It’s a pleasure to watch and there’s no doubt a good send off is crucial to the success of the retrieve.
Wishing you all many happy training days ahead in the spring sunshine and best of luck with your working tests!
Building training hours up in the depths of winter, sending your dog into harsh winds and horizontal rain has been a challenge to say the least! So are you looking forward to rewarding yourself for all those hours of training with a successful working test day? Maybe you are only days away from your first test of the season and still in the final stages of your prep, I can only imagine how excited you must be.
I recently went to a working test to write a report and there’s nothing quite like watching a competitor send their dog. Nerves, excitement, pressure - a rollercoaster of emotions yet a display of balance, focus and determination from the team. The way the dog stands perfectly still when the shot is fired...a quiver of excitement runs through the air. The first thrilling glimpse of the dummy followed by ‘send your dog!’
It’s a pleasure to watch and there’s no doubt a good send off is crucial to the success of the retrieve.
Wishing you all many happy training days ahead in the spring sunshine and best of luck with your working tests!
"Success or failure evokes a variety of emotions, so brace yourself for that addictive feeling..."
One of my goals for this year was to have an article published in the gundog issue of the Shooting Gazette. You can imagine the excitement in my house this afternoon when the April issue arrived in the post. Absolutely delighted! I wanted to say a big thank you to those who comment, Like and Share on my page. I'm always thrilled when I hear from you and I know how precious your time is, but somehow you manage to find a moment to support Biddablebardsley. Thank you!
No sooner had the season finished I was planning several away day training sessions. This month I had the pleasure of joining a team of handlers for a day’s training with Allie Hogsbjerg.
We began the day with an invaluable exercise to identify what we wanted to cover throughout the day. Allie was keen to ensure that our time was well spent and we got the most out of our day. Being a small group enabled us to share our personal aspirations and challenges and learn from each other. A problem shared, really is a problem halved and discussing an issue with the trainer can offer reassurance for the day ahead.
Allie’s session was the ideal opportunity to get away from the normal environment and interact with a group of training buddies in a new setting. I find this helps me to think differently and try out new training strategies. The natural Cotswolds landscape provided the perfect opportunity to train on fabulous ground, with a range of cover including woodland, cover crops, jumps, drystone walls, hills and grassland fields. Throughout the day there was a good balance between discussion and applying theory into practice. With clear and consistent communication from Allie and no other distractions during the day, (apart from a much needed yum yum and a cuppa) it gave me the chance to relax and just focus on Reggie.
As the day progressed and the group’s confidence began to shine each handler had the opportunity to step outside their comfort zone and stretch their dogs on new ground. I really enjoyed watching all the dogs progress. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly a dog learns and picks the dummy with a new found self confidence. With a few challenges during the day (mainly the weather!) our group was not deterred and simply enjoyed the day spent with the dogs. I love that feeling when you see your dog progress and I firmly believe an away day offers reassurance and a sense of direction with your training goals. There's no doubt it offers numerous benefits and I can't wait for the next one!
Training away day with Allie Hogsjberg at Rufriver Gundogs: http://www.rufrivergundogs.co.uk
Nervous/proud/excited to see my IGL Retriever Championship feature in the February 2018 issue of the Shooting Gazette. Thank you to all who have helped me in the research and production of the report. It was a fantastic experience!
Are you as fascinated with the Buccleuch bloodline as I am? If so you will enjoy reading David Tomlinson's recent article in the Shooting Times. David offers an interesting and informative account about the Buccleuch Labrador kennel.
I hope you’ve had a fantastic Christmas and are now drifting safely into New Year’s Day 2018.
Where did 2017 go? I can't believe I have been blogging for nearly three years now. It’s brought me closer to many fellow gun dog enthusiasts, handlers and trainers. I have followed so many of you via social media and loved reading about your gundog adventures.
I want to say a huge thank you to my readers, friends and family for your support this year. My blog in January 2017 highlighted my plans for Biddablebardsley and I’ve been able to happily achieve my goals with several successful publications. It looks like 2018 is offering more writing opportunities and I’m excited to see what I can bring you in relation to future articles, reviews, training events, tests and interviews.
Thanks again for being awesome supporters of my blog and wishing you all a healthy and happy New Year…May all your wishes and dreams come true!
It's Christmas Eve and what a year it has been! This year I have followed so many of you via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and loved seeing your gundog pictures and hearing about your achievements and challenges with your working tests and trials. My journalistic journey has taken me to many wonderful events this year. Most overwhelming of all has been the enthusiasm and encouragement you've shared with me at the recent IGL Retriever Championship. My press experience was amazing - and all thanks to everyone involved. The friendly family feel to the proceedings was a privilege to be part of - And so I would like to share one of my treasured moments which took place on the final day of the Championship shortly after the awards...5 minutes with David Lisett.
I was lucky enough to visit an excellent family-run shoot recently in Dorset. My husband was invited as a guest gun and I joined the pickers-up team for the day. As a gundog handler I’m intrigued to find out what factors make a small driven shoot a good one.
I have a friend who is a regular gun on the farm and I’ve heard him on several occasions comment on the warmth of the welcome and the sporting attitude. What struck me at this shoot was that the team carried themselves exceptionally well and reflected a vibrant working countryside. The guns seem to have the same ethical mindset and all behaved as impeccable sportsmen. As a picker-up it was a privilege to enjoy the company and good companionship.
As always etiquette is an important subject on a traditional driven day and the shoot briefing in the farmhouse lodge was simple and informative. The shoot captain showed some flexibility in changing the morning’s schedule due to good weather conditions.
I feel adaptation is advantageous for any team and shuffling things around on the day kept everyone on their toes, including the gundog handlers! I’m sure you’ll agree being versatile can have its benefits with a small shoot and the shoot captain was confident in his approach which reflected a well run day.
Heading towards the first drive we were immersed in friendly banter with the guns and beaters. No segragation. Just people enjoying the stunning Dorset countryside and relaxed in each other’s company. As I chatted to the guns and beaters about their dogs there was a sense of fun and general camaraderie. I loved the fact that some of them had been involved in shooting or working their dogs for a very long time and were still totally passionate about what they do.
As we got into position I waited patiently with the dogs. Guns scanning the sky ahead. It's hard to beat the sense of anticipation before the first drive on a shoot day. Once the drive started I watched in awe as several of the spaniels were working the wind and using their natural abilities to find the birds. No job was too big for these fantastic little dogs.
And as the day progressed the conversation flowed and the guns and beaters made a point of highlighting the missed opportunities and the memorable shots. It was clear everyone had come to enjoy themselves and shoot some good birds.
When the final horn was blown the guns, beaters and pickers headed back to the farmhouse lodge which was a welcoming place to return to after a shoot day. The spacious kitchen offered warmth and comfort with a wood burning stove and picturesque views across the countryside. A real feel of country living and an ideal venue to discuss our post-shoot activities. Food was plentiful, as was the wine and port. It’s hard to beat a deliciously home-cooked casserole and I loved feeling exhausted yet invigorated from a day in good company.
Throughout the day I felt a sense of value and being well looked after. I’m sure you’ll agree two essential ingredients for an enjoyable day in the field. There’s no doubt the 'big-family' ethos keeps this shoot successful. But it’s not just about the birds, it’s the people, the topography, the delicious cuisine and of course the dogs which are the heart of this shoot. A truly desirable package which in my mind reflects a perfect day in the field.
Photography by Lauren Norris who is currently studying a degree in BA Photography at Falmouth University. Lauren is creating a 'Rural Life' project as part of her degree and she hopes to transform her passion into a vocation. Please visit Laurennorrisphotography.com to view her fantastic portfolio of photography.
You can imagine the excitement today…my first commissioned published article in the Christmas issue of the Shooting Gazette. Absolutely delighted!
My article examines the best way to make sure a novice gundog has an enjoyable and productive day in the field without stepping on anyone’s toes. I hope you will really enjoy reading the article as much as I did writing it!
Wendy Bardsley talks to John Halstead a distinguished trainer with an exceptional record having qualified to compete at the IGL Retriever Championship every year since 1992. John has developed his training methods over the past 30 years and takes great pride and pleasure in producing fantastic dogs.
Who do you aspire to?
Now I’ve got to where I want to be in the gundog world I don’t aspire to anyone. I tend to be a leader rather than a follower but when I started gundog training I liked Alan Thornton, David Garbutt and obviously my Father. I watch these people and I'm impressed by what they do and you find out how to do it and over time you learn how to take it to the next level. I've always trained my own way right from the start. My Father encouraged me to find my own path.
Gundog training has moved on such a lot over the last 10 and 20 years. You come to places like the Game Fair and you’ll see people straight lining as they’ve learnt my methods and other people’s methods and the standard just gets better and better. At first you must have something to aim for but once you get to the top you’ve got to be a leader rather than a follower.
How do you stay at the top of your game?
Working hard. There’s no short cuts. Very rarely do I train with other people. 95% of my training I do on my own in a field for hours and hours. It’s similar to an Olympic athlete they don’t train to compete everyday. They work out in the gym, they get up on the bar, fall off, get back on, fall off and they work on that exercise until eventually they perfect it and master what they want to achieve. It takes time and you can’t do it training with others. When you’re ready you then go into the field with others to see if what you are trying to achieve works.
Many thanks to John for giving up his valuable demo time to Biddablebardsley at The Game Fair, Hatfield 2017.
My affectionate lab, Jack has a wonderful personality and he’s a perfect companion to have around the house. When I’m at my desk working I often find myself glancing down and whispering a few words to him. I see the tilt of his head, the look in his eyes, the wag of a tail and then a gentle nudge of a wet nose. The signs of a dog who has never wavered in being there for me. I never tire of his enthusiasm first thing in the morning, and his sheer excitement when he sees the lead, whistle or a training dummy. His unconditional love for the family is real and uncomplicated.
Jack is approaching 11 years old and he is walking a little slower these days. His back legs don’t work the way they used to. He sometimes gets confused when we go out on a walk and by the time we reach the woods he’s ready to go back home again. But his tail never stops wagging and his love for life is amazing. Jack’s patience was put to the test last Autumn when I came home with a 3 week old kitten which I had found in the roadside. The tiny creature was weak and hungry so after an emergency trip to the vets I brought it home to nurse. Immediately the kitten developed a close relationship with Jack, sharing his bed, curling up together for a nap. They developed an unlikely, loving relationship and the kindhearted lab has helped to nurse the abandoned kitten back to health.
Needless to say the scrawny bundle of fluff has become a firm member of the family and now happily rules the roost. Only this morning Jack pondered down the garden and collapsed on the grass for a morning snooze. As he stretched out and began to soak up the September sunshine the cat trotted up beside him and rubbed herself against his body. His tail started to wag and he lifted his head up slowly and gave her a gentle nudge of a wet nose.
Seeing the uncomplicated signs of a loving dog just makes my day…
Always a thrill to see my writing in print! Shooting Gazette August 2017.
Katy an Del Bower are keen gundog handlers. They are passionate about their spaniels. The Dorset couple are also married and have recently transformed their truck into a mobile dog hotel and moved house to suit their dog’s needs and training requirements.
What’s their secret to mixing training and pleasure without falling out?
What started you off in the world of gundogs?
Katy: We got our Springer Spaniel, Meg, seven years ago. I tried to train her but it didn’t work out so Del took over. I got my first pup six years ago which is Ruby. We joined various local gun dog clubs and trained for fun and general obedience. It wasn’t until much later we were invited onto a shoot which was my first experience of beating. I didn’t take the dog as I wanted to find out what went on and learn more about the beating role.
Del: I first started beating 40 years ago when I lived in Alton and I’ve never looked back. Owning a working gundog came much later.
Why do you enjoy it so much?
Katy: It’s great being out in the countryside. You get to meet some amazing people and we’ve built up some good friendships through the dogs. I love working Ruby, especially when it all comes together and goes well for both of us. As a Senior Professional Tutor at a local secondary comprehensive school I look after trainee teachers and newly qualified teachers which doesn’t give me much time for the dogs in the week so I live, breath and sleep dog training at the weekends! Working Ruby enables me to completely switch off and enjoy life.
Del: We enjoy it so much that the house we recently bought had to suit our dogs and training requirements!
What’s the biggest challenge in the training journey so far?
Katy: My ongoing challenge is getting my spaniel to walk to heel! You need a sense of humour and perseverance if you're a spaniel owner!
Del: My biggest challenge is to not race ahead and to make sure you have the basics in place before moving on. Katy is right, you need to preserver when things don’t go as planned.
Katy: You’ve just got to watch them work…they are far from boring!
Del: I got the buzz from watching some quality dogs work to a high standard on the beating line.
Biggest lesson learnt so far?
Katy: Being patient which is something I constantly remind Del to be! Especially if we get another dog!
Can you reveal each other’s worst gundog training habits…if any?
Katy: I’ve just hit the nail on the head…a lack of patience as Del is always keen to move on.
Del: Katy tends to get frustrated when things don’t go to plan. It’s normally down to handler error!
Any gundog eureka moments?
Katy: The first time she stopped on the stop whistle at a distance…eureka! Also, the first time she brought a pheasant back to me was a WOW highlight.
Del: Ooooh..I have so many! Just seeing Bramble work the line in a way I like her to work is a highlight for me. It’s a eureka moment when your dog works the beat with minimal handling and you receive praise from other beaters or the guns.
Do you finish each other’s sentences?
Del: No, I’m not allowed to!!
Do you have a difference of opinion with training methods?
Katy: No, we seem to have the same thoughts about methods and techniques. We learn from each other especially if we are watching each other in a training session.
Del: We owe a lot to the patience, encouragement and generosity of our trainers. Their time has been invaluable to us within our gundog journey.
Are you competitive with each other?
Del: We do like to have a good banter! When things go right with our dogs we are genuinely pleased for each other.
What’s the secret in making it work?
Del: We try not to focus on the negatives and when things don’t go right in training we talk it through and try to come up with alternative solutions.
Katy: I agree with Del, talking it through works. Although depending on how the training session has gone the car journey home can sometimes be very long and quiet!
What can’t you get through the weekend without?
Katy: Apart from wine? I can’t think of any weekend which hasn’t been about the dogs. Whether it’s informal training in the paddock at home or going to a gun dog event our weekends are all about the dogs! We even have a car which is a mobile dog hotel!
What are the qualities you admire about each other?
Del: We both keep going. Even when we hit a brick wall with a training challenge we both pick ourselves up and carry on. I had a major challenge with Bramble as she used to whine a lot. I’ve had to work through it and now changed my approach which has worked and she’s so much better.
Lie in or up with the lark?
Del: Bramble gets me up at 5.30am for breakfast so I guess you could call us early birds!
Pub roast or lunch at home?
Katy: Pub followed by lunch at home…especially if Del is cooking!
The Sherborne Country Fair held its 11th Team Retriever Charity Challenge in the beautiful grounds of Sherborne Castle by kind permission of the Wingfield Digby family. A total of 6 teams participated in the competition. The judges were Liz Taylor, Colin Pelham, Barry Taylor and Vickie Pritchard. The event was sponsored by BASC, Chudleys and Hi Lost. Events Co-ordinator Caroline MacGregor set 5 open standard tests which provided an excellent challenge for the dogs and handlers. As the teams gathered for a briefing a single dark cloud rolled in like a shroud blocking out the morning sun. The rain came in and hovered over the Castle grounds. As the competitors headed out to the tests the team banter echoed around the Deer Park. The traditional wet weather didn’t phase the dogs and the teams enjoyed a morning of varied and demanding tests.
Test 1: The Bank consisted of 1 marked and 1 blind retrieve with a shot to the right uphill and a dummy thrown. The blind was retrieved first which was a shot to the left to indicate the direction of the blind retrieve. Test 2: The Shoot Lodge included 1 marked and 1 blind retrieve. The judge walked a short distance with the competitor and dog at heel followed by 2 shots, one up in the air ahead of the gun and the other to the left to indicate the direction of the blind. The marked dummy was thrown forward and landed behind low branches of a tree . As it simulates a runner the dog was sent straight away to retrieve it. The second blind retrieve was on the left beyond the top of the ditch. Test 3: The Pond consisted of 2 blind retrieves with no shots. The competitor had a choice of which one to pick first.
The Reeds and Woodland Test 4 included 1 marked and 1 blind retrieve. The team lined up and selected who goes for which retrieve. There were lots of shots fired and 4 dummies tossed into the reeds at intervals. There were 4 blind dummies put out in advance in the woodland on the left, with markers on trees as to their positions. Judge Barry Taylor enjoyed assessing the teams. “Some of the competitors are new to this challenge and when you’re running in a team you have huge pressure to do well so nerves play a big part. It’s a natural shoot environment and we are replicating what would happen on a shoot day so the dogs need to be of a high standard.”
Test 5 was located at the Lakeside which consisted of 1 marked water retrieve. Teams were allowed to elect who retrieved first, second, third and fourth. Each judge gave a score for one dog in each team. The test was timed and only to be used in the case of a tie between teams. The water test is located close to the entrance of the castle and draws in a large number of spectators who can see the top dogs in action. The teams enjoyed the cheers from the crowd, especially when the dogs leapt into the water.
The day culminated with a team parade of all competitors and dogs in the main arena with the awards and presentations. The Wiltshire Working Gundog Society took First place. The South Eastern Gundog Society came a close second and URC Hants & South West came third. Paul Green from the Midland Golden Retriever Club was presented with ‘Top Dog’ for a fantastic individual performance with Slipslide Ebony. Peter was thrilled with the award. “This was my first time competing in this event and I’ve had a great day. The last six months has been a huge learning curve for us and my dog ran exceptionally well today. The tests were good as they were laid out to test the handler and the dog. The volunteers and the organisers of the event have been fantastic and given us a great day.”
It was a special day for Events Co-ordinator Caroline MacGregor who has been organising the gundog event for 16 years. “This is my last year. I’ve been involved with Sherborne Fair since it started 22 years ago. It started as a gundog event tact onto a small country fair. I was organising the trade stands for many years and then I got a call to ask if I would help to organise the first international gun dog event at Sherborne.” Caroline talks fondly about the growth of the event and the success of looking after the international teams. On the fourth year of the international it was evident the event had out grown Sherborne. “It moved to Highclere with my blessing but I wanted to keep a gun dog event at Sherborne so we invited UK teams to come and compete in a charity event at an open standard. This is our 11th year of the current format.” Caroline admits it will be hard not to watch the event next year.
“Alot of my family come to Sherborne Fair and I hardly see them as I’m in the Deer Park for most of the day so next year I plan to have the day off and spend some time with them. Although I will probably find myself sneaking off to watch the dogs!”
Many thanks goes to the volunteers, organisers, sponsors and competitors for an enjoyable and successful day.
Top Dog: Paul Green with Slipside Ebony
1st Wiltshire Working Gundog Society
Dave England, Lubbock Queen of Hearts of Abney
Rob Smallman Helnoral Magnum
Nick Jordan Hollowbrook Hosta
Louie Robertson FTCH Mitforton Nacho
2nd South Eastern Gundog Society
Jason Mayhew Kestrelway Drake
Mell Brooks Ticefield Redwing of Anningtonbay
John Williamson Tealcreek Isla
Diana Stevens Never Disarray At Wylanbriar
3rd URC Hants & South West
Ken Green Green Autumn Willow Tag
Claire Salter Cynhinfa Napoleon
Paul Dukes Brockelbank Zinc
Katherine Impey Hippolytus Herald
I recently trained with Mark and Joe Taylor who are passionate about their Korthals Griffon Gundogs. Father and son have owned the breed since 2000 when Mark brought the first Korthals Griffon into the country. I took the opportunity to watch these amazing hunters retrieve dummies across the water and ask the handlers about this gentle biddable breed…
Joe what do you love about Ralph?
I love his character…he’s got so much go in him and he loves to hunt. It’s great to see him working using his natural instincts. I take him out every night training in the summer and he’s my wild fowl companion in the winter. I shoot on a small syndicate near Dorchester and he picks up regularly throughout the season. I’ve just started stalking with him so he gets plenty of mental stimulation which is important. Ralph is a good allrounder and when he’s not training or working he’s super chilled at home.
Joe what’s your aim with Ralph?
As the breed are late to mature, progress is steady during the first year. Now Ralph is 2 it has allowed me to start training to his full potential. This year I have a number of HPR working tests and I'm aiming to progress into the Open class.
Mark can you touch on their characteristics?
The Korthals Griffon can be hard work as they are slow to mature and they love to hunt so you do have to take your time and do the basics before introducing game. They are an intelligent gun dog and they need to be doing something. Frankie will be working on a driven shoot and wild fowling so they do make a good all-round hunting companion. She's great around the house and very laid back until I get the gun out and then she steps up a gear!
Mark what advice would you offer to someone who may want to consider a Korthals Griffon?
Don’t rush into it. Find a reputable breeder and go and see the dogs. The Griffon loves a challenge so do something with them: working, stalking, picking up, agility etc.
Frankie retrieving a dummy off an island. A delight to watch her enjoying the challenge of a retrieve across the water.
For further information on the Korthals Griffon breed please visit:
Whilst chatting to a competitor at a recent gundog test I was reminded that sometimes the simplest things are still the best…
I have been making the tricky transition from using a paper based calendar to the planner app on my phone. Not easy! After years of routinely writing on the calendar which is stuck on the fridge door I am now trying to use my phone app to organise and plan my day. It’s amazing how technology can help me become more productive, however it can also be time consuming and frustrating if it fails.
Whilst writing a report at a working test I was reminded by gun dog competitor Ken Green that sometimes the simple form of using a pen and paper is still the best way to brainstorm ideas, set reminders and jot down notes. Ken regularly competes in working tests throughout the summer and uses pen and paper to track his test progress and brainstorm outcomes. Once he has completed a test he’ll sketch out the test structure, give himself a score and jot down a few pertinent words around the piece of paper. He adapts it to his own personal preference. Once he gets home he can reflect on his written words and replicate the test in training and work on any problem areas. Pen and paper works for Ken as it suits his needs, helps keep track of his progress and gives him flexibility on the day.
So whilst I continue to try and find the right app which will transform my working life I cannot help but think the numerous benefits of using a simple pen and paper will never be replaced.
The Hants & South West United Retriever Club held an Open Working Test at Mount Farm, Lockerley, by kind permission of Mr Lindsay Marshall.
Judges were Peter Castleman, Di Stevens and Robert Worrall. The competitors enjoyed a first class day which was organised by Sarah Winter and run by Judy Venables. Twenty seven dogs entered on the day. The ground enabled four tests to be set up which gave the dogs a challenge in a variety of ways.
Test one included a long mark retrieve alongside a wood approximately 120 meters. On the return the dog was sent for a blind which was at a right angle into the wood, over a ditch, approximately 40 meters. Test two offered a double mark retrieve which was set in a paddock. The retrieves were up hill approximately 100 meters. The judge asked for the right hand one to be picked first and the second one on the return. Test three included a three dog walked up with a long mark thrown up against a wood, approximately 140 meters. A short retrieve was thrown to the side. The judge asked for the short one to be picked first followed by the long retrieve. Test four offered a double blind, approximately 110 meters with no shot and a narrow angle between each dummy. The final test included a water retrieve which was a mark into a small pond. The dog had to swim across a large pond to get into the small pond. The Judge asked for the dog to swim across the first pond but he didn’t mind how the dog returned.
Field trial judge Peter Castleman enjoyed the day. “The tests were challenging but they have to be for an open test. Dogs were of a high standard. Sometimes you’ll get a dog which can’t cope in an Open but today all the dogs ran well.”
All three panel judges enjoyed working together throughout the day and highlighted that the event was a success due to a friendly group of competitors who took all the decisions in good spirit.
Field trial judge Di Stevens said “The ground has enabled us to test the dogs in a variety of ways which is important as some of them will be going forward to the area finals.” She added, “I’ve noted two observations from today. Some of the competitors didn’t look down to where they were pointing. The dog’s heads were wavering and the handler was still sending them. In a test it would be worth standing back up for a second, coming back down again and metaphorically saying no, listen, and look where I’m pointing to. The other observation is relating to the stop whistle at a distance. Most of the dogs were stopping at 100 yards but once passed that threshold there were five or six dogs which ignored the first whistle. Perhaps in training there is a limit with the distance that some handlers will go out and correct the stop whistle but you need to get out there every time, no matter what the distance and correct the dog.”
At the end of the day judges awarded first place to Jane Manley who was delighted with the outcome.
Special thanks to the URC test organiser, Sarah Winter, test co-ordinator Judy Venables, the host, judges, helpers and competitors for making the day a success. As always Skinners provided much appreciated sponsorship.
1st Lenyam Justintime - Jane Manley
2nd Lubbecke Queen of Hearts of Abney - Dave England
3rd Cynhinfa Napoleon - Claire Salter
4th Tuscanni Viking - Rob Smallman
COM Autumn Willow Tag - Ken Green
COM Mitforton Nado - Nikki Smallman
The United Retriever Club Hants & South West Area recently held a Novice Working Test at Hawkers Hill Farm by kind permission of Chris and Clem Martin and Mr Phil Lever writes Wendy Bardsley. There were 42 entries and the judges were Dave England, Frank Wright, Jennie Dimmock and Micheal Brown. The tests were set at a good novice standard and the new location allowed 4 challenging tests. All tests were a double pick with two retrieves. Test 1 involved a marked water retrieve which gave the dogs a good swim across the water out onto the land to retrieve the dummy and back into the water to deliver to hand. The glare of the sun and the geese on the water proved a challenge for some of the dogs. The second retrieve was thrown by the edge of the water. Test 2 involved a walked up with a marked retrieve at the top of hill followed by a shot behind with a retrieve at the bottom of the hill. Test 3 offered a double blind with the dogs picking the right first then the left dummy. Test 4 was a double marked retrieve with several barriers in between. The competitors were able to choose which dummy to retrieve first. As the ground was slightly uneven it was a challenge for the dogs to run cleanly up the hill. Competitors and dogs were put through their paces as the day progressed. Dave England who judged Test 4 indicated his double retrieve test gave the dogs a challenge and observed many dogs locking onto the first retrieve. At the end of the day he offered useful advice to the competitors and suggested in training to get the dog to pick the second dummy first and occasionally pick the other one by hand.
A two dog run off was necessary to decide third and fourth place. URC Chairman for the Hants & South West Nick Coates stated the run off needed to stretch the dogs so the judges were able to see the difference between the two. With a distraction thrown into the water the competitor handled their dog over the causeway to retrieve a blind.
1st - Cynhinfa Napoleon (LRD) – Claire Salter
2nd – Randall Black Night (LRD) – Chris Doig
3rd – Henergy Moonstruck (LRD) – Robert Small
4th – Roughbeat Serafina of Philchris (GRB) – Sarah Winter
The day brought together an exceptionally talented collection of novice dogs and handlers who clearly all enjoyed the challenge of a URC Novice Test day. Special thanks to the URC test organiser, Sarah Winter, the host, judges, helpers and competitors for making the day a success. As always Skinners provided much appreciated sponsorship.
A working test or training day is reliant on volunteers helping to make the day a success. One of the essential requirements for each test is having a team of dummy throwers. I took the opportunity to catch up with several volunteers at a recent URC working test…
What’s great about being a dummy thrower?
Debbie Lusty from Andover enjoys helping out at tests and being a dummy thrower. “It enables me to be an integral part of the event and I feel involved rather than just watching from the outskirts. Debbie loves spending the day in the countryside. “I’ve been made to feel very welcome today and I’ve learnt a lot from watching each dog in turn.”
Peter Leyden from Ringwood enjoys watching the dogs work. “I learn a lot from watching the dog and handler in a test environment. Sometimes I pick something up and go home and try it out.
James Langton from Wimborne said. “It’s great to help out as I’m fairly new to the working tests. I’ve enjoyed being a dummy thrower as I get to watch the handlers work their dogs in different ways.”
As a dummy thrower did you make any observations from your test?
“Not trusting your dog!” says Debbie. “For my test it was a fairly simple blind but some of the handlers used the whistle to encourage their dog. There were several occasions where the handler could have left the dog and it would have easily found it. Heel work is interesting to watch. Some handlers are watching their dog and others are more confident and observing what is going on around them.”
Nicola Farmiloe enjoys helping out. She noticed a common pattern occurring in her test which involved two blind retrieves up a hill. “Many of the handlers were sending their dogs off quite far to the right. There were only a few which went straight up the middle and picked. I was positioned at the bottom of the hill and there wasn’t much wind but you could see the dogs changing direction as the wind picked up at the top of the hill.”
Is there any pressure as a dummy thrower?
Pete has been competing for 8 years. He’s familiar with the test environment and still feels the pressure. “You always want to throw a dummy the same for every dog so there’s a bit of pressure to get it right every time. Sometimes there is the odd one which I’m not happy with but it comes with practice!”
James a gundog handler admits there’s a bit of pressure to get it right on the day. “ I was placing blinds in my test so it was a lot easier for me!”
There is no doubt that volunteers have an important role to play as they provide stability to gundog clubs and they are vital for tests and training days to run successfully. Debbie, Pete, Nicole and James want to give something back to our sport. Their positive approach to the role reflects what they have gained from the day. Time spent helping out on a test or training day provides a fantastic opportunity to socialise with like minded people and obtain a greater understanding of the working dog environment.
It’s clear our sport wouldn’t survive without them.
One of the highlights at the West of England Game Fair is the BASC gundog scurries. I love the fact these are fun ‘have-a-go’ events and anyone can enter. The objective of a scurry is a timed competition which tests each dog to retrieve the dummy in the fastest time. I enjoy watching the experienced dogs give a stylish performance and having a giggle at the those who happily ignore the whistle and entertain the spectators with their antics. As with one keen labrador who decided not to stop whilst jumping the straw bales and crash into the dummy thrower as he sailed across the final bale!
As a novice gundog handler watching the experts compete with their skilful dogs is fascinating. It can be highly competitive and may not suit everyone in the gundog domain. A challenge for the serious scurry competitor is to make the top fastest 20 dogs in the BASC Chudleys Scurry League and receive an invite to compete in the grand final to determine the overall winner. Throughout the spring and summer they attend 9 game fairs across the country and have the opportunity to gain prizes and points for the league in each scurry they compete in.
Their passion, dedication, drive and determination (no matter what the weather or how long the queue) is simply astonishing. What’s the key to success? Undoubtably it’s down to the training and preparation. Setting up simulated scurry scenarios and consistent training helps the dog to understand what it has to do for each test. It’s a pleasure to watch these dogs complete various scurry disciplines in a fast and biddable manner. There’s no question both dog and handler have a unique bond and love the challenge of a scurry!