Category Archives: trials

Be the Bug

Well, tough day at the trial. There was nothing dreadful, just not how I envisioned it.

Vaider was on the muscle so we missed our fetch panels and our drive lines were all over. Chuck ran very tight on his outrun shifting the sheep before he should have. He had to go back to set out to pick one up off the pens; as he did this it broke around and into the bush. I called his run.

The good:

I watched the sheep being set for Vaiders run.  The sheep  scattered around  three times before they got to the setout point. Vaider picked them up and he never let them try him. He handled them so there was no indication of them being a tough set other them they were a little squirrely.

Chuck had a bad manager who should have opened his outrun before he got to the sheep. That being said: When I called Chucks run, he came off and then I was able to set him onto the other sheep and drive them over to the exhaust pen and again call him off those sheep. All this leaving me with the impression that had his manager done his job the run might have been saved. We will not name, names of the manager for fear of publicly shaming him!

And then we come to the point:

On the way to the trial we had a large stone thrown at the windshield doing an impressive amount of damage to it. As the day progressed the line “sometimes your the windshield, sometimes your the bug.”

I kept thinking, I wish I was the windshield.  I then got to thinking, No, I really don’t want to be the windshield. I look at our windshield and realize that is needs to be replaced and not one will think of it one way of the  other. I think of the rock, and yes it did an impressive amount of damage but, the rock is a problem and something to be avoided. I then remembered as a kid I was always amazed at the way different bugs would smash into the windshield leaving a unique mark. I would spend miles looking at the different splatters from different types of bugs (I actually still do this). The trial today made me realize; I want to be the bug.

Why the bug:

Well it really comes down to how we handle disappointment. If we are the rock, we leave an impression but it is an annoyance to the people around us and is rarely good. If we are the windshield, we may hold our tongue but we are discarded in a heap. If we are the bug, we get to show the people around us the beauty that can be found in everything. We get a chance to show others the joy we find in working good dogs and livestock not just in winning.

Today I tried hard to be the windshield. I really should have tried to be the bug. If I was the bug I could allow myself to be amazed at the spectacular things my dogs do even when it does not go as I plan. If I could be the bug it would be easier for me to be a happy man (which would make my wife happier). If I could be the bug I would not make people uncomfortable when I am really trying hard not to make them uncomfortable (the windshield does not seem happy, maybe a little mopey). If I could be the bug I could amaze and thrill people with my spectacular crashes as well as when I avoid the crashes.

Yes, I want to be the bug.


Video Debut of Chuck

This will be a little out of order simply because I do not have Vaider’s runs up yet.

Chuck has a litter on the ground and actually at their homes. They are 10 weeks old now. I have been asked about video of Chuck but all I have had is photos. Trudy was nice enough to video Chucks Pro/Nov run at McDonalds Winter series in Washington the other week.

The pro/nov is the level between novice and open at USBCHA trials. It is not sanctioned by the USBCHA but is often run to allow young dogs not ready for Open to gain some experience on the trial field. USBCHA actually only sanctions Open and Nursery; but, back to Chuck.

Chuck is a big moving dog. This helps him cover ground well.  He is not bred for trials but for cattle work. I find selecting dogs bred for ranch work tend to work better for me. He does show some style at times but it is not the only way he works. He is well able to vary how he works, making him a pretty versatile worker.

When working a dog at a trial we tend to work the dog to save points. This sometimes means more commands, more precise movements,  harder turns, or more stops to name a few. I always want my dogs to work as natural as possible but will tend to take a little more control in a trial then I would just working.

At this trial Chuck tied for first place but ended up second. The tie was broke by the out work. We lost more point on that part of the course so, second place.

Click on the link to watch Chuck’s run –


MacDonalds Ewesful Acres winter series #2

Got away to Longbranch Wa. to a fun little one day trial.  A big thank you to George and Sue MacDonald for hosting the trial and to Ron Fisher for taking the time to judge. The stock was set by Sue and George, along with Ashley and Heidi. It was nice to get away to this trial and see old and new friends.

I ran Chuck in Pro/Nov. He was a little on the muscle and got pulled in by his eye on the outrun.  His lift was quiet and he brought the sheep nicely though we just missed our fetch panels. On our first drive line he got caught up about half way up trying to bring the sheep back but with a little effort we got through that. Second drive, he held the sheep on a good line, dropping a little low at the last moment  so skimmed the panels on the inside. Rather then a pen they had a chute. The line to the chute was good, just missing it but turned them back and right through. Overall it was a middle of the road run. As a young dog I felt good about what he did. He held his sheep well, took most of his commands leaving me feeling pretty confident about working him (unfortunately that means I get to take just as much blame for our mistakes… timing, timing, timing).

Vaider was in open.  The course was his type of course with a dog leg fetch and a double panel drive away on the first leg of the drive. Vaider is always a steady dog to run. He had no real problem with the course other then a hesitation on his flank allowed the sheep to step around the second set of panels on the first leg of the drive. I was very happy with the last leg of the drive into the chute; it was clean and smooth the whole way putting the sheep into and through the chute. In the shedding ring I thought I might be in trouble as the sheep balled up and did not seem to want to line out. It did not take Vaider long to get the head of the last sheep and we had our single. In the end it was good enough for a second place finish behind Norm Close with Craig.

It is always nice to feel confident in the dogs you have to run. The interesting thing about that for me is; the more confident I am in my dogs ability the more pressure I feel at the post.

It was great to see so many people I know go to the post to do something that can be so challenging, yet, win lose or draw, so rewarding. The relationship that develops between handler and dog is both thrilling and interesting. I think stockdog work is a never ending learning experience. If you are not learning about livestock you are learning about your dog; and if not either of those you are learning about yourself. For me, one of the big thing is to not get so wrapped up in it that I miss out on the fun.

Trailing of the Sheep

DSC_3952-Edit This year Trudy and I again set sheep for the Trailing of the Sheep trial held in Hailey Idaho. This is fast becoming a trial we look forward to every year. As we pulled in this year we both suffered the pains of regret for not getting our entries in to also compete in the trial. This trial runs just one class, USBCHA open. Being run in conjunction with the Trailing of the Sheep festival; this is a must attend if you enjoy sheepdog trails and festivals even if you do not have a dog ready to run in open. DSC_3974-Edit It is often hard to set and compete and do a good job at both when you are limited on dogs so I made the decision to just set this year. Chuck and Vaider did not disappoint, both did fantastic for me; and I’m sure Trudy was happy with her dogs work (if not she should be).

This year we had an added obstacle course to navigate with each set, two sets of wheel lines about half way between the set out point and the set out pens. The following photos show Trudy navigating  the obstacles. The one set of wheel lines were too tall to straddle and the other was too low to go under; so the pattern was under the first over the second then reversed on the  way back for the next set.

First went the sheep…DSC_4161 DSC_4166 The dog would hold up the sheep while the handler ducked under the first wheel line…DSC_4167 DSC_4168 DSC_4169 DSC_4170 DSC_4171 DSC_4172 With the dog still holding the sheep the handler next stepped over the next wheel line…DSC_4173 DSC_4174 DSC_4175 DSC_4176 DSC_4177 DSC_4178 Then the handler and dog would proceed to take the sheep to the set out point.DSC_4179 DSC_4180At the end of the weekend I was reminded of muscles I had forgotten while Trudy was still raring to go and felt her dogs needed another walk…DSC_4218Looking forward to next year.

World Stockdog Championship 2016… Calgary Stampede

Well, another year has gone by and I have competed in another, the 2016,  World Stockdog Championship at the Calgary Stampede. How did we do…. average. Yes, three years at this trial and we have yet to get out of the average run category…  yet, somehow,  it is one of my favorite trials of the year.

Chuck at Calgary Stampede
Chuck at Calgary Stampede

I entered two dogs this year, both Australian Kelpies. My older main dog, Kuawarris VV Aider (Vaider) and,  my 3 year old, Watkinsons Chuck Cheemo (Chuck). Vaider has run at the Calgary Stampede  the last 3 years. This was Chucks first year. I expected the sheep to like Chuck and for Vaider to hold them a little too tightly; I was wrong. This year the sheep at the World Stockdog Championships, liked Vaider and were a little wary of Chuck.

These two dogs work differently. Vaider, holds stock together and wants to control their every move. Chuck is a little more loose in his style; allowing for the stock to move a little more freely. Vaider has a calming effect on sheep while Chuck seems to help cattle relax. They are expected to work both cattle and sheep and have learned to deal with the stock presented.

World Stockdog Championship, Calgary Stampede 2016
Chuck, happy after a run at Calgary Stampede World Stockdog Championship 2016

I am happy to be able to partner up with both of these dogs. They teach me things each day ( sometimes it is teaching me my weaknesses). Someday I hope to be the handler they deserve.

I did not make it into the finals again this year but, George Walker with his Kelpie, Gus, did. Congratulations to George and all the other competitors, that made it to the finals. Congratulations to all the competitors for: being there, being great ambassadors of our sport and, for being models of sportsmanship. Thank You to the Calgary Stampede for hosting the World Stockdog Championships.

Win, Lose, or Draw; see you all next year at The Calgary Stamped, World Stockdog Championships… 2017

*photo credit: Keith Viklund