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!
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