Tuesday, October 8, 2013

And the Journey begins! Nationals here we come!

And so, that fine day in September appeared and we picked up our rental uhaul van to pack and hit the road. Why the Uhaul?  I had decided that with 2 people and 8 dogs, plus our camping gear and everything else I wanted the security for the long trip (I would have needed to pull a trailer with my smaller van, and with 320,000 miles I worry about long trips). And the van we got was brand spanking new, even smelled new. By the time packing was done, we were stuffed, 8 crates, gear for camping, for showing, for trialing, food for an army (Shari can not help herself), cooking supplies, and off to Greeley, Colorado we headed; 8 dogs and 2 people. Yep to one of the areas devastated by unexpected flooding (and still somewhat affected). Fortunately the lovely show site, Island Grove Park had survived with no damage, or at least just lots of water.

That night we stopped to meet up with my friend Sally and her van of dogs, so we could continue the drive together.  Friday was a beautiful day for driving; the long haul up hill to Denver resulted in the impressive view of the Rockies, though somewhat smoggy (or maybe just too much water in the air?) Shari and I got our tent site set up (2 tents and an canopy), the show site scoped out. We arrived early enough to pick up our packets with all the important info we needed for the week. And I had a chance to visit with people, seeing friends and acquaintances from around the country (as well as all the other Aussies) is one of the fun parts of Nationals.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Summer of 2013 or preparation for ASCA Nationals.

I thought I should update my blog.  Much has happened since my last post: training, trialing, and Nationals. All fun, all good, but definitely an interesting journey with things that should be done, and perhaps some that should be avoided.

ASCA Nationals is definitely an adventure, one that hopefully starts months before the actual event, with entries, and training, and all the other preparations that are needed. It is a week (8 days) of ASCA competitions, 8 days of being surrounded with talented and beautiful Aussies and their hardworking owners and handlers. Between numerous preshows and trial, finals in all venues, and 3 days of Nationals stock and agility, it is a packed week. I am one of those foolhardy MVA (most versatile Aussie) competitors, where to qualify you have to earn a q in stock (sheep, ducks or cattle), in a companion event (tracking, agility, obedience, or rally) and participate in a scored conformation evaluation. Obviously the more you enter and the higher levels you participate in equate with higher combined scores. I also qualified and got to participate in cattle finals with Tommy

This year I choose to play MVA with all 3 of my dogs: Tommy, Lizzy and the baby, Dari. And I also ran my friend Sally’s talented girl Choca in stock. Now mind you, I do work sheep regularly with the dogs, I do chores, I graze sheep, the dogs are always there helping.  This daily work does have its benefits, the dogs understand working stock, they learn patience, and they understand it as a task.  The down side of my training (and limited trialing in the months before the Nationals) was that my dogs did not get the time on different stock; they did not have the familiarity with the courses that comes in handy. I also did not have the sharpness, the mental preparation, and the reminder of which direction is which that you really get through trialing.  A really good trial dog knows his job, knows the pattern, and anticipates where the stock should go.  We did work on the panels and the center obstacle some when we had our fun days at Mel’s.  I worked at teaching the dogs the task of the center pen- pulling the sheep off the fence and bringing them to the middle.  Part of the center pen is kicking out far enough to bring them straight to the center, part is rating and understanding the stock should be put in the pen or Y chute.  The better the dog understands the task (like loading a trailer) the easier it is for a handler.  I find part of the challenge is teaching the dog the off balance part of the center.  The stock should be pushed past the handler, something Lizzy finds very difficult to comprehend.  She defaults in bringing the stock to me. The other part of a trial arena she has a difficult time with (and always has) is pulling stock off a fence, getting between the stock and the fence.  The strange part of this, is she does fine in take pens.  Her cattle take pen was really quite nice!

Because I was also doing agility and rally I needed to prep for those also. I found trips to the barn a good time for rally practice.  I grabbed a handful of cat food and worked on sits to stands. For some reason both Lizzy and Dari choose down over sit or stand.  Not useful when doing formal heeling exercises… But that was what I had to work with.  I also had to set aside time for agility.  All 3 needed work on weaves. Well, Tommy and Lizzy needed work, Dari needed to learn how to weave. So we worked on simple courses as well as weaving and contacts.  I have most all the equipment in my agility field; I just need to spend the time working the dogs.  Fortunately I did find some time during the cool mornings, probably not enough, but we did work on remembering contact performance and working together as a team.

Much work and training, and this had to fit around my schedule of judging stock trials, visiting family, doing clinics in Nashville and of course that 4 letter word of work. Needless to say, I had a busy summer, fortunately doing what I love.