Lesson and the beauty of practical work

I went to my stock (herding) lesson yesterday and it was great, really, really great.  To see the difference in Gel’s confidence in driving compared to our last lesson was amazing.  He drove the whole flock (about 50 sheep) along with the two livestock guard dogs.  We drove in squares and I learned a lot, whole lot.  Gel marched on behind the whole flock, head down, tail down (yea!) and didn’t hesitate or look back once!!  We even had to lie him down a few times because he was pushing too hard.

Gel was wired for sound, in a good way.  He wanted to work, work, work.  He should have been tired.  On Friday night I got all of the lambs and goats in the duck pen, then put up a chain link panel with a small gate in it in front of the exit gate.  I had Gel and Fern push the goats and sheep up to me in the corner and I caught them one by one and checked their eyelids for signs of anemia.  Most needed to be wormed.  Wally did come over to help, which was good.  I could have done it myself, but it was easier for me to catch and inspect the animal and if wormer was needed, Wally drew it up in the drencher and handed it to me through the fence.

Both Gel and Fern did their job well.  The lambs did not want to come up to me.  At this age, they are almost as afraid of me as they are of the dog.  When the numbers got lower, they started bolting more so the dogs had to turn them back.  Many dogs would have gripped in this situation.  Neither dog gripped once.  You should have seen the smiles on the dogs’ faces while they worked.  They were thrilled.  When we finished, we each got a beer and headed down to the pond so the dogs could cool off.

Yesterday morning Wally picked me up and we went to breakfast, then went over to his house and picked up the wethers that we got in Myrtle Beach last weekend.  Gel and Fern loaded them into the trailer, then we loaded up the panels and pen and went across the street to catch the two wethers that were in the ewe flock and to inspect the ewes to see if any of them were anemic.  We checked mos of them, including the llama and a few needed to be wormed.  Gel did grip out once during this exercise, but I do think he was justified in this situation.  Fern was a little rattled with this work because the stock was bigger and there was a lot more pressure, but she did well.  We loaded the two wethers in with the others and headed over to get my dairy goat.

Unfortunately, she had been sick, likely just wormy, and he wouldn’t sell her until he knew she was going to be okay.  I was very disappointed.  I did buy two more steer goats from him and we headed back to my house.  We off loaded the wethers and steer goats and then put the lambs and goats back into the duck pasture and sorted out Marcus’ stock, loaded them and headed over to his house to bring them back.

Gel got to see the three heifers that we had this winter.  He was in his glory!  They still moved off him well.  I let him work them a few minutes, then we headed out.  I went to pick up my lawnmower and then to the local grain miller for some stock food.  I am going to start getting my grain from this place exclusively.  Most of their grain is local and their food is whole grain, not the grain by-product crap that’s in a lot of the other big-name brands.  I was particularly impressed with their laying mash.  Most laying mash is either fine powder or pellets and the ingredients are a bit disconcerting.  My chickens and ducks have not been laying well.  I hope this new grain will improve that as I miss the eggs.

Got back to the house and did some laundry, a bit of housework and cleaned my car, which was a project that was long overdue.  Headed out for my lesson around 4 and didn’t get back to my house until about 9:00.  It was a long day, especially given I was up until 11 PM Friday night talking to Marcus.

Oh, Marcus, he is going to be the death of me.  All of a sudden, he’s wanting to get back involved again.  He wanted to come over Friday night, but I told him it wasn’t a good night.  That was difficult, but I’m not sure I want to go back there again.  Maybe it would be different now because I’m different, I’m much healthier, both physically and mentally.  When I started homeopathic treatment I told my homeopath one thing I’d like to see happen would be for my monthly cycle to come back.  I hadn’t had one for almost a year.  I’m too young to be going through menopause.  Well, this month it came back!  Great excuse to keep Marcus away, at least in my mind.  While my skin is in rough shape, itching, rashes, etc., that my monthly cycle has come back thrills me!  Most women hate that part of their lives, but I revel in it.  It is a normal, healthy part of being a woman.

After my lesson, I hung around and talked to the woman giving the lesson.  I thanked her profusely for agreeing to take me on.  She said that originally she didn’t feel comfortable doing it because she wasn’t actively working sheep, but she said, and I agree, it isn’t something that you forget.  She’s an amazing dog trainer and handler, it really doesn’t matter what venue you are working in, reading dogs (and in this instance stock) and figuring out what you need to do to get the best out of the dog is the same.  We also talked about my situation with the so-called NC Cliche and how I didn’t feel comfortable going to USBCHA trials because of them.  She understood my discomfort.  This isn’t the first time we’ve discussed this, but, as she said, you’ll just need to learn to deal with it.  She said that the people involved were really not worth my concern, and she’s right.  As Wally says, “I don’t need to eat supper with them.”  I enjoy the people in agility much more than I do the ones in USBCHA, but try as I might, I can’t get back into agility!

I haven’t mentioned Fern’s lesson.  She did very well too.  I have a lesson plan to work with on her.  Everything that I have been doing so far has been correct, which was comforting.  I have to watch her when I send her on her outruns because she tends not to cover all the way.  Her mother did the same thing, so I need to follow her around when I send her.  She agreed that I shouldn’t be pushing her out at this point as she’s going to come out on her own and if I push her now, she’ll only get too wide.  She also agreed that I should not have put a lie down on her as that contributed to her stickiness.  What I need to do now is keep working her and her keep her moving and on her feet.

On the agenda today is re-setting my fence, housework and working my dogs, as best I can given my lack of field to work in.  I might go over to Wally’s and work the ewe flock as his fields are not as tall as mine are and for the work I’m doing with both dogs right now, the larger the flock I can work, the better.

I am incredibly thrilled to see our progress, both in training and for me, my mental health.  It is a very good thing.

2 Replies to “Lesson and the beauty of practical work”

  1. The rancher who wanted to keep the goat until he was satisfied that it was healthy did you a kind favor. He sounds like a reputable breeder, who puts the animals’ welfare above the dollar. Lucky you to have such a nice breeder to get stock from.

  2. Yes and no. I don’t think it is so much the sign of a good breeder rather than someone who doesn’t want to get blamed for selling sick goats. She’d have been better off in my care as she’d get better food. Hopefully, if she is pregnant, she won’t loose her babies.

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