Throughout the shooting season, many societies put on events known as 'Field Trials'. Field trials will be Novice, All Aged or Open, depending on the level of qualification and standard to which the dog is judged. A field trial is the competitive version of a day on the shoot. To gain the title of 'Field Trial Champion' your dog must gain 1st in two Open Field Trials under two different judges.
Novice trials are open to all dogs who have not gained a 1st in a Novice Stake or All-Aged Stake or a 1st - 3rd in an Open Stake, All Aged Trials are open to all dogs, and Open Trials are open to all dogs who are qualified out of novices. Preference in a draw is usually given to members of societies, hence it can be difficult to get a run in a field trial unless you have a suitably qualified dog and are a member of the hosting society.
A draw is made after the closing date to decide which handlers gain a place on the 'card'. This is a list of 12 handlers and dogs who have drawn an entry to the trial. There will also be reserves to replace handlers who are unable to attend the trial.
Each handler is given two runs, unless they make a disqualifying mistake on their first run. Disqualifying mistakes include;
- Missing a bird
- Running In* (not steady to flush or shot)
- Sticky on point (refusing to flush)
- Making noise
- Chasing (deer, hare)
- Damaging Game*
- Failing to retrieve
- Handler touching dog during run
*most common faults
The awards available are 1st - 4th and certificate of merit (CoM) (many of these can be given) however it is quite common that not all of these are given. If the judges decide there are no dogs of the required standard, they may withhold awards. If your dog gains an award, it will gain its studbook number. It will also be qualified out of novice at working tests (this can vary). The guns on the day also present a 'guns award' to the dog they most enjoyed shooting over.
To gain an award, the dog must complete a successful HPR (hunt, point & retrieve) with no disqualifying mistakes, followed by a cold game water retrieve. Although a complete HPR will give you a higher award, an award can still be gained from a split HPR, for example a hunt and point on your first run (and the guns miss the bird) and a retrieve on your second run (where the runner before you could not find the bird).
If your dog has completed a HPR, it will be asked to 'go to the water'. For a novice trial, this will normally be a straightforward seen retrieve using either a pigeon or pheasant (cold game). In an All-Aged and Open Stake, this will be a retrieve OVER water rather than IN it.
Dogs that hunt with passion and style in a good pattern, using the wind, will also gain a higher award than those who do not use the wind correctly or carry out other errors.
Trials are normally judged by two judges, one of which should be an 'A Panel' judge (for open it must be one A panel and at least a B panel, for other trials it is acceptable to have an A panel and a non-panel).
For more information on the regulations (J Regs) governing KC Field Trials, click here.
(Picture belongs to M Jones)