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ASCA Arena Trials

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My young border collie and I have competed in both beginner-level ISDS-style trials, along with ASCA (and other clubs') arena-format trials. It has been fun, and competition lets us know how we are doing in our training program.


My instructor does not advocate "training for the test", and keeps his field mostly free of gates, chutes and obstacles of the type found in, for example, an ASCA trial. He does have a small pen in the middle of the field, which we practice from time to time. His practice field is much larger than the typical arena, so the dogs/handlers don't have the opportunity to get the "feel" for the positions and angles that will be needed to, for instance, begin the drive phase of an ASCA trial, and to negotiate the gates at the end of the arena from behind the handlers' line.


So, my question is: do you have suggestions/advice for brochures, books, videos or other qualified material, that will provide trial tips for negotiating SPECIFICALLY arena style courses? I believe my dog and I have most of the skills (driving, fetching, maybe penning) required for open class ASCA trials, yet we don't have the opportunity, except at infrequent trials themselves, to put the skills all together into the whole package. It seems to me that reviewing training materials would allow my dog and I to fill the gap that we are experiencing in our training curriculum.


I debated with myself whether to put this post in the "trial tips" section, and elected to put it here, since the "trial tips" section is only for ISDS-stye, and my question is more of the arena-type. Thank you in advance for any suggestions and advice re: training materials you may have. -- TEC

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I agree with your instructor. I never penned until I stepped on the trial field for the first time (with, uh, an actual trained dog), and lo and behold it was the easiest thing I tried to do that day. Ditto with any other portion of the course.


Courses are not about obstacles or equipment, but about testing skills. Aiming for a gate tests your ability to demonstrate calm control of the stock on the move, not your aim. :rolleyes: Penning demonstrates your dog's obedience, stopping off balance, and correct flanks - and the ability of both of you to read stock at hand. You can test any working skill or practice it, in an empty field. Honest.


Case in point: I'm working on my young dog's outruns, and one of the main exercises we are doing right now is holding sheep on the fence and taking them off calmly. The result: he's going twice as far and four times as confidently and listening - well, he actually listens very well now instead of, um, Not. Ever.


Somewhere, I think it might have been Robin? there was an article about making sure you were ready for your first trial run - focusing on what skills to work on. The "penning at the fencepost" exercise was in there, I'm pretty sure - if not, someone will explain it I'm sure. That's not only good for penning but also for working on calm control in general.


Basically, if you can do a field trial, you can work in an arena. Just remember the draws are stronger, the sheep are usually more dog broke and are course-savvy (that means if you lose control slightly before one obstacle, they'll bolt for the next one), and you don't have as much time to fix your errors. Arena trials test obedience more than anything, so if your dog doesn't listen, go back to class before stepping to the post! :D

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I think what you need is to enter and run in a few, and see where your weak spots are. In arena trials, you need a dog to not push the sheep too much, to flank/stop where you ask- that is *really, really* important, and you need a dog who can handle tight areas. The asca trials I have seen included the following 1) a take pen- the dog must cross the threshold of the gate- and so, then if the sheep come bolting out- then you need a dog who will cover- and not rush in for an excited you know what :rolleyes:

Then, your dog (if novice, you can go with) drives the sheep along the fence to an L shaped set of gates, and you need your dog to keep the sheep in that L of gates/fence. Then, you go across to the next L, and then, in the center of the arena, you will either have a y chute, or maltese cross, etc., and your dog has to get them through that, and then, finally, you pen the sheep. An important note is that you can't go "in" any of these obstacles yourself. There may be some videos on you tube- well, that's what I remember- hopefully some others will comment.

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