The last time i got out to work, Erin, RobAnn and I packed up the rigs and headed out to SaraJo’s Farm. I was hearing a lot of different reviews of the new sheep and the more i heard the less it all made sense. i’m not above admitting it, i was freaking out a little. The most reasonable course of action was to pack up the sheep team and go have a look for myself. We also wanted to discuss moving the sheep in the pens without a dog as Erin will be trialing her dogs the week following the April Trial and we don’t want to fry their little brains.
When we arrived, SJ and John (who btw are fantastic hosts, always) sorted the sheep into the pens and set a group out in the field. Erin and i walked around in the pens and went back and forth. Historically, the sheep have sometimes moved quickly in the ally. Typically when sheep are moving quickly, they’re not doing a lot of thinking and you run the risk of dog/people/sheep injury. While they were always workable, the goal is always to present calm sheep to trial on so everyone has the best chance of a good experience. The sheep moved really nicely in the pens off of Z, but we also talked about a non-dog method to try out another day.
To test our sheep movement in the pen, i did a mock run with Molly-monster. In an arena Molly has singularly unique quality – she covers heads and will not let them crash a fence, even if that means doing circles around the sheep at mach 9. I felt prepared if they were super light, even calm; it was weird. Either way, i set up about 3/4 of the way from the take pen and Erin sent out four sheep. I sent her and she went mach 5 but out like a field outrun, but the sheep just watched her for a minute like she was something they’d not seen before. When they started up the fenceline i throttled her back. I decided the best approach would be to stay up near the pen and try to only open my mouth on the corners and on the AKC obstacles where i knew she was weak. While they skipped right around the chute, Molly seemed to remember the Z chute from working at Fido’s years ago. She slowed down as soon as they got in and paced them through it. We struggled a little at the C pen. Not because of the sheep or the dog but because i forgot to hold my side. The sheep were more than happy to walk in when Molly wasn’t over flanking. We did the repen with the level of control one would expect from a started dog (not much). The next group i didn’t watch as carefully and she brought them to me instead of driving them past me. So the entire run was spent trying to push and keep them off me.
Later we pulled out Simon in case we needed big presence as the sheep got wise to the gig. He walked the alley, got within 10ft of the first active pen and they had a moment of clarity without a lot of fuss. To his credit, he was a pretty calm pup. Question 1 answered. The sheep are light, but not too light. They were used for a clinic and training. They’re not heavy, not always forgiving, but they seem to act like manageable sheep.
After all the pen work was done, I used Molly to pull a few from the pens and into a large pen… maybe an AKC PT arena? Eitherway, not terribly large. I wanted Molly to practice taking her corners slowly and keeping her pace slow so the sheep were calm. She did a good job, until one sheep got left behind. I was really confused. It looked like it was hung up and Molly was staying with it. So i walked up to it, looked around it and i kept waiting for it to run off while i was looking. i could put my hands on the sheep and it didn’t move. I walked back to Molly called her back so the sheep got some room and sent her around. She did a nice job of moving the single. We did a few more corners and the same sheep dead stopped to challenge her. I encouraged her to hold pressure and she did a nice job. When she wasn’t sure, i came up next to her and looped my finger under her collar and we pushed a bit more until he finally turned. Usually she would have backed off a turning sheep, so it was a good experience. The sheep didn’t win, but it also wasn’t a hostile interaction.
When i got back to the truck we talked a bit about what Molly was doing. Erin had a better view, and apparently miss Molly was using her eye and small movements to hold the sheep in the corner. She tries to use it in the most random places, but the only thing she knows how to do with her eye is hold things in place. So we’ll need more time with lighter sheep apparently, to let her figure out how to use that tool best. If nothing else, maybe this would make hoof trimming easier? 🙂