Fall has come to the valley… and it really is a beautiful thing. In any given day there are showers, rain and sunshine. The leaves from the maples and poplars are changing color, giving the hillsides a patchwork look in reds and greens. Thankfully, the walnut trees won’t loose their leaves for another month or two. Which gives me some cover when pups have to go out. To add to the joy, my dairyman neighbor across the river has decided to move to start moving to hay feeding in the winter instead of corn. As this is harvest season, he would normally be harvesting corn directly across the river from the house and I would be searching frantically on line for the side effects of doubling or tripling the recommended dose of OTC Claratin. However, in only having corn in the south fields and making hayrolls in the east fields closest to the house… i’m not trapped in my house. I’m actually enjoying the warmish evening on the deck with the smell of fresh cut grass, watching the headlights of the machinery do their harvest dance. With all this good weather, i’m way ahead on flood preparations and am still getting in my sheep time without the need of hip waiters.
I was really pleased with our lesson time. It seems that often when it comes to lesson time we don’t always put forward the best example of what is going on during our practice time. This time was different. Molly showed off the inside flank work she’d been doing; including her little OCD habit of doing her inside flank work by herself. Elsie didn’t seem to mind it, and since she’ll still stop and change direction on command… there are worse habits she could have. I didn’t name her The Perpetual Motion Machine as an act of irony.
Our homework for inside flanks is to solid up the Away side. That will come with time and considering she was not interested in walking into the sheep from that direction at all during the last lesson, it’s ok that she’s taking a little while. On the Bye side, our next step is to stop her in front of me and then have her walk up and push the stock away from me. 3 steps is the goal, but i think the first trick will be getting her to turn and walk into the sheep since she’s been moving them sideways off me. I’ll have to play around using a few different sets of sheep and locations. The alleyway seemed to be working well for us.
We also talked alot about outruns. What i’ve found seems to be happening with Molly is that in working to set her up for a correct outrun, i’ve inadvertently taught her to start her outrun by walking directly into her stock. Whoops. To at least stopping the perpetuation of a bad habit, i quit ‘setting her up’ for outruns by just having her walk in and around the stock with me and then just letting her naturally cover. Where her outrun on command is tight and fast and generally not awesome. the outrun she’s doing naturally is wide, more square and thoughtful until she gets close to the top. When she makes the turn into the top, she speeds up and can’t find balance (because she’s doing mock 9) . The suggested solution was to use a steady, which we’ve actually taught as an Easy or Lie. I can already see the difference. I also had to make a slight change to how i was pushing her out. Previously we were walking together and i start her out on the Away side outrun, push her out by bisecting her angle and then start to move back to where I was to receive the sheep. The new version is very similar, but instead of returning to my previous line to receive the sheep, i’m supposed to go back to her original place. The trick is going to be remembering where she started from!
Apparently, this is called The Push. There is also a Pull. While it was described to me, i think we’ll address that after i’ve tried it a few times. Its’ hard for me to make a picture here without a picture in my mind to call on! But we’re gathering up all these exercises, putting them together and will probably be toying with versions of them all winter long.
We’re off to the Vashon Island Sheepdog trial on Sunday. Good luck everyone who’s running!!