Some reflection when a new calendar starts is always a good thing. Lessons learned, achievements made, and all that much wiser from miles traveled.
This past year was a busy one, but one I can't complain about. Chesney got lots of work, both on stock and off.
But I won't bore you with a walk down 2009's memory lane, what I will do is tell you about our recent stockwork and the strides we've made. Through the end of the year Chesney has continued to gain better feel of his sheep, to a point where I'm not continually blowing a stop or steady whistle at him. I can for the most part stop walking with a group of sheep being fetched to me and have him stopping behind them. No more wearing, no more circling, no more pushing them past me. Finally!
Chesney has grasped the concept of doing a job, he's learned how to stand/stop instead of always having to lie down, and I think my most favorite development in the last year is his eye. He is starting to be stylish while he works, which is from reading pressure better. I will say that his outruns probably haven't improved much and his scope of the field has suffered, just because gathering the flock consisted of getting them out of the feeder. Now that winter and spring are around us and the grass is showing it's lovely face, we can work on sweeping a field.
Shedding has become just another thing we do. If we are playing keep away or having to stop a breaking ewe to the main group I can call Chesney in and he will stop her dead in her tracks. He's listening so well now and really seems to be enjoying his work. I know I am loving every minute of it and can't wait until the next time we're out there.
We ran in a trial in late October, and Chesney did well. I was very pleased with his look back and his control of the stock. It was also the first time I'd asked him to shed such a small number of sheep. His driving is continuing to improve even though he will often take the outside flank when he's reached his comfort distance. We've worked on drawing out his outrun whistle to signify that there is a group farther back behind the group closest to us. This is a hard concept for him to understand that if he gets the group farthest away first that they will join up as he's on his way back. We'll get there soon though.
Early December I decided that his "come-bye" whistle was too similar to his away whistle at a distance which also sounded like his down... Bummer. it took just four times out to work for him to really start thinking about the meaning of his new whistle. This thinking was rewarded by a verbal follow up to help him out. So it was a basics month at the end of the year, which was fine. I worked on setting up situations for him to learn his new whistle whilst working on his pace and line fetching and driving.
All in all, I've been very pleased with my little man. High hopes to make it to open for our next trial are pretty realistic if I can continue building his confidence and distance on his outrun. Thanks for a great year buddy!