My alarm went off around 3:30am and I was on the road for 4am, not my idea of a good Monday morning. The meet time was 9am, and with a journey time of around 4 hours I was making good time when I stopped around Leeds on the M62 for a coffee. When I jumped back in the car my estimated arrival had jumped to 9:30am – 30 minutes later than when I needed to be!! Nightmare. As I made my way down the A1 this went out as far as 10:05am. At this point I rang the secretary who told me to keep going as two other people were stuck in the same traffic.
With the right pedal to the floor whenever possible I flew down the A1 and managed to get there at 9:30. We were still waiting for one of the others to arrive so I quickly got my boots etc on and got ready to make the short journey to the trial ground.
This probably wasn’t ideal preparation. Ellie had spent five and a half hours in the car and I hadn’t had chance to give her a run to stretch her legs, never the less we were in at number 9 so we had a bit of time to get over the journey.
There’d been lots of comments on Facebook about how horrible the ground was, but when we got to where the trial was to be held we were met with a lovely bracken bottomed wood, ideal for cockers. The early dogs soon got into game and it wasn’t long before I was in backing up Ryan Kay after Gino Perreira had been in and out after flushing a muntjac!! This first section of wood had resulted in a number of dogs going out.
Ryan’s run came to an end and I was up. Ellie’s first open trial. I was in under Nick Powell and Steve Bates and started in a small patch of bracken before the thick bracken I could see further ahead. I’d not gone 10 yards when Ellie had a lovely flush on a cock bird which was shot around 20 yards to our right and had landed in a ditch on the edge of the wood. Nick told me to send her and she was out and back with it with one minor cast to get her back a little further on the right side of the wind as it was unlikely she’d have marked it from where she was.
I carried on hunting and hit the bramble, not something Ellie is used to as she’s done most of her training on rabbits. She wasn’t smashing it as well as the other dogs and took some reassuring to get into it. Shortly after Nick tapped me on the shoulder and told me he’d seen enough and that was my first run completed. Shook both judges hands and returned to the gallery, over the moon we’d finished an open run.
I took the opportunity to get some water into Ellie as the number of dogs left in was rapidly decreasing. The trial continued and we got through the bramble and into another area of the wood which was mainly bracken with patches of bramble and I was called over to back up behind Jamie Smith with OFTW Abiann Flawless. Unfortunately Jamie went out and I was in, this time under Jack Iliffe and Sally Jenkins. I was given my beat and cast Ellie off, she looked 10 times better than in the bramble.
After hunting 30 yards or so, interspersed with waiting for the dog on the other side to retrieve a runner which was running around in front of us, Ellie had a lovely find on a cock bird which was shot around 30 yards to our left. I was told to send her and she took on handle to get into the area, but nothing was there. I let her hunt a bit but still nothing. It had looked dead when it came down. Ellie had a thorough search of the fall and the wider area but came back with nothing. As I was the 2nd to last odd numbered dog, there was no even dog to come over to attempt the eye wipe, so both judges went out to try and locate the bird. At this point I was waiting to put my lead on, but they didn’t find it, it must have run straight away.
I was told to carry on before a single shot rang out. A loose hen bird had been shot 25 yards to our right. I was given a mark and cast Ellie out. A couple of handles and she had the bird swiftly back to hand. That was my run done and I’d completed my first Open trial with Ellie. I was over the moon.
There was only one dog to run after me, and the trial was deemed over shortly after he’d completed his run. It was then a short walk back to the cars. I set off back to the hotel, not realising that the presentations were being done at the keepers’ house. After sitting at the hotel and trying to get hold of Nick Powell, Nigel the secretary and a couple of other competitors I finally found out where I needed to be, arriving just in time for the presentations.
I didn’t expect to get anything which was a relief, as I didn’t haha!! She hadn’t hunted hard enough in the bramble, it’s something we need to work on if we’re to run in it again, but I was chuffed that we had made it through the open stake when only 6 of the original 16 dogs completed the trial.
From here it was back to the hotel where I had a cheeky hours sleep before taking all the dogs out for a run prior to having some tea. I was starving! I hadn’t had chance to stop anywhere for food, all I’d had to eat was a kit-kat at 6am!!! I fed the dogs and gave Ellie a checking over before going for a few beers and food, preparing myself for the novice the next day!!