I traveled southward this weekend to help Larry and Liezel at Shamrock Ranch with the vaccination of sheep they are custom grazing/raising for a year. I took a couple stock dogs with, in case there was some stock work to be had and indeed there was.
Our first hurdle before working sheep was convincing several guardian dogs we were there in peace, even though we were going to move their sheep. Next was negotiating two very protective llamas that wanted to stomp the dogs. After that was worked out we were good to go to work.
It became apparent that these sheep would move better if driven from the rear rather than gathered. They were not interested in following a human leader. They are also in a new place and so didn’t have the familiarity of knowing where they might be headed to as farm sheep often do.
They flocked quickly and tightly and when they felt insecure about going into an unknown they set to milling immediately, which is really a thing of beauty in its own right but very difficult to direct motion from. Gibson and Mic and I did some beautiful and difficult pieces of work to get forward movement of the large milling flock and then long stretches of driving work across the pasture up to the corrals.
I did make a poor judgement call when I put young Mic in the corrals to help with crowding ewes into a holding pen. Some ewes had lambs at side and Mic was over-faced. It fried her mind for a bit and she resorted to using her speed as power which was ineffective in this situation. I could see the effect on her the next day when driving another mob again. Back at home today I put her to work on a smaller group and she willingly stepped forward to turn heads so hopefully we haven’t gone too far backward. Gibson surprised me with patience and control and holding the wings of the mob when I moved him over to do so. He also showed a willingness to come forward and say move when the ewes tried to stand up to him. He was tense about it but he sure stepped up and had good success.
It was a treat to see Gibson and Coyote Mic work elsewhere on a large flock of sheep and to handle them through doing so. It made my week to see the dogs work in that fashion and to have worked the two dogs together without having a wreck. What I had done only occurred to me later. At home I work two dogs together quite often with varying degrees of control, but I have never done so away from my own sheep or for that matter with an audience watching.
That’ll do Kelpies, that’ll do :-)
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