Last Saturday P*trick gave an informal shedding clinic.

I love shedding. It's like trying to learn to juggle and play the piano at the same time. While crossing a freeway.

Shedding utilizes all the skills we are supposed to be accumulating in stockdog work and concentrates them into one small space and a few minutes worth of opportunity.There are several things to look for (such as lead sheep, lagging sheep, draw), several things to have in your mind at all times (like your pressure, dogs pressure, sheep pressure, hesitation and opportunity), and the constant need to physically react correctly without mentally processing first.

Watching P*trick shed is fluid and almost effortless seeming. He casually moves toward the sheep at an angle, his dog at a distance across, he walks parallel, subtlely turning heads, faces the two he wants off the back, communicating his intention to his dog, maybe he turns and …within moments, with no hesitation, stopping or exaggerated movements, the sheep part and he has a shed.

I've seen Susan move sheep like this in the pens and at setout. Sorting off always 5, or the correct number, usually a group that will work together. In the pens, too, if you don't act decisively, confidently, fluidly…you get clusters of sheep that don't want to cooperate.

It has always struck me that the people who know what they want and believe that they will get it, approach the task in that casual confident way and things happen smoothly. It's really beautiful in a way bigger than the work, really. Like most of the rest of this, and why I am so drawn to it…is that you feel if you can absorb these rules and learn this subtlety and confidence of motion and task on the field, it applies to everything in life.

Some Details:

Our pressure is in front of us. We've been told this. We understand the concept. Still, often even good open handlers face the sheep in the shedding ring straight on, and we all seem to like to attempt to stab our way through with our crooks.

The unawareness of our pressure is a mistake also made at the pen, where we hold the gate open, facing outward between the entrance and the sheep, our pressure acting as a barrier, while we ask our dog to walk up and compensate.

Your best chance at a good shed is your first shot at the shed. Use the momentum, act casual. If you can keep your movements flowing, instead of that jerky I'm Disarming a Heavy Explosive approach things tend to flow. Locate and use the lagger sheep. Use hesitation to your advantage.

In closing, I am always at least 6 seconds behind.  I have no 'bubble' as I've said before, I have stubble.  I'm going to trade my crook in for a chainsaw.  I've seen nothing prohibiting this in the USBCHA 'guidelines'…but then I've never really looked. 

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