Thursday, January 1, 2009
WALKING FIELD TRIALS
Happy New Year......................... There's quite a conversation taking place on the Coverdog Message Board (http://members3.boardhost.com/coverdog/ 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.