The Association of Sheep, Police and Army Dog Society Enfield TD Trial is one that we were really looking forward to as it is a reasonably good run for us, and we had a really respectable report time of 12.30 on the Saturday. This spring trial is usually the last one on corn, as by this time the crop is getting almost too long to walk on. For a long time I wasnít able to enter Enfield with either Libby or Phoebe as the length and sharpness of the crop at this time of year would rip their mouths to shreds, and they would both finish their track looking as if they had had their throats cut. No such problems with Lunar who obviously tracks with her mouth shut, and when we went out to practise in the days leading up to the trial she showed no signs of this distressing problem. However, this was not the case with Spica who, like the girls before him, also tracks open mouthed and so ripped his mouth on the corn, and Paul said if he had not already entered Enfield he probably would not bother.
Nevertheless we set off to Enfield with high hopes, both dogs had been tracking really well on the corn at home, and although we didnít have the usual spring weather at least it was dry with a bit of a breeze, and as we had had a couple of days heavy rain at home we expected it to be moist. Surprisingly this was not the case, and when I walked on the field to do my track I was amazed at how dry it was. Even the corn itself was dry and far more sparse than is usually the case at this trial, but at least it was unlikely that Spica would cut his mouth on it. Nigel Hines was the judge for this trial but unfortunately for Lunar and I the track was short-lived. Although she struck off with conviction from the post, she overshot the first turn with the wind on her back and in her efforts to recover was apparently in danger of back tracking so we were called off. I was very disappointed as I felt that we hadnít made much of a job of it, and I am sure that we could probably have sorted ourselves out with enough time, but unfortunately that is a luxury that is not always available at a trial.
Paul and Spica came on next and fared much better getting a good way round what was a long and complicated track, but once again a muddle at the end resulted in a call off so for us the trial was over. Although we were of course disappointed we could not be unhappy with our dogís efforts, and both of them seemed most annoyed to be taken off before they had finished. There was no doubt that it was not as easy as it looked, as several other teams had gone the same way as us, with only around 22 of the original 56 on qualifying marks.
On the Sunday the control and agility started with three non-qualifiers, and then the top ten worked before stays with the rest afterwards. The round started with the speak and the dog was left at a pole and the handler joined the judge some distance away. After a short conversation the handler turned round and returned to the dog asking the dog to speak, stop speaking and speak again on the way. Next came the heelwork and this was straightforward leading to the sendaway which was not quite as easy. This control field is not one of our favourites as the ground undulates, and with big dips and high ridges it is possible to lose your dog altogether on a sendaway. It is also very easy for the dog to become disorientated as they set off heading for a feature which suddenly disappears into a hidden dip, and our East Anglian dogs, which are lucky if they ever see a slight incline at home, can completely lose the plot on this field. In anticipation of this we have spent the last couple of weeks driving about looking for hills, but we were anything but confident, so did not mind too much missing it. The sendaway on this occasion was diagonally out to a tree, and then a redirect along the ridge to another tree, which sounds straightforward but when you know the field it is easy to understand why so many dogs found it difficult.
Nigelís stays were a little unusual in that handlers left their dogs, walked out to the front, and then turned and walked back through their dogs to go out of sight behind them. This certainly caused some surprise and I think at least one dog broke with several others fidgeting more than usual.
Jumps did not cause any particular problems, and they made little difference to the end result, but the 22 nosework qualifiers were whittled down to just 12 after the C&A. From the time that Tony Lockyer and Gyp went on to track and came off losing just one point there was little doubt about the winner, and failing disasters it was almost inevitable that they would take the ticket. This proved to be the case and so WT Ch Double Top at Hartshill (Gyp) took his 15th ticket and ensured an almost unassailable place in the record books. Gyp has been phenomenally successful and even allowing for Tonyís expert training and handling he is still an extraordinary little dog. The reserve went to Pat Herbert and Glenalpine Moo who seems to be finding her form after a problem with sendaway, and at last her consistently good nosework is being rewarded.
At the other end of the scale I was delighted to hear another success story at this trial where the Boskoph working Boxers triumphed in CD and UD. Martin Bearryman has made it his mission to breed Boxers that can work, and this first litter to a working Boxer sire has produced two dogs that are making inroads into trials. Martinís own Bosckoph Dark Star (Wilma) qualified UDEX and partner Tobie James and Bosckoph Dynamic (Fred) qualifed CDEX and came second. This was especially rewarding for Tobie as Fred had had cruciate problems and almost a year out to recover from surgery, but on this showing he will soon be catching up with his sister. I wish them luck and look forward to seeing the next litter out working and proving that Boxers can have a brain!
We now only have Surrey to look forward to and after a run of failures we could do with qualifying at this one, but thatís trials and all we can do is keep training and motivating and hopefully sooner or later we will get the luck. I always tell people that if you canít cope with failure trials arenít for you, and it is times like these that you realise why they are called TRIALS!