Anyway, this was Ellie's 2nd trial of the season after being eliminated for missing a rabbit in her first trial, the Tyne, Tees and Tweed Novice cocker stake at Stean in late June. One of those things I wasn't particularly fussed about as it was a red hot day and there were lots of young rabbits about which proved reluctant to flush.
So, onto the next one which was the Yorkshire Sporting Spaniel Novice Cocker stake at Westerdale, North Yorkshire. I had run here a few years ago with Fern, gaining a second behind Will Clulee with a dog he later made a Champion, and a new both the ground and the guns would be first class, those keepers don't miss.
After a 4am start I arrived in good time at the meeting point and had enough time, for once, to give Ellie a good stretch of her legs after the three and a half hour journey. Whilst waiting for everyone to arrive all the competitors were in fine form with banter along with being harassed for raffle tickets! Once all the formalities were out of the way we jumped in the vehicles and made our way in convoy to the trial ground.
I was running at number 16 and envisaged quite a long wait before we got our first run, I wasn't wrong! The early dogs had relatively long runs, dictated by the cover and the lack of opportunity for shots in the bracken which was quite tall in places. The day was warming up quickly and I hoped to be in before it got too hot.
I was then called over to back up behind Richard Claydon in a nice patch of rushes, white grass and heather. Before long Richard's run was over and I was in, running under Simon Blackman, casting Ellie off in the hope of a quick run. She set off really well and it wasn't long before she had a lovely find on a rabbit out of a tight patch of heather, sitting up to the flush and watching the rabbit away. It was shot by Steve Winspear about 15 yards away on my right and Simon told me to send her. She went out, found the line and was soon back to hand with the rabbit.
We carried on and a loose rabbit got up in front and was shot at by both guns, Ellie sat without whistle and watched it run. I saw fur come off it but it looked to have carried on strongly so we were told to hunt on. As I cast Ellie off she pulled a little on the line of the rabbit and needed the whistle to remind her she was working for me! A few moments later a loose rabbit got up on the left and headed back out towards the gallery, no shot but she watched it away no problem. That was my first run done and I was happy with it, apart from the little reminder she needed.
It was quite a long wait before my second run, mainly due to the fact that only one dog had gone out at that stage, in fact 12 of the 15 dogs running in the trial finished, its not often that happens in a novice cocker stake!!! I was again backing up Richard in a really thick patch of rushes which was taking some hunting. Richard completed his run and I was up, with all the odd numbered dogs finished, all eyes were on me to finish the trial, all 4 guns ready and poised to shoot anything that flushed.
I was in under Ian Flint who basically gave me free rein to go where I wanted in the rushes because of how thick they were. Ellie worked through the rush bed effectively, not missing much, but it was hard to go with any pace because of the sheer thickness of the stuff but it wasn't long before she sat up and I saw a rabbit run forward. I shouted to the guns but then the rabbit sat tight. Hunting Ellie towards it she had another lovely contact flush and the rabbit was shot 10 or so yards out in front of us. It was a simple out and back retrieve and I was told to carry on.
I hunted towards the end of the rush bed and a loose rabbit got up but didn't present a shot before Ian told me he'd seen enough and I'd completed my second run. I was chuffed after the last trial and got some water on board and went back to the rest of the gallery whilst the judges had their chat, and then declared there was to be a run off between Lee Cooper and Will Clulee. Back to the cars and the painful wait to find out how we had done!
As I mentioned earlier, 12 of the 15 dogs finished the trial, and in my opinion it was probably the highest standard novice I have run in. Of the 12 dogs, 9 gained awards, with 3 being knocked for various little things. My name was read out first and I was awarded a Certificate of Merit before Lee Cooper was announced as the winner.
I was happy enough with the result, she had two relatively straight forward runs, with no real opportunity to set herself apart from the others with either the cover she was in or her simple retrieves. The rabbit that we thought was hit but carried on during our first run was picked up by the next dog in, 50-60 yards further on. If we'd have had the chance to have a go on that it could have been a different story, but it could also have put us out! So I wasn't too despondent. That's it now until the pheasant season commences, and it's time to get her fitness up and get her exposed to some birds, as there's always loads of birds in those early trials!!
After a run off.
1st) Lee Cooper – Breckmarsh Eda ( FTCh Tiptopjack Ajay X Rowston Liver)
2nd) Will Clulee - Trochry Eau Rouge Of Poolgreen
3rd) Martin Ashman – Willowsaul Wiganer
4th) Andrew Robinson – Whaupley Ygritte
Jamie Loch – Autumnwillow Warrior Of Clenochparks
Graham West – Byrbwll Gwenllian of Leeglen
Anita Jones – Episcopi Ditto
Richard Claydon – Mallowdale Lucky of Kinkoort
Scott Mossop – Amberquest Diva