After 800 miles and nearly twenty hours of driving thru heavy traffic, endless construction delays, and torrential thunderstorms, Laddie and I are finally home from our last competition of the spring.
Here are a few observations and thoughts.
During the trial, I had the opportunity to speak with the judge from our previous trial. I had been fairly confident that we were in position for a placement, possibly even a high placement, when we were suddenly disqualified as Laddie came up on an old fall during his hunt on the last mark of that trial. When I asked the judge about it, he said, "Yeah, it was heartbreaking. Until that last bird, he was winning the trial." So one more bird and we would have had a win and a QAA designation. Sigh.
Similarly, in yesterday's qual, I was again pretty confident that Laddie was in a high position, possibly the top position, coming into the last series. I say that because, in a field of 46 entries, Laddie had seemed to be alone in first place after the first series. After that, his land blind wasn't great, but his water blind was again one of the top two or three, if not the best outright. Unfortunately, in the water triple, I had to pick him up when, running as the second dog in the rotation, he was unable to come up with the difficult go-bird flyer.
So from these last couple of trials, I think I've learned that I should not be afraid to run Laddie in a large qualifier with accomplished, pro trained and handled dogs, that the workshops we took this spring seem to have raised our game, and that Laddie needs more practice with field trial level water marks. That, in combination with continued other work, will be our goal this summer to prepare for fall competition.
By the way, Laddie did not vocalize today running the water blind. However, one of the Labs did, during the long land section. A nearby handler in the gallery commented, "Sounds like my Golden, only he does it in water." That is now the fourth or fifth Golden I've seen or heard about with that trait.
Well, the fact that Laddie has run so many quals without a placement is discouraging. But I think it shows that a beginning trainer and handler who has trained over the years primarily without the encouragement and guidance of experienced field trialers has to learn many of the lessons needed for success during actual trials instead, at high cost in terms of dollars, hours, years, and emotions.