Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Righting wrongs and setting up for success

Another morning at Bill's. The sheep were grazing in the pasture again, so I got Craig out and we put most of them in the arena and then worked on driving again. It was difficult again. The sheep were just so heavy! I lied him down whenever he reached the sheeps' hips, but it didn't achieve the desired effect because the sheep then wouldn't move forward at all for him to settle in behind. So I'd walk him up, and they wouldn't notice him until he was right up their butts—and then they'd jump and spread out. I had to flank him. Sometimes he lied down when I asked; other times, he'd just act like he didn't hear my commands and go all the way around. I think the sheep were frustrating him, too, and he didn't want to stop because having to lift them over and over again was such a PITA. It's not that he doesn't have the power to move them; they weren't challenging him at all, they were simply so engrossed in eating that they barely noticed him. I was getting very frustrated myself, because he wasn't taking a lot of my commands, but I really do think it's mostly the circumstances of heavy sheep and lots of grass. I took a deep breath and finished up walking with him as he drove, so he stayed in contact with me and together we moved the sheep through the panels. I was happy that we were able to work together at the end, but I think I won't work him so close to the pens anymore. The draw is so much stronger there, and there is so much more grass—it's too much for us to deal with right now. We'd be much better off if I set us up for success as much as I can right now, and one way to do that is to work down at the opposite end of the pasture. The sheep are less interested in the weeds down there and less affected by the draw, and so I can actually practice being successful driving with him, rather than being frustrated and having him being frustrated, and the sheep not responding to what we're doing. For right now, when it feels like we're just going backwards in progress, I think this is really important. We'll worry about working in challenging conditions another time; for now, we need to get back into a rhythm.

So I put Craig up and got Taz out. This session went much better! I practiced sending him on his away side several times, and he got progressively wider on this side again. He was hesitating again a bit, but I was again always able to get him to commit to his flank when I told him to get out of it. I'll continue to be patient with this, I guess...

Just as I was getting ready to leave, Larry drove up. He offered to set sheep for Taz and me with Raid, so we could work on his issues with bringing the sheep to the set-out person and running too tight when someone was at the top. Taz seemed to do just fine when I sent him on the side Raid was holding, but he definitely was a bit nervous going around Larry when I sent him on the opposite side. So I tried to fix it by sending him and then immediately walking as quickly as I could up the field toward the sheep and telling him to lie down as soon as he reached the top. By the fourth or fifth time I sent him, he was getting better about ignoring Larry. Unfortunately, I had to get to work, so I couldn't keep working on it with him (once I'm sure he's ignoring Larry, I'd like to reduce the distance I move forward after I send him, until I don't need to move at all), but Larry generously offered to come out next Tuesday morning and work on this a bit more with me. Hopefully, we can get past this little obstacle fairly easily :-)

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