I've not been very good at updating on my young collie Meg's progress in work, but it has been going super well and a couple weeks ago, we came back from our first proper lambing. I drove from France to South Lanarkshire, in Scotland, and came back a better shepherd and sheepdog handler. Meg made huge progress with her in-bye work, and has shown she more than has what it takes to be a good lambing dog.
The flock was a fairly mixed bag, with two separate lambings going on (of which we only worked one, next one is due to begin in a week or so). Our group was comprised of pedigree and pure Texels, Cheviot cross Texels, and a handful of pure South Country Cheviots. For those of you who have not had the joy of working with SCCs from Scotland proper, rest assured, you're only missing out on chaos and destruction. They are mad.
Anyway, the experience cemented the idea in my head that if you really want to be good at this sheepdog thing, you've got to have some honest work to get stuck into. Gathering Mules scattered across a 7ha (17 acre) field with a dodgy hedge that sucks them in like a vacuum, drenching and jagging said Mules in a race with a too-big holding pen (what an adventure, I realised sheep could fly at your head), late night lambing, and turning out new mothers and lambs to the paddocks - you learn so much as you go. You might not need hundreds of sheep to do it, even a handful could teach you a lot. But get out there and work! Lambing is a great time for it, since it's all hands on deck and free help (provided it's good help!) never goes unwanted. It can test your patience, but you quickly realise that your worst enemy is usually yourself. Bad placement, slow reflexes, not reading the sheep... all these things stick out like sore thumbs when you're clinging on to your last shred of patience. So you get better! That's what I've learnt, and I look forward to doing another lambing next year to further improve.