In this time of uncertainty I wanted to share a heart-warming story which is in this week’s The Countryman’s Weekly. Working dog Ralph is lucky to be alive and his rescue reflects the unrelenting dedication and devotion of our gamekeepers.
I'm sure you'll agree reading a good book or magazine can take you anywhere and during these unsettling times losing yourself in a story may be the perfect distraction. For me it feels good to relax and disappear into a world of fact and fiction and with our period of staying at home it’s the ideal excuse to try and relax with a good book or magazine. I hope my latest feature in April's issue of the Shooting Gazette gives you the opportunity to grab a cuppa and unwind with inspiring gundog trainer Sam Thatcher and her team of awesome cocker spaniels.
I never known anything like what we're experiencing right now. I know you'll be as worried as I am about the health of your family and friends and the livelihoods of those around you. We've all got a role to play in supporting our gundog community and clubs as well as local communities across the country. My latest article in this week's Countryman's Weekly reflects on the wonderful spirit of camaraderie. I can't think of a time when this feeling has been more needed. Supporting each other in these challenging times will help us get through the next few months.
I'm sending my thoughts to you all, hoping that you are finding the strength both physically and emotionally to weather these unsettling times.
Take care xx
I knew Matty Lambden was an inspiring gundog trainer, so when i was given the opportunity to interview him for the Countryman's Weekly i just knew he'd have something interesting to say. We talked about keeping things simple with training, his awesome 2019 IGL experience with Arthur and how he has made himself a leading competitor on the British and Irish gundog Field Trial circuit. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed talking to the quintessential Irishman.
Thoroughly delighted and very excited to see my feature in the March issue of the Clay Shooting magazine. Slightly different from my usual gundog focus and a pleasure to write - this is a fascinating story behind the very first Perazzi MT6.
What a joy to see the Shooting Gazette has devoted TEN pages to the IGL Retriever Championship. Fantastic coverage and I'm sure you agree, amazing photography!
This year I took a slightly different approach and interviewed three key people involved in the prestigious event - the IGL winner, judge and organiser. Hope you like it!
I’m sure you agree, it’s great when all goes right in the field but hard to know what to do when things go wrong. Some of us turn to social media to seek help and guidance from the gundog community and others train with friends or reputable experienced trainers to address the issue. Everyone has their own approach when it comes to achieving steadiness and there’s no doubt going back to basics and reinforcing specific commands is always a good starting point. So once the mid season mayhem has passed and the dogs are enjoying a well-earned rest I’ll reflect on the season and start planning lots of enjoyable training days in 2020.
Enjoy the last few weeks of the season with your dogs!
What a year it has been! I've enjoyed following so many of you via social media and loved seeing your gundog photos and hearing about your achievements and challenges with your training, working tests and trials. My journalistic journey has taken me to many wonderful events this year. Most overwhelming of all has been the enthusiasm you've shared with me on shoot days. Whether it's picking up, beating or working your peg dog you have given me a real insight into the essential role they play in the field and you are all keen to share your passion for gundogs. There's no doubt your willingness to work hard and enjoy the sport depicts a bright future for our working dogs in the field.
So with a few days to go before the big day can I wish all of my readers a wonderful Christmas and lots of enjoyable days in 2020 with your canine companion. And if you're scrambling around for last minute practical gifts I hope my latest article offers a a splash of inspiration...happy shopping!
Preparing for Christmas is a traditional practice and however you choose to celebrate it's always a very personal one. For me, it's a special time to be shared with my family, friends and the dogs and a time when our home becomes festive and fun.
So as we step into December can I wish all of my readers and friends a wonderful Christmas and hope you enjoy my latest feature in the Christmas issue of the Shooting Gazette.
Mark and Joe Taylor from Dorset are passionate about their working Korthals Griffon gundogs. Father and son have owned the breed since 2000 when Mark brought the first Korthals Griffon into the country. This versatile and intelligent breed stands out in the field and creates some interest among the shooting community who are not familiar with the breed. I'm thrilled to see The Countryman's Weekly have published my interview this week which offers an interesting account of the Korthals Griffon in the shooting field.
Hope you enjoy!
Many thanks to Mark and Joe for your time and support.
Find out what motivates The Countryman's Weekly Gundog Trainer of the Year 2019. Hope you enjoy reading the interview as much as I did writing it!
Photo credit: Lindsey Corbin
I can vividly recall when we brought Jack home. A lively black furball of a puppy who loved life. We rescued him from a precarious domestic situation and had no idea what we were taking on. Little did we know life would never be same.
Jack grew into a handsome affectionate dog and quickly became a huge part of the family. We started the gundog journey together and my creation of BiddableBardsley blogging stemmed from Jack’s passion for retrieving. His love and loyalty were boundless and there’s no doubt he was happiest being by my side. Throughout the primary school years he was a firm favourite with the kids, always winning hearts as they came through the school gates. I never tired of his enthusiasm and admired his calming ways. He was our little piece of gold dust and gave us 13 years of unconditional love and affection.
Letting Jack go this week was the hardest decision to make. His body couldn't cope with daily life even though his mind was still keen. He was a cherished part of the family and the house feels quiet without him. I can’t think of him without welling up and I feel a crushing sense of loss. An emptiness that’s left in my heart. As I’m writing I glance down expecting to see the tilt of his head, the look in his eyes, the wag of his tail and then a gentle nudge of a wet nose. He’s gone but his beautiful spirit will always be us. Forever...
Miss you Jacky boy xx
"A good dog never dies, he always stays, he walks besides you on crisp autumn days when frost is on the fields and winter's drawing near, his head within our hand in his old way." Anonymous
An interesting topic in the field and a subject which is no doubt popular in the beaters' wagon throughout the season. I hope my article in October's issue of the Shooting Gazette gives you something to talk about whilst enjoying the season.
I fell in love with Exmoor earlier this year and had a wonderful stay at a unique gundog retreat. Check out my latest article in The Countryman's Weekly (September 18th) and find out more about the charming Wintercopse Barn Cottage.
Delighted to be part of the tribute and a real privilege to meet Marilyn Cox.
You can read the full article in September's issue of the Shooting Gazette 2019.
One of my favourite memories this summer has got to be The Game Fair 2019. At the end of July on the hottest day of the year we headed up to the beautiful grounds of Hatfield House and enjoyed the world’s largest countryside festival. This year we camped on site which gave us the perfect opportunity to sit back and relax with friends and enjoy the festival experience. Being able to mix work with pleasure I was able to meet with my gundog buddies and colleagues and discuss some writing ideas for the future. I also grabbed the opportunity to capture a flavour of the gundog activities which you can read in this week's The Countryman's Weekly.
I had a fantastic time and can’t wait to do it all over again next year! Here are a few pics which reflect my best-loved moments…
I recently caught up with the captains of the English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish gundog teams to find out more about their roles and how they deal with the pressures and challenges of managing a team. With a mixture of national pride, experience and drive to succeed each captain prepares their team members for the big gundog events. There's no doubt these guys have a passion for the sport but my feature highlights - having a passion and turning it into a winning team are two wholly separate things. With the prestigious Home International event fast approaching I have a feeling it's going to be an interesting Game Fair!
A huge thank you to Roddy Forbes, David Latham, John Williamson, Willie Edgar and Mark Bettinson for your time and support.
I loved my day spent with a fantastic group of Countryside Management and Gamekeeping students at Wiltshire College. They gave me a real insight into the 'working dogs' unit which is embedded into the course curriculum and were keen to share their passion for gundogs. It's fair to say the unit is a firm favourite among the students and has a vital role to play within the education domain.
A big thank you goes out to the course leader, Neil Bianchi and the students involved - you are all truly inspirational!
Howard Kirby of Mullenscote Gundogs could be seen delivering the ever popular gundog demonstration at this year’s West of England Game Fair. Howard has been training gundogs for over twenty years and he splits his time between Mullenscote Dog Training Centre and Lains Shooting School. Based in Hampshire, the gundog trainer has an experienced team who specialise in training and assisting handlers to get the very best from their dogs. Howard has won field trials with English springer spaniels, cockers, German long-haired pointers, German short haired-pointers and English setters. His career highlight to date being a win at the 2014 and second place in the 2017 Kennel Club Hunt Point Retrieve Championships with his FTCH Wamilanghaar Tash of Mullenscote.
So what makes a successful gundog demo?
It may sound obvious but the key to getting noticed is to make sure you have something fresh to share. Howard has that certain something. He embraces his passion for gundogs and country life and captivates the audience with his sharp wit and his natural relaxed showman style. There’s no question he has a unique talent in providing family entertainment and educating people on training and getting the very best from their gundogs.
As the event got under way I watched the team demonstrate how they use reward-based training methods to teach young HPR’s, spaniels, retrievers and setters to become exemplary gundogs. Within minutes it was easy to see why this event was so popular. With their knowledge, experience and friendly approach the dedicated Mullenscote team delivered a demonstration which was second to none.
During the day I managed to grab Howard for a few quick fire round of questions…
I’ve got two - I haven’t been to the cinema for 25 years and have recently starting going again. I’ve just seen A Star is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody which are both just brilliant!
Favourite music artist/group?
If you could duet with an artist who would it be?
Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy. Who wouldn’t want to be a rock star!
Best gift you’ve ever received?
My current partner, Lynsey Whitley, all of my friends and family love her but tell me I’m ‘punching above my weight!’
Something you’ve always wanted to try but are afraid to do?
I’ve done fix line parachuting and free fall parachuting is something I’m afraid of but would really like to try.
Who do you admire?
Ian Openshaw. I think he's a fantastic dog trainer!
One accomplishment you’re most proud of?
I’m very proud of our latest venture, Mullenscote TV. It’s a ‘gundog training channel’ and a project that’s been in my mind for a long time. It’s taken a huge team effort to launch it. I’ve grown to learn how much a passionate team of people can achieve.
Most memorable career moment so far?
Winning the HPR Championship 2014. It was something I had been working towards all of my life.
Early bird or night owl?
I’m a very early bird.
Tango - makes me lively and excitable!
Chinese or Indian takeaway?
One thing you still have from your teenage years?
My sense of humour.
Person who gets you to laugh the most?
My partner, Lynsey and comedian Mickey Flanagan.
What’s the one question no one has ever asked you?
What I really want out of life…
Kindle or paperback?
Spaniel or Labrador or HPR?
Mmm…if I was pushed it would have to be a HPR - German wired haired pointer.
This summer Howard Kirby and his Mullenscote team can be seen at various game fairs across the country delivering gundog demonstrations, running clinics and Q & A seminars. For further info visit: http://www.mullenscote.co.uk