We've had a really productive couple of weeks!
Terry hauled out to Poway last week for some "big field border collie practice." I'll tell you what, that place is so beautiful. I so wish I could live out there! I saw 202 acres for sale in that area. So, all I need to do is win the lotto...hmm.... or marry a millionaire. I hear Arnold has low standards. Pretty sure I'm better looking than his mistress, so there's a possibility.
Sort of. ;)
Anyway, it started off as pure crap. Soda was all "nah. don't wanna" and blowing off flanks--and I do mean blowing them off. She just didn't do them. And then she started the whole sticking-her-head-in-gopher-holes thing and I lost. my. shit and had a not-so-quiet discussion about why we were out there and what exactly was going to happen if she didn't stop fucking around (it involved some fatal plus, I'll tell you that much) and I discussed this with her at great length and volume and I gave her a good shaking.
Wouldn't you know her attitude changed pretty quick after that. She did a few really big outruns and was taking the flanks and stops and it turned into a really productive and great session.
I was holding the sheep for some of the other students/keeping the sheep away from other students' sheep up on a hill and there was a water run off crevice that the sheep would run down but it was really hard for Soda and me to cover so they were able to get away and I was stumbling down the hill for damage control, thinking she'd lost the sheep and who do I see coming back with her 4 sheep but my Soda! She stopped them, without direction, from getting to the other sheep and brought them back. I was pretty proud.
I figured out another route up the hill that would allow us to bypass the crevice and down to the cow pond. Soda parked the sheep and hauled ass to the pond and plopped down in and drank and drank. I was surprised. I always have to send her to the water!
Then I had her drive the sheep down the water and allow them to drink. Then, Terry asked me to drive them up away from the water further up the hill because she was setting up one of her young open dogs for a huge outrun. Soda did a great job against some pressure (the sheep didn't want to leave the water and didn't really want to go up hill) and I was VERY proud of her. It was one of those "my dog is my partner" moments. If you've never had a moment with an animal (horse, dog... whatever) where you are both working together and trying accomplish the same goal, you're missing out. It really is something when you achieve a true partnership. Soda and I don't always have them but more and more we are becoming partners.
Terry sent her young dog and I just stood on that hill with my dog wading in the pond, with the mountains against the background and the beautiful green field and the lovely pond below me and I thought "wow, how lucky am I!" I watched her dog, and helped Terry keep track of her while she went up to fetch the sheep. She had a bit of trouble because the purpose of the exercise was navigating obstacles (in this case a fence) and it was pretty cool to watch her try to figure out where she needed to be.
So, we ended the lesson on a great note with practical work and I was very happy with Soda.
This week we were back at Terry's place. We used an adjacent field and I had Soda drive some sheep out--and she drove them quite far! I think it was about 50 yards and she actually did a great job. Then I sent her out on an big outrun, I think it was about 125 yards. (I'm so bad with distance). And she swung wide and it was beautiful and perfect and the fetch was fast but straight. I was pretty happy with it. We set up again and I sent Soda and again, beautiful, then we "turned the post" and drove away and then cross drove--each leg about 40 yards or so and Soda kept them on line pretty well and took the inside flanks like she needed too. We penned them well, but she kept wanting to come in really tight and put a lot of pressure on the sheep. She really likes to pen and gets very strong eyed around the pen. I had to very forcefully kick her out and be very stern about taking the flanks, but she did as I asked and after one turn around the pen (is there anything more frustrating than ring-around-the-pen??) because as I was shutting the dog one ewe popped out at the last second and bolted. Bitch! So I had let everyone else out and two of the sheep went around the pen but we successfully penned them the next go round. I shut the gate faster. Ha!
Anyway, Terry was watching this and when we went up for water she said "so, you're entering Pro-Novice, right?" and I was like "uh, no. Ranch" (Ranch is frequently N/N out here) and she said "Aw, no. I really think you're ready for P/N." Holy Shit.
I'm pretty amazed to hear that. She said to me "I'm really proud of how far you've come really in the last 6 months. You've made tremendous leaps" and I was very very proud of myself and my dog at that point.
I seriously never thought we'd even do Novice and here I have Terry saying go for P/N!!
She said that she wants us to continue working on whistles (nothing like screaming at your dog when she's 150 yards away...) and speed on the outrun. Soda has a patented outtrot and that simply will not do. That will give them a chance to break and run for the top. I believe we can do it. Hell, even if we blow it, at least I got to the point where my trainer thought we could do it!
So, look for our P/N debut at the Highland games in Vista this year at the end of June. (this is a smaller course, so whether we'll be able to do any other P/N courses will remain to be seen)