Free Herding Redux

Pooped out today. Elizabeth and Scott came herding this morning. Elizabeth visited with the bunnies and sheep and got kisses from Suzanne’s cardi’s.

Warming up and snacking on banana

Warming up and snacking on banana

Kate was cold and kind of lackluster as a result. She really doesn’t like herding when it’s below 20 but once in a while she’ll get a wild hair and work really hard. So I take her in case. On lackluster days we keep it short and sweet and fun. She ate a lot of poo and barked.

Bing was amped up, cranky and very much wanted to bite something. Which actually turned out to be fantastic as the ewes were cantankerous and needed biting. We were a small group, 4 humans and 6 dogs. Worked the sheep in the small pen for awhile then Suzanne gave the ok to open the gate and make an attempt at visiting the hayfield. It takes a determined dog to get the sheep down the hill.

Squall (Samoyed) and Tess (cattle dog) gave it their best shot but neither were forceful enough to bend the sheep to their will without fences to back them up. Squall is a real gentleman and wouldn’t dream of biting anything. Tess was kind of playing instead of working. So the sheep would leave the arena, cross the road then pretty much immediately flip the dogs the finger and double back leaving the dog snatching for straws.

Bing was having none of that shit today.

A couple things stacked the odds for us. Suzanne gave us a grain bucket (same for the others), I let the sheep eat a little of the grain from the bucket so they knew it wasn’t an empty promise, Bing was in a pisser of a mood, and the sheep were tired.

So I had Bing gather the sheep into a tight knot at my knees, gave them a nibble of grain, opened the gate and MOVED.

Bing swept behind them and harried them while I rattled the grain enticingly. Once we were across the road and into the top of the hay field, where it frequently falls apart, I spilled some grain on the ground to keep the sheep occupied.

Crossing the road

Crossing the road

Then I sent Bing back for the one ewe that had bailed on our party. She ran all the way to the far end of the arena and pissed Bing off big time. Bing went roaring in after her, biting and yelling, and squirted her right back out again. She tried to make another break for it but he rode her tail and bit her every chance he got to subdue her.

Get her, Bing!

Get her, Bing!

She opted to rejoin the flock. Another black ewe had escaped before Bing’s turn and made a brief appearance. Scott wrestled her around. Bing nearly recaptured her as well but she hustled over a brambly hillock that has unsafe dog footing. I called Bing off so he wouldn’t wrench his back.

Then we started moving again. Bing did a great job of protecting the uphill side and biting anyone who even thought about leaving while I kept leading us downhill and used my stick to remind Bing not to crowd too close and split them or over flank them into switching directions.

Don't mess with the cranky Cardigan, ewe!

Don’t mess with the cranky Cardigan, ewe!

I was sweating and Bing was panting when we reached the bottom of the hill.

Wee haw

Wee haw

God it was fun!

So we alternated for the next little while between fetching, driving, and just chilling out so the girls could graze.

He’s such a funny boy. At one point he was hustling them towards me and came to a screeching halt to grab a frozen lump of manure that was nearly too large to pick up. Think knuckle bone. Dork.

He loved fetching, hated chilling. I’d put him in a down stay and that butt would wriggle up and he’d creep forward like I wasn’t going to notice and call him on it.

When we took the sheep back up top everything fell apart. No recall, no control, no herding. He had a hell of a good time splitting the flock and chasing them hell bent for leather back up the hill. Whups.

I was so happy he got them down to the field and held them together so nicely down there. Incredibly satisfying.

He is pooped out and curled up on the sofa beside me. He smells of lanolin from the sheep and could use a bath.

He is my very goody boy.

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