One of the highlights a couple of years ago the Swedish championship! I got the opportunity to start with the dog Kat again, and I am very grateful and happy about that! I get lots of experiences about competing thanks to Kat and I learn new things every time I start on a field trial with her. And to take part in a championship is really something very special.
This time we were down in the south of Sweden for a whole weekend. I grow up in a city close to this place and this time the countryside really showed itself at its best with lots of sun and not that much wind (it sometimes blows like crazy in this part of Sweden) and there were lots of birds. Kat and I started as number two, and that means that I was to start first, because two contestants start at the same time in “winner’s class” (UK Open Class).
I was pretty nervous, but most of all I was very excited. My goal was to get so far in the trial that I would be judged by both the judges. Kat has been a bit uneven in her work and she sometimes does everything in a great way, but sometimes she can be a bit hesitant, and I am not really sure about how to handle it. So, my nervousness was mostly about her mood this particular day.
It began with hesitation. But I have to say to Kats defense that she did two turns and then the other dog flushed the bird. Two birds were shot, and the other dog retrieved the first one, and then it was Kat’s and my turn. To retrieve the bird, she had to run over a stone wall, through a hedge, and then out on a field, not more than 30 yards away from where we stood. I tried to send her to the left, but she understood it as a push back, so I turned her around and recalled her so she was by my side again, and then I sent her off straight ahead as if it were a semi-blind retrieve (yes, you can do that in the world of spaniels ?). She did this in a great way and then I gave her the cue to hold an area. Instead she started to hunt in a huge area, and she was on her way to the audience behind us, but turned around beautifully on my signal, and then started to search in the right area until she found the bird. It was a partridge and for some reason she did some strange things with it before she actually took it, and I had to blow the signal for recall twice to make her speed up. I started to get a little annoyed. She delivered the bird to my hand in a great way and it was undamaged when I took it.
We continued hunting, and at this point I decided to be more supportive, because I wanted her to search more active than in the beginning, when she was a bit too careful. After a couple of turns she actually started to work better. I walked along the stone wall with one shooter very close to me, and when Kat flushed the shooter was a little bit behind me to the left. I got a feeling as if a war just started when they began to shoot to the left and right, and I totally lost my focus and I didn’t mark the bird or the birds. I hoped that Kat marked the birds, and when the judge asked me to send her, I just said “retrieve” and waved my hand a little. A somewhat unclear signal. ? Kat ran straight out in the field, and the judge said patiently: “Lena, the bird is out to the left in the field”. I almost wanted to giggle, because I was so confused, and I could also hear that the judge was trying to hide his laughter. I should, of course, have asked where the bird was. Just in that moment, when I wanted to stop Kat, a bird flew up, but she respected it (sat spontaneously) and I recalled her and sent her to the other side of the stone wall again. This time she almost ran straight into it, but again she did things with the bird, and it took a long time before she retrieved it.
After that we had to hunt some more, and when the other dog flushed the next time Kat and I retrieved the first bird, and at that point I had already reached my goal to be judged by both the judges, and it felt good.
I was happy and relieved when I went back to the audience on the other side to wait for my turn. In that situation I didn’t think so much about my mistakes, but instead I tried to make Kat a little more excited, and I stood with her in the front row, and let her watch when the other dogs hunted and while birds were shot. She is a total contrast to Tassla, who has to stand in the back and do something else, otherwise she gets so stressed that she almost tumbles around …
When we started the next time, we were in a wide field that had been cultivated for the birds, and I realized at once that I had to work a lot to get Kat to hunt the whole area. Initially, I did a great job. I zigzagged through the whole area and, finally, Kat really started to hunt! However, there was a strong wind that came from the left side, and I was a little confused about the fact that she mostly only wanted to do very short turns to the right. I urged her to hunt further away to the right. Suddenly, she had a tendency to get sidetracked, and I tried to turn her around, but right at that moment she flushed a pheasant. A situation that I should have understood a lot better. She sat down and the bird was shot. This time she retrieved the bird as well as delivered it to my hand in a perfect way. We continued to work in the same area and Kat hunted in a nice way. Once again, she had a tendency to get sidetracked, and at this point I wasn’t as focused on her work as I was in the beginning. Suddenly, Kat changed direction and run past me in the other direction – no, no – and then she turned around and flushed a bird. We had missed a small part of the area and there was a bird.
Oh, I was so disappointed. I had lost my focus and didn’t make sure that Kat had hunted all over the grounds. She should, of course, do that by herself, but if she doesn’t, I need to help her. We were so close to manage both our runs!
Well, after being miserable for a short while, I once again had a feeling that I learned a lot of new things, which I can use the next time. To end up in front of the shooter at such a distance that he shoots behind me straight up in the sky, and I miss to mark the bird and I have no idea, where it had landed, was new to me. And if I don’t have a clue where the bird is, I actually should ask the judge ?.
And it was nice area. There were a lot of birds and many things happened all the time – almost too much. Kat didn’t really start to hunt in the first run, because they shot all the time. It wasn’t a smooth hunt, it was rather a bit inharmonious. The second run I had more control and was surer about what I did. I enjoyed the situation a little, until I lost focus again.
I don’t think there will be any more field trials for Kat this year, but instead we will hunt a lot. I think we both will enjoy that very much. Kat is reliable and obedient, it’s never complicated to hunt with her.
But the Swedish Championship is very special, and I hope that I can do it again sometime. Right now, however, I have no idea which dog I will do it with. ?
Photographer: Leif Zimmer, zimmer.se
By the way, I want to congratulate Anna Lindholm and her dog Wildphoebes Nighthawk “Penny”, who won the championship for the second year in a row. It makes me happy when Tassla’s relatives do well!? (Penny and Tassla are cousins).