Welcome to The Real Time Canine

My name is Amelia Smith of BorderSmith Kennel and with The Real Time Canine, I am providing training technique for Border Collie Sheepdogs. Beginning with 10 week old Kensmuir Star, I will document his daily lessons in words and pictures every Sunday. Previously subscription based, the complete working journal is now available here every Sunday.

From the moment I collected Star, his training began and you will be with us every step of the way. Good manners, willingness & confidence are necessary for him to attain my goal to become a useful working sheepdog and successful trial competitor. From the first lessons on manners & socialization to his first exposure to sheep, you will be a part of Star's journey to success.

After a lifetime with animals, dogs, horses and livestock, I am happy to share my expertise with you. I have found success in sheepdog trials at home and abroad and have trained dogs that went on to find success with others. To learn more about me and my dogs, please visit my BorderSmith website and my BorderSmith Blog! Cheers and thank you very much.

Oct 24, 2011

Week 123 - Steamboat Springs Trial

Steamboat Springs, CO is one of the 3 most beautiful places I've ever been to a dog trial. Wooler, England and Carbondale are in that group. With the famous ski hill, Mt. Werner, looming over us, the trial field was set against the equally famous Yampa River right square in the middle of a just-harvested hay meadow. In fact, the last of the big round bales were just being carried off when I arrived 2 days before the trial began. Lucky me, I have dear friends who summer there, and I came early to hang with them.

I entered 3 dogs here, with Mirk getting the call both days, because it is with him that I have the most trouble earning points. This trial counts toward the 2012 National Finals in Klamath, OR. Star and in-training dog, Buff, got one run each. Buff on Saturday, Star on Sunday.

In one way this entry system worked in Star's favor. I made all my handling mistakes with Mirk and Buff on Saturday, and knew just what to, and what not to do with Star on Sunday. It didn't matter, but I didn't know that when I walked to the post with him. Because he needs so much more experience on big, strong, range ewes, like we were presented at this trial, only having one run worked against him. I truly wish I could have done it differently.

Nights here are cold, and I ran the heater in my RV for 15 minutes before leaving my warm bed in the morning. Once outside the door, I was greeted by hard frost that is quickly dispatched after the sun clears Sleeping Giant Mountain. Temperatures climbed steadily throughout the day, topping out around 80. The skies were cloudless, and there was only the softest breath of wind in our faces. A little warm for the dogs, but I absolutely reveled in that spectacular weather.

The field at this trial is small, but it's no push over, that's for sure. The layout of exhaust to set-out with irrigation channels spread across the field, and the sheer width of it caused problems for more than a few, Mirk included. A left-hand outrun started the dogs straight towards a steep embankment that turned most upfield towards their sheep and the mounted set-out crew, about 400 yards away. Off to the right is a vast expanse of open meadow with a lot of room to go wrong if your dog is wide, like Mirk on Saturday. On that side an out of bounds was declared at a low berm on our side of the river. I'm sure Mirk's nose crossed over even though he was never called for it. The bloodletting of outrun points and time, however, took him out of contention.

I felt the embankment to our left would cause Star to run tight if sent to that side. I trust his outrun and his ability to spot sheep, he is brilliant at it, so a right hand outrun didn't bother me at all, even after the mess Mirk made. He didn't dissappoint. Fresh from a couple days off, and keen to work, he took off flying, which really is a beautiful thing to watch. The dog also has something close to perfect balance, and he came screaming around at the top dead on, for a clean lift.

The sheep were heavy all weekend long, getting heavier when it got hotter, and Star ran in the heat of the day. After the beautiful outrun and lift, I was optomistic, but soon enough, he began to struggle on the fetch even though we sliced the panels in two. By the time we turned the post, the sheep were finished, and drove like slugs. My dog was beginning to lose his cha-cha, and I was beginning to lose hope of a winning run. Time was running out. We struggled, we worked, we coersced, bullied and doube-teamed the sheep, but after the turn at the drive-away, I considered my options.

Meeker next week, if I get really lucky, then the finals. I thought to myself; Better to call it good and go help my dog? Or, muddle along on a losing run? You see my point. I hadn't placed yet this weekend, but I still had Mirk to run, so I walked. I turned, waved and said thank you to the judge, Thad Buckler, then went and encouraged my dog to exhaust his sheep with confidence. A few hands said I should have continued, but they were wrong. With my just 3 year old dog going into the Nursery Finals in two weeks, I was right to retire. And I still have an outside chance at getting into Meeker. At this point, I am bubble girl. I am next to get in.

Mirk had an outstanding run on Sunday that was good enough for 6th place, and I am really pleased with him. I am spending the night at the trial field Sunday still undecided whether to take my chances and head out for Meeker on the hope of getting in. I double-checked my wait-list status, and with just 1 day left for anyone to cancel, I'll leave for Carbondale, where I can at least be useful.