The Herding Beagle

by Doranna

ConneryBeagle has a Twitter feed (Because of course he does.  That boy has been online since the day he came home with me).   He doesn’t tweet religiously, since I rarely give up the keyboard, but he likes to talk about his adventures.

Over the weekend he did that, after an adventure with the horse.  And because there were questions…here’s the rest of the story!

DuncanHorse has a paddock inside our fenced pasture area.

paddock gate

Looking up at the paddock gate from inside the pasture

Unfortunately, of the three summers we’ve been here, he’s only been allowed out on the pasture for the first summer–that’s the drought in action.  I’ve got to protect what is, in fact, a terribly fragile soil/flora/fauna area.  (Things die; they don’t come back.  The land erodes in a heartbeat, which is how those deep arroyos ended up in the back yard to begin with!)

When I care for Duncan, I often go from the office to the back yard to the pasture to the paddock.  (Wee gate between yard and pasture, visible above; horse gate between pasture and paddock.)  If you watched Monday’s video, I’m standing at the yard gate when it starts, and at the horse gate when it ends.  It’s a lot more straightforward than it sounds.

Well, the horse gate is a pain in the ass.

No, really!  It is!

It has this horrible sticky bolt latch that has to fit into a rather small hole, and it does this with a big clang and clatter–and aside from the annoyance this is never, ever good for someone who fights migraines on a daily basis.


Horrible sticky gate latch in proper position. Cannot believe I paid money for this one!

So generally I don’t latch it.  The gate is on a slope, and it’s heavy–really heavy, I can assure you, as it took 3-4 people to move that panel–and it stays closed by itself.

leaning gate

A view from inside the paddock (well, through the corral panels, which is a bit tricky. And the lighting sucks. But darnit, you can see the latch!)


There’s those 3-4 times a year when the wind catches me by surprise and blows that gate open.  Uphill.  Have I mentioned that the wind gets pretty fierce around here?

Then, if I’m not quick enough, Duncan has some pasture time.  It’s not a huge issue except that unless I grab him close to the escape point, I have to clamber around Arroyo Minor to get him, and this is never good in the middle of the night, which is usually when this happens.  Also, it makes me wince for the land.

One of the reasons it rarely happens is that the wind usually bangs the gate a couple of times as the gusts build, and I hear this and trot out and latch it for real.  Also, the gate really doesn’t move that easily.  I go through it several times a day and I open it from horseback, and I can attest to this in spades.

Well, guess what.  The gate was also intensely squealy.


Suddenly the opportunity for escape seems to have increased considerably.

So on Sunday I laid tracks for the dogs, and Connery’s track wound through Arroyo Minor, starting near the big pasture-road gate on the north flat.  When I do this, I leave that gate open from the time I lay the track to the time Connery runs it.

So you see this coming, right?

Halfway through the track-aging process, I heard a  gentle “snortsnortsnort!”

DuncanHorse: I am out in the pasture and I like it!

My choices?

1) Run out to chase him down and wreck the half-aged training track.
2) Leave him out there to interfere with the track in his horsie way, and whip out the other side of the house at warp speed to close the open gate.

I chose option #2.

So Duncan moseyed around the pasture, tromping hither and yon, and then hung around the start of the track.  We pretended he wasn’t there and ran the track through Arroyo Minor, after which I removed Connery’s harness so he could do his own moseying while I convinced Duncan to return to Home Base.

Duncan knew where he was going and didn’t really want to go there.  Connery knew where Duncan was going, too.  So he put on his herding dog clothes and escorted Duncan there.  Not applying pressure as a herding dog would, but being present.   All business-like, trot trot trot, gently holding the outside of the curve.  And oh, his upright Beagle tail waved happily and his panting had a big grin in it.

ConneryBeagle: I was IMPORTANT.

Yes, Connery.  Yes you were.

And that was ConneryBeagle’s big Sunday adventure–tracking around the horse, and then being very important as he helped return the horse to his paddock.  Not much in the grand scheme of things, but it does so make me smile to see him that happy.

By the way, this is what the gate looks like now…


With Bells On!

(Have you closed all your gates?  Latched all your doors?  Turned off your iron…?  Mwah ha ha!!)

About Doranna

My books are SF/F, mystery, paranormal romance, and romantic suspense. My dogs are Beagles, my home is the Southwest, and the horse wants a cookie!
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13 Responses to The Herding Beagle

  1. Robert says:

    Connery ROCKS. what a guy.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Such a gate latch would never do with Bananaface, the escape artist. Especially not if ever left open. Luckily, most horses are not in Illusion’s class as escape artists. At his former home, all gates behind which he was supposed to stay had to be chained or otherwise tied shut with something he could not open (forget lead ropes, for instance.) His escape adventures were legendary there. His in-barn stall was a small around pen of regular pen-panels, and the gate was always secured with his halter buckled snugly–the buckle on the outside of the pen. He opened ordinary stall gates routinely (that’s how he trapped horses he didn’t like in their stalls, shut the gate on them, and then re-latched the gate.) He was a very frustrated horse when we built the new fence and barn, because *all* the gates have a plate with a right angle slot cut into it, and chains that *just barely* slide into the slot on the flat of the link. The new fence is stout enough that he hasn’t (so far) “leaned it down” (his other method of dealing with a fence: he’s tall and stout-built, so if he can get his head all the way over and tuck it, he leans neck and chest on the fence until physics has its way. The new fence is tall enough.)

    He tests every closed gate every day (I’ve watched him do the “Are they still locked?” check) and leaving a gate lightly hitched with the chain just laid over the rail, or barely inserted into the outer angle of the slot, means a view of a receding horse rump about disappear as far as possible. The stall doors are also pipe, and very heavy and noisy, so we can hear those, but the gates between horse lots, from barn to yard, from horse lots to driveway, and so on are all regular gates. (From horse lots to the driveway, we have two gates hung in the same opening, using a leftover post from the previous fence.) Reflectors on the driveway side, which have so far prevented anyone running through it, and more visual barrier for the horses. A chain on each gate.

    I didn’t realize, with my first horse, how easy he was about fences. He could have jumped any fence on the place, but he jumped fences (with me, anyway) only under saddle. I could let him loose to graze in the front yard, with nothing but a couple of ropes strung from a yard fence across the driveway to a tree, and he didn’t break out. In back, with just little chainlink fences and gates with regular drop-down latches, Ky was perfectly content. Illusion…a whole different animal. None of the others were fence-pushers or escapists, so I’m thinking it was his dam’s mustang blood.

    I’m glad Duncan isn’t as escape-minded as Illusion, and that you got to the gate to the Big Wide World before Duncan did. Hurray for ConneryBeagle’s self-taught herding skills. I suspect Duncan would not take kindly to an aggressively herding dog, a healer type.

  3. Patty says:

    An unlatched gate would never do at my house either. Cometa watches to make sure I secure the gates and if I don’t, he goes through as soon as my back is turned! He knows he is not supposed to, so he does it on the sly! He is no good at unlatching things, but he knows how to slide the stall doors and push the hinged gates just fine, thankyouverymuch.

    Risa would open latches (and taught Jack how, too).

    LT seems to get the idea that when she is tied up, it is defininitely the fault of the rope, so she worries it with her mouth…

    I get a kick out of them!

  4. Doranna says:

    Robert–Yes, Connery is most awesome!

    E–Duncan has ignored little Belle’s herding efforts, but she’s not an aggressive dog; her style is to work at the shoulder and try to curve him away from her. (At her age, she no longer gets the chance.) I do have a story of Duncan and Connery from a couple of years ago that made me almost wet my pants laughing–poor Connery, call it a learning curve for a chase dog–but that’s a whole ‘nother blog. I wouldn’t want to put an aggressive herding dog on him, no…

    And nope, Duncan is NOT an escape artist. He doesn’t try to bully his way through closed gates (as my mare did, with too much success), and he doesn’t mess with latches. He’s not mouthy about things in the paddock in general. He rearranges furniture with amazing creativity, but I’ve long been aware that I have it easy when it comes to certain logistics. Obviously, if the pasture wasn’t on the other side of that gate I would never take the chance with the leaning gate set-up even so, but…no, he waits for it to blow open and then he walks out with dignity.

    (OTOH, try to handle him without a sure hand, or over-handle him, and then there’s trouble. He’ll stage a break-out just to make the point.)

  5. Doranna says:

    Patty–this gate is positioned so it really, really isn’t an easy open for a horse. The weight of the gate holds it closed (it leans downhill–it’s not anywhere near plumb), it’s heavy, and there’s not a lot of maneuvering room. I’m not saying it couldn’t be done, just that it’s not anywhere near a foregone conclusion…

    My mare used to suck on lead ropes when she was tied. Ewww for the unsuspecting handler!

  6. Jeanne says:

    Smart Duncan, smarter Connery!!!

    How about a chain that clips and holds the gate closed even when unlatched?

    • Doranna says:

      Great minds think alike, right? I used a chain like that when the gate was set on a flat (unlike the current slanted situation, where the weight keeps it closed except in the big wind). Now it’s just not worth it. This really is only a problem every now and then–and as with Connery’s situation, it’s more of an adventure than a problem, or I would have reinstated the chain. This is just me adjusting to changed situations and getting caught out a bit with that open north flat gate, and then Connery got to have his own adventure. 8)

  7. Sue Farrell says:

    And Connery, like all beagles, does love a good adventure.

  8. Doranna says:

    I swear there was a cloud of happy importance hovering over him!

  9. Pete Granzeau says:

    45 or so years ago, my father had a beagle called Stunner, who used to accompany him hunting morels. Being a beagle, he followed his nose, but usually stayed reasonably close. One day Dad was in a hilly sheep pasture which had a grove of trees where sometimes the morels grew, and when he was finished, he called for Stunner, but only heard his call, so he walked around the hill–to find that Stunner had found the sheep, and had herded them into a corner of the pasture and was backing a ram into the corner when Dad called him off.

    Evidently, some herding instinct remains with Beagles.

  10. Doranna says:

    That’s awesome!

    I’m surprised your dad didn’t teach him to find the morels…

  11. Jeanne says:

    Many, many, MANY years ago, I had a horse that learned to climb through my 4-row wire fencing…at first I thought he had jumped it, but the footprints told the truth. I ended up having to tack woven fencing all the way around to keep him in. He didn’t go anywhere once he had escaped; he would just wander up to the house and wait by the door for me to come out, take him back to his paddock, and give him a lecture about staying put!

    Unfortunately, while I had dogs at the time, I had Borzoi…and their herding instincts are totally zero!

  12. Doranna says:

    Jeanne, the one thing that Duncan does (or used to) was crawl UNDER a 4-wire electric cable fence. The thing grounded out often enough–and you know that they know–that he simply did this as a matter of course, to get from one pasture to another. (This was not my set-up, but during one of the times we were separated.)

    Then when he moved out here to be with me, he first stayed with Judy Tarr and her Lippies, and baffled us all because overnight, his corral panels would end up catywompus. She thought he was charging the other horses in the darkness, but it didn’t quite make sense because of the oddball way the panels would be lifted off the ground (and then stuck there, due to the way they were fastened together).

    When his Flagstaff digs were ready, I got a chance to see him in action. Have I mentioned that this is a horse who likes to move the furniture? He was applying his lessons learned to the corral panels and lifting them UP from beneath with his neck.

    From then on his panels had T-posts in strategic areas, and at this point he doesn’t even think about it–it’s been too long since it was a physical possibility for him to move the things.

    Like your horse, he wasn’t escaping. He was just finding a way to get to where he wanted to be within the property…

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