Winter (of Herding) is Coming

I always find the seasons to be a little weird, they SHOULD be equal. The hottest part of the year should be six months after the coldest time of the year – but that doesn’t seem to happen here. August is the hottest month, and then mid-December to mid-January is the coldest – so you get like 3 and a half to 4 months between the hottest and coldest temperatures. How does that work? Oregon definitely has more Spring than Fall. A whole lot of 45 degrees and raining. Good thing I like 45 degrees and raining.

Got to watch some of the European Open tryouts last weekend, some really fun courses! Would have liked to have a chance to run those, I’m having serious arena envy these days. 60 x 90 is very confining sometimes. I was looking at some properties recently – ZOMG, a 100 x 180 arena! Oh, that would be so much fun! I could set up ANYTHING. Too bad it came with a million dollar house. Unfortunately fancy giant arenas are only associated with fancy giant houses. Alas. I’m putting it out there though, I could do with a paltry 100 x 120 arena, I can compromise.

Dogs are happy with the weather, what a change, once again, to go from the dogs looking like they were going to pass out after running around in the heat for 5 minutes to us being able to go for hours and they barely look tired. Heat is killer. Been going out the field a lot more, which is good for Haku – he’s the most active out there. Hiking he does entirely too much walking behind me.

Colder temps has brought other slightly inconvenient issues – such as basically getting trapped in bed at night. Haku has to be wedged right next to me all night long (no matter what time of year), and then add three cats on me and I often can’t move – and am way too nice to make them move or even have room to turn over. It’s a rough life. We have all been enjoying the fireplace and the christmas decorations – I really do love winter, smothering bedmates and all.

Haven’t had much of a chance to work on agility, been a lot of other things going on. I could tell when I put the dogs outside recently and Navarre and Bright were chasing each other around for like an hour – barking their heads off. That never happens! I am looking forward to my winter break and really spending some quality time with everyone. I don’t think of myself as super busy, but when the sun goes down at 4:30, it’s amazing how little light you get to play with dogs. That will start changing soon, bring on the solstice and the long happy Spring. In the meantime, it’s always amusing how much of a crowd the dogs can bring when we dash to the park to get in some exercise before the sun goes down – it’s like having my own traveling show. People are easily impressed by border collies, tricks and an aerobee.

As for this winter, I now am starting to get together my Winter of Herding plan. Actually practicing – what a novel concept! I have four weeks off teaching to try to pack in some serious practice for me and Haku. We went out to Ian’s place in Scio, which isn’t too bad of a drive, nice big fields and where they have some USBCHA trials. So having Haku familiar with the layout there would be really helpful. And it was funny, we started in a smaller field, but still just a bit bigger than what he’s used to and off he goes on a lovely outrun and just STOPS when he hits where the fence normally is. Same with driving, he’ll go to a point where the fence would be and just stops – he’s a creature of habit.

So the goal is to break some of those habits, as he did end up getting to do a few big outruns in the big field, and while it wasn’t perfect, he did seem to realize he could actually go farther in these arenas. Oh, though the first time he saw a big group of sheep he went and brought back … two of them. He very much thinks herding happens in certain sized arenas with a certain amount of sheep. With practice, I think we can get it together to do some low level trialing stuff – which would be fun. And as we got to work in the very field where it would happen, I feel optimistic that we’ll get there.

So it sounds like Ian will have some availability during my break, so hoping to get out there as much as possible to practice. With an actual goal I’m back to trying to make sure I’m consistent and clear. I also got a chance to look at some online herding stuff today, the McRae Way, which I thought might be helpful to try to get a sense of an overall process in herding, and some good exercises and ideas. Definitely interesting to see the differences between all the different trainers, in herding no one does anything the same way, really. But I figure the more information, the better, and finding trainers and ideas that fit with my personality. Herding is sort of comically obscure, that’s for sure.

Oh, and Navarre was … Navarre at Ian’s. He actually started out surprisingly gentle on his fetch, and then he basically reverted back to his younger days of running me over with sheep. Dork. But a HAPPY dork. And all our work we’ve been doing with lying down away from sheep made no difference at all when I actually asked for it with sheep. Hrrumph. As usual, like everyone, Ian seemed to feel that Navarre would magically be fixed with just a few sessions of putting some pressure on him. Yeah, because no one has tried that at all for the last 3 and a half years. Still, he’s better these days – and maybe with some frequent practice for him this winter he too can make some progress. Whatever happens, he continues to think it’s the best thing ever.

So no agility trials for me for a while, it’s time to focus on Haku this winter and see how far we can go. If things go well, there is a small herding trial at Ian’s the beginning of February – might be something to shoot for.