Sunday, February 1, 2015

Kolachi's First Herding experience--

I'm skipping ahead a bit (I'm still behind on our FL vacation) to update the world about my newest sport!  Herding!
Kolachi and I attended a three day Herding Clinic in Mankato this past weekend.  Dave and the kids played at home while we played with sheep.  Kolachi had never seen sheep before, and while she is very gentle with our kids and the neighborhood puppies, I really had no idea how she would react to stock. 
Most of the dogs at the clinic were 'started' (they have already started competing in trials), and I felt like I had stepped onto an entirely different planet as I started observing their runs (lessons).  I didn't know quite what I was watching, except it was fascinating.
Early morning frost on the front working field.  Herders are a hearty group--
Someone once told me that herding was 'easy' because "the dog does all the work".  Nope.  Wrong.  The dog will do the majority of the physical labor, but it is very much a team effort.  I was so pleased with Kolachi's attentiveness to me and willingness to do what I asked-- even if it didn't make any sense to her at the time.  Our instructor, Larry Painter, was extraordinarily kind and patient with us newbies, and we spent three of our six sessions in the 'beginners' roundpen, learning the basics. 

She spent all of her "off time" crated in the van.  They had a nice heated indoor area, but Miss Velcro-dog whined and fussed too much when I left her in there.  She was much more comfortable and calm in her car area.  The participants all made sure to watch each other's sessions-- there is a LOT to be learned from watching (especially for a newbie)!
We graduated to the indoor arena on the second day, and then the real fun started. Now I was starting to understand how to get the sheep to move.  I still ended up feeling like my head was on backwards after each session, but we worked hard!
The amazing thing is that even though Kolachi only had two lessons a day (about 20-30 min each), she was completely mentally satisfied and willing to just relax and hang out in the evenings.    I'm pretty sure we are hooked! 
 All the other participants and their dogs were amazingly welcoming and supportive.  They were always open to questions and gave constructive feedback as well (it was SUPER fun to get to know all the other dogs!  We had a group compromised of a few GSDs, a Samoyed, a Rottweiler, two Shelties, an Old English Sheepdog, a Corgi, an English Shepherd, a Rough Collie and the requisite Border Collie).  Thanks to their encouragement and camaraderie,  I contacted one of three herding instructors in our 'area' (before the end of the clinic, even!) and secured a lesson slot for the next morning.  Here's to Herding in our future!

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