Monday, April 30, 2012

Knee vs Ewe

A few days ago, my knee found itself in a cage fight with a ewe.  Probably not the best of matches.  Ewe being full grown and weighing in around 175 pounds....knee being neither petite nor lithe but with flexibility and less confrontational qualities, certainly not an unyielding personality.  Ewe lacking respect, honest knee not ready for cheap shot. My poor knee, I have taken it for granted. I've not been a good knee owner.  I've most certainly not appreciated it for all it does for me. Who knew...I just go about my day and my knee does as it is told with no complaint.....getting me around, controlling the speed of my truck.  So today, here's to knees!  Happy Knee Appreciation Day! 

Seize the Day!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Your Whistles are Your Reins

I grew up riding horses.  Not formal lessons in fabulous horse riding, nor horse understanding for that matter.  My Dad's theory on lessons: "Put away a wet saddle blanket every time you ride."  In other words, ride long and life lessons will teach you.  Of course, he could not help but throw in some "sit up" and "heals down" but the rest of the whole experience was left to us, his daughters, to figure out.  So now some, gulp, 35 years later, I am fascinated with Buck Brannaman and the Parelli's.

As I mentioned in my last post, when I had the opportunity to pick the brain of a horse man, questions spilled out of me like water from the rain barrel during a February downpour.  I'm trying to understand; if you are walking a horse you have the lead in your hand and your body and voice. If you are on the horse, you still have your voice, but now the horse can feel your body and legs and you have the reins. So how can dog training be anything like riding a horse?  I certainly see close at hand work being a bit similar but how about way out there in the hills of the dessert of Idaho at say, Oh....Big Willow? 

"Your whistles are your reins" ~ Don Helsley

Much of my whole time with Don could be summed up in that one sentence.  Not blatantly but surely with all my thinking and sorting post lesson, the subtlety started rising to the top.

Yesterday, I received a newsletter from the Parelli method and the article was called "Horse Training Tips - How To Ride Like a Leader"  The article is a discussion on REINS!!  Really!  Reins...who knew.  I mean I knew that everything I feel is transmitted through the reins but this article is so articulate in explaining all the nuances of the horse and the relationship of the rein.  The one quote that stuck out to me was this:


So how does this apply to working sheepdogs, which are predators but still need a leader.....for me, and only me....I have been riding with tight reins.  Not only tight reins but super tight reins, one in each hand and my go to is to pull straight back whenever I get a bit afraid.  As the article explains, that is the normal reaction when using a rein in each hand.  Now in an effort to preserve every reader's sanity, I will not go into the great details of over-thinking that I am enjoying as I sort through my journey with my dogs and the enitre discussion with Don mixed together with all that Linda Parelli's article discusses......but most certainly I am getting, loud and clear, that subtlety, nuance, clarity, and consistency are the key to developing a relationship with any animal.  Here is what I am learning:

A tight rein will not have the desired effect if a loose rein is not the norm. ~ Me

Seize the Day!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Taste of Things To Come

Sit down....we've hit 81 degrees here in the valley......almost too hot to do much of anything due to the fact I have been living in the 50's!  My arms have color, my face has color, my dogs got a little conditioning in and now, it is raining!  Oh well, it was a good sample of what lies ahead.  The promise of spring, sunshine, good dog work, and more lambs.

I had the really fun opportunity to pick the brain of a top open handler that I've always respected and enjoyed watching run.  Don Helsley was up north and I have been really longing to have some of my "how does dog work relate to horse training" questions answered...or at least chewed on as I am not sure there is a spoken word answer to that line of questioning.  Don has a sharp, skating wicked, sense of humor and no trickery on my part could lead him from discussing "STOP" with me.  I almost pinched him to see if he was actually another trainer I respect in disguise.  After the stop whipping, the talk about nerves, fear, ego, relationship and dogs gave me over thinking fodder to get me to, the least, Big Willow. 

One thing I loved most about my time with Don; he runs a near relative, some sort of kissing cousin, to my Bella.  As I shared with him some of my training with Bella, things I see in her and why I think I see them, he was able to share similarities from his dog.  In fact, he was able to get that dog out and show me ways to help Bella gain understanding to what I am trying to help her with.  I laughed as I explained to Don that I thought the sheep at Big Willow will be a great test to see if Bella is "getting" what I am trying to help her with.  I casually asked if Don planned on attending Big Willow this year and he said, "I'm judging a day!"  Well, so much for true confession being good for the soul.  Death to pride and ego!  Going to tattoo that on the back of my wrist...right next to

Seize the Day!

Friday, April 13, 2012


Remember Grace?

Grace is one of Nell's pups from two Decembers ago....

She is back with me and is training on sheep.  She is coming along and is filled with beautiful border collies style.  She even had a little go on steers with Shane Harley....

However, Grace's true love is her man.....

She is moonlighting as his side-kick.....

Mountain bike dog...extraordinaire....very much like the mailman...rain, snow, sleet....she keeps biking along.....

She even has her own little fan club....which she would keep up-to-date on her crazy adventures if she had her own iPhone...but instead, her man tweets for her.

Given a job, border collies are just darn right both physical athleticism, smarts....and their deep bond with their person....

Gracie've made one man very happy.....thank you for sharing your journey!

Seize the Day!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Reality Shows

I have the best ideas for a couple of Reality Show.....I shared one with a few handlers at Fireridge and got raving approval dished out in unstoppable laughter.  "Shedding With The Stars" pairing new-to-open handlers with top open handlers in an attempt to create the perfect shedding team.  Derek Fisher comes to mind as a top hand that would be fun for the show.....fabulous shedder but also quick witted and willing to "call it like he sees it". I am sure if I were paired with Derek, he would address my wardrobe and lazy-girl pony tail in addition to my shedding style!  During the three shedding clinics I have participated in with Scott Glen, I have often wondered where the hidden cameras were located. I even believe he might have stolen a line from Best In Show, muttering how it sure looked like I had two left feet.   

While at the recent sheepdog trial this past weekend, another show came to mind.  As I blasted out my new found finger whistles without a hint of subtlety or the quiet nuances that make the loud whistle have understandable impact, I thought maybe we could do The Whistle.  Four top handlers with their backs turned picking a handful of pathetic whistlers to groom into magnificent productions of whistling amazement.  The performance round would be fought out on the trial field where inappropriate yelling could result in a speed bump of having to come to my place and help me trim hooves!

Or how about Survivor: Sheep Station where handlers without sheep of their own are airlifted and dropped at a sheep operation to help during lambing season!  As I drove the back roads to a job, a few days back, I saw a shepherd laying in the wet field, up to his armpit in reality, removing  a lamb from a laboring ewe. That made me smile as I imagined the shepherd trying to coach a city girl.  Then around the corner, my heart broke as three bald eagles were paparazzi as a ewe birthed a lamb..waiting patiently for their next government protected meal.  Maybe that might be too real for a reality show.

How about The Amazing Race where teams are flown around the world to work at different sheep operations ending up at a local trial!  Worst team at the trial might be kicked off the show! Now that show sounds like a whole lot of fun.....UK, Europe, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand......where do I sign up for THAT show?! it is back to my reality show...Living the Dream.  Today I need to vaccinate the training sheep, worm and trim some hooves.  I also need to schedule the shearer to come and finalize preparations for grazing the neighbors. Maybe even slip in some dog work with a few sheds and start to address my loud finger whistles.  It is said, it is not the destination, rather the journey that is to be enjoy.  Time to lift my eyes from the side of my mountain climb and

Seize the Day!

Monday, April 9, 2012

In Black and White

Last month, I did "it".  I thought and over-thought and decided to just plug my nose and jump off the I got all registered on-line and then I submitted my entries for the Bluegrass Classic Sheepdog Trial!  Then I had second thoughts.  So I told myself and friends...."well, if I only get one dog in, I won't go.  But if I get two dogs in.....I will drive across America and go experienc the Bluegrass"  And I did...get two dogs in. 

Bluegrass Open Draw

There it is

Withnell, Lora  Nell
Withnell, Lora  Bella

in black and white...or rather white on brown!

I'm not sure what else to say but....

Seize the Day!!!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Sunshine.....on my shoulders....makes me happy!

The mama hen decided her babies were growing at a surprising rate and brought them out for some sunshine today!  Sigh...they are so cute. 

Bella slathered up on the sunscreen and laid out a bit to start on her tan.  Not sure she thinks those chicks are as cute as I do.......

Seize the Day!