Sunday, December 1, 2013

Working Sheep

This past weekend was the Turkey Trot Benefit Stock Dog Trial at The Training Center.  If Maisie had had a different upbringing, she could have been out there with all the other kids, but a. she hates being told what to do and b. would have made a big mess of everything, running around causing trouble for everyone else...with that big tail whirling like a torpedo ;-).

I clerked on Saturday (wrote scores down for the judges) and stopped by Sunday afternoon to take some pictures.  I have no interest in learning to to do all this, but I thoroughly enjoy watching everyone else.  Actually, I like to watch everything - the dogs, the sheep, the set out horse, the camp fires...

The following is a mix of a few handlers and dogs and a few (reasonably accurate...I think) notes about what's going on. 


I think these four were getting ready to cause some trouble...without Maisie's help ;-).


Waiting at the post.  Once the sheep get set on the far end, the handlers send their dogs to fetch them. 


They head out to the right like they've been shot from a gun and, guided by whistles, make a big loop all the way back to the second hill.  If you look closely you can see the dog - it's the black dot up racing in front of the tree line.


They come up from behind the sheep to pick them up and start bringing them back to their handler, waiting at the post.  They need to come through this "gate".



Once they've brought the sheep up, they push them back out and cross the field, working through two more sets of panels.


One on the left and one on the right. 


They also have to help put the sheep in the pen.


And divide the group and also separate out one sheep (much harder than it looks here!). 



And all the while, there is another hard working dog (and horse) up on the far hill always bringing out the next set of sheep.



I think it's all fascinating and it's one of my favorite weekends of the year.

This trial was a benefit for the Bluegrass Classic that runs in conjunction with the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival in May.  I encourage you to stop by and see for yourself.  You might find yourself sitting there all day :-).


13 comments:

Tombstone Livestock said...

I have watched numerous amazing dogs and a lot of amazing handlers, took me a year to learn how to use a whistle and for the life of me had a hard time with consistency. I have seen handlers run 2 dogs at a time each with a different set of whistle commands and they can remember which dog goes with which whistle. Decided one ranch dog is all I can handle.

MarmePurl said...

I've had the pleasure of watching trials at MS&W and Montpelier. Fascinating stuff.

Lori Skoog said...

If I lived closer, I (and my camera) would have kept you company.

Shirley said...

I love going to watch the dogs work, it's something I want to do, but I don't have sheep to work. My dogs love to work and were actually started on sheep, but I had to move away from that area so never continued with it.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Wow, I read about the Festival in May..would love to go. I enjoyed your photos...Chance met a sheep one ...he was afraid and sat on Gene's foot. He can herd kids real well:)

I need orange said...

I've seen trials on tv, but have only seen "herding tested" activity in person. How cool. Thanks for taking us along!

Dogs, doing what they do best, bring tears to my eyes............

Sandra Morris said...

I love watching the dogs at work!

We have a bc that needs trained. I would love some help with the sheep :)

Andee said...

That absolutely amazes me.

Alice said...

It takes amazing skill, discipline, practice and training to be proficient at herding. It requires all of this to be able to say, "that 'ill do it!".

Jenny Glen said...

Don't forget that Masie's brothers and sisters (by the look of the sheep in the picture) don't get to eat as much as they want and don't get cherrios either! Masie would HATE it :)
Who was the judge?

Dreaming said...

Mr. Dreamy & I had a chance to manage the sheep in a pen beyond the hillside at a trial. We would take turns, now and then, to watch the dogs working. But, the horse and 'work' dog were the most interesting to watch!

Susan Mckee-Nugent said...

those doggers make me feel retarded! :) I have seen dogs worked from what seemed like miles away on the hills in Donegal, IR
and there is a Basque shepherd in ID who works 2 dogs, one in Basque and one in Spanish......

Miha Giustina said...

My two border collies are almost as talented as these two are.

Who am I kidding!? One of them trips over his own front legs when attempting to catch the ball, falls head first, rolls over and lands on his side, wondering what just happened! While he is a very sweet and affectionate doggie, he is surely not smart the traditional BC way:-)!

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