I woke bright and early and sorted all the dogs out, before stressing over breakfast in the hotel, despite saying it started at 8, the chef rolled up at 5 past and I had to leave at 8:20. I managed to get some dry toast and a bacon roll before I had to dash, arriving at the ground in good time for the introductions etc.
Some familiar names and faces were in the farm yard, but surprisingly I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be. I was drawn number 13, not the ideal number for you first time out, as I found out later on!!
The trial started in sieves and bracken and a few of the early dogs had long runs. There was a couple of nice retrieves, but there was lots of mention of hares being shot – given my dog hasn’t seen I hare, the nerves started to kick in.
As the trial progressed, we got into some higher cover, rushes etc, and the hares and rabbits were becoming less frequent, that put my mind at ease a little. Before I knew it I was in, working out the corner of heather and bracken where the previous dog had 2 flushes and retrieves.
I was in under Edward Martin, who after I explained it was mine and the dogs first trial, immediately put me at ease with the words ‘no ones ever been hung at one of these trials’. He signalled to the line we were ready, off came the lead and I cast Fern off into the bracken where the previous pheasants had flushed from. She hunted it thoroughly with pace and I was relaxed and enjoying her work. She came out of the bracken onto the open heather, which I was a little worried about as she had never worked it before.
It was sloping from right to left and the wind was blowing in the same direction, I tried to get her working out and back towards me into the wind towards the fence on my right hand side. She wasn’t going quite as far to my right as I would have liked, but I was happy with the way she was hunting.
After about 100 yards we got into some high reed/rush type cover and a hen bird flushed. Fern stopped to the flush but as soon as it hit the deck she thought ‘I’m having this’. Lead on.
Edward was brilliant with me afterwards, and spent what felt like an eternity with me in front of the gallery telling me to not be despondent and when Fern started hunting she was one of the dogs on the day he’d have in his kennels. Off I walked back to the gallery where the other guys also commented on well she was going, including a guy called Davey Earsman, who other competitors told me was good praise coming from him.
I wasn’t too disappointed with how it ended, I could tell by how she was on the lead when we were backing up that she was getting excited and I think the temptation was probably too much for her when the bird hit the deck. It was good to get my first trial out of the way, and has given me confidence in the dog, despite the running in, as I know it’s not something she normally does.
John Bailey won following a run off with Matt Farrish (whos dog decided to take a pee in the run off the poor guy), I cant remember who got 3rd at the moment and John got a COM with Derek O’Neils little dog.