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How to become a Big Hat


Donald McCaig
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Hi Donald.

 

About 10 years ago, before I got sucked into this livestock-dog nightmare,

I watched a sheepdog trial (an ancestor of what is now "Big Willow").

It was beautiful.

I thought, "How hard can this be? I'll do it."

Damn.

 

charlie

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The practice is not necessarily enjoyable and requires someone willing to put in the grueling hours over at least 10 years. From his observations, it takes a minimum of a decade of deliberate practice to excel in any field.

It's amazing that so many people want to try, given all the built-in difficulties and frustrations of sheep dogging, and how many of us wish we had the chance. One meets so many people who are very, very accomplished in their "civilian" life. PhDs, successful business people, writers, physics professors even! The grit factor is huge.

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A friend of ours who is a musician had the occasion to meet a "big time" country star and he asked him how often he played a guitar when not performing...The big time star said about six hours a day...

 

Being the best, good, or even competent in whatever you choose to do, takes something deep in your gut...something that makes you keep going no matter what. Our son had the privilege of taking fencing instruction from an Olympic level fencer who at that time was in his late seventies and had taught many good fencers, some of whom became great in their own right Stephen was fencing against a competitor whom he could have obviously beaten but even though he was physically present on the strip, mentally he'd packed his bags and gone home. He came off the strip, knowing that he'd basically handed off the bout - and potentially the match- and took off his mask, waiting for the lecture. His coach just laid a gentle hand on his shoulder and said, "Stephen, your next lesson is to learn how to win when you don't really feel like it." That's all he ever said but from that point on, Stephen started to dig for that "something." And coach by the way, is in his mid eighties and still giving lessons :rolleyes:.

 

 

Liz

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  • 3 weeks later...

It appears from what I have read that there is a chain of thought that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve excellence in an endeavor, such as violin or piano or basketball.

 

There are people in our sport who have done it for many years, in some cases the 10 years cited in Donald's article who have not achieved excellence and others who have become very competitive in the same span of time. It would be very interesting to know how much people practice. In our sport of course it is not enough for the handler to achieve excellence, you have to have a dog capable of achieving it as well.

 

In that case of the dog while I think the 10,000 hours of practice no doubt helps I also think that you need the genetic talent upon which to lay all that practice. However, we have certainly seen that the top handlers are always top handlers. Sometimes they have more successful dogs then others. But a change in dogs does not drop them back down to the novice level. So I wonder, how much of it is practice.

 

Beverly

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In that case of the dog while I think the 10,000 hours of practice no doubt helps I also think that you need the genetic talent upon which to lay all that practice. However, we have certainly seen that the top handlers are always top handlers. Sometimes they have more successful dogs then others. But a change in dogs does not drop them back down to the novice level. So I wonder, how much of it is practice.

 

Beverly

I may never be a top handler, but one difference I see between humans achieving excellence through hours and hours of practice and animals doing the same is that the human has the cognitive ability to make the choice to try to excel and then follow through with all that practice. The human can say to herself, "This will all be worth it in the end, when I am at the top of my field." Animals can't do that. We can drill and drill them in our attempts to achieve excellence, but I think just as often as not, this can result in an animal that is simply burned out. Because the animal doesn't understand the need for the drilling or hours upon hours of practice. So for animals, I think genetic talent is crucial. That's not to say that practice doesn't make (near) perfect, but I don't think even the best handlers would take just *any* dog and make it a top working/trialing dog though sheer force of will and thousands of hours of practice. I think most people look for the animal that has the genetic talent to start and then build on that.

 

But anyway, my main point is that the animal doesn't get the choice about whether to practice for hours on end, so I think the human has to consider that when embarking on any endeavor that also involves an animal. It adds a twist that I think requires looking for genetic talent (and perhaps even the ability to stand up to drilling) rather than just using any animal.

 

J.

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With different endeavors in mind, I shot a rifle for about 5 years 4 - 6 hours a day, 6 days a week. It was about building muscle memory and taking the "think" out of a physical transaction. Becoming reflexive. Same as 10,000 shots to be effective with a free throw, or tennis swing, or golf swing, or, or, or... But, of course, it has to be 10,000 shots or swings done correctly. Hacking at something 10,000 times just ensures you will remain a hack. Visualization works as well or better than actual practice but takes time as well. There was a story about an experiment that was done with an Olympic level Soviet pistol shooter. They took his pistol away from him and put him on a boat for 6 months. He did nothing marksmanship oriented for that time but a daily visualization exercise. When he got off the boat his scores were better than when he left. He had been able to improve upon his foundational work.

 

But that is just the beginning. There is the Mental Management aspect of all sports... as mentioned earlier, learning to win. Putting yourself against as many adversives as possible, traveling around the country to compete in different environments, different conditions, different sheep if you will. Filling your tool box and bag of experience. Learning management skills.

 

Managing your brain during the competition... Truly embracing that you are not competing against someone but attempting to maximize your own performance. The moment you start thinking that Bev or Scot, or Amanda, or your local hero is there you have diverted resources away from your performance and, to some extent, diminished it.

 

It goes on and on. I can teach someone the foundation to shoot well in about 3 days. During that time, while I am standing behind them, they typically do pretty well. I can't, however, make them do the work when they get home. As yoda said, there is no try. There is do or do not.

 

We make things more complicated with our endeavor by adding a dog, sheep, and a judge but it can all be broken down into pieces that allow you to identify the aspects that can be overcome by work and those that have to be managed.

 

sorry for the somewhat random travail... i've been instructing and doing clinics for 20 years with this being the hardest aspect to articulate to our "instant gratification" society.

 

dave

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I think that this is why practical work is so important.

Agreed. I'm a huge advocate of practical work, especially for teaching things that are more difficult, like driving or shedding. But I know folks who do drill their dogs and who look for dogs that can stand up to drilling. Not my cup of tea. (<--no pun intended!)

 

J.

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:rolleyes:

 

My brother was a Marine trained as a sniper. He talked about stilling your mind.

He also talked of this in battle.

 

(Someday I should tell more stories of him. He would call me from Iraq. Once while they were being shelled. He said their aim was bad.Their minds not still.... Unless he was fooling me? But I could hear the shells.)

 

And I know from 3-day at the highest level 'If you are thinking you are doing it wrong'

This is a quote drilled into my head by Jim Wofford who was our coach.

 

There is a stillness that comes, when working like this. On the right horse it is an incredible thing.

 

For me something I need to remember every day when sorting the milking flock.

My sheep system is not so good. Our barn needs work. I need to sort the ewes that are being milked and the ones that are not every day. The ewes all have lambs at side and this is in the barn that is divided into 4 spaces. It has taught me so much sorting the ewes.

 

Gunny is the best at it. But Sweep is rapidly learning it.

Cap is almost retired now.

 

Little Taw- She is my next marine........

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But that is just the beginning. There is the Mental Management aspect of all sports... as mentioned earlier, learning to win. Putting yourself against as many adversives as possible, traveling around the country to compete in different environments, different conditions, different sheep if you will. Filling your tool box and bag of experience. Learning management skills.

 

-snip-

 

sorry for the somewhat random travail... i've been instructing and doing clinics for 20 years with this being the hardest aspect to articulate to our "instant gratification" society.

 

dave

 

This is so true!

 

I think those who excel realize it's a journey, not a destination. You can't fit perfection into a neat little box. You can't have it *now*. If it's really important, you'll keep plugging away, refining your ability, adjusting your training until it becomes a part of you. If you watch a person who excels at anything, they just do it. They are so comfortable and good about what they do that it looks easy, but they also keep looking for ways to improve themselves and refine their skill.

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Hello all,

 

When I decided to learn to team rope, I was told that I had to be able to rope the dummy slick around the horns 50 times consecutively, before I could try it a-horseback. Trust me, when you first pick up a rope, you're lucky if you can hit the dummy, let alone rope slick horns.

 

My ex was teaching me, and I still don't believe he really wanted me to learn, because he foresaw the complications. I think now that the mandate was his way of talking me out of it. I went to the barn every day for the better part of a year and roped the dummy 50 times each trip. Some days I couldn't rope slick horns even once! I'd miss, rope half-heads, or around the neck, but I always went back. Rain, shine, holidays, whatever, I roped. I even took a rope and dummy with me when we traveled, so I wouldn't miss a day. He'd be at a roping somewhere, and I'd go get one of his friends to help me, so I could hear it a different way. I learned a lot from those guys, by the way.

 

It was SO frustrating, infuriating, humbling, embarrassing, maddening, daunting, time-consuming, tedious, repetitive, and expensive... but I learned. Then it took me years of consistent 3-4 day a week live practice, while still roping the dummy on most days, and entry at lots and lots of po-dunk ropings to become proficient. Knowing then what I know now, I would never have undertaken it.

 

Successfully handling a sheepdog is the same sort of thing...

 

Cheers all,

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Knowing then what I know now, I would never have undertaken it.

 

Successfully handling a sheepdog is the same sort of thing...

 

Cheers all,

 

Hey you shouldn´t tell us newbies that! :rolleyes:

Well, not that I´m gonna listen, I´ll go ahead anyway, Tauta will probably be started on sheep sometime in the next couple of weeks.

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Its the journey....

 

the fact that you never stop learning

 

That I can move sheep around the island without burning fuel.

 

 

That I can go to a trial and people are friendly. And have a good time.

 

That I went out on a shearing job and Sweep the Broom got the sheep in And held them while I sheared them one by one.

 

Its the journey.....

 

At least for me

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juliepoudrier

I may never be a top handler, but one difference I see between humans achieving excellence through hours and hours of practice and animals doing the same is that the human has the cognitive ability to make the choice to try to excel and then follow through with all that practice. The human can say to herself, "This will all be worth it in the end, when I am at the top of my field." Animals can't do that. We can drill and drill them in our attempts to achieve excellence, but I think just as often as not, this can result in an animal that is simply burned out. Because the animal doesn't understand the need for the drilling or hours upon hours of practice. So for animals, I think genetic talent is crucial. That's not to say that practice doesn't make (near) perfect, but I don't think even the best handlers would take just *any* dog and make it a top working/trialing dog though sheer force of will and thousands of hours of practice. I think most people look for the animal that has the genetic talent to start and then build on that.

 

But anyway, my main point is that the animal doesn't get the choice about whether to practice for hours on end, so I think the human has to consider that when embarking on any endeavor that also involves an animal. It adds a twist that I think requires looking for genetic talent (and perhaps even the ability to stand up to drilling) rather than just using any animal.

J.

 

 

I've known dogs that were as keen to "get it perfect" as I was. I've also had dogs that were simply willing to do it a zillion times if that was what I wanted. There's a crucial difference. With the first kind of dog, you have two minds exerting themselves to do well. With the second you have one mind that wants to excel, and one that is OK with going along for the ride. With the first you get into a flow, and the work becomes a rare pleasure. With the second, it's just work - and you may or may not do really well.

 

I'd rather have the first kind - even if they blow raspberries at me when I screw up - and they do! :rolleyes:

 

I don't have enough experience with horses to know if they come in those two denominations - but I think they must... Otherwise how would we get Seabisquits and Kelsos and Ruffians.

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I thought, "How hard can this be? I'll do it."

Damn.

 

charlie

ditto

 

It's like a drug. I muddle through hours, days, and weeks of mediocrity and then for a fleeting moment you and your dog are the perfect team (the fix).

 

And the price of that Big Hat is VERY expensive.

 

Mark (working towards the down payment)

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He talked about stilling your mind.

 

 

I remember this from playing tennis....there were moments when I could see the name on the tennis ball at the exact moment the ball hit the strings of the racket then I would swing, every muscle in my body perfectly in line and the ball would go spinning away past my opponent to land at the exact spot I intended to put it. It's that moment of intense concentration between breaths when you get everything perfectly, exactly right.

 

Sometimes when I watch built Brodie run across the field after a ball just before he catches it, he just seems to float above the grass and stop in a freeze frame, his body all stretched out, long and lean then the breath goes out, he catches the ball, his feet land on the ground, he turns with a Brodie grin and the moment is over. It will be interesting to watch this come out in him on sheep.

 

Liz

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  • 1 year later...

Dear Sheepdoggers,

 

Here's some background info.

Donald McCaig

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/10/your-mon...mp;ref=business

 

I liked the article until I read the last paragraph. Let me quote:

 

"With all this talk about talent, it’s easy to forget one thing. While I love watching someone who is terrific at what they do and I also know the great feeling of accomplishing something difficult, it’s too easy to let admiration of such skills overshadow less visible attributes — like kindness and generosity. While I may marvel at great achievers, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to live in a world full of them." (emphasis added)

 

What a slam to a broad group of folks. In my experience, high achievers are quite willing to share, mentor, and teach. There are always the exceptions. Those that rise to the top have the opportunity to be role models, and in most cases they are. They show kindness, generosity of spirit, and understanding to the world and to those who aspire to greatness. Hey, I'd like my world populated with the best.

 

I believe that leaders are made, not born. They develop themselves by continued sweat, long hours, education and perseverance. They work hard, play hard, and enjoy life.

 

Hats...OK for the rain/snow, but for me, they are too confining and hot. -- Kind Regards, TEC

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