I was lucky enough to spend a day training with Ian Openshaw (pictured with me & Daisy above), the most successful Gundog trainer this country has ever produced.
I quickly discovered that I was the only Labrador handler amongst the 12 others, the remainder all being either professional or aspiring spaniel Field Trial handlers! As it turned out, this was a training day geared towards preparing spaniels for Field Trials. I did feel a little out of place!
Having been the first to arrive, my name was at the top of the list, which meant I was the first to run my dog, with Ian at my shoulder coaching me and the gallery of spaniel handlers looking on. I was then asked to work and handle my Labrador as if she were a spaniel competing in a trial, hunting, flushing and retrieving live game. She did well and attracted that rare Openshaw commodity – a compliment. “She’s a nice dog”. Praise indeed.
I won’t go into detail, but there were some techniques, tools and other aspects of the training that I did not agree with. This, coupled with the keen competitiveness apparent amongst triallers, left me convinced that participating in field trials is not something I want to do.
All(!) I want are trained, biddable gundogs capable of doing a full day’s work in the shooting field without embarrassing me, upsetting other dogs / people and, most importantly, having fun. This latter aspect was not much in evidence on the training day. It was a more serious, disciplined affair.
Still, I learned a lot. Perhaps the greatest lesson for me was that when I compare myself with the top handlers, I am a tiny minnow in a vast ocean. I need to limit my ambitions to training local people in the basics of gundog work and doing displays, leaving the rest to the real professionals.
On a positive note, the sun shone and my two friends, Kim Swain and Barry Overton, who had bought me this training day as a birthday present and who accompanied me, were great company.
I will await the reaction to this post from Field Triallers with interest. Bothered?