "was". I wasn't happy with her run but she still is a good dog. Lucky for her, one run at a trial isn't going to change my opinion about that!
So our first trial runs weren't a smashing success. Luckily this was a three day trial so we had time to work on it. Both dogs did improve over the weekend. Actually turning in very impressive placings the next two days. Each time to the post the dogs and I learned something new. We also relaxed a little more each time and started feeling right at home!
I felt very fortunate to be surrounded by people that were all really positive and supportive. Stock dog people are great! Prepare yourself as best you can for the trials, but try to remember to go out there and give it your best shot and just have fun!! Isn't that what it's all about anyway!