A dif­fer­ent tack

Ryan Kay en­joys some won­der­ful walked-up shoot­ing on some tough ter­rain with his cocker – all part of a pre-trial plan!

Sporting Shooter - - Gundog Focus -

As a gun­dog trainer, I’m tuned in to watch­ing oth­ers. With my clients, it’s pick­ing up on and point­ing out lit­tle sub­tleties, things that need tweak­ing and chang­ing, tim­ings that are out and tech­niques that need fine-tun­ing. But even train­ers need look­ing at by some­one else from time to time.

Hav­ing had no suc­cess in five con­sec­u­tive Open field tri­als with my young cocker, Char­lie, it was ev­i­dent that some­thing needed to change. This was re­ally the sug­ges­tion from the main voice of rea­son in our fam­ily, my wife. Ali­son al­ways shows lots of sup­port to­wards my tri­alling and train­ing, but I guess I was test­ing her pa­tience a lit­tle with time spent away from home and noth­ing to show for it! And when you’re deeply im­mersed in tri­alling, with your head down, like any­thing that you may be­come en­grossed in, it’s hard to step back and see ex­actly what is go­ing on, or – in mine and Char­lie’s case – go­ing wrong! And so, quite of­ten, it’s the wis­dom and calm ap­proach of an­other per­son that is able to re­view the sit­u­a­tion ob­jec­tively.

I’d been sav­ing Char­lie for tri­als by rest­ing him on the days pre­ced­ing an event. This clearly wasn’t work­ing; though, at the time, I couldn’t see this, de­spite the fact that he had run-in on more than one oc­ca­sion, al­beit on rab­bits (his Achilles’ heel at times!). The ex­cite­ment on the day was sim­ply too much and he’d blown a gas­ket on each in­stance. “You need to change some­thing” was the first seed to be planted in my head by Mrs Kay, fol­lowed by an­other sug­ges­tion a cou­ple of days later to “hunt him hard the day be­fore a trial”. Be­ing a lit­tle stub­born, I went away mum­bling gen­eral dis­grun­tled non­sense, but I knew she was right, and was prob­a­bly more an­noyed with my­self that I hadn’t spot­ted it sooner. A few hours later, I re­turned to the hub of our house (the kitchen ta­ble), and pro­claimed the sug­ges­tion of ‘hunt­ing him hard the day be­fore a trial’ as my idea and that this was the new line I would take with Char­lie! Nat­u­rally, that went down like a lead bal­loon, and off I went to ar­range a day’s shoot­ing.

Gain­ing a run in two back-to-back tri­als down in War­wick­shire, I made plans to shoot over Char­lie on the Thurs­day, be­fore run­ning him in the tri­als on the Fri­day and Satur­day. It’s not that I haven’t worked dogs the day be­fore a trial pre­vi­ously, but as a gen­eral rule over the years, it has proved to be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. How­ever, Char­lie is a dif­fer­ent force – strong, su­per-fit, and def­i­nitely more ma­chine-like. And a ma­chine that needed a lit­tle more run­ning in to avoid run­ning-in! The usual hedgerows and rough ground I of­ten shoot on

‘Hav­ing had no suc­cess in five con­sec­u­tive Open field tri­als with my young cocker, Char­lie, it was

ev­i­dent that some­thing needed to change’

The tough ter­rain and thick cover tests Char­lie’s fit­ness

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