We were up in Oxford, NY, this weekend for the first field-trial of the season hosted by the Hudson Valley Brittany Club. The Lost Pond grounds are a working preserve owned and maintained, I gather (but I may be wrong), by the folks who operate Grouse Ridge Setters. And they have a really nice set-up, with well over 1000 acres groomed and maintained for bird cover.
I wanted to go up there to give Jozsi a dust-off and see where he was at, to run Mike + Kim's Rogue for them, and to get plenty of saddle time in. While I don't know anyone at the HVBC, I knew some of our usual cast of characters would be there running dogs or helping out, too. This first pic is of Dennis + Jen's rig as the sun set on Friday night; you can still make out the groomed feed strips and one of the many ponds on the grounds.
The first run of the weekend went to Jozsi. There were only two adult horseback stakes -- and with Brittanies required to win at a Brittany-club-hosted event to claim their Field Champion title, I decided to enter him in Open All-Age rather than Open Gun Dog to be sure he kept finding his range from a horse. All-age dogs are essentially expected to run and range with greater independence than regular gun-dogs. I didn't really know what to expect comparatively, ie. how his performance would measure against a potentially experienced all-age dog, and I was really pleasantly surprised. The short version of the stake would be that he ran and hunted objectives really nicely, maybe came in a little too often for a true all-age performance, had one unproductive and one clean find.
I think the judges may have thought I cautioned him into a point for the unproductive before he was actually sure of the bird. I, on the other hand, know what wagging tail and a low head means and so will swear that he had located a bird, that it was running through low undergrowth, and that he was fractions of a second away from going to get it. And I sure as hell wasn't going to relocate him. From what I gather, in the still air and bright sunlight of the late morning, a number of dogs weren't able to produce any finds. He needs work to get him styled up, but it was his first clean adult stake and I am proud.
Then came Rogue's run in Open Derby. This was to be her first run as a Derby dog, even though she is still 13mos old and eligible for Puppy. And while she is compact like her mother, she is built for speed. This little dog has drive like crazy and I enlisted Deb Goodie to serve as my scout and hopefully keep me and Nutball out of too much trouble. This second picture is of her at the breakaway -- and I think you get a good idea of what this dog was here to do. She ripped it up. Her instincts are really good and it was so great to see her power some edges. She did get a point in about 3/4 of the way round, and then, mercifully after she had popped that one, came around and realised there were more in the same spot and so re-pointed. And then went to the races. It took about five minutes to get her back but we managed to get her heading in the right direction. Then as the judge called time she bombed into the woods and was eventually driven out by Deb after standing quite beautifully, apparently, on a woodcock. All of that earned her a 4th in her first Open Derby!
The third picture is just funny and is from before our Open Derby run. Come Sunday morning, I had a feeling it might happen, but when I saw the course for Open Puppy, I realised we might be doomed. While they hadn't planted birds for it, the course featured a tight loop that ran awfully close to a series of heavily wooded, but groomed bird fields. We initially lost her in there for about five minutes before enticing her back, but as we looped back around she went back in and we couldn't get her back out in time. She, sadly, ran herself out of contention.
Jozsi's run in Amateur Limited Gun Dog (which was a walking stake) was sadly a mere 4mins of glory. To give him a tiny bit of slack, he had spent most of 6hrs in his crate waiting to run. And his first 3:50 was awesome. He ran a beautiful line that I hadn't seen another dog run that day and, perhaps not surprisingly, found a bird in a spot no-one else had either. It was probably 50:50 whether he bumped the bird because while he was making birdy, he hadn't also set up in any way. In any case, a bird popped, he stopped, but started up again. And that, sadly, is all you need to end an otherwise promising run.
The final picture is of Bob and his dog, Belle. Not my regular friend, Bob, and his dog, Belle, but another. In any case, I think it's just a nice picture. This is in many ways what trialing is about. Friends messing about with dogs and horses, having a good time (especially when the weather is good) and trying not to take anything (and especially yourselves) too seriously.