by Amy Bates Field trials and tribulations
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.