by Amy Bates Field tri­als and tribu­la­tions

Shooting Gazette - - Gundogs -

Hav­ing only been to a cou­ple of all-aged re­triever stakes, I’m still not en­tirely sure what their pur­pose is. Other than giv­ing some­one an­other bite of the cherry re­gard­ing mov­ing out of novice,

I think they are a wasted op­por­tu­nity for hold­ing a one-day open stake. The two all-aged stakes I have been to were both on su­perb ground, the at­mos­phere very jolly and both were ex­tremely wel­com­ing with great hos­pi­tal­ity. Every­one was catered for – there wasn’t a “them and us” feel­ing be­tween of­fi­cials, Guns and the com­peti­tors. A novice dog win­ning an all-aged stake means they can move into open stakes but an open dog win­ning one means ab­so­lutely noth­ing – it doesn’t count to­wards mak­ing up a field trial cham­pion. I sup­pose some must use them al­most as train­ing tri­als. I won­der if the pure plea­sure of run­ning a dog is why the at­mos­phere and gen­eral cheer­ful­ness of the trial made the two that I have been to so en­joy­able?

The all-aged stake in the north of Eng­land I at­tended was on a typ­i­cally bril­liant Northum­ber­land ground with ev­ery­thing from snipe to hares be­ing shot; it was good fun and we were well looked af­ter. The one in the south of Eng­land was on a shoot new to tri­alling. The host spent the en­tire day with us as the pick­ers-up and some fan­tas­tic run­ners were taken, and I mean taken. Through­out the day the dogs were given the chance to pick in var­i­ous cover; a lit­tle drive was put on and dogs worked in a wood as well as walk­ing-up in beet in glo­ri­ous Oc­to­ber sun­shine. The point is that the trial was on a charm­ing shoot – that one of the com­mit­tee mem­bers ap­proached – and the host truly was the host, as it was a given trial. I find it irk­some when the card says “by kind in­vi­ta­tion of” when we all know the club is pay­ing for the trial or it is in part paid for by the Guns too. We re­ally need to ad­dress this. If we need to buy tri­als then we should do it in a much more pro­fes­sional way. If clubs weren’t hell bent on us­ing the same grounds – in some cases even let­ting the shoot own­ers dic­tate who can and can not en­ter the paid-for trial – and used all the re­sources avail­able to them by way of club mem­bers and con­tacts, they would find shoots that would give tri­als for noth­ing. More on that at a later date.

Per­haps those who gov­ern our sport should re­visit what an all-aged stake is for – or, in view of how lovely the two to­tally dif­fer­ent ones that I have been to were, per­haps not.

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