We have just completed the Spring Trials here in Ireland, N Ireland and Scotland. Weather unfortunately played a part in adversely affecting these events this year, as on 4 trips to Dublin for Trials in the Mountains there, we very badly hampered on 3 occasions due to a combination of fog, frost or snow. Even the events which did run as normal were in cold conditions with a predominantly easterly wind, which is not good for scenting. That said, I was quite pleased with the overall return for the events I did run in.
In the Ulster Irish Red Setter Club’s Open Spring Trial at Murley Mt, Co Tyrone I was awarded 1st with FTCh Ballyellen Cody and 2nd with his sister Ballyellen Cara – an ESB I’ve trained and handle for her owner Red Mills’s Bill Connolly.
In the last week of March I travelled to Scotland for a week’s Trialling in this mecca for bird-dogs. The first event we hoped to participate in was the Gordon Setter Association’s Novice Stake on Saturday 23rd. However this didn’t take place as we were snowed into Stranraer and couldn’t make the 200 mile journey north in time. By Monday 25th we were where we were supposed to be and gathered at Drynachan Lodge for the meet with the other competitors for 2 days trialling on the magnificent Cawdor Estate just south of Inverness.
There was an excellent showing of grouse during the first round, but dogs just were not availing of the chances offered them. The first to record a find was Ballyellen Cara – a nice find on the left wing, taken after an impressive run. My little dark ESB Gortinreagh Clio – also had a clever find just over the crest of a hill when she produced a pair of grouse. A few others added to the finds tally, but by the end of the first round of 30 dogs there were more missed opportunities than taken ones. The judges called 9 brace back for another run in Round 2 and I was very pleased to see Cara continue to run as she had in the first very wide and flat, with pace and flair. Clio sinned her soul when she proved just a little harder to pick up than she should have been (a result of her enforced inactivity due to being snowed in over the weekend!)
3 brace of dogs were recalled for another run in Round 3 and again Cara had a long and flawless run, so I was delighted to be awarded the stake when we returned to Drynachan Lodge for the awards.
I think the highlight of my week came when we ran in the Scottish Field Trial Association’s Open Stake on Dalmagarry Estate near Tomatin on Friday 29th. My 16 month old youngster Gortinreagh Eppie had proved to be a very precocious talent in 2012 competing in her first puppy stake at the English Setter Club’s Open Stake at Eggleston Moor, Co Durham at the age of 8 months in July 2012 and being awarded 3rd. She had won an Open Stake in Ireland at 11 months and had come out of the winter looking very mature and promising.
We were drawn early on with Carol Calvert’s IRSB and after just a cast Eppie slammed decisively onto point, drawing out when asked to produce a pair of grouse. The judges brought the brace back together and released them again, after just another couple of wide fast casts she set again and worked out a fair way to produce another pair of birds. The judges had seen enough and she progressed to Round 2. Again the day proved to be one where scenting conditions were very poor and known good gamefinders were having problems. Eppie ran with Laurence McAlister’s good PB Ardclinis Caitlin in the second round and after a few casts she drew forward decisively and set again. The Pointer, steaming in from the left, could have put pressure on her, but she backed and stood firm while Eppie worked out producing one bird and then continued out a wee way further to produce the hen. it was very impressive work from any dog, never mind one so young. The judges, the vastly experienced husband and wife team of Colin and Julie Organ, were obviously satisfied as they did not ask Eppie to run again and when the prizes were announced she was named the winner – becoming a FTCh at 16 1/2 months. It made my week.
July / August 2013
Our first Trial was the UK Puppy Derby and it was good to win it with Eppie. 10 days on the Scottish circuit followed and we won 3 out of the 4 Puppy Stakes – 1 with Eppie’s brother Eric and 2 with Flyer. Excel added a Novice win to the list and Flyer attained a Certificate of Merit in another Novice while Cara recorded an Open win, thus making the trip very successful indeed. My newly acquired Tullycroman Isla was 2nd in her debut Novice Stake at Muggleswick Estate in Co Durham and was very unlucky not to figure in several others, once when I rushed her on when she was indicating birds and once when she was run 3 times but did not have an opportunity for game on a day when most of the others had fallen and it was clear she had caught the judges attention. However, hopefully her day will come.
A visit to Monaghan on our return home saw FTCh Ballyellen Cara secure runner-up spot. On 17th August, Gortinreagh Dixie won his second Open Stake to gain his FTCh title – a satisfying day!
September / October 2013
What a good season this has turned out to be! Following on from Dixie’s success in August, we began the September Trials with enthusiasm. Our first outing was at the Ulster Irish Red Setter Club’s Open Stake in mid-September. What a horrible day it was! There was a horrendously strong wind and fog and rain to start with, although the wind did moderate a bit and the sun actually came out for a while in the afternoon. Conditions made it very difficult for dogs to pin game and the birds were very jumpy. Eppie had bad luck as she tailed a covey of running grouse, but the jumped just over a ridge, unseen by the judge. Cara however was lucky enough to be drawn in banks and pointed after a long run in heavy heather in the second round. Birds rose in front and she worked out to where they lifted. It was enough to land her the competition. The next weekend we were in Glennoo and Eppie again showed her extreme skill around game as she recorded 3 very impressive finds on partridge. Her last one was quite special – she had pointed on top of a turf bank and had to wait while her bracemate had a long and slow non-productive work out. During this time the partridge she was pointing decided to see what was going on and popped its head out of the heather about 6 feet below her! She waited patiently and staunchly until asked by the judge to move in, when she dropped down behind the partridge, took a step and flushed it professionally remaining totally steady. This secured the stake for her, and it was pleasing to see Cara securing runner-up spot.
The following week we were at Craigs Moss for the NIPC Pheasant Stake. This is always a super trial and was being judged by local man Robert Simpson, with Dom Goutorbe who had travelled from Derbyshire to officiate. The stand-out dogs were Laurence McAlister’s fine pointer bitch FTCh Ardclinis Caitlin and my own Cara. When the results were announced the judges gave Cara the nod – stating it was the way she had gone about the whole day with virtually no handling from me – that had secured the victory for her. Laurence was second.
A mountain Trial at Slieveanorra followed. The weather was beautiful and there was a good supply of game. All my dogs pleased me but it was great to see Cody back to his old self – he’d been a bit short of fitness, having had a minor operation earlier on in the season. He put in 2 impressive rounds of A+ running in heavy terrain and had two cracking finds. Cara had run well to in both rounds and had a very interesting find at the end of a long run in Round 1. The judges and 2 competitors could hear a cock grouse calling in the near distance in front and there was a great element of suspense to see whether this obviously “on edge” grouse would wait to be pointed or flush wild. It was also not apparent exactly where he was so it was entirely up to the dog. Cara did not disappoint but broke her cast, drew out thirty yards and set. She was rock steady to the flush and then went on to produce 2 more birds. These performances game Cody and Cara first and second places respectively.
Next day we went to the UIRSC Open Stake and I was delighted to win with a very mature performance from my 23 month old ESD Gortinreagh Excel. Totally steady to a tucked in pheasant in very wild and blustery conditions.
At Glennoo for the second Partridge Trial it was the old pro 3 year old Cody who kept it all together to win the day when many dogs did good work and showed excellent running. Cody’s power and precision was great and he recorded 2 very clean and steady finds. Excel was a little more erratic in her ground work compared to her dad, so she had to make do with a Certificate of Merit.
We then headed for Monaghan, where Donegal FTA hold their trials. Cody proved he was right back in the groove as he claimed the top spot once again. A third place for FTCh Gortinreagh Eppie – still a month short of her second birthday completed what has been a very satisfying season.
Eppie’s early title and her triumph in the Derby must rank as highlights, but making up 2 other champions and qualifying 3 other very young dogs also pleased me greatly.
Click the link below to see a summary of the awards gained by the Kennel in 2013.