Sunday, June 27, 2010

Training with Field Trial group

Park Heights
Lumi, Laddie, and I used to train with Bob Hux at Timmy's property in Park Heights quite often, but in the year and half since Bob retired to Florida, we've only been to Timmy's property once, when Bob came back for a visit. Since Bob's groups were HT-oriented, we've never run FT set-ups at Park Heights.

But last night, Tony, one of the trainer's in Charlie's Cheltenham group, called me to let me know that several of the trainers were going to meet at Park Heights in the morning to train on grounds where the hay had just been cut, providing practice for that kind of terrain for the dogs.

We're in the middle of a heat wave and temps would reach the mid-90s, so we met at 8:00 AM, ran two series with the dogs swimming on every retrieve, and finished by noon.

SERIES A. Five singles

All of the dogs ran this set-up the same way, as five singles all within a 30° angle:
  1. 110 yards to far right, a pheasant thrown right to left on a sharp angle back
  2. 120 yards to far left, a pheasant thrown right to left behind a tree
  3. 230 yards to middle right, a pheasant thrown right to left on an angle back
  4. 230 yards to middle left, a duck thrown left to right
  5. 270 yards center, a duck thrown right to left on an angle back
A busy rural road ran less than 50 yards to the right of #1 and #3, so if any dog got too far behind the throwers on those marks, the gunners immediately began to help them as a matter of safety.

The property's technical pond lay between the SL and all five marks. #1 and #3 had suction for the dog to run the bank to the right. #2 required the dog to go on-and-off a point.

The lines to #4 and #5 involved going past several trees on either side.

I think that for most dogs, the primary challenges of Series A were the size of the set-up (given the hot weather), and the fact that the dog would lose sight of the falls while crossing the pond, losing sight of the fall twice on #2, where the fall was already obscure because it was behind a tree. Another challenge was the suction to run the bank on #1, #2 (second water crossing), and #3. I believe that the Skimming Drill we have run nearly every day for several weeks in a variety of locations benefited Laddie on today's work, since he required no handling to get in the water and stay on line for any of these marks.

From what I saw, only three dogs ran all five marks without requiring help or handling on any of them. They were Timmy's dog; another dog who regularly trains on FT set-ups on Timmy's property; and Laddie, who pinned every mark with little or no hunting.

Tony told me later that Laddie had done a nice job. Tony is an AKC HT and FT judge as well as an experienced hunter and trainer, so that was nice to hear.

However, Laddie exhibited one behavior pattern that could get us into trouble in an event. On the positive side, as he entered the water with the birds on three of his returns, he simply swam across the pond, climbed out, and delivered the birds. But on two of the returns, he dropped the birds at the far side of the pond and began floating around and lapping water. In each case he responded to "Fetch" by picking up the bird and completing his return, but a bird might have escaped if he'd done that with a "cripple". The good news was that he entered the water without hesitation, something we struggled with for much of Laddie's life, but the bad news was those two delays completing his returns once he was in.

Here's a satellite view of Series A:

View 20100627 Series A in a larger map

SERIES B. Two water singles

After watching how tired some of the dogs had gotten running Series A, the guys setting up Series B decided to limit it to two retrieves, after which we would quit for the day.

The ten or so dogs that ran Series B did so in a wide variety of ways, using several different start lines. Most of them ran it as two singles, but at least one ran it as a double. I'll describe the series as Laddie ran it. I believe he was one of only two dogs who ran it with a retired gun.

The first mark was on the right, thrown right to left across the end of the pond into a clump of high grass at 120 yards. The entry was on a very sharp angle that invited the dog to run the right side of the pond, and several of the dogs tried to do so, but Laddie entered the water on line to the bird and completed the swim to the end of the pond without handling. When he reached the end of the pond, he came out where the thrower was rather than where the bird had been thrown, but he immediately darted left, picked the bird up, and re-entered the water. During his return, I had to repeatedly handle him to the left to keep him from getting out of the water, the only time all day I handled him.

The second mark was on the left, thrown right to left from in front of a tree onto the grassy area past the pond at 140 yards. I used a different SL for this mark, such that Laddie had a shorter swim compared to the first mark but a longer run before entering water. The run from the SL to the water entry was down into a depression and then back up over the dike at the edge of the pond, and the gunner retired behind a camouflage umbrella as the dog traversed that depression.

Thick, 8' high grass grew in a large clump at the edge of the water and lay on the line for the second mark, but until the end of the series, none of the dogs, including Laddie, tried to run thru it, instead skirting it by detouring a little to the right, or in one case skirting it to the left. Finally, Timmy ran his dog next to last and handled his dog to run thru the cover, and at that point I realized I should have done the same thing with Laddie. The cover looked impenetrable, but Timmy's dog had no trouble running thru it, so if this kind of situation comes up again, I'll check out the cover before assuming that Laddie can't run thru it.

Here's a satellite view of Series B:

View 20100627 Series B in a larger map

1 comment:

mic_comte said...

Very interresting post.
FYI, here is how Field trials are done in France:
Field trials

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