I sent him on an away flank that would force him past the round pen, and he would have to look up field until he saw the sheep I was interested in.
It was a struggle, to say the least.
At first Rodeo couldn't get past the round pen, running to the fence and staring at the sheep. After some corrections I finally got him to understand that I wanted him to continue down field, but he would only go about 50 yards before stopping and looking back at the round pen.
"No! No!" I yelled, trying to time my correction for the moment that he stopped and turned to look at the sheep in the round pen.
Then I tried a command: "Look back!" But it didn't do much good. Sometimes he would turn his head and look down field, but he didn't find the sheep until I marched down field and directed him further in the direction I wanted him to go.
At the end of the session, Brian asked: "How many times did you send him down the field?"
"At least ten."
"And how many times did he stop and look back towards the round pen?"
"At least ten."
It's safe to say that we've got a lot more work to do.
This week we did some more work with the same exercise, and he showed improvement. He still fixated on the round pen at first, but with corrections he pretty quickly turned and ran down the field until he caught sight of the sheep. At first he would go at them without thinking much, so his outrun was terrible, but I was just glad he found them. As time went by, though, he started to flare out better when he saw the sheep so that the lift and fetch weren't too bad.
Near the end of the session, after a correction away from the round pen, he actually turned and started to look down the field for sheep. That's an important step that hopefully shows he's beginning to understand what we're after.
"I think you'll be able to redirect him at a trial if he goes after the exhaust," Brian declared after this week's session. That could be important on a lot of Pro-Novice courses where the sheep setout can be as far as 300 yards or more. Ultimately Rodeo has to trust me when I send him for sheep, but in the meantime, even a redirect will allow us a chance to finish the outrun and hopefully an opportunity to finish the course.