Friday, September 2, 2016

Outrunnin', Ridin' and Ropin'

We finished our stay in Buffalo with more herding lessons with Wendy Auzqui and her dogs.  Rue and I graduated from the arena, to the hay field and worked on her outruns and lifts.  Outruns begin when the dog leaves the handler and goes out and around a group of sheep.  In the beginning levels, the dog is only asked to go a short distance.  Later on, the sheep may be hundreds of yards away, and even hidden behind a hill or trees.  When the dog stops opposite the handler and slowly approaches the sheep, it is called a lift.  When Rue goes in a counterclockwise direction, or “away,” she does pretty well, and circles well away from the sheep as she should.   

However, most herding dogs have a directional preference and Rue is no exception.  She struggles with her “go bye,” or clockwise outruns and almost always comes in too close and startles her sheep.  My biggest job last week, with a lot of help from Wendy, was to correct this problem.  Wendy and I discuss strategy while her dog, Frank, looks on.

Here I race toward Rue to give her a correction and get her to change course.

And here is Wendy signaling (at last) that she has done her outrun correctly.  

After executing a proper outrun, the dog’s reward is to get to drive the sheep, and Rue was very happy to get in some good sheep time. 

John accompanied me out to the Auzqui ranch for our final lesson, and we got a special treat.  Wendy’s husband, also named John, was doing some roping practice with his nephew, Clayton Auzqui, and we got to watch.  

John is on his palomino and his nephew is on Tigger, the gray.  

Here are some shots I took of the two of them roping while Wendy handles the chute.
John is trying to rope the calf’s head, while his nephew lassos its heels.  There is a lot of skill involved, and their timing has to be spot on to catch the calf.  

Thanks, Guys, we learned a lot watching the two of you.

Out time in Buffalo was great fun and a great benefit to my herding skills.  Thanks, so much, Wendy.  You and your “Mutton Mafia,” Frank, Tony and Holly, were a pleasure to work with and great fun to boot.  Hopefully Rue and I can put what we learned into practice before we see you again.

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