We arrived at the meet point at around 8:30am, before exercising the dogs and being hustled into buying raffle tickets. I was in at number 8 with Fern and number 10 with Ria, so I’d have little or no time in between there runs. In honestly I had no expectations on Ria, if she finished the trial I’d have been happy, so was feeling fairly relaxed.
The trial started in a field of sieves and white grass and the early dogs had longish runs with finds on rabbits on pheasants before I was called over to back up with Fern. She was pulling hard on the lead and I could tell she was worked up. It wasn’t long before we were changing dogs after a hare was shot at but carried on.
I cast Fern off into the bracken and she was flying and soon sat up and a rabbit doubled back and into the cover behind us. The judge asked me to put her in and try and flush it again which she did and it was shot at and missed. As I cast her off again she squeaked. It’s not the first time this has happened, she’s on the edge a lot, and today it ultimately cost me. Balls.
I thanked the judge and went to get Ria. Now Ria doesn’t hunt with the pace of Fern, but she’s incredibly efficient and a natural game finder. I cast her off and she was a little sluggish at first before upping a gear once she hit the line where the rabbit had run. We continued our run through sieves and white grass and she was going nicely, until she started to pull on a line a couple of times and needed a couple of reminders to hunt within range.
She went on the line again and flushed a cock bird which was shot and she ran in. I wasn’t disappointed, I smiled, I’d half expected it and was more happy that she’d actually hit top gear in a trial, her last attempt at a trial it was if someone had pressed the slow motion button. I thanked the judge and made my way back to the gallery before having a crack with Frances Brooks the secretary, handing my numbers in and hitting the road which she was happy enough with given my 4 hour journey.
I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on trialling these last few weeks, sat on motorways after bitter disappointment, knowing that she is capable of winning, but not consistent enough to actually win. 1 excellent run is always marred by a poor one or unfortunately an eliminating fault. I’d spoken with Sarah my partner over the weekend before the trial and said this was my last one. I am running out of holidays from work, it costs a fortune and ultimately it’s difficult to be upbeat and enthused about it when you’re not finishing.
Fern’s 3 and a half now, and probably should have won a novice by now. Anyone else and I think they would have sold her on. She’s had her good moments, 2nd to Will Clulee in one trial, but something always comes between us and winning. It’s gotten to the stage where I’m not enjoying my dogs any more, and trialling has become a chore rather than a past time. Even simple things like walking the dogs through local woods with Sarah etc, I’m constantly on top of the dogs not to chase, stay within range etc. we took the dogs picking up at the weekend, no pressure and it’s the most I’ve enjoyed the dogs in a long time, seeing Sarah working Ria on her own and being chuffed with her making nice long retrieves made me realise there’s more to dogs than trialling.
Trialling is the peak of the gundog world, there’s no denying that, and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time and made some great friends whilst doing it, and learnt a hell of a lot. Now is the time for me to stop trialling, at least for the time being, my young dog isn’t ready and I’ve a wedding to plan next year. I could do with the holidays and extra money. I’ve removed all my dog friend off facebook to remove temptation to have another go, so if you’re one of them and have disappeared off my list that’s the reason.
So that’s me and Fern done. Our record stands at 18 trials, 1 guns choice, 1 Certificate of Merit and one 2nd Place. No doubt I’ll return to it sometime in the future, who knows, I may not get another one good enough. It seems fitting that I bow out after this trial as it's the ground I ran in my first ever trial almost two years ago to the day.