Our long awaited trip to the SATS trial last weekend did not go as well as we would have hoped but nevertheless we were pleased with Lunar and Spica and enjoyed our day.
It is a long trip for us to Hailsham in Sussex and with a 9.30am report time we knew it would be a very early start. This was no easy task with two pups still at home, but we were lucky to have an offer of help from my daughter who agreed to come in to the pups at lunchtime and again at tea time, so we had only to sort out the morning feed. However, I am sure they were a bit surprised to be having breakfast so early, and they certainly werenít ready to settle down again after breakfast despite the fact it was still dark. We had decided to leave Leo and Sian at home as well, so they had company they could see, and once we had made sure they were clean and dry with plenty of toys and water we just had to leave. I have had no complaints from neighbours so assume they must have been quiet, and they certainly had a good playtime when my daughter turned up later.
Juno came with us and so a big day for her going to her first trial and Phoebe came as well as the steadying influence/ babysitter. It takes almost four hours for us to get to this trial but at least at that time of the morning we didnít get any hold ups, so arrived in good time. The base was a very tidy farmyard with a barn for booking in and refreshments and plenty of hard standing. The down side was that dogs had to stay in vehicles in the yard so there was no opportunity to get Juno out and about, but we left the back door open so that she could watch what was going on and, after an initial bark at the gathering of handlers, she soon relaxed and laid down watching the proceedings with interest.
The first thing we both wanted to know is what we were tracking on, as although we were fairly confident it was corn, we just wanted to make sure. Unfortunately we were in for a bit of a shock when we heard it was not corn but beans, but when we heard the story behind it we had every sympathy with Les Allen the trials manager who had himself had a bit of a surprise. Having ensured that there was enough corn available for all stakes and being assured by the farmer that no spraying on spreading would take place on these fields until after the trial, he was horrified to see a tractor and spreader begin treating the corn the day before the trial started. Despite his dismay he was relieved that he had seen the tractor as otherwise he wouldnít have known and would have run the trial on these treated fields with who knows what potential harm to the dogs. When he approached the farmer he was told that the work had to go on as the weather was right and he was offered the bean fields instead. Although I donít think any of us were pleased with the beans, at least the crop was untreated and no risk to our dogs, so we decided to make the best of it.
The SATS trial is currently the only one day championship trial, and this format does not please everyone. It certainly has an effect on entries which are lower than one would expect for a championship TD trial and this year resulted in Roger Shrimpton having only 36 to judge. The advantage of a one day trial is that having completed all sections you know whether or not you have qualified, and unless you are in the lead there is no need to return on the final day. With the daily results published online each day it is just a case of watching to see where you finish up and finding out who wins. There is no doubt that some of the atmosphere of the final day is lost with this type of trial but with the cost of fuel constantly rising it may well be that we will see more of these in the future.
Having looked at the results of the previous days with high failure rates and never having tracked on beans before neither of us was feeling very confident but when I went on with Lunar I was amazed how well she did. After a confident start she made a very good job of three quarters of the track with hardly a mark lost although I had realised that with no articles at this stage we had probably missed one or two. Unfortunately, about three legs from home Lunar lost it and despite working very hard was not able to pick it up again and so our track was over. Roger said he was very disappointed as she had been going so well and I felt much the same but I could not be displeased with her as she had worked so hard and gone so well on what was obviously a very difficult surface. She went on to do a good square with three out and so as far as she was concerned she had no sense of failure.
Paul and Spica were on next but they too struggled and were unable to complete the track so both of us out and finished by 11.30am. Although this is disappointing we both felt our dogs had done their very best, and it was good for us to get to a trial and catch up with friends. We also were able to get Juno out and about at the exercise area so she had a little taste of trials as well, and with such an early finish we were able to get back for the pups evening meal and save my daughter coming over.
When we had been checking result in the days leading up to the final day we realised that Tony Lockyer and GSD Lawinick Come And Get It At Hartshill (Isla) had kept a convincing lead all week and so it was no surprise to find that at the end of the week the ticket went to them. This is a second ticket for Isla and would normally give her her title but I think I am right in saying that, as both these tickets have come under the same judge, they do not qualify for the title. If this is the case I am sure it will not be long before they get another one and Isla gains the title she so obviously deserves.
Next weekend we will be looking at trials from the other side as we are judging at the Iceni open trial. Although not working our own dogs it is just as nerve racking and not something we look forward to but I am sure we will enjoy it once we are there and start seeing some good dogs working.