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TRIALING AND TRAINING
DOG FIRST AID
MADE IN THE USA
SHEEPDOG HERDING LESSONS
The girls and I had been invited to help with the sheep at a local rodeo. Mutton busting has been around for over 20 years, and is a kick in the pants to watch. Little kids climb onto the backs of sheep, grip on for dear life, and then the sheep are released into the arena. The event is much like bull riding, in that the kid who holds on the longest, wins.
The rodeo in the past had been using people to try to hold sheep into a group in the arena. Every time a sheep and child are released, that sheep needs to be gathered and held on the opposite side of the arena in order to draw the next released sheep across. Sheep don't work too well for people, and they had been running all over the arena during the mutton busting event.
When I got invited to help, I thought in the back of my mind a different scenario, which I was skeptical of. I thought that a sheep and kid would be released and once the sheep was free of the kid, I would send a dog to exhaust the sheep back out of the arena. Working just one sheep is not fun. They just can't think for themselves. I learned that lesson along time ago. Never work just one sheep. Take the group to the one then work the group. With this set-up, there would only be one sheep at a time and it would not be pretty.
Instead of one sheep at a time, they wanted us to just hold the "used" sheep into a group across the other side of the arena. "Is that all?" I said. This would be fun. Sheepdog herding at its easiest. I decided that since the sheep were range ewes, and might need some extra convincing, that I would herd with both Kate and Tam together. This worked perfectly. I didn't have to hardly move myself at all. I just stood there and the girls held the sheep in a group. What could be easier? Usually when I am sheepdog herding in front of people, I am under a lot of stress, there was no stress here, I could relax and enjoy the event. The girls have a look-back command, and when a child left it's sheep, I simply whistled or said "look-back", and immediately they would look and retrieve the lone sheep.
It was a hot day, and during the event, I decided that one of them needed to leave their sheepdog herding job and get a dunk and a drink to cool off. I would tell one dog "that'll do" and to go and get a drink, then when she got back ready to continue holding sheep, I would do the same with the other dog. This worked out great and they didn't get overheated.
The finals went well and the girls were working perfectly together in a brace style. If one of them worked close-in to the sheep, the other would back-off and work the back area. They would take turns working the back and the front. Again, I had them take a break in the middle of sheepdog herding and go and get a drink, which both did when directed. I was still getting complements, as the girls were herding sheep. One guy, who must have been totally captivated by watching the dogs, kept saying (loudly) wow!, or excellent!. A few minutes later, I heard him say, "Are you Married?" I just slightly turned my head toward him, then a minute later, handed him a business card.
I have heard nothing but complements about the mutton busting event at the rodeo and the dogs sheepdog herding work. I hope that I have generated some more interest in sheepdog herding. I couldn't bring Decker with us (though Matt wanted to). There were no dogs allowed, and I thought it might be too much for him yet. When we got home, he was in the dog yard happily waiting to greet us.
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