Field trials and tribulations
A lot of people being asked to judge field trials have little experience in the shooting field. As the steward of the beat is more often than not the gamekeeper, one can soon be caught out if one thinks the flushing point is where the loo is.
Knowing what good dog work is never goes in or out of fashion, but the nuances of handling and the standard of dog work has changed. One of the hardest things to second-guess is what the judge considers to be the ‘area’. If they are more used to judging working tests, they may consider the area to be smaller than it might be in a trial, bearing in mind a dummy can’t run. This is where having a sound knowledge of shooting comes into play.
Also, dogs are in a trial to compete, not pick-up. Pickers-up are there to do just that, so judges must be able to decide in a split second whether the retrieve is suitable for the trial. When a judge can make those sorts of decisions, the keeper will be confident and more likely to enjoy having trials on his shoot. When you are the leading judge in a field trial you need to be able to fully relate to the steward of the beat regarding how and where the birds will be flying, and so on, and to explain with confidence what you require for the trial.
We need keepers and landowners to welcome trials, not look upon them with irritation. Or indeed to by
view them as “a load of people wasting my time because they don’t know what to do”, as one keeper said to me when a trial was out of control because the judges were losing the plot. Having the respect of the keeper is paramount.
It’s also important that field trial judges run their own dogs. If a judge hasn’t run a dog for many years, their perspective when designing retrieves may well be lacking. In a walked-up trial, the retrieve is what it is, but in a driven trial they are designed by the skill and knowledge of the judges. Not wanting to ‘overcook’ retrieves on a driven stake can mean that judges set up bland, easy retrieves. On the other hand, overcooking a retrieve can result in asking for the impossible.
Amy sometimes wonders about the suitability of some field trial judges.
Should the sending judge be the most experienced of the pair? Judging is not and should not be taken lightly, so when you are asked to judge a field trial, ask yourself if you are up to the job. Maybe you need a refresher course – please be honest with yourself.