Finally I can report on a trial which I was at for both days. After a run of bad luck we were really looking forward to the Surrey trial, and hoping that at last we would get a qualifier, but as the date drew near the weather forecast got worse and a friend of ours that went down earlier in the week told us that she had failed the nosework amid torrential rain and gale force winds.
Our report time was 10.15am on the Friday, and we arrived in good time with no hold-ups, by which time the sun was shining brightly with no sign of rain clouds, so we were more optimistic, and when we found out we were tracking at 11 and 11.30 we thought we might just get away with it. Surrey was always our favourite trial, it has been a lucky one for us, and I qualified CDEX with my first trials dog there. They were fortunate to have the use of the Brook Farm estate for many years, which provided some of the best tracking land in the country, with lush green meadows which almost guaranteed successes. Unfortunately a few years ago they lost the land at Brook Farm when the estate changed hands, and although the society did very well to keep going after such a blow, the replacement land was never quite the same. That is until now, and we were delighted to find we were tracking in grass fields every bit as good as Brook Farm. This land belonged to the Ruckmans Estate and we could not have wished for better. Set in beautiful surroundings, there was an abundance of perfect lush green fields, and once again Surrey was able to offer some of the best tracking land in the country, and I am sure that none of the 57 entries could have any complaints about their ground.
Our luck held and when we went out to track the sun was still shining. Paul was on first and although I obviously couldn’t watch him, when he finished he was able to tell me that he had enough as we passed. Such was the abundance of land that we had a field each to track in, and as I walked on I remember thinking that with the weather and the ground I really had no excuse, so I really hoped Lunar would manage to qualify. Jill Carruthers was the judge and no doubt aware of the good ground she had set a testing track pattern, which never seemed to go where you would expect. Lunar made a good job of the track and found all three articles but when I finished, other than knowing which direction we left the pole, I had no idea where it went, which Jill said was her intention. Although a certain amount of the track was visible it was not easy, as much of the previous days’ tracks were also very clear, so it certainly meant the dog had to work it out. Both Lunar and Spica got all four out of the square, and had similar track marks, but Spica had left one track article behind and Lunar managed to crunch two of the square articles, so there was not a great deal between them.
As I walked off the field at the end of my nosework I could see Paul frantically gesturing for me to hurry up and pointing to the sky, so I looked up and saw it had turned an ominous black so started to run. We just made it back to the van when the heavens opened and lightning lit the sky. I thanked my lucky stars we had both completed our nosework, and my heart went out to Maeve Wesselby who was just going on. I later heard that her dog failed, and in the circumstances I was not surprised. I sometimes think the saying ‘the luck of the draw’ was invented for trials, and it certainly held true on this day as Paul, Maeve and I had drawn for our track order so the luck was with us on this occasion.
We were all finished by 12.30, so although we had prepared to stay we decided to go home and come back the next day as we had so much time, and so it was another early start the following morning. Once again the weather held and despite ominous clouds coming and going it stayed dry and for the most part sunny all day. When we arrived I found that I was among the top 15 all in the 150s with John Wykes leading the field on 159.5. I was somewhere in the middle of the bunch with 156 and Paul just outside.
I was drawn to work 12th and Paul 16th of the 29 qualifiers, and Jill certainly didn’t hang about so things moved quite quickly. Once again Surrey hit the jackpot with the land and the parking for the control and agility, and the lovely grass field surrounded by hedging, and the plentiful parking in barns in the opposite farmyard was all by courtesy of the Ockely Court estate. Stan Ford and his team should be congratulated on the organisation of this trial and the estate owners and sponsors Arden Grange thanked for their contribution.
The round started with the speak, and the handler left the dog and walked off round the long jump and back to the dog, during which Jill wanted the dog to speak and stop speaking twice on her instruction to the handler. After this came the sendaway, down a slight hill towards the boundary hedge at the bottom which was about 175 yards away, and then a left redirect for approximately 100 yards along the boundary to a water butt, although this is only an estimate as it is difficult to assess without walking it.
The heelwork came next and this took place around and in between the jumps which finished the round. It was a very straightforward round with nothing tricky or complicated, and both Lunar and Spica made a good job of it, although Spica did have some problems with his brakes at the end of the redirect and disappeared off into the distance. Lunar really went well losing just one mark on her speak, and so I was thrilled with her, but did not realise until later that this put us in the lead. However, once the top 15 had worked and the stays were done, I found much to my surprise and delight that we had won the ticket.
This is Lunar’s first ticket and only her third TDEX so quite a surprise, and it certainly went one better than the qualifier I was hoping for. Sheila Tannert took the reserve with WT Ch Styperson Cleo just two points behind, and we had been talking a few days before about how neither of us had been doing any good lately, so hopefully her luck has changed as well. Paul and Spica also qualified, and he was very pleased after working through a few problems with Spica’s square and missing out at the last few trials.
It is a big break for us now with nothing until the Wessex trial in July, but it is so much better taking time out on the back of a qualifier, and now I can look forward to the KCCs in Scotland later in the year, but I will need to go out and find some heather to practise on before then.