I lived in Cornwall for 21 years and spent most of my time surfing. When my Dad moved down to the West Country he had two Labradors. He enjoyed his gundog training and entered a few working tests with his dog, Widget. One day I went to watch him compete and when I saw the dogs in action my jaw dropped. I couldn't believe what I was seeing...it was amazing! I knew then I wanted to train and compete and have my own dog so without any hesitation I left my world of surfing and partying. I got myself a proper job and moved into a little cottage in St Clere. The dogs brought my Dad and I closer together and he knew I was serious about competing so when his dog Widget had a litter he let me have one of the pups. Widget didn't have an easy labour experience and we had to take her to the vets for the final part of the birth. As the last pup popped out I literally caught it in my hands. It wasn't breathing and as I massaged the lifeless pup back from the brink of death I knew this was the one for me. Brook became my first gundog and I spent the next 11 years enjoying our training and competing successfully in tests and trials.
Yes, it was 2006 and I entered Brook into a novice working water test. I was new to the test environment and I was literally shaking from head to toe! It was Father’s Day and my Dad said he might come along and watch. I really wanted him to be there but he didn’t turn up. I was gutted as Brook won 1st place! I remember calling him to wish a Happy Father’s Day, along with the best news for him that Brook had just won the water test.
What has been your field trial highlight so far?
There have been a few highlights but recently I finally won 1st place in the Wiltshire Working Gundog Club Open Walked-Up Field Trial with Lowan. She did a phenomenal retrieve which brought tears to my eyes. Lowan's trialling career has been consistent coming 2nd place eleven times - three in an Open, once in an All Aged and seven times in a Novice! It's become a bit of a joke between my partner, Keith Broomfield and I as he shouts out "true to form!" when Lowan gets a 2nd in the awards. I know I've got to set my standards high to win. Being competitive means I want to win! Another highlight was winning an open trial with Purdey and a novice trial in his first season out. I've also won a novice trial with Brook. It was on the same ground in Cornwall where I won my first novice. It’s lucky ground for me!
Getting that first place! My competitiveness drives me to do well and I keep striving towards the next goal. My love and passion for gundogs is my main motivator. I would love to make Lowan up to a field trial champion.
What are your core training values and approach to training?
Positive approach to training with lots of praise and reward whether that's with food or fuss. You have to teach the dog and show them what you are asking them to do with a positive and consistent calm approach. I start doing short mark and memory retrieves on grass so the dog understands what that means. I keep going until it understands what a memory is and then move onto different terrain which might include over tracks, ditches, little jumps and in cover. I’m building the dog's experience on those memory retrieves and giving it variety. I use the same method for introducing 'backs'. You're providing the dog with the same experience of that task with a variety of terrain.
What is the most common mistake you see in gun dog handling?
Stopping the dog either too soon or not quick enough.
Do you have a favourite dog?
Oh that's a difficult one! Brook is special to me as he was my first dog. He's now 12 years old and enjoying a quieter life although he is still part of my picking up team. He often eye wipes my other dogs as he is a lot slower and more methodical. Purdey is also very special to me. He's known as Pocket Purdey as he is so honest and he would be in my pocket given half the chance! Then there's Oakley, my yellow Lab, he's a lot of fun! Buzz my Spaniel has got to be the best picking up dog I've ever had. Lowan is confident and has a quirky character. I've had a lot of fun with her. She has a super temperament and she's very successful in competitions. Blue is an absolute sweetheart and tries so hard for me. He's an honest dog. My youngster Maddi is 9 months old and has a lot of drive and style. She's Lowan's daughter and she's very keen. I'm quite excited about her! And to complete the family I have Widgeon who is my pet Lab. He won me an Easter egg once! So to answer your question...I don't have a favourite...I love them all!
Keith Broomfield! He’s made up 8 field trial champions and he won the 2011 IGL Championship. I would be over the moon if I could ever achieve what he has achieved!
What else do you keep busy with?
Teaching other people and their dogs. My life revolves around the dogs...walking dogs, training dogs, kennel cleaning, feeding dogs, picking up and competing. When I'm not doing any of these dog related activities I’m looking after Keith!
If you weren't a Gundog Trainer and Field Trial Competitor what else would you be?
A micro biologist. I loved science when I was younger.
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