Kay and Carew's exploits at Evesham Sheepdog Trials
Saturday 10th August was the date of the Local Novice section of the Vale of Evesham's annual sheepdog trial at Pebworth in Worcestershire. I had already sent in an entry for Carew and Kay for this friendly trial which is held on the afternoon before the National Open trial.
We arrived early, and I arranged to run Kay at number three and Carew seventh.
The sheep were tricky but perfectly manageable if the dog gave them room and as long as you didn't allow them to stop. From watching the two runs before ours, I'd noticed that the sheep were likely to challenge the dog if they were allowed to stop at any time.
Overall, Kay had a good run. She was difficult to stop but the sheep went cleanly through all the obstacles and we managed to shed them but (as was the case with most of the other competitors) we weren't able to pen them.
The worrying part for me was that Kay became very tired part-way through the pen section. She even ran off towards the car, clearly in search of water but I quickly called her back, and like the little trooper she is, she carried on working, but I was very relieved when the judge (Terry Cashmore) called "Time".
If you're "Timed Out" in a sheepdog trial, you retain whatever points you've earned on the run so far, but if you retire, you're out, so you can't be placed. In Local Novice trials, its usually best to keep going if you can, and this proved to be the case with Kay's run, because we were placed 3rd!
Carew's run, on the other hand was terrible. She was clearly not "herself" - nearly crossing over on her outrun before she actually spotted the sheep and widened back out, and then she was feeble and indecisive.
She went through a phase like that some months ago, and I realised the cause must be the same. Carew is coming into season.
We promptly retired. No point in going on when she was so confused - she wouldn't gain anything positive from the experience. This is the one disadvantage of female sheepdogs when compared with males.
The work of some females is unaffected by their seasons, but those that are affected become often become over-sensitive and sometimes confused.
As with the Saturday Local Novice class, I'd already entered Kay and Carew in the "Open" the next day but clearly, I couldn't run Carew.
When I got the news of Kay's third place though, I decided to take her, because she would know the course and the sheep, and if we went early in the morning, she could get a run while the temperature was still cool.
I needn't have bothered though. From the moment I first took her out of the car when we arrived, Kay was clearly in a high state of excitement.
I took her away from the trials course into an adjoining field, and we walked around for a while, but she continued to look around excitedly, looking for sheep.
My fears were well founded. On her run, Kay was not good. I had to really shout at her to get her to stop at all, and even when she did stop, she refused to stay where she was.
Having said that, we managed to get the sheep through all the gates (somehow) but when it came to shedding the sheep, she was virtually unmanageable, flanking too tightly, and not stopping where I wanted her to.
As if that weren't enough, three times the sheep parted and we had an opportunity to shed - but when I called her, Kay didn't come through. That was enough for me.
We retired - but as though to add a final insult, Kay took the sheep off the course beautifully - jauntily driving them ahead of me and into the exhaust pen!
Who was it that said "Never work with children or animals"? Never mind, at least we picked up third place in the Local Novice, and I'm very pleased with Kay for that.
This was only her third sheepdog trial, so she can be forgiven for being excited the next day. Hopefully, with more experience of trials, the novelty will wear off and she'll be more consistent.
I'm absolutely sure that once Carew's hormones have settled down, she'll go on to be a trials winner. She seems to have the perfect temperament for it (most of the time)!