This morning I was up at 5 am and was out the door to Task Farms at 5:30 with all 3 dogs. We needed to beat the heat. I love early mornings. Not the getting up part, but the rest of it is all good.
This morning I started with letting Champ separate the Hampshire lambs from the goats. First, I have to take 'Snow' the guardian dog out of that pen and put her in a kennel. She will just get in the way and want to play with Champ since she is young, too.
Champ is getting lots of ranch work in these days. Suzy can put the trial finesse on him. He needs experience and that's what he is getting with me. He has grit just like his mama. He found out this morning if you antagonize a big Billy, you are going to get what you asked for! Sometimes I think Champ isn't watching his back, but most of the time he has a peripheral eye on them. He is getting so much keener. He actually is working (brain-wise) on almost all cylinders now :0)
Both his Mom and half sis were keen very early on...like at 6-9 months. Not so with Champ. He wanted to work, but his brain had not matured enough. He only worked a handful of times before a year of age. Suzy put two months of training on him at one year. He came back to me with gorgeous flanks and a stop. But, he was stock "stupid."
By "stock stupid," I mean he would follow two and leave three behind. He just didn't get it. He didn't know what to do with sheep that grazed and didn't move beautifully off of him like her sheep. I'd whistle walk-up and he would just look at me. He hadn't mastered his directions yet. Look back, what's that? To me, that's immaturity. My girls were never like that. So, I had to tell myself to go very SLOWLY with him.
Champ has less eye than his mother which is good for outrunning, but makes it a bit more difficult (for me) to teach him to drive. Thankfully, he has a great feel, a sensible calmness, and grit. Plus, he wants to be my partner. I lost his stop for a bit, but now it is back. I have lost his sweet spot steady, but I'm sure Suzy will put it back on for me this fall. He will go back in training a couple of months before he turns two years old in December.
Once he got the Hamp lambs out of the pen this morning, I let him rodeo up on them. They probably only weigh about 80 lbs versus 160 plus pounds plus, so these are okay for him to figure out on his own what he needs to do to move them and what he needs to do when they confront him. I encouraged my females to bite when they were his age or less and it cost me when trialing. I am not encouraging Champ, but letting him figure it out on his own. After 5-8 minutes of having to get gritty with the lambs, I put them up and bring out nice sheep for him in the field. I am always trying to change things up for Champ.
It's important not to drain him mentally or physically. This morning he got to work a large hampshire as a single. It was accidental, but it was interesting watching him. He did a damn good job. He really is getting the hang of working packed pens with about 50 head of sheep in them. This is his mother's expertise. I didn't think he had it, but he is showing me he has his mama in him. He really enjoys working the pens now. He can back an ornery ewe and also, protect himself with teeth, if need be. He understands to bring me ALL of the sheep, not just half of the flock anymore. Funny boy :0)
We also sometimes put the whole flock out in the field. I let them graze and separate. I then send Champ to pick them all up. This is more difficult than it sounds because the field rolls and there are lots of blind spots. Sometimes he misses a group of them. When this happens which is less and less these days, he now has a look back whistle and knows what it means. He loves this exercise, because he loves to fetch :0)
Other times I put the flock in the arena and pack them into a corner and ask Champ to come to my hand with a "Here." He is pretty good at this and pretty sensible about coming through a packed group, taking half the herd away from the other.
Slowly, but surely. It sure is fun watching him progress. He may be slower than my females on the learning curve, but I think he will be nicer when he is finished :0)