Tomorrow will probably be Laddie's last trial this year. I've been too busy with work to send regular posts, but I thought I'd record how we trained the last week before our last trial of the season.
Saturday and Sunday were off days. That would not have been my choice but none of my assistants were available.
Monday, Laddie and I went with two assistants to Cheltenham to run two water triples, with me throwing the go-bird as a side throw. Every mark except the first side throw tested water honesty, and Laddie was honest on every mark without the need for handling. For the first series, the long mark was retired and the second mark was semi-retired (thrower was mostly hidden once sitting down). Both had difficult lines and Laddie ran them well, but he glanced back at me (a pop) near the end of the long retired mark as he came out of the water after a long swim. For the second triple, our entire field was in shadow (it was after sunset), and the long mark was quite long and complex (four or five water entries), but I kept the gunners out. Laddie nailed all the marks with no popping.
Tuesday I ran Laddie on two land blinds. The first was 130y and featured a mound at 90y, with the line crossing the downslope on one side. I expected that Laddie would veer around it, giving me a handling opportunity, but he held his line so no whistle needed. The second was 310y over complex terrain and required a few whistles, to which Laddie was responsive on the sits and accurate on the casts. Those were our only blinds of the week. I've been avoiding running blinds and marks on the same day because of my concern that doing so may make popping more likely, as the dog perhaps loses clarity on whether running independently or under control. I would have preferred to train on the weekend and have an off day Monday-Thursday, but at least Tuesday was light training.
Wednesday I was again only able to get two assistants (I usually try for three), but we still ran two land triples with me throwing side throws as the go-bird. Both memory birds were retired on both marks, both triples featured one mark over 300y, and all four memory marks were over difficult, complex terrain, the triples as difficult as I knew how to make them in those locations. Laddie nailed every mark with no popping.
Whereas I viewed Wednesday as a training day, with double-retired guns plus long, complex lines, Thursday was intended as a confidence day. With three assistants, we ran two triples which by size and difficulty level were scaled down to what I've seen as typical in Quals. For the first, a xmas-tree configuration, only the shorter memory bird was retired. For the second, a round-the-horn longest-to-shortest configuration, only the long memory mark was retired. The terrain was somewhat hilly but not too complex. In both series Laddie nailed every mark without popping.
I don't know what surprises await us in the trial on Saturday, and I remain acutely aware of the severe disadvantage we have in not being permitted to train with a field trial group. But I feel Laddie is as prepared as I know how to get him under the circumstances. I'll rest him today, and tomorrow at 330am we'll head out to the trial.