March 20th, 2018, we all hit the road for a 4-day clinic at Shoofly Farm in beautiful North Carolina
Arriving at Shoofly Farm, we were greeted by beautiful, sunny weather. It was nice to feel warm sun on us again. Friday and Saturday were the clinic days which had a different variety of dogs on both days. Handlers and dogs improved over the two days. Throughout the whole clinic, we had all levels of dogs and covered all aspects of training: shedding, look backs, and blow outs. The clinic and lessons were available to all levels of handlers from very novice to open handlers. Almost everything handlers asked about was covered in this clinic.
For the Novice handlers, Gordon gave them more confidence on handling their dogs. He helped to reassure them that is was ok just to let their dogs have the sheep. By handling their dogs this way it helped keep things moving rather than creating problems by trying to enforce a stop.
Lots of young dogs just starting with novice handlers are unsure of how to progress with them. By the end of the second day, the handlers had more of an idea of how to help their young dog move to the next stage of their training. It was nice to see very happy faces from these handlers.
Sunday and Monday were lesson days, with most handlers staying on from the clinic and some new handlers attending. Lessons had more open handlers where they were working on the final touches for trialing. Over the four days, we just had one day of snow early morning by mid-afternoon the sun arrived and snow went home. It was truly a most enjoyable clinic with a great setting and lovely people and dogs.
Every single handler went home very happy and with lots of home work.
Thank you to Robin French and all of the handlers that came out to the clinic and lessons. We hope to see you all again soon.
What a beautiful weekend for our March 2018 move forward clinic
The sun shined on us all weekend.
Most handlers arrived Friday with time for a lesson before the clinic.
This clinic was to designed to help handlers and dogs of all levels that have competed at trials. It was great for handlers which needed help with the finer details of getting around a course.
Kick off time was 8am Saturday morning.
With the morning session, Gordon set up a straight forward course for all handlers and dogs to run just like in a trial situation. Each run was timed.
We didn’t have a judge but a very observant clinician.
Five sheep was set on a tub of corn to keep them settled so each handler had a fair chance. Sophie was doing set out with Tic and they stayed with the sheep till the dogs had contact with the sheep just like at a trial . Gordon and other handlers watched closely.
What was strange was that even though it wasn’t an actual trial, most handlers seemed nervous and it showed a little on some runs with late commands, wrong commands and even no commands. As everyone took their turn at the post, Gordon and other handlers watched in silence until everyone had their first run of the morning.
When everyone had taken part on the course, Gordon went through each run in detail asking each handler where they thought mistakes were made.
Gordon has an unbelievable memory! After 13 dogs ran, he remembered each run in great detail and pointed out what went wrong and of course most faults had to do with some handlers being a nervous. We adjourned for lunch giving each handler time to reflect on their faults. Of course the dogs hardly did anything wrong only by doing what their handlers told them.
Merry put on a lovely spread for lunch spaghetti and meatballs, salad and some handlers donated cakes for dessert.
The afternoon session started up again this time Gordon stepped to the post with each handler making some more nervous and some relieved. Gordon helped with the crucial timing of commands on the dogs making the handler react quicker to situations that came up. Most of the handlers had the same issues, timing on the lift and the first half of the fetch. The majority of handlers had decent drives but almost everyone had trouble at the pen. Gordon helped with smoothing the dogs out around the pen which helped keep the sheep calmer and making them easier to pen.
Sunday morning started again with the sun was shinning on us making it so nice to sit in the sun while watching.
A small course change with just a slight dog leg fetch. Nothing that challenging but causing a few problems for some handlers keeping sheep on line. Most dogs of course wanted to bring the sheep straight to the handler and it was up to the handler to tell the dogs which line they were taking without letting panic set in.
Gordon watched and stepped in if he felt anyone needed help. Almost everyone manage to get around without Gordon stepping out onto the field.
After everyone had ran, each run was discussed again, seeing much improvement in handling. Handlers seemed much more relaxed and their timing was better and therefore, dogs were much calmer with the sheep.
Sunday afternoon session saw big improvement. Handlers looked more confident walking to the post with much more purpose. The were making sure everything was in order before sending their dogs. Almost no one needed help until entering the shedding ring. Gordon stepping in to help most handlers at the shedding.
Pens were much more relaxed and controlled handler and dogs working as a team. It was nice to watch. It really was an enjoyable weekend.
I’m sensing everyone took home information about their dogs they never knew before and how to handle many different situations with them. Please feel free to leave a comment on the comments page. It’s always nice to listen to what handlers take home from these clinics.
Looking forward to seeing most of you at the next move forward clinic April 7/8 weekend.
Our next clinic is the puppy/ young dog clinic March 31-April 1 weekend .
One of my favorite clinics. Love to see the young ones starting out and how they progress in just 2 days.
Check out the Gallery for more pictures from the clinic.
Earlier in February, we left cold, snowy Wisconsin headed for Florida for the first trials of the season on the 17th. After the long drive and change in climate, it took our dogs a while to get used to the new setting. Temperatures were hotter than usual for February in Florida too.
C54 C54 is a 2 day trial for both Open and Pro-Novice dogs. It has a big outrun and testy sheep. All of our dogs managed to have respectable runs for the 2 days. Storm placed 4th and 8th out of the 70 +/- runs. Monday, was the day for the Pro-Novice dogs and it was still a big distance to outrun for these youngsters. The sheep were rather testy for these dogs with lots of draws creating several tricky pulls. Ava managed a beautiful outrun, lift and fetch but had trouble on the drive away when sheep pulled hard to the exhaust. This left Ava feeling she had to stop them from running off, so we retired gracefully. Lyric managed a very respectable run and got them penned! Good job Lyric.
Asher Dell Farm Tuesday was the start of 3 days at Asher Dell Farm. This is a much smaller field and very well dogged sheep that just loved to stand at your feet. This made it hard to get them away from you on the drive away with the younger dogs. Ava still had trouble with her driving away and was determined that her sheep weren’t going anywhere she didn’t feel was right. Lyric sorted it out and put a score of 81 taking first place in the “ranch” class. An early finish this day meant we were off to a trip to the ocean. This was very much enjoyed by all!
Wednesday was the start of Open at Asher Dell. In this small field, the clever sheep knew every inch of their field, therefore every escape route too. If you gave them an inch, they certainly took a mile! This made it very difficult to shed. The first runs were about getting our dogs used to these sheep as in Wisconsin, we never came across this issue. Shedding was difficult for most. Also, these sheep were put around the course a fair number of times adding to their confidence in besting the dogs and handlers.
Flo put up a half decent run with 4th place out of 59 runs. In the second round of Open on Thursday, we saw our dogs starting to figure out the sheep and we all learned their shedding tricks. We managed to take 3 placings: Flo with 3rd, Hawk with 2nd and Storm at 8th out of 65 runs.
That’ll Do Farm Friday brought a whole new trial at That’ll Do Farm. New trial – new challenge. This trial brought very fit hair sheep that taught one wrong move from the dog and they were gone! It was a racing match around the field! First up were our young dogs in the ranch class. Ava, with her quiet and calm actions, managed to get the sheep settled giving us a 3rd place. Lyric drew a set of runners which took off on every turn. Gordon retired gracefully.
Saturday brought Open 1 and it was a real “luck of the draw” on what sheep you got and how quietly you could lift them. The sheep were rather challenging to the set out crew as they had lots of trouble holding them in place until your dog arrived. The exhaust was close to the field pen and the handler’s post. With this BIG draw, if you weren’t on top of the issue, the sheep easily made it to the exhaust gate. If you DID manage to hang onto them around the post, the drive away was the next challenge. They’d just go back to the holding pen. If your sheep were on-line, you couldn’t miss the gate, as they’d run straight through. These sheep were a real test of dog and handler skills.
For Open 1 (out of 76): Hawk was 3rd, Storm was 5th and Reba was 9th For Open 2 (out of 79): Hawk 1st, Flo 7th, Storm 14th
Now we are back home after 9 days of trialing. Wisconsin welcomed us back with warmer weather, red-wing black birds (a sign of spring here) and sunny days.
The first “Move Forward” clinic is in the books. Friday, Cedar Stone Farm experienced a large snow fall so we were wondering how we’d get into the clinic field. Not to worry, a driving path and parking area was cleared by the time everyone arrived in the morning.
The clinic is the first of three focused on sharpening skills relating to trialing. Gordon intently watched each dog/handler team run the course he had set up. After everyone went, we gathered as a group and he prompted each handler to objectively review their run. He then gave specific tips on how to make each run more successful. There were lots of “ah ha” moments as Gordon drew diagrams on the white board and explained why he made the recommendations he did.
With the deep snow on the clinic field, the dogs and handlers got the chance to learn how to handle sheep in those conditions. The handlers all commented that when there was deep snow on their own properties, they tended to not work the sheep as much. This was another learning opportunity as we saw the sheep (and dogs) gravitate to the paths created by the “side by side” or the previous run. Handling this was a new experience for most and Gordon gave expert advice on exactly what to do to keep the flow but allow for the conditions.
The sheep were a great mix of willing participants and some not so willing to walk through the snow. Again, Gordon told us to “not complain about the sheep, just handle it better.” He gave tips and tricks on how to handle the sheep that didn’t want to trudge through deep snow when paired with some sheep that didn’t mind. We all committed his tips to memory!
Each handler/dog team improved with each run and as they stepped off the field, lots of smiles in the successes they were having.
The lunches were awesome and filled everyone with warm food so the cold temps really didn’t seem to bother us.
Everyone left the two days happy with what they learned, looking forward to the next clinics and feeling excited about the upcoming trial season.
Gordon’s continued support and expert advice was well received by all!
Thank you to Merry Russell and Cedar Stone Farm for hosting.
Our trip to Colorado was just incredible. The journey was so breathtaking and the weather was glorious. What can we say about Gordon and Storm! What an achievement; first time on Range sheep; first time at the Nationals and so happy with the results of Reserve Champion. Talented handler and very talented Storm handling his sheep with ease. Storm never faulted, he just trotted them around the course like a day out for a stroll in the park. Looking forward to next year’s Nationals.
Over the winter we will be hosting two series of double lift and shedding clinics. This is a great opportunity to get yourself and your dogs ready for the up- coming trialing season.
Gordon will be on hand to teach you and your dogs the correct way to turn back your dogs. This will consist of 3 sessions on look backs and shedding. The 4th session will be a double lift course to put to practice what you have learned. It would be beneficial if you could attend all 4 sessions.
Cost is $25 per session.
First session will be Saturday December 10th, 8am-12pm or 10am-2pm (tentative). We have indoor facilities if weather is bad.
Dates as follows:
December 10, 17, 31, and January 7th
January 21, 28, February 4 and 11
Contact Margaret Lass-Gardiner for more details
Gordon Watt was born in Ireland in 1964, to a family of shepherds. His father is William Watt, a legend in sheepdogs. At an early age Gordon became interested in all aspects of sheep care and sheepdog training. When he was 15, Gordon and his first dog, Chum, won second in the Irish Nationals and it was on from there. In 1999, he was Irish National Champion, and in 2005, Gordon became World Champion, after also winning the English National Championship with his dog, York.
Gordon’s current main trial dog is Huthwaite Storm. With Storm Gordon has won Northumberland League Nursery, numerous Open trials, and was fourth at the English Nationals in 2015. His most recent trial dog, Moss, has won many Open trials, and was 3rd in the English National in 2014 and on the English team in 2014.
Gordon has maintained his York line in Flo and Reba. Flo goes back to York’s mother and Reba is Flo’s daughter. Storm and Moss are outcrosses. Their pedigrees can be seen here at this website.
When choosing a sheepdog Gordon likes to see “an ability to work sheep properly”. By that he means a dog that uses its brain. Also, the nature, the personality of the dog has to be very good. “Power” is not the dog that scares sheep, but rather the dog sheep trust and can move them.
He likes to show young dogs sheep at about 8 months. At this time he feels it is possible to evaluate an individual training program for a dog.
Look at the calendar on this website for training availability, upcoming events and lessons. Gordon is based in Southeastern Wisconsin and located near the major metropolitan areas of Chicago, Illinois (O’Hare airport) and Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Mitchell Field). Gordon is booked for clinics in the Midwest and elsewhere.