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Phoenix's Intro to Sheep

Joe Anne

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Well I am finally gonna do it for my boy. Phoenix and I are attending an, "Introduction to Sheep Herding", day... at Keepstone Farm in Berryville, Va.

Is anyone else going? Has anyone ever been there?

My daughter is taking her BC girl, Amica (Phoenix's littermate), also.

It should be interesting to say the least.

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My friend (with her working-bred Aussie) and I (with my working-bred Border Collie) have been taking lessons from Susan Rhoades (Keepstone Farm) for almost two years. We have been very happy with her. Susan is a protege of Wink Mason, who is quite well known in the Middle Atlantic area.


Susan doesn't rush things with new folks and/or new dogs, and we have really appreciated that. She also hosts several USBCHA/VBCA trials each year, as well as AHBA and AKC events. I don't attend AKC events but I have had fun going with Hope when her Aussie has been entered in AHBA events. Susan always puts on nicely organized, spectator-friendly events, and I'm sure you will enjoy her. You'll probably want to bring a chair for the day, and dress well for the weather.


I didn't know about this event but Hope and I have been to something similar elsewhere (before we met Susan) and had a wonderful time, and I hope you do also.


Susan has a nice facility for beginners and is very good at starting young dogs. She has dog-broke sheep that are very appropriate for starting youngsters.


Laurie etc. of these boards also trains at Keepstone (with Wink, I think) and a number of posters have run their dogs at one or more of Susan's trials.


Best wishes and enjoy!

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Thanks so much. I am sooo excited to see what my boy Phoenix does. His grandfather (Ettrick Bob), was 1995 Nat'l Herding Finals Champion... and Phoenix shows so much "instinct" (if that is the proper term?). He is awesome, and he has never met sheep.

I did talk to Susan at the Dulles Pet Expo, and she was very nice and knowledgeable.

I am actually even a bit nervous, is that normal or ridiculous HaHa! ?? kinda like when my daughter started first grade! silly I know, but....

I just want to do right for Phoenix and have fun doing it!

Thanks again... we will have fun.

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Nervous? Me? Never! Well, that's a big fat lie. Nervous is normal. I have been known to be so nervous that I just couldn't function at a fairly recent clinic.


Just concentrate on listening and learning. Don't sit there chatting because you're paying money to learn, so you need to be paying attention and learning.


When it's "your turn" in the pen or on the field, pay attention to the instructor and your dog, and forget everyone else (which is easy as you will have your hands and mind full with what you are doing).



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Thanks for your support, I will take all of your good advice.

My daughter is taking her BC, Amica, also. Phoenix's litter mate/sister and bestest doggy friend.

I will let you know how it goes.

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Some advice - take a crate so your dogs can have some secure down-time (not in sight of the sheep) for parts of the day. It will also make it easier on you so you can sit and concentrate on learning and not have to fuss with your dog all the time.


Don't forget a suitable chair, and dress for the weather (boots, of course, and raingear if needed) in layers.


If you need to tie Phoenix, use a chain not a leather or nylon lead - if he gets excited, he might chew through anything but chain (even if he's NEVER done that before - my Celt did one day at Susan's while Hope and I were out picking up in the training field the day before a trial, and he'd never put a tooth on his leather lead before).


Always secure your dog SAFELY, where he can't get caught up or hung (no dangling tags on his collar to catch in the crate mesh - or to dangle and make noise while he's working in the field).


Poop pick-up bags are located along Susan's fences, so use them and dump in the dumpster or trash bags she provides. I know you know this but not everyone respects it (and I admit that I don't always pick up when Celt makes a mess over in the long grass away from the house - I do always pick up in the lawn and along the places where folks walk).


Susan will have cool-down tubs and water for the dogs but you can bring your own drinking water for your dogs if you choose.


If there's rain or hot sun, she might even have the canopies up that folks can shelter under (which is real nice).



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You can train wherever. Just stay away from registering your border collie AKC.


AHBA and ASCA are great ways to get your feet wet trialing. AKC is not for many reasons about equally divided between the folly of supporting border collies in AKC at all and the low level of actual work in both A and B courses that nevertheless requires attention to counterproductive course-training minutiae in A, which is the most commonly offered AKC course, and also counterproductive training in B because it is a dumbed down beyond all reason border collie course 99% of the time. AHBA and ASCA will show you that you can do more with your border collie without hooking you on AKC titles. AKC herding courses are likely to make you title mad while simultaneously convincing you that a low level of performance is the norm for border collies because someone with a rottie won HIT and looked pretty good to your inexperienced eye.


Kerrigan, I think you're getting trial terminology mixed up. Open is open. Novice is novice. Some trials are all open, some have open and other classes, some just have novice classes.



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