Entering a Field Trial
TEXT TAKEN From Kennel Club ltd website
When you have been a member of a Field Trial Society for some time and been attending training sessions and Gundog Working Tests, you will be advised when your dog is ready for competition. Field Trial Societies send schedules to all their members before a Trial and when you and your dog are ready you should complete the entry form and return it to the Field Trials Secretary.
The schedule will tell you when and where the Trial is taking place and that Stakes are scheduled. Field Trials can consist of one or more Stakes, which are separate competitions at that Trial and can be limited by the age or previous experience and wins of the dog. You should study the schedule carefully to ensure that you enter the correct Stake for your dog.
It is also important to complete the entry form as legibly and accurately as possible; your dog's registered details should be exactly as they appear on the Kennel Club registration certificate and your name and address should be clearly marked to assist the Field Trial Secretary in advising competitors of the draw. The schedule will also tell you by what date your entry form should be returned to the Trial organisers, known as the 'closing date'.
After the closing date for entries the Society Committee will conduct a draw to pick the competitors for the Trial. As has already been mentioned, Field Trials are usually over-subscribed so you may not be lucky enough to get a run the very first time you apply for entry. Different types of Trial allow different numbers of competitors and the Trial Secretary will advise all entrants of their placing in the draw. If there are only 20 places available, and you are number 32, you will not get a run unless 12 people in front of you drop out. With so many people keen to compete you must advise the Trial organisers immediately if you have to drop out of a Trial to give another competitor a chance to run in the Trial.
There's a great deal to think about before you go to a Field Trial. Firstly, you must dress
appropriately. You should wear plenty of layers of warm clothing, and wellington boots and a water and wind proof coat are a must. It's also important that your clothes are dark, or in neutral tones - bright coloured garments may startle game.
With the vagaries of the British weather you are well advised to take a change of clothing with you, so that you are not faced with a cold and damp car journey home.
You should also pack the food and drink you are going to need during the course of the day. Sometimes Judges do not stop for lunch, particularly when there are reduced daylight hours in the autumn and winter, so you should think about things you can eat in the field if you cannot wait until a day's competition is over.
Field Trials usually mean a long car journey so think about your dog's needs too - a good strong travelling box and plenty of water will make its trip comfortable. Often working dogs are not fed before a day's work but you should remember to pack your dog's bowls and some dog food as you may not return home from a Trial until late in the evening.
Although the Schedule and draw will tell you where the Trial is going to take place you should also take a good map with you. Field Trials are usually signposted when you get near to the meeting point but it can often be very difficult to track down exactly which field you need to be heading for.
Many people choose to travel the day before the Trial and stay in bed and breakfast. If you do decide to do this, always double check that the management are happy to take dogs and that there is somewhere suitable to exercise your dog.
At the Trial
You should allow yourself plenty of time to reach the meeting point. If you are late, one of the reserves may get the chance to run in your place and all your preparation and long
journey will have been wasted.
Once you have found the meeting point you
should let the Field Trial Secretary know that you have arrived. They will mark you as present on the card, which lists all the people
and dogs taking part in the Trial, and give you a numbered arm band which you must wear
throughout the Trial. This is how you will be easily identified during the Trial.
Before the trial starts, a briefing will be held to introduce the host (if present), the gamekeeper and the guns, to explain how the day will run and any special instructions. Competitors must always attend this briefing both for their own interest and to be courteous to the Trial organisers and host. Field Trial Societies rely on the generosity of land owners to host Trials and keep the sport alive. The host not only
provides the land to hold the Trial and the game, but also the guns, the beaters, the game carriers and the gamekeeper. It is vital, that you treat the countryside with respect and are always courteous to the estate staff.
After the briefing, everyone will either walk or drive to where the Stakes are to take place. Safety is a very important consideration and spectators, and dogs and owners not competing, must stay behind a red flag carried by one of the Stewards. This ensures that
everyone stays out of the way of the guns and that people do not stray onto parts of the estate they are not meant to.
During each Stake the Judges will ask each dog to work a number of times under various conditions. The Kennel Club's J Regulations set out in detail the manner in which the Trial should proceed. Competitors should make themselves familiar with the Regulations well before they enter their first Field Trial. Judges will be looking closely at how your dog works, making a note of all its strengths but also of its major faults.
There are also a number of eliminating faults in each Stake such as whining and barking, hard mouth, running in and chasing, failing to find game that another dog can find, and changing game whilst retrieving. There are different eliminating faults for each Stake and handlers should be well aware of these, both in training and in competition.
If your dog does commit an eliminating fault it is excluded from further participation in the Trial. This can be very disappointing if it occurs on your dog's first run but you should lose with good grace and enjoy the rest of the day's shooting. It is considered very poor form to leave a Trial early simply because your dog has not performed to the best of its ability. Always thank the Judges and Trial Secretary before
Handling your dog
Attending your first Field Trial may cause your dog to behave differently than it does in training. Young dogs in particular can be bothered by crowds and if this is the case you can move a little way from other competitors and officials. You must, however, let the Steward know what you are doing and why. You will not be penalised for controlling your dog in this manner. It is a good idea to tell your Judge and Steward that you are competing in your first Field Trial as they will
make their directions clear and offer you help.
Working Gundogs should be kept under good control at all times, both whilst waiting to compete and during the Stakes. You should always be aware of how your dog is reacting and what it is doing. If it does misbehave, you should never handle your dog harshly, or use punitive correction during a Trial. This could land you in trouble with the Kennel Club and also indicates that you have not trained your dog properly. All dogs should be trained and worked using plenty of encouragement.
If for any reason you become aware that your dog is not going to work well – we all have our off days - you should ask the Judge's permission to withdraw. This is a courtesy that must be observed and ensures that the Judges' and Stewards' time is not wasted.
Leaving the Trial
At the end of the Trial there will be a number of presentations that all competitors are expected to stay for. The host, gamekeeper and guns will be thanked; awards for each
Stake will be presented, together with any Certificates of Merit other dogs may have earned; the overall winner will thank the Judges and make any other comments about the Trial.
So, as you can see, there are many exciting and interesting challengers on the long road from basic training to Field Trial competition. Careful preparation at every stage is vital. Put the effort in and you’ll find it an enormously rewarding process.
For an explanation of the Field Trial Awards please click on the link: Field Trial Awards.
Kennel Club Ltd - Starting out in Gundog Events
Kennel Club Ltd - Glossary of Training Terms