Bones Quest for Easy

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1/27/92 JMS


The place for this AHBA trial was Inyokern, Ca. A high desert area, beautiful this winter. It is set in a valley, at the base of the East Side of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The winter sun and the clean cool air seem to bring out the best in its landscapes. The 3D effect betrays the actual size of it all.

Our reason for entering this trial was to finish the HTD-III title. We had completed the first leg three years ago. It was the only advanced title available in Herding we had not obtained. I did not want to wait another three years to pass, given the limited amount of times this course is offered.

The shedding portion of the advanced class had been changed since we ran it last. Now we were to remove a ribbon from a sheep neck. This sounded like an interesting change from the other herding trial systems. I looked forward to trying it. We were entered two days: 1/18/92 and 1/19/92.

A small AKC Herding Test was held that Saturday morning and the AHBA trial followed it. The judge was Gayle (Byrd) Dugan. Sunday morning was an AKC Herding Trial followed by the AHBA trial. The judge was Linda Rorem.

Saturday's AHBA HTD-III course found Bones (a Bouvier des Flanders whose formal name was XTERMINATOR van de VILOET CDX, TDX, HX) handled by Pam Green, and Easy (a Shetland sheepdog whose formal name was WTCH Stewart's Easy Storm UD, HX, PC, HTD-II). This day the honors went to Easy with the first place, as well as the High in Trial Sheep Score and the overall High in Trial award. He had earned his HTD-III.

Sunday's morning AKC trial course A "HX" class found Bones and Pam competing against Quest (a Bouvier des Flanders whose formal name was CH SEREN-I-T'S TOTAL CONQUEST HX) handled by Ken Dugan, a noted open border collie handler and trainer. Their first runs ended in a tie but neither had a qualifying score. Having demanded and obtained a rerun, the victory went to Quest; he had qualified. He also earned the High In Trial with that first place score.

There are few AKC HX titled dogs in California. None of us had been able to earn H.CH (herding champion) points. We had not been entered in the same trial course in order to have enough dogs for points. Although the AKC trial was that morning, it was not until the AHBA that afternoon that the three of us were together on the same course under the same judge at the same time. From the beginning of the AHBA's trial that afternoon, which started with the advanced (HTD-III) class, the spectators were treated to the competitive skills displayed by this advanced class.

Ken/Quest and Jerry/Easy, having both defeated Pam/Bones earlier, hoped that one of them would remain undefeated. Pam wanted to redeem herself and beat them both.

Pam/Bones were first and had a good run with problems at the freestanding pen being the only low spot. Quest/Ken were next with the precise style for which they had become known. Both teams completed the course with good scores. Easy and I had to do more.

In the herding circles, Easy had earned the nickname of "Mr. Easy." Jerry decided to rely on him to live up to it. Jerry, relaxed, leaning on the handler's post, sent Easy on his outrun and waited. Easy slowed and deepened behind the sheep on his outrun. Picking his spot, he turned in and made the sheep leave the hay; they had settled down to eat. With this silent lift complete, he started down the course on the fetch. He brought his charges around one of the drive panels, which was set too far over, blocking the centerline. The quietness of the desert became evident. Just past the protruding panel, back to "on line," the sheep decided to challenge Easy. This argument was broken up. Everyone was startled when the first whistle command echoed through the calm of the desert.

The precision that followed was climaxed with a beautiful straight line into the pen from the cross-drive panel. Now it was Easy's turn to pull it out for Jerry. Easy had been sent and downed behind the freestanding pen so the sheep could be brought out.

The problem was that the pen gate opened facing the exhaust pen gate. Gaining their freedom, the sheep bolted for the exhaust pen. Jerry, realizing this mistake, sent Easy, hoping he could catch the sheep and bring them back before losing too many points. Turning on the afterburners, Easy overtook them and had a few words to the leader of the sheep. Bringing them back, Easy looked to the pen. Jerry had moved to the middle of the lower third of the course. With a "No problem" look he would bring the sheep there. Easy pushed the sheep until they resigned themselves to going back to the far end. Jerry then asked Easy to push them past him, which he did. The surprised look on Easy's face when Jerry pulled the ribbon from the sheep's neck was priceless. Easy had received many ribbons before but always after the sheep were put away. The judge, recognizing that the ribbon had been removed, motioned and the sheep were put in the exhaust pen.

The HTD-III class had been run; nothing to do but wait for the end of the trial. Then at last, the awards. First place went to Easy with a score of 88.5, second to Quest with a score of 88 and third to Bones. The advanced class had been close. A little later High Score Sheep honors went to Easy along with the High In Trial Score award.

Now that you have read about it. Watch it here. Filmed and edit by Ed Faulk.