Large Flock Herding
© Author Lacie via Jane Rothert's pen
1st Published in November 2000 Malinois Performer
Hi! It's me again, Lacie. Mom says I have to make this short as she says she has some things she wants to say. Figures! Mom gets six articles to write a year and I get one and she still wants to use my space!
I wanted to tell you about my experience last summer working a large flock course. It was an AHBA course and it was a lot of fun. The trial was held in August but it wasn't hot. We got lucky all the humans were saying because that weekend it was cool. It was held on a nice big farm in Ohio with lots of sheep. I think Mom said I had 40 head to control. Not a HUGE number, but more fun than the usual 3-5 she gives me!
The course was a French-style course with a bridge over a real creek, a road, a car passing us on the road, several gates to go through, and a graze. I thought I'd tell you what we did and how we ran the course. It was fun and maybe you'll enjoy the story as much as I enjoyed the doing!
The sheep were set out in a field that is about 100 by 300 feet. The sheep were ready for their morning graze so were spread all throughout the field. I had to go gather them all up and bring them to Mom who was waiting at the gate. The gate led out into a BIG field. I have no idea what an acre is or even how many acres this field had. All I know is I couldn't see the end of it. The sheep are used to grazing there all day so as soon as they passed through the gate they wanted to boogy on down to the back 40 as my mom would say. I had to stay in the little field to make sure all the sheep left it, but once they were out, I had to rush around and stop the sheep from taking off over the hill in the middle of the field!
I hope you other herders out there are not saddled with a mom who is gate latch challenged. What should take two seconds always takes my mom 2-5 minutes. A LONG time to hold a bunch of sheep quiet! Finally she got the gate latched and we could move on.
Off we went, yep, you guessed it, to another gate! Mom had trouble opening AND closing this gate although she kept muttering she'd practiced it before my run so why wasn't it working! This field was, I think, ½ mile long and about ¼ mile wide. There was a little road on the end where the gate was and I had to take the sheep down the little road, over the bridge and onto a narrow strip of land on the other side of the creek. This is where it got tricky. The sheep did NOT like me, which I simply can't understand. They didn't want to be with me in this narrow area. On the first day Mom and I stayed with the sheep but if I so much as moved, they bolted down the field to the other end. On day two, Mom decided we should stay on the other side of the creek, thinking there might be less pressure from us over there. She stopped at the bridge and I had to take the sheep across and then come back to join Mom. Well, sheep aren't as dumb as my mom because as soon as I joined Mom on HER side of the creek, the sheep stopped moving and started grazing. Back I had to go over the bridge to get the sheep moving again. Oops, too fast. Now Mom wanted me to cross the creek! Didn't she remember the owner said the creek had 3-4 feet deep sides? Oh, well, through I came and around the front to slow the sheep down, and back across to keep them moving. There HAD to be an easier way to do this!
We then came to the graze part of the course which was held in the main part of the big field. The sheep were supposed to stay in a 50 foot square area that had no boundary markings and no fence, just little flags at the corners, more or less in the center of this big field. As soon as I got them in the area, they put there heads down and started eating. Eating AND moving as fast as they could back towards the gate we'd originally come through! NOT what Mom had in mind, so off I went to stop them. I had to stay WAY off the sheep to not disturb them and must have been a couple of hundred feet away. I could hear the spectators saying I was too far away. I ignored them and would have gone wider, but the fence was in the way. Once I was in position, I turned my head toward the sheep. Now remember, I was STILL 100+ feet away but those silly sheep still bolted in the opposite direction! I hadn't even take a step towards them! Back I had to come to stop them from going the other way.
I don't know how long it was, but it seemed like a LONG time we had to hold the sheep as I had to keep running back and forth a lot! Mom finally had me gather them back up and move them toward the road. I drove them in front of Mom till we got to the stop sign and then had to hold them there while Mom wandered up from behind to check the road for traffic. All clear! Off we went down the road!
The road is really the driveway to the house. We hadn't gotten very far along it when here comes a little car. I had to take the sheep off the side of the road and then bring them back after the car passed. After that we just slowly walked the sheep up the road and back into the big field to the gate, about ½ mile in all. Once there, Mom opened the gate so I could put the sheep through. We then went back to the starting field where Mom and I sorted out 5 sheep to put back into the original field. There were ten marked sheep from which to pick the five sheep but that didn't help much. One big whether stood right at the front and no matter what Mom did he would NOT go through the gate nor would he let any other sheep through. It was really bad! Finally we got them through though. Mom said we'd have to work on doing that part for the next time. Yippee! That means there WILL be a next time!
That was the end of the course. It took about 30 minutes to run and was so much fun doing so many cool things with the sheep. Mom even said she had fun although she also said she hadn't planned on hiking a mile and a half when we started!