GUN­DOG TRAIN­ING:

Hav­ing re­cently re­turned from com­pet­ing for Team GB at the world cham­pi­onship for point­ing dogs in France, Howard re­ports on the trip, which turned out to be an ex­pe­ri­ence of a life­time

Sporting Shooter - - Contents - with Howard Kirby Howard Kirby runs Lains Shoot­ing School and Mul­len­scote Gun­dogs in Hamp­shire

Re­port from the world HPR cham­pi­onships

For the third year run­ning, the Ken­nel Club sent a GB team to the world cham­pi­onship for point­ing dogs and this time it was held in a lit­tle place called Herm, near Bay­onne in the south of France. The GB team con­sisted of team cap­tain Meryl As­bury, Sara Chich­ester, Maddy Raynor, Lin­sey Whit­ley, Mick Can­ham, Rob Gould, John Nay­lor, Micheal Raynor and me.

Be­ing se­lected to rep­re­sent Great Bri­tain is a huge hon­our but it brings with it a huge re­spon­si­bil­ity and ev­ery­one on the team felt the pres­sure to per­form both for the team but pri­mar­ily for the coun­try. Right from the mo­ment we had been se­lected for the team, my big­gest con­cern was to en­sure that our dogs re­mained fit, healthy and free of in­jury. These HPRs hunt with real pace and power so in­jury is al­ways a worry.

Lin­sey and I trav­elled with our two dogs in con­voy with team vet and fel­low com­peti­tor, Rob Gould, to Portsmouth where we boarded an overnight ferry to Caen in France. From there we drove eight hours to the team ho­tel near Castets.

On Sun­day, we went to watch the English Set­ter Cham­pi­onship. I have re­cently started to trial two lovely English set­ters and hav­ing qual­i­fied one of them for the 2018 Pointer and Set­ter Cham­pi­onship I was re­ally ex­cited about see­ing the dogs run.

The trial was held in At­lantic pine wood­land with an un­der­cover of heather and bracken. We had a fan­tas­tic day, es­pe­cially as the judges let us fol­low them around so we were able to get right up with the ac­tion. In the UK, our tri­als are run on open ground, heather, stub­bles or spring corn oc­ca­sion­ally in roots. Watch­ing these dogs ne­go­ti­ate the trees with such pace was noth­ing short of ex­hil­a­rat­ing. Half­way through the trial Rob was asked if he would like to carry his gun, and of course he jumped at the op­por­tu­nity. This was the first time I’d seen dogs com­pet­ing while wear­ing lo­ca­tion bells and the noise made by them, while odd at first, still rings in my mind, pro­vok­ing great mem­o­ries each time I think about the trip.

It’s easy to lose sight of your dog when run­ning in wood­lands, so han­dlers lis­ten out for the jan­gling of the bell and as soon as the dog comes on point you race to the last known lo­ca­tion to find your dog. This is a real adren­a­line rush as you charge out, ever hope­ful that this will be the point and flush that gives you the award you’re af­ter.

It was also a great way for us to set­tle in and ori­en­tate our­selves to how things would be over the next 10 days: re­laxed and very friendly!

Later that af­ter­noon, our fel­low team­mates Sara Chich­ester and Maddy Raynor kindly ar­ranged for us to take our dogs train­ing. It was re­ally nice to be able to get the dogs out and work­ing; for me, this was the point when the ex­cite­ment of be­ing at the world cham­pi­onships re­ally took hold.

No time to sit back. Mon­day morning saw Sara and Maddy off with their set­ters and Lin­sey, Rob and I with our Ger­man long-haired point­ers off to com­pete in the Mediter­ranean Cup.

Two’s com­pany

One of the big con­sid­er­a­tions when run­ning in tri­als on the con­ti­nent is that dogs are run in braces. This brings an­other di­men­sion to a han­dler’s game plan. It’s es­sen­tial that you con­cen­trate your ef­forts and fo­cus on your own dog but the other han­dler and their dog can have a sig­nif­i­cant in­flu­ence on your run.

Here at Mul­len­scote we work re­ally hard to train our dogs to hear and be re­spon­sive to all whis­tle com­mands, but this can work against you when a brace mate has a sim­i­lar whis­tle and com­mands.

In my first run in the Mediter­ranean Cup, I chat­ted to the Croa­t­ian han­dler as we made our way through the woods to­wards the judges.

“I have to apol­o­gise now,” said Ni­col­ina. “He’s a real hand­ful and I’ll need to blow the whis­tle a lot to keep him with me.”

“No wor­ries, you need to do what you need to do,” I replied, try­ing to be as po­lite and sports­man­like as I could be.

Whoa! Within 10 sec­onds of cast­ing our dogs, Ni­col­ina’s re­call whis­tle, a long loud sin­gle blast rang out through the French wood­land. Tashi, my dog, stopped dead in his tracks. He looked for­lornly at me as if to say, what did I do?

I quickly en­cour­aged him to hunt on but al­most as soon as he started to get go­ing the other dog had turned and came crash­ing past him with a pace that in­di­cated that he wasn’t go­ing to be with us for long.

Ni­col­ina clearly recog­nised his mind­set and set about him with the whis­tle while apol­o­gis­ing to me. These long loud blasts sim­ply shut my dog down. I called him to me and cast him to the op­po­site side to get away from the whis­tle and Ni­col­ina’s rapidly de­part­ing dog.

Once again, I urged Tashi to move on and find those high-range hunt­ing gears that made him the cham­pi­onship-win­ning dog that he is. Ni­col­ina’s dog had now ‘left the build­ing’ and to my hor­ror I heard the judge shout to her, “use your whis­tle, call him back…!”

You have got to be kid­ding me, I thought. The rest is his­tory, the judge picked us up and said, “he’s not re­ally hunt­ing,” to which I nod­ded and put my dog on a lead. Ni­col­ina apol­o­gised again and I thought to my­self, this is why I reg­u­larly tell my­self to give up tri­alling. The judge is al­ways right, shut up and put up Kirby. And oh, by the way, wel­come to the world cham­pi­onship!

The Mediter­ranean Cup

Two days of the Mediter­ranean Cup saw our pointer and set­ter han­dlers, Sara Chich­ester, Maddy Raynor and John Nay­lor earn awards in their re­spec­tive tri­als mean­ing they were rack­ing up points for the team. Sara with her Gor­don set­ters, Maddy with her Ir­ish, Gin­ger and John with his mas­sively pow­er­ful pointer, Deano.

Suc­cess for Lin­sey

For the con­ti­nen­tals, Rob and I both had two days of blank runs: frus­trated doesn’t even come close. Lin­sey on the other hand took the com­pe­ti­tion firmly by the ‘Mediter­raneans’ and af­ter a bar­rage, which is a run-off in front of all the com­peti­tors, fin­ished third over­all.

I have never felt so much pride and plea­sure from some­one else’s suc­cess; the unas­sum­ing, nice lady with the Ger­man long-haired has only just gone and got a third in the Mediter­ranean Cup. All of my life I’ve been taught to be hum­ble, but at this point I’m just so bloom­ing proud.

On Wed­nes­day we all en­tered an Open Trial, with the ex­cep­tion of Lin­sey who wisely chose to give her dog a day off. The rest of us had a great day of com­pe­ti­tion and con­tin­ued to gain knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence.

The main event

It was time for the Big One, the world cham­pi­onships. By now we had all set­tled in and the team looked re­laxed. The HPR le­gend, Mick Can­ham, had now joined us and it was clear that he needed as much sup­port as we could of­fer to get him and his dogs ac­cli­ma­tised to all the sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ences that this amaz­ing com­pe­ti­tion throws at you.

We started Thurs­day with some team train­ing, which was nice and re­laxed and all han­dlers and dogs looked to be in good shape. By 3pm we had all gath­ered at the cham­pi­onship HQ for the pre­sen­ta­tion of the teams, all dressed in team uni­form with our dogs and guns.

I did this in Ser­bia in 2014 – it was a fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ence but this time the team pre­sen­ta­tion was some­thing else. The at­mos­phere, stage and team ca­ma­raderie was great and as our na­tional an­them played out across the park it made me feel 10 feet tall. From the first time I en­tered a work­ing test I’ve al­ways wanted to be the best I can be… now here I am wear­ing a Team GB badge stood among some of the best in the world! It’s a feel­ing that will be hard to beat; if you don’t be­lieve me ask my team­mates. Bet­ter still, why not try it for your­self: train hard be the best you can be and get your­self to the team se­lec­tion next year.

The worlds ran on Fri­day and Sun­day, strad­dling the St Hu­ber­tus com­pe­ti­tion which ran on Satur­day. Sara, Maddy, Micheal, Rob and I com­peted in the com­pe­ti­tion called the St Hu­ber­tus. In this you carry a gun and shoot over your own dog; it’s my favourite as it puts des­tiny firmly in your own hands. The stew­ard takes you to your judges at which point you in­tro­duce your­self, your dog, your gun, choice of car­tridges and de­ter­mine the quarry species that you are hunt­ing to­day. Pheas­ant was the only quarry on the menu.

Your judges then iden­tify the area that you are to work and af­ter demon­strat­ing that you have as­sessed all around you, in­clud­ing wind di­rec­tion, you cast your dog. You have 20 min­utes to demon­strate your qual­i­ties as a hunt­ing part­ner­ship with your dog, your ob­jec­tive be­ing to hunt, point, shoot and re­trieve two birds. The GB team put in a ster­ling per­for­mance and once again Sara and Maddy showed off their skills with the mother and daugh­ter team fin­ish­ing sec­ond in the team scores.

Day one of the world cham­pi­onships was a good day for Team GB with han­dlers gain­ing awards. All dogs were fit and healthy and we were clearly wear­ing our very best game faces. It was now all about the fi­nal day, Sun­day. The day con­cluded at the wa­ter and all han­dlers and dogs that were in the run­ning for awards had to make wa­ter re­trieves. As each mem­ber of the GB team made easy work of the wa­ter it sud­denly be­came ap­par­ent that GB might have achieved some­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary.

None of us were re­ally sure, as the num­bers, maths and cal­cu­la­tions were not avail­able to us. We could only hope. As we shuf­fled ner­vously into the con­clud­ing evening’s award cer­e­mony one of the Czech Repub­lic com­peti­tors rushed over to us and whis­pered, “You do re­alise that the GB point­ers and set­ters are right up near the top of the points ta­ble? I’m sure Lin­sey is there as an in­di­vid­ual too.” Now the nerves re­ally kicked in!

Or­gan­is­ers thanked all of the judges, stew­ards, guides, cater­ers and an army of be­hind the scenes staff that made this cham­pi­onship run like clock­work. Mu­sic ac­com­pa­nied a su­perb sup­per and then came the award cer­e­mony. Our source was right! The pointer and set­ter team, Sara, Maddy and John, were sec­ond over­all in the team event. Lin­sey was third in the in­di­vid­ual awards. What an amaz­ing achieve­ment! Sec­ond placed team and third placed in­di­vid­ual in the world cham­pi­onships!

Be proud, Great Bri­tain.

Ready for the off: Howard and FTCH Tashi

All han­dlers are hop­ing for that mag­i­cal point and flush Howard Kirby, Chud­leys Brand Am­bas­sador

Sara, Maddy and John were sec­ond over­all in the team event

Run­ning in braces adds an­other di­men­sion to the trial

Lin­sey and Rory at the wa­ter in France

Lin­sey took third place over­all

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