It seems like an age since I was at a sheepdog trial, and an age since I worked Queani at all. In fact, I think it must have been February, since her pups were born mid-March. And oh deary me, did it show.
So off we went, via the Wheatbelt backroads, to Kellerberrin for the State Yard/Utility trial. I overpacked just a little, after hearing R’s horror stories about the icy conditions at the last Binnaburra trial. But as it happened, the weather was beautiful and sunny- you could almost hear the crops growing.
I love travelling to Kellerberrin. The gentle hills of home are scenic and picturesque and all that, but the landscape that really lights my fire is that eastern wheatbelt country out towards the Goldfields. Red dirt county, where scrubby gimlet and salmon gums line the banks of subterranean rivers like seaweed on an invisible beach, where the light in the afternoon is the colour and consistency of honey. Kellerberrin isn’t really far enough east for me, but it’s a start.
It was nowhere near as cold this time as the previous Binnaburra trial, so I was told repeatedly (every time I shivered) by those hardcore veterans of the “Coldest Sheepdog Trial of 2010”.
But look, we did get ice! That’s what happens when you leave the pram outside overnight…
So how did we go?
Well, we’ve done better. R had not much luck all weekend. He ran Fly, Jim and Bonnie, all of whom did okay at times and not so okay at others. Fred was the oldest dog competing, and he was really feeling it, and his one run (Open Utility) really wasn’t the best. I think both Bella and Charlie had nice runs up until a point, and I can’t remember what those points were, except that Charlie was quite pigheaded and it probably was all his fault this time. Because all the dogs were so underworked and undertrained, even by our standards, R decided to scratch Jake from his yard runs. I tried to talk him out of it without effect, but then Neil K called him a pussy and it was game on. He did run him with a muzzle on though. And in the end Jake was his most successful dog, qualifying for the Novice Yard final with a 63 (including 5 points off for the muzzle) and ending up 4th.
I was only running Queani, and while I didn’t expect much from her given that she’s hardly had a decent run for two weeks and hasn’t worked sheep since February, I still wanted to strangle her after out first couple of runs.
First we had a lost sheep in the Novice Utility, which wasn’t really her fault because they were leaping out of that race like gazelles. But then she wouldn’t back (unusual for her), wouldn’t listen and kept jumping out of the drafting race in the yards to stare at the drafted sheep, anticipating taking them out into the paddock as per the usual utility course. Usually Queani and I have a sort of understanding, but I just did not feel any connection with her- it was like she was someone else’s dog. So basically both our yard runs were rubbish, and while we penned in the open utility, it wasn’t much fun to run. I’d kind of given up a bit by that stage, so tried not to tell her what to do at all in the Open Utility, and it did work a little bit better, although nothing to write home about. We ended up with a score of 105, which just scraped us into the final in last place.
But on Sunday morning, Queani was in a totally different mood- she smiled up at me when I spoke to her, came running when I spoke, and basically felt like my dog again. I’m not sure where she’d been, but it was nice to have her back. We had a much nicer run in the final. She still wasn’t keen on backing, although she did volunteer a little, and she did jump out once to go to the draft pen, but otherwise she listeneda bit, argued a bit, and did some nice work. It felt like we took forever getting through the yards, so when we got outside again I was motoring. We hooned through the gap and race with the odd lurch off course, and then got to the pen. We had one sheep break around the pen, then Queani pushed them in, and I jumped straight for the gate, sure the siren was about to time us out at any second. Queani lay down in front of the open pen mouth, just as she should, and then, for no apparent reason, I heard myself say “Queani, COME here!”. And to my total horror, she did. She got up and walked over to me, and bang, out went the sheep. 15 points down the toilet. And as it turned out, we had three minutes left on the clock. Nice work, Sam.
We ended up a very respectable 9th. Of course, as I keep reminding myself with that same exquisitely painful satisfaction that comes from scratching a scab or poking a bruise, I would have been 5th if I’d kept my mouth zipped and got the gate shut. 5th. With those extra 15 points, we would have had 124 in the final, which was the highest utility score of the weekend. 5th. Ahhh.
Queani was smiling when we left the ground, anyway. I think she figures it will give her something to throw back at me next time she screws a run up.
Mac’s Magic in the race:
Novice Yard Final
|1)||Hayden Harries||Olboa Ben (NZHDxcollie)||66||63||129|
|2)||Rick Janitz||Boylee Elly (collie)||65||50||115|
|3)||Hayden Harries||Mac’s Magic (collie)||62||52||114|
|4)||Richard McGuire||Badgingarra Jake (kelpie)||63||47||110|
|5)||Marianne Rogers||Christies Cocoacina (collie)||66||34||100|
Nan Lloyd and Kumbark Caleb:
Novice Utility Final
|1)||Nigel Armstrong||Yarralonga Ding (kelpie)||113||108||221|
|2)||Marianne Rogers||Christies Cocoacina (collie)||111||95||206|
|3)||Rick Janitz||Jandoree Dotcom (collie)||102||103||205|
|4)||Hayden Harries||Olboa Ben (NZHDxcollie)||101||95||196|
|5)||Nan Lloyd||Christies Driftz (collie)||97||scr||97|
Rod Forsyth and Binnaburra Basil:
R and Fly:
The Open Yard Final was a nail biter. The top scores are usually hard to separate, and this year was no exception. Neil K and Nigel A were tied for first even after the final run. The first run-off ended in a tie. And then so did the second. On the third attempt, Nigel’s Blue had the edge and won by two points, to the relief of the office staff, who’d been wondering if we’d be finished by dark.
The tension was palpable- spectators at the runoffs: R, Andrew Gorton, Ken Atherton, Rod Forsyth, Hayden Harries, Gordon Curtis and Grant Cooke:
Open Yard Final
|1)||Nigel Armstrong||Yarralonga Blue (kelpie)||67||69||136||+66||+66||268|
|2)||Neil Kristiansen||Badgingarra Casey (collie)||67||69||136||+66||+64||266|
|3)||Ken Atherton||Ramulam Gus (collie)||67||68||135|
|4)||Nigel Armstrong||Yarralonga Darkie (kelpie)||68||65||133|
|5)||Grant Cooke||Grassvalley Tod (collie)||67||65||132|
|=6)||Neil Kristiansen||Badgingarra Toppie (collie)||63||68||131|
|=6)||Rod Forsyth||Binnaburra Milo (kelpie)||63||68||131|
|=6)||Neil Kristiansen||Karrawarra Shona (kelpie)||64||67||131|
|=6)||Gordon Curtis||Binnaburra Tuff (kelpie)||67||64||131|
|10)||Rick Janitz||Jandoree Dotcom (collie)||64||66||130|
|11)||Hayden Harries||Olboa Ben (NZHDxcollie)||64||65||129|
|12)||Rick Janitz||Boylee Elly (collie)||63||65||128|
|13)||Andrew Gorton||Boylee Ella (collie)||65||61||126|
|14)||Gordon Curtis||Binnaburra Jess (kelpie)||63||62||125|
|15)||Gordon Curtis||Ramulam Sam (kelpie)||63||55||118|
|16)||Tony Boyle||Bellview Dale (collie)||64||LS||64|
Nigel Armstrong and Yarralonga Blue:
Blue’s litter brother, our Yarralonga Charlie:
Rick Janitz and Boylee Elly:
Tony Boyle and the famous Craig Black:
Open Utility Final
|1)||Ken Atherton||Kiwi Knight (NZHD)||117||122||239|
|2)||Neil Kristiansen||Karrawarra Shona (kelpie)||111||124||235|
|3)||Gordon Curtis||Binnaburra Jess (kelpie)||110||123||233|
|4)||Ken Atherton||Ramulam Gus (collie)||112||119||231|
|5)||Neil Kristiansen||Badgingarra Casey (collie)||107||128||228|
|6)||Gordon Curtis||Ramulam Sam (kelpie)||123||101||224|
|7)||Andrew Gorton||Boylee Ella (collie)||120||103||223|
|8)||Gordon Curtis||Binnaburra Tuff (kelpie)||114||105||219|
|9)||Sam Weaver||Daheim Queani (collie)||105||109||214|
|=10)||Doreen Hansen||Jandoree Molly (collie)||105||106||211|
|=10)||Rod Forsyth||Binnaburra Milo (kelpie)||115||96||211|
|12)||Rick Janitz||Jandoree Dotcom (collie)||107||101||208|
|13)||Tony Boyle||Boylee Mustard (collie)||115||77||192|
Binnaburra Tuff at the gap:
Rick Janitz and Jandoree Dotcom:
Boylee Mustard at the race:
Nigel Armstrong and Yarralonga Darkie at the pen:
Stars of the future- Boylee Sugar:
Andrew Gorton’s Just Bounce, unmistakeably a Jake pup:
And another Jake pup, but this time out of Queani- Mac’s Ollie:
Jim’s seen it all before:
K really enjoyed spectating this weekend- perhaps she’ll take after her dad and yard/utility will be her cup of tea.
She especially liked having a the close up view of the action- you never know when something might happen.
Pffft! Not quick enough, Nigel!
Farmboy had a great time, too. He had his own transportation-
And Rick and Doreen kindly brought along a mate for him to play with-
But four days was plenty for us, and eventually even the endlessly enthusiastic started to fade, eh, Ollie?