Field trials and tribulations
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.