I asked Michael Lydford who was judging the water test, if he enjoyed this type of environment. He explains, "I'm a big fan of the fun working test because it's a great introduction to the working gun dog test environment." Michael believes non KC working tests are an ideal stepping stone from going nowhere and enabling handlers to work their way up to the more serious tests. He also understands that not everyone wants or is cut out for the formal KC conditions so tests like these are ideal.
Competitor Neil Ward is a proud advocate and a firm believer of these tests. Neil who came 1st in the Open Retriever Class with Grace explained why he enjoyed today. "Grace is a non KC registered dog therefore I'm limited to what competitions I can enter. This is an ideal opportunity for me to test the ability of my dog under test conditions." He added that the water test was a big challenge today and was delighted with the overall outcome. Neil had someone else by his side who he was extremely proud of...daughter Jessica Ward. She achieved a 1st in the Spaniel Puppy Class with her spaniel Azzy. Beaming from ear to ear Jessica told me that competing and actually winning a working test meant so much to her as Azzy was one of the four spaniels she had stolen. Jessica said, "We are so lucky to have her back. Just having her here is special, let alone her achieving something like this, she's been through a lot." Both Neil and Jessica have a passion for nature and the countryside and believe there are lots of benefits to a non KC working test. Jessica added, " Whether your dog is KC-registered or not, it's a fun and relaxed atmosphere, a great place to meet other owners and people with the same interests, and the judges give helpful advice after each run, so we can go away and improve on for next time." Local handler, Hilary Hardman enjoys competing in both non KC and KC working tests. She told me the benefits of today is that you can identify possible areas of weakness relating to your training routine and see where your dog is challenged on the day. She believes you can then focus on these areas and build them into your training sessions. Hilary thinks the test environment can also identify your dog's strengths which is so rewarding to see on the day. "It's important to continually work on steadiness and the stop whistle" said Hilary. She was thrilled with her 2nd in the Retriever Puppy Class with Tula and 2nd in the Retriever Open Class with Flint. Hilary seems to think the water test was the biggest challenge today for a lot of the dogs. The marsh cover on the island was a challenge for some of the open dogs." Fortunately Flint was undeterred by the soggy conditions and Hilary was delighted with his willingness to achieve.
Positive handling skills and a keen dog gave Henni Weld a chance to show what a winning smile looks like after a day at Bloxworth. She was elated with her 1st place in the Spaniel Novice with Bella and 2nd place in the Novice Retriever with Gladi. Lulworth based Henni explains " I tend to get quite nervous at competitions so I enjoy the non KC working tests as they are slightly more relaxed. I always take a deep breath before each test and try to enjoy the experience." Henni picks up on Lulworth Estate and enjoys the challenge of working tests. Henni told me she had been able to get some great feedback from each judge. She believes the water test was the biggest challenge for her and fortunately both dogs did really well. "It's such a rewarding experience when it all comes together on the day." Henni highlighted there are always areas for improvement and she learnt today that she needs to work on hunting up with her spaniel.
As I reflected on the day at Bloxworth I drove home with one of the biggest buzzes to be had...working Ivy, watching her hunt and then seeing her retrieve. Whether you take part in a KC or non KC working test the satisfaction and pleasure is second to none. Test organisers, judges, dummy throwers, fellow competitors, gun dogs and the surrounding countryside are an inspiration to me and the working test holds a variety of benefits which makes it an invaluable experience.