Learn to Trial Better Day: May 21st 2023

By Sarah Loten

I had a delightful time at the Learn to Trial Better day for novice handlers at Jimmie’s Farm, near Athens, led by a wonderfully supportive team of Anne Wheatley, Carol Guy and Lorna Savage. Of course, much to my embarrassment, I had all the usual excuses lined up, for not being in a good place to even register. When I first saw the post for an available spot, I leapt at the chance. But then doubt crept in. Isn’t there always a ‘but then’, particularly as a novice adult in any activity?! 

After all, my young female, Tash, hadn’t been worked on any sheep since last fall. I live on a working sheep farm and while there are plenty of sheep, they have all been busy, since March, in the business of late pregnancy or lambing. In my lack of confidence, I’m not comfortable using a young dog on sheep at this stage. And the weather, well, we all know about the vagaries of winter and early spring weather! Plus, we have an older experienced dog, so when work needs to be done, it’s too easy to take Dotti, the calmer, older one. So, through no fault of her own, Tash has had no time with experience with sheep since late fall.

Armed with all these ‘excuses’, ifs, ands or buts, I arrived at Jimmies farm with trepidation. As I gathered my dog, my wits and belongings, I was welcomed wholeheartedly by Anne and Lorna. It takes a village, and there was a whole crew of teachers and learners! I at once felt more at ease, as stories were told, and experiences shared. 

I appreciated hearing an explanation of expectations at every stage of trialing, right from the time you arrive at the field, through to waiting your turn behind the post, how to set yourself up at the post. Then, rules and strategies were explained for the typical novice-novice and pro-novice courses.

At that point, we all took turns running our dogs through a novice course. Again, all the doubts rose up in me. However, Anne coached me through the entire process, encouraging and suggesting in ‘real time’ as Tash and I went through the course. It felt like an hour but in reality, I think it was barely 5 minutes! I am fortunate that I have had some excellent mentoring, previously. However, the chance to brush the rust off both my dog and me, in such a supportive environment, was much appreciated!

The afternoon was devoted to running a trial run for each of us, on the beautiful ‘Blackies’ of Jimmies Farm. I found this somewhat  harder, but again, it was a tremendously supportive learning experience. I certainly learned that every run is a new experience!

It was a beautiful day, in beautiful company, with much learning. After months of working away at home on our sheep operation, it was so good to be able to spend time learning and enjoying the dogs, the sheep, the people and the beautiful landscape of the farm! I hope others will see, from my experience, how worthwhile it is to create and participate in a day like this.

A big thank you to all who created and participated in this educational event!

*All Photo credit Felicia Pynes


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