Tuesday night Peekay, Lauda and I were in Watkinsville GA, for sheep herding practice. With our AKC trial only 2 1/2 weeks away, it was time to get serious and start tightening the screws.
For each of our two practice runs, I decided we would run the entire AKC A-course to the Intermediate class rules. Just before we went out on the field, Doyle swapped out the stock. The current set of sheep had been out there with several different dogs for about an hour and were spent.
When I opened the gate and walked onto the field with Peekay, I immediately new that the new set of sheep were very LIGHT. With Peekay a good 30 yards away, the sheep were reacting to her movement, giving her a wide berth.
The problems of last week had disappeared. We no longer had a problem of the sheep hiding in the chutes. With Peekay 20 yards behind, the sheep would easily enter the Y chute, and exit out the other end. Peekay didn't have to even get close to the mouth of the gates, let alone go into them. The first time the sheep approached the Z chute, they were going so fast, they ran right by.
No practice would be complete without problems. This night our main problem was moving the sheep out of the #3 corner which is in between the exit of the Z chute and the entrance to the holding pen. The sheep went into the corner, but wouldn't come out. In order to get them out of the corner, Peekay needed to approach pressed against the back fence, forcing the sheep to shoot out.
Peekay gets it. I've been herding with her since she was 6 months old, and I know she understands her job. She knows that it is her responsibility to keep the sheep together and to prevent them from running away. To get the sheep out of the corner, Peekay would have to "open the door" and give the sheep the opportunity to run uncontrolled down the field. Once open, she would have to quickly out flank the sheep, and close the door. Peekay was very reluctant to open the door. I tried several time to swing Peekay wide, but each time she kept heading on a trajectory directly to the sheep, keeping them pinned in the corner.
We eventually got them out of the corner, and into the holding pen. Getting them out of the pen was our second problem. When we draw light sheep I can typically position Peekay behind the back wall of the pen. The sheep see her, feel her presence and they'll move away from her and pop out. Not these sheep. They seemed quite happy to stay in the safety of the pen. I had little choice but to bring Peekay into the tight confines of the 10 x 10 hold pen with the sheep. . This is always a very delicate maneuver. I moved Peekay up slowly one step at a time. The sheep stood motionless until they couldn't take it any longer. Suddenly they all made a break for it. Peekay did a great job to run after them, cut off the retreat, and hold them along the fence. We practiced the hold pen exit several times, and we were successful about half the time. Not bad.
In the end I was pleased with he practice. We were presented with a number of situations that we could run into at the trial. We uncovered some weaknesses that we can work on correcting.
Plans are for this weekend to head back to Townsville, SC for another herding clinic. We'll keep trying. Only 2 1/2 weeks to our trial!