Thursday, January 1, 2009


Happy New Year......................... There's quite a conversation taking place on the Coverdog Message Board ( regarding Walking Field Trials. I must admit that I've had some fun stirring up the pot but the underlying thesis of how field trials will continue to evolve and attract new participants is a serious one. The question being discussed today is the use of mounted scouts at walking field trials. Walking field trials have become extraordinarily popular in the last 10 years. New sanctioning organizations like NBHA, U.S.Complete and ABHA have been born and offer varying standards of performance and judging. Breed organizations have also sanctioned competitions and hunt tests. However, as they become more popular and owners handle their dogs in more and different trials, the standards for each seem to me to be melting towards uniformity. I find it difficult to understand why walking trials allow horseback scouts. In fact, most everyone except the handlers are on horseback. If the handlers dog makes a wide cast to the side or rear, with the permission of a judge, the handler may send his scout to find the dog. Perhaps the dog is pointing but more than likely the dog is simply headed in the wrong direction. By the rules the scout is simply to find the dog without handling it but in the real world a scout is a second handler. The dog will key off of the direction of the horse and by simplying turning the horse in the direction of the course the dog will bend and end up ahead. Is that a fine performance by a walking dog? Wouldn't it be great if we could dispatch a scout to round up the big running dog while we're hunting instead of standing still, hollering or whistling or changing directions to go with him instead of the way we had planned. Does the assistance of a mounted scout really help determine the best performance of a walking field trial dog? I've had the pleasure of watching, handling and scouting in some of the country's most prestigeous field trials and I've seen scouts do most everything. I've seen scouts reach down to grab the dog by the collar, lift it up in the saddle and take it to a point ahead on the course where he can turn it loose in the direction of the course and have it show to the judges well out ahead where it should be. I've seen handlers have scouts or helpers riding the roads in their trucks, pick up the errant dog and drive him to the front so the dog shows in front as the judges and handlers come around a section of woods. In my opinion, walking field trials should seek the dog that stretches out or closes in relative to the geography of the course and always in the best interests of his handler. I do not want to foot hunt with a dog that needs to be chased down and turned. Many will argue the scout plays a role in ensuring the safety of the dog by being able to keep it from crossing roads or avoiding other dangers. However, and again in my opinion, field trial clubs should not be holding trials where those dangers exist. Field trialing is a wonderful way to enjoy your dogs year around. There is room for all types of trials with different rules,ie:, all-age, horseback shooting dog, cover dogs and walking trials. Lets resist the temptation to run the same dog in each and bastardize the intent of all. Speaking of bastardizing, I've judged Brittany trials and often heard the phrase "he runs like a pointer". Why would anyone want the wonderful Brittney breed to run like pointers? Why are we developing pointing labs? Oh well, thats a discussion for another post.


Mike Spies said...


Even before I began running US Complete trials out West, we have had an AFTCA Am. Walking SD Championship in Region 11 annually. These are nearly ALL amateurs with horseback shooting dogs that want to put CH in front of the name. I have even seen HB AA dogs run in walking stakes... dogs that failed the handling requirement.

You are right - a walking SD should not need a mounted scout. The dog should be conscious of the handler's position at all times. If the handler can not see his dog, he can ask a judge to tell him where the dog is - this is done as a matter of course anyway.

I am happy to play the game under any set of rules. But the ideal would be walking handlers, mounted judges, open country and wild birds. Anything less degrades from there.

Mike Spies
President US Complete NW Region

Will Pennington said...


A very well stated opinion that I agree with completely. I am new to the trial game but scouting, as allowed at most of the trials I've attended, has me puzzled.

For instance, at an AA stake I went to in SW TN, the scouts for both dogs were off on the fringe at a couple hundred yards immediately after breakaway. Humans have trouble discerning similarly marked dogs at HB range and I have can't believe dogs can discern specific horse/handler at same ranges. In essence, the dogs were running an AA race from their handlers but a SD race from the scouts (in fairness to this particular trial, it crossed a lot of property lines and a few roads). What's the point in that?

I'm all for the concept of scouting for safety and smooth expeditous coverage of the course even in walking trials but at times wonder if it wouldn't be better to consider dispatching a scout similar to calling point. IOW, dispatch scout to a specific area, give him a reasonable amount of time look, and if dog is not found on point consider it in the same vein as an unproductive when rendering judgement. Sort of 'unproductive handling' if you will.


Dale Hernden said...

Mike and Will: Thanks for your comments and I'm glad we agree. From the comments on the coverdog board, I think most feel the key to walking trials is handle!

Will, if you'd like to talk further I'm at