Donald McCaig Posted August 15, 2017 Report Share Posted August 15, 2017 Dear Sheepdoggers,Some years ago, when I extended how far I’d travel to a sheepdog trial I noticed that in each region, some locals were were very, very hard to beat - certainly I rarely managed it. What puzzled me was our National Finals where these strong handler/dog teams did okay but didn’t stand out as they had at home.When I went to the Word Trial in Wales most of the finalists were Welsh and 10 of this year’s 16 european World Trial finalists were european.We yanks have always believed British handlers are better than we are and when some of the best of the Brit best were invited to Soldier Hollow they signed up for Meeker too planning to follow one expected triumph with another. But the Brits wrecked at Soldier Hollow so badly they cancelled Meeker and went home.Some years ago, we founded our flock with range ewes - those same spooky, tough sheep that often destroy eastern handlers upon first acquaintance.We hosted practice sessions for Virginians going out to the Oregon Finals the first year it was there.Didn’t help. Our Virginia farm Utah Rambouillets had become very heavy and unwilling to split. They were different from their range sisters.Another phenomenon many handlers have experienced when year after year WITHIN A REGION their dogs do better at some trials than others. ApparentlyTerrior must affect the handler as well as the dog.Those few North American teams who compete anywhere in this country have become, I think, remarkably adaptive to sheepdog terriors which are far more complex than we credit.At first glance, sheepdog skills are simple: an effective “down”, “flanks”, “walk up” and “look back”. But there’s a wild card:“effective”. We prefer square flanks but if sloppier flanks don’t disturb the sheep . . . Yes, an “off your feet” down, but if a “stand” is reliable . . . I’ve seen farm dogs working effectively on hand signals.Recently,I said to a well known handler, “One of the virtues about our sport is we keep on learning . . .”Her disagreement surprised me. She believed she’d acquired the knowledge she’d need - at least knowledge enough to win all the major trials. That she hasn’t and seemed nearer that goal years ago is probably just bad luck.But presuming one can know everything about how to command a dog around a big trial course and read sheep as well as the person who has herded one flock for decades, even the best handler depends on his/her unconscious - and the dog’s unconscious - to read that big trial’s terrior.I don’t know what combines as a sheepdog’s terrior. Scent perhaps. But it’s more than that: I’ve seen dogs trying to work sheep driven insane by AKC “herders” and very good dogs were suddenly perplexed. In the last decade of our trials we moved to a new field with an unfamiliar breed who’d ever been trialed before. Of 45 dogs, 8 who’d competed in lat year’s National Finals we had three number scores. Terrior.Donald Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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