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Turn at the post

bc soul sista

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I guess I would LOVE some input in this area....for me...the biggest trouble at a trial seems to come right after the OLF, the turn at the post....navigating this portion of a trial has proven to be the most difficult..the end of the OLF and the beginning of the drive...seems to be here is what sets the stage for your run...your dog and yourself setting a rhythym and presense for the drive...It's also the area for me where the sheep seem most want to run..especially if handled by a NOVICE like me who is trying to watch the dog and sheep and keep everything relatively in control!!!



It also seems to be the place the sheep want to RUN at the most!!! Right at the turn if pushed to hard!!


I'm also trying to get a better feel for my dog...it seems like handling the turn at the post is on the expertise of the handler...to set the stage for the run, and give the dog the best shot for starting the drive....I am struggling to keep a "rhythym" or "flow"...for my dog, but it seems if I keep to much of a flow and don't put my dog in the right place the sheep are more inclined to take off once the turn is made and control needs to be regained before starting the drive...but if I don't keep enough of a flow the sheep get a chance to stop and possible challenge my dog...which doesn't put him in a good place...



SO..I am oh so novice but would LOVE ideas/excersises/suggestions on how to get better at this....


Thanks :)

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Watch the good handlers.


A lot of how you handle the turn depends on the sheep. On sheep that are sensitive to handler pressure, it's about power (dog's) and control. On sheep that aren't sensitive to handler pressure, it's about precision. You won't be trying a really tight turn around the post on most range sheep (but I've seen some really good teams do it - oh so well).


The main thing is to slow the sheep down at the end of the fetch so back the dog off a bit but keep him on contact (so the sheep don't get escape ideas). A lot of good handlers will bring the sheep straight at them to slow them a bit and stand on the side of the post they want the sheep to go around (so if you are going around the post clockwise, stand to the right of the post) That way, your dog is right behind the sheep or on the far side of the handler from themm. You don't want the dog on the same side of the sheep as you if you can help it, or he'll have further to flank around and more likely to be tight and push the sheep.


Once the sheep are moving slow, step in front of the post. Now you are on the left of the sheep (clockwise turn) and the dog is on the right. Your arm/crook will help you keep your side, and the dog can hold the far side. As the last sheep passes the post, you can flank your dog around to about seven or eight o'clock and set him up for the drive. Too far, and the sheep will start straight up the field, and you'll have to flank the dog back around behind you which technically is a deduction.


The problem with a lot of Novice courses is they are too short, the dogs are too tight at the top, and they push too hard. The dog never has time to get hold of the sheep and control the pace. The sheep arrive at the handler's feet on the run, and there's no way you are making a nice turn with running sheep unless you have a great dog and impeccable timing. The other problem with a lot of Novice courses is that there's usually a draw to the exhaust to one side of the post or the other, and that is really tough on a novice dog and novice handler. Add the two together and you have a recipe for disaster. I think it takes more time and thought to set up a Novice course than an Open course. If I had my druthers, a Novice course would have a minimum 150 yard outrun. That gives handler and dog a chance at a run because if the dog has a half decent outrun and lift, it has a chance to get with the sheep before the turn. Any dog that can't do a 150 yard outrun under control probably isn't ready for the trial field (in my opinion).


I don't think you need drills for it other than the ones you use to perfect flanks and control in general. You might have the dog just bring the sheep around your feet when transitioning from a fetch to a drive.


Watch the good handlers. Can't stress this enough. Go to trials. Watch the Open runs. See how the good handlers set up the turn. It will tell you a lot about how the sheep are working. Are they trying to leave wool on the post? If not, why not? Is there a pull to the exhaust? Where do they put their dog to cover? Every trial is a free clinic if you watch with an open mind.

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One "fault" that I see happening while judging novice trials is that many handlers grasp the post and don't let go.To my way of thinking there is a "circle of influence " around the handler ,one around the sheep and a third around the dog.When the dog or handlers circles touch the sheep's circle ,the sheep will move away to break this "contact".At the post to get a tighter turn ,the handler should step away from the post and away from the sheep .This allows the sheep to be closer to the post thus a better/tighter turn.Following the sheep around also helps the dog turn the sheep.

These circles also come into play at the pen.Again most novice handlers grab the pen gate--not the rope.They open it only part way,rarely past 90 degrees.The handlers circle is thus blocking the entrance to the pen and the sheep are unlikely to enter it.If the handler steps back at the end of the rope and opens the gate fully ie up to 180 degrees the handlers circle is not blocking the entrance ,so the sheep are more likely to enter.

These are two "faults" I see repeatedly at novice trials.

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  • 2 weeks later...
....navigating this portion of a trial has proven to be the most difficult..the end of the OLF and the beginning of the drive...seems to be here is what sets the stage for your run...


Along with how the sheep are handled by the set out crew, what sets the stage for your run is the outrun. By the time you get the sheep to the post to turn them you have already had a chance to lose more than half your points (for a P/N run). Try to set up each phase of the run with the previous phase. So your lift is set up by the outrun, the fetch is set up by the lift, and you should begin working on the turn once the sheep make the fetch panels. And, as follows, you should be setting up the entrance into the shedding ring/pen (and the attitude the sheep have when they get there) when the sheep pass the cross drive panel.


It's also the area for me where the sheep seem most want to run..especially if handled by a NOVICE like me who is trying to watch the dog and sheep and keep everything relatively in control!!!


You should be watching the sheep first. The sheep will tell you where the dog is and what its influence is. Spending too much time watching the dog will cause you to get behind. Also try to get to where you can tell if the sheep are comfortable or antsy.


IMO Pearse gives good advice about slowing the sheep down (esp. after the fetch panels) and watching how other handlers negotiated the turn before you. Are those that are executing good turns bringing them in at a walk ? When does this walk begin ? Try also to notice if there's a draw for the sheep somewhere during the turn or just after it, you might be able to use it or avoid it later. Try to notice how much flank it takes to turn the sheep. Do they turn when the dog is up on their rear flank, their shoulder, or up on their faces ? IOW, How far up does the dog have to be to turn them, how far up makes them stop ? (Are some of them wool-blind and some not ?) How fit is the flock in general ? If they're spent by the time they've come down the fetch line then you'd better be walking them or you'll run out of sheep during your run.


When I actually make the turn at a trial I happen to stand on the other side of the post than Pearse mentions, but this is just a matter of preference. I like to keep the post between me and the sheep. Another thing to keep in mind is that much of the run, the turn included, is an exercise in allowing the sheep to escape in a controlled manner. There should be enough time on the course to get it all done, try not to hurry too much. Good luck.



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  • 8 months later...

Thanks for the thoughtful responses... very helpful!


Lots of good advice already given. As mentioned, try to slow the sheep so that they arrive at a walk, or slow trot. I like Pearse's way of having the dog fetch the sheep to him on the side they will eventually wrap around, and handler moving toward the post at the appropriate moment. In the event that fails because of the draws near the post, or other reasons, it has worked for me to have my dog flank-off the appropriate direction to move the stock to the correct side of the post as they are slowing toward it, and then as the sheep seem to be committed to passing on the correct side, I flank my dog wide to the opposite side, to say about 10 or 2 O'clock. The key sometimes, always depending on your dog and the sheep, is to bring your dog around the post in little increments (little pieces of the pie), rather than one big sweeping motion. Perhaps 2-3 or more stops as the dog flanks around the sheep and the post. Incremental flanks have the effect of preventing the sheep from heading toward nearby draws, so often found on Nov-Nov courses. Additionally, I have found, for me, that this maneuver keeps the sheep near the post/handler for more trial points. And yes, it maintains the flow to prevent the sheep from stalling/stopping at the post.


At some trials the moment the sheep are about to turn around the post to go back down-field, they are looking directly at the exhaust pen, so in this event, the final flank may have to be close to an over-flank, in order to prevent them from building-up speed toward the exhaust draw. On the other hand, if they do not need to be slowed due to a draw, try not to over-flank your dog as they begin to direct their heads down-field to the out-drive panels. An over-flank at this point could have the effect of pausing the flow, and you may have to flank your dog back to get them moving again.


Best wishes. There are lots of variables, so watch others, read your sheep and "suss-out" (study) the course. -- Kind Regards, TEC

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