One of my favorite things about have border collies and being involved in herding is stockhandling. I consider stockhandling the real part of herding. Trials are fun, but are all prep for 3-10 minutes of work.
A few weeks ago Scot and I worked the border collie trial in Poway. This was three days with a LOT of dogs and we competed on Friday, but just worked on Saturday and Sunday. Since this was a big trial in a big field there were several us to move the sheep from the pen to the post and exhausting the sheep to another pen. The best part is when we moved about 100 sheep, all at once, from the exhaust pen to the holding pen. It’s a real thrill to move that many sheep, most times with multiple dogs.
This past weekend I was the ‘head’ stockhandler. It was my responsibility to set sheep in the big pen and geese in the smaller pen. This was a trial for corgis only, both Pembroke and Cardigan. This was my second year working this trial and my first with “you’re in charge” part attached.
The photo gives you my perspective from the stock area in the big pen. You can see the small hay pile to the right. At the dog handler’s signal I open the gate (bottom of photo) and push out the sheep. The goal is to gently push the sheep out to the hay so as to keep them calm as possible for the competitors. As soon as they settle the handler sends the dog. After watching nearly every run, many didn’t wait long enough and ended up having the sheep leave the hay early.
My major goal was to keep the animals as calm as possible so they would be settled and not spooked when I handed them over for there run
A good run lasts about 3-4 minutes, but the more that goes awry then longer the run. So in this trial most ran 5-8 minutes. In the meantime myself along with Scot and a helper to help with gates. I love the close work with the sheep, it teaches me skills working close to the sheep and helps Scot stay focused, and careful on close work. The toughest thing for me, at least early, was to keep Scot from diving or darting in on the sheep. I think he feels that’s fun. I call it ‘flossing.’ You know, that thing you just need to do first thing?
I would have had more photos or even video, the wind was very strong and I really wasn’t up to get sand in my gear.
The next event I plan on attending is the Vista Highland Games. This event is one of the best in the area if you are interested in spectating. While it’s a bit of a haul from LA, it’s well worth the trip. The games are going on, there is good food, a great area to watch from and even an announcer to help you keep up and understand. Come join us!