Field tri­als and tribu­la­tions

Shooting Gazette - - Gundogs - by Amy Bates

When the in­vi­ta­tion came to judge the Tyne Tees Tweed Field Trial As­so­ci­a­tion all-aged retriever stake last year I was hon­oured and ex­cited. It took me back to my first judg­ing ap­point­ment at a county show as a Na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Women’s In­sti­tutes cook­ery and pre­serves judge.

My train­ing took the best part of three years and in­stilled in me that it is a priv­i­lege to judge some­one’s work and the hours that they put into per­fect­ing their en­try should be re­spected.

Trial day came. The weather was just right in the morn­ing, with rain in the af­ter­noon. The ground was ter­rific – un­du­lat­ing reedy hills and good stone walls, with birds com­ing nicely to hand. We had a good se­lec­tion of quarry to test the dogs. I was on the left with the B-panel and the A-panel was on the right with the other non-panel judge. The Guns were good shots and the keeper most oblig­ing.

I was the send­ing judge and was sur­prised how chal­leng­ing it was to keep track of who was in or out. When I’m com­pet­ing, I know ex­actly who is in line, who is next, who is out and where

I am in all of this, but I was con­cen­trat­ing so hard that I lost track. I had to keep con­firm­ing whose re­trieve it was, for my sake as much as the com­peti­tors’. I sent a few peo­ple on the wrong num­ber but quickly rec­ti­fied that – my B-panel was good at keep­ing me straight.

I was sur­prised the com­peti­tors didn’t put them­selves in bet­ter po­si­tions to mark well – when I’m com­pet­ing I will push it un­til the judge tells me that’s enough. Con­scious that I had to give han­dlers marks for birds, I was pleased I had marked well. On the oc­ca­sions that we had to walk out to find a bird, I went straight to them but felt so dis­ap­pointed for the han­dlers.

I learned so much judg­ing that trial, but I was sur­prised not to re­ceive any feed­back.

I was fully ex­pect­ing my B-panel to tell me what I needed to work on. It is odd that there isn’t a full Ken­nel Club field trial judg­ing pro­gramme like the one the WI runs. With­out a judg­ing pro­gramme and con­tin­u­ous as­sess­ment, it is dif­fi­cult to keep stan­dards high. There should be a de­brief­ing af­ter the trial by the se­nior judges, out­lin­ing what the trainee judge needs to work on. The forms that are is­sued by the Ken­nel Club to be filled in by A- and B-pan­els should be used as a tool to learn from, not some­thing to be feared. I’m still an ad­vo­cate of a ref­eree writ­ing a trial re­port from each of the judges and one from the field trial sec­re­tary, and per­haps one from an­other per­son such as a Gun or game­keeper would give a rounded view of the trial.

The club did a great job and the at­mos­phere was re­ally good. With­out judges we can’t trial and it is right to recog­nise that of­ten judges give up an op­por­tu­nity to run their own dogs. If you asked me would I rather judge or run a dog, I would rather run my dog any day.

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