Travelled down to Bleasdale from Cumbria, setting off at 6:30am (a lie in!!!), in gale force wind and rain. It certainly woke me up when I got out of the car in the keepers yard and gave the four dogs a run on the field next to it. Was badgered for the obligatory raffle ticket purchase and briefed before the raffle was drawn before the trial. In my previous 4 trials I’d never stayed long enough to see the raffle be drawn something I had a bit of banter with Darren Skidmore about. It needn’t have mattered, I never won ha!
Anyway, I was drawn number 7 with Fern and 16 with Ria. The trial begun in a field of sieves and newly planted trees with a gale force back wind – testing conditions for the novice dogs, no sooner had Number 1 set off, the young dog was out for pulling too far out. The birds were getting up well in front of the line because of the wind and it was only when we got to the end of the field a couple were shot and retrieved.
We were into a wood next, a brief respite from the wind and rain and I was called over to back up behind Linda Hudson who had to nice retrieves with her young dog. I’ve met Linda a few times now at the trials I’ve been to and she’s always a friendly face. I was soon in once Linda had completed her run and cast Fern off under Ray Casey. I’d only got 15 yards or so when a shot went off on the left. A minute or so later I was called over to try and eye wipe the dog on the left.
The bird was supposedly a runner and had landed outside of the wood in a field of sieves and newly planted trees. I was given a mark by both judges approximately 15 yards out from where we were stood. I cast Fern out to the fall and let her hunt her area, before calling her in as I was worried she was going too far in the wrong direction. I cast her again, no bird, judge gave me one last attempt but it was fruitless. I stood nervously as both judges went out to see if they could find it, before I noticed Ray started to bend down approx 30 yards away and then standing up with a dead cock bird in his hand.
I knew I’d be out for that so stuck my lead on and waited for Ray to come back to shake his hand. I was a little disappointed as the fall mark was quite a way from where the bird was found, although I know runners can go on and subsequently die, I just wish I’d been able to get her out that bit further but I was trying to hold her in the area to try and find the line the bird took.
I then had quite a long wait until I was in again under Jo Jareno (Cool name!). the patch I was given was a strip of sieves approx 3 yards wide along a fence line against a wood where the other dog was working. I wasn’t looking forward to this as I thought Ria would try and pull down the fence line if the birds had run on. I worked Ria nicely down this section until we came to the fence at the end where I was asked to jump over and hunt another narrow gutter of sieves.
I noticed that Ria was ‘going’ at all at this point, in stark contrast to what I thought would happen. She is normally incredibly driven and takes some handling; I couldn’t put my finger on why she had dried up. We were then asked to go out into a fairly bare field with a few patches of sieves. I hunted Ria for approx 50 yards or so at which point I pulled her up. I can’t understand why, first time nerves maybe in an unfamiliar environment. If you’d have asked me what I thought would happen with Ria at the start of the day I’d have said she’ll either pull me all over the place or get put out for fidgeting, to which she did neither. Back to the drawing board with her I think.
I was fairly disappointed with the day, I hadn’t gotten a chance to see whether I’d cured Ferns’ running in. Ray Casey said she was a good hunting dog, I just wish I’d had a chance to show more of what she can do. I wasn’t expecting anything of Ria so can’t be too despondent, just got to try and get her in a similar environment in training and see how she goes then.
That’s me done for trialling for this year, there’s a couple of Novice AVs I may put in for in January but the dogs will get a couple of weeks off ‘trialling training’ now and have a few days rough shooting, beating, picking up, wildfowling etc before I start again with them in January I think. There’s been a lot of expectation and pressure put on them over the last few months, like humans I think they sometimes need some time off so can’t wait to get them going again in a few weeks.