Saturday, January 3, 2009

Peekay Watkinsville Herding Saturday Trial Results

I've attempted to write this blog several times. After pecking away on my keyboard, and then proofing what I wrote I wanted to barf. Maybe I'm holding myself to too high a standard, but I don't care. SELECT/EDIT MENU/DELETE thank you very much. You are the weakest link, good bye.

In each of my previous antiseptic attempts I gave a boring chronological blow-by-blow account of our Saturday run. Simply dull and pointless. I have a video of the entire run uploaded to Youtube, and it's embedded in this very blog. I really didn't have anything to add.

For this, my 6th attempt, I am going to try a new tactic. I've watched the video several times now like Payton Manning studying film of an opposing team's defense. I went into my den, dimmed the lights and watch the video over, and over again for hours. I watched it so many times I think I broke my version of Microsoft Media Player. But seriously, many thanks to my wife Julie for taping this run for me. When you are on the field it's surprising how little you really see. Your field of view is so compressed. Everything happens very fast. I find watching herding videos of myself very educational. It's why NFL Offensive coordinators call the plays from the press box instead of the sideline. It's like an out of body experience.

For Saturday's run I am going to break it down for you into two categories: 1) things I liked and 2) things I didn't. After you read this, go to Youtube, or watch the video here. Feel free to throw your two cents worth by commenting in the area provided below. If you watch the video at Youtube, you do have a "view in high quality" option.

So I consider myself a "glass is half-full" guy. Lets start out with the positives:

Things I liked:
  1. My Outfit. - I really like the look of my "PacTech Performance" rain coat. With the risk of sounding pompous, I think it's cut works with my body type. The canary yellow color just "pops" off the drab gray Georgia skyline. It balances nicely with my earth tone green "Life is Good" running hat. My Lucky Brand jeans are neither too short, too long, too tight, or too baggy. They accent my "Bass All Weather" boots perfectly. I love my Bass boots. They are both fashionable and functional.
  2. Peekay's Fur - By no means do I claim to be objective, but I think Peekay is a real "looker". On a scale of 1 to 10, she's an 11. It's hard to tell in this video, but I love the way in some light she looks "Black and Tan" and in other light she looks "Black and Red".
  3. The Outrun - Once I fixed my body position (see #1 of things I didn't like") Peekay pulled off a neat and clean counter-clockwise out run. She went nicely behind the sheep, didn't dive bomb, completely ignoring the set out dog and stock handler, and pushed the sheep up the center of the course on line. She did all this with the single command from me "Go by". She could have been wider, and she could have approached slower, but I'm not going to get picky.
  4. The Power of Peekay - Peekay's AKC registered name is "Power of One vom Grunenfeld" taken from the Bryce Courtney novel The Power of One. The name fits her perfectly. In practice I once saw a sheep challenge her. Instead of walking away, the rogue sheep squared up and looked Peekay square in the eye. Mistake #1. The sheep then dipped its head and stomped its front hoof in defiance. Mistake #2. Peekay just stood there. She didn't bark, she just held her ground and returned the eye contact. I just stepped back, and said "go get him" and let her do what she needed to do. Like a lightning bolt, she charges the livestock, and lets him know who was the master. Watch the video and it's clear that in Peekay's world this is not a game. Herding is very serious. When she steps onto the field, there is nothing else in her world but me and the livestock. The video speaks for itself.
  5. Attempt #2 at the Y-chute - Things settled down a little. Peekay did a nice job of walking up and pushing them into the chute. She also did a good job reading her stock. When the stock came out the other end, the tried to loop back. Peekay read the move well. When the sheep tried to retreat, she was in the right position to prevent the escape.
  6. The Z chute - The only obstacle that we got right the first time. The sheep tried to go around it, and Peekay did a nice job of preventing the retreat. We lost points for being offline, but in the larger picture it's nothing to complain about.
  7. Attempts 2 and 3 at the holding pen - Once we cleaned up the mess after our first attempt at the holding pen, I thought Peekay did a nice job. We were beginning to figure out that the sheep we drew were troublesome. It took us a while but we got them into the pen. Each time they tried to escape, Peekay did a nice job of reading the stock to cut off the escape. On attempt #3 I also did a good job of using my body to block the sheep and help her out.
  8. Peekay's speed - When I'm on the field, I love watching her turn on the jets and gun down a rogue sheep. It takes my breath away. If you have a great run, you shouldn't see things like that, but it does add to the entertainment value.
  9. Peekay's instincts - I have to remind myself of one thing. Peekay knows more about herding than me. It's in her DNA. It's not in mine. In fact, I have no idea what is in my DNA. At no point in this run was Peekay looking to cause trouble. She never tried to split, divide and conquer. All of the running, all of the chasing it was in attempts to gather the stock, not to make havoc. She is truly a herding dog.
Things I didn't like
  1. My attention to detail - I realize that I am herding practice experienced, but still a novice when it comes to trials. When I placed Peekay for the outrun, I intended to send her in the clockwise direction, but my body position was telling her to go in the counter-clockwise direction. So when I gave the command to go, she went the direction my body, not my voice, was telling her. Notice in the video that the first time I walked away from Peekay I'm facing the camera. The second time my back is to the camera. I need to do a better job of controlling my nerves and using my head.
  2. My initial reads of Peekay and the livestock on the "fetch" - The fetch is the portion of the outrun after Peekay moves behind the sheep and "lifts" them from the grain pan, and drives the sheep the course to me. About 1/2 way to me suddenly I saw Peekay break into a run, and the sheep take off. I assumed Peekay, uncharacteristically, decided that she wanted to run and split the sheep. I was wrong. After reviewing the tape, it was the red sheep with the white face who first started to run in an attempt to escape. Peekay was only responding to his actions. This set the table for the screw ups that followed. I assumed that Peekay was looking to cause trouble and that wasn't the case.
  3. My subsequent reads of the livestock and the "red sheep with the white face - It wasn't until I went back to the van after my run and looked at the video that I discovered that the red sheep was the trouble maker. I got so thrown off my game, that I missed what must have been obvious to all the spectators. In subsequent trials, I need to quickly identify the most troublesome sheep, and work on controlling him. Control the trouble maker, you control the group. Control the group, you are able to maneuver the course. Maneuver the course, you have the potential to earn a qualifying score. This was a mistake that I corrected on Sunday.
  4. My reaction to the judge's warnings - First I am not complaining about the judge. The judge has the responsibility to protect the livestock. She doesn't know me or my dog from Adam. Every time the judge issued me a warning, which was every time the red sheep tried to escape, I felt I had to do something to show that my dog was under control. Hindsight being 20/20 I would have handled this differently. I should have said next to nothing. Peekay wasn't doing anything wrong. I have trained her if a sheep tries to escape, to go off after it. She wasn't harassing the livestock. I let the warnings get into my head. Next time, I'm going to believe in my dog and stay calm. This was another mistake we corrected on Sunday.
  5. Long pauses with no movement. - Bad things happen if you don't keep things moving, and that was true on this day. After a long pause the red sheep couldn't stand it anymore and took off. I need to concentrate, make good decisions and keep things moving. Short pauses are OK to settle things down, but not long ones. If I keep Peekay moving, the sheep will keep moving and they won't have time to think about escaping.
  6. Peekay's stops - On a good day Peekay's stops are mediocre, and today they were worse than that. As usual, I'm mostly to blame. I lack consistency in my commands. Sometimes I tell her to "stand", sometimes I tell her to "wait, and other times I tell her to "stay". In the future I am strictly going to use "stay" as a command to stop motion. "Stand" will only be used to stand up from laying down position.
  7. My first attempt at the Y-chute - It all started with the long pause I discussed earlier. If I would have been more decisive, the sheep would not have tried to escape, and the subsequent mayhem could have been prevented.
Well I can't believe how long of a post this is. It probably takes twice as long to read then my actual run! I still haven't discussed the events of Sunday. That will have to wait for another day. Thank you all for your attention. Speed is good, staying is better. Here's to better runs ahead.

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