Monday, May 3, 2010

The Icebreaker

Deb Sussman and Perk

We spent Friday and Saturday at a herding trial in Deweyville at the Goring Ranch. If there is an actual Deweyville, my guess is the sheep population far outnumbers the humans. It's absolutely beautiful country with rolling hills as far as the eye can see. I imagine when things warm up and green up over the next month it'll be all the more beautiful.

Suzie ran Josie in the Novice class. On both days Josie's outrun and lift were pretty -- even if her outrun does sometimes take her into the next county, as people like to joke. After the lift on Friday the sheep split and it didn't end so well. Saturday was much better with handler and dog in control.

That's Josie above taking off on her outrun on Saturday. You can just see the sheep, blocked by Suzie and between the panels in the distance. If you're thinking that's not a great shot, I hear you. I get nervous for Suzie and sometimes don't think about the most simple things -- like moving left then composing the shot to better see the sheep. On this run I'd asked Eric, a good friend and herding buddy, to shoot video of Suzie's run. He got caught up in the moment too; he kept saying 'oh my god, I'm doing a horrible job' or something to that effect -- and Eric is very good with video and stills. I'm certain it's because he was trying to watch the run and kinda forgot he was shooting it.

But if you herd, and can remember when you first started, and how nervous you may have been, then this moment should resonate with you; you've waited all day, it's your turn, your heart may just be in your throat... then you send your dog and it's on!

Fortunately, Josie was 'on' on Saturday. Here she's completed her lift and is bringing the sheep to Suzie at the handler's post (that orange pylon in the first photo) just out of frame.

Behind the scenes at the set out...

Trials are well organized. Prior to being worked, sheep are held in pens, off in the distance from handlers, and are 'set out' in a specific place prior to each run. After a run the sheep are put into exhaust pens. After so many runs the sheep from the exhaust are brought back to the set out area to work again, which is what is happening in the above photo. On Friday the sheep had been driven over that hill in the background and had just blanketed it. It was visually very, very cool. But my camera was in the car and I missed it! I wasn't going to miss it again. Here I'd gone through the trouble of climbing on top of a horse trailer... but the sheep came in a different way! And I missed it. Again.