Field Trials

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The morning's break away

So just what is a field trial?  First of all slow down and let your mind calm down.  Place yourself in a vast open space with morning song birds just waking up and fresh dew or frost on the ground.  The sun is just breaking through the Eastern sky.  Beautiful hues of red and orange promise to make the morning spectacular.  The silhouettes of horses dot the grounds around the campsite. People are stirring, and you hear  mellow rustles of hay being tossed to horses, a soft nicker, trailer doors opening and gently shut, dogs being put out are quiet with anticipation for the day. More people wake up some a bit fuzzy after a long night of catching up with old friends often from a time zone away.  Friends who have become a family who come together every weekend to compete against each other every spring and every fall.  The camp has a quiet excitement as everyone tacks up.

Allison and Jarrett at the breakaway with Bullet at the NVA

Allison and Jarrett at the breakaway with Bullet at the NVA

Now inhale, fresh, crisp, morning air fills you.  Sweet aroma of horses and coffee hints the air.  Look around, no houses, no TV, no honking horns.  Trailers are parked around like wagons from the old west were years ago.  Most of the riders are dressed in an assortment of oils cloths and jeans and Carhart jackets.  Most are men, and a few women.  Everyone look like they stepped off the set of Lonesome Dove with a hint of modern to them. Somewhat skeptical strangers give an up and down glance to new comers and mumble a morning greeting.  By the end of the day these will ride side by side in the gallery and chat like old friends. Telling stories about dogs and family,  in whatever weather Mother Nature deems for the day.
Trailers and horses at a field trial

Trailers and horses at a field trial

Let me give you a crash course in what happens at a field trial.  A field trial is an event that mixes dogs of pointing breeds, the outdoors, and horses all together.  Typically the event is held in wide open tree lined fields, often many fields connected together covering thousands of acers. The organizer of the event pairs the dogs up in two called a "brace" typically 30 minutes long, puppy stakes are 15-20 minutes.  Each brace is of solid running with a few pointed birds. Owners, spectators, judges are behind the handlers.  Horses enter the picture here, everyone is ridding.  If you have ever spent long days in the saddle at brisk speeds, you will understand why "gaited" horses are the chosen breeds for this sport. Dogs have specific etiquette to follow depending on age and level they compete in Which is all too complex to go into here.  Suffice as to say there are intricate requirements.  For each dog there is a "handler" each handler has a horseback partner called a "scout" who may not interfere with the running of the dog but is assigned to the dog and responsible for helping not to loose the dog to a run off or to be hidden on point in heavy cover.    There are two judges assigned to the dogs, and the rest of the spectators who are called collectively as "the gallery".  These are the key players for the day. Pen raised birds are planted in locations wild birds would normally be found.  The dogs are turned loose to seek out and point the birds.  The first two dogs are turned loose and the hunt is on!  Skill and requirements set fourth based on age and
NVA trialers enjoying the evening

NVA trialers enjoying the evening

level come into play here.  In short, puppies need to look like they are having fun and trying to find a bird, advanced and older dogs must stand steady on the birds they find and later in the event and possibly retrieve a shot bird.  Dogs run from sun up to sun down with a short break for lunch.  At the end of the day placements are given. Sound exhausting?  Once placements are give , trialers head back to their camp to do chores and care for animals.  Horses are untacked and returned to their tie out areas, more hay is tossed and dog bowls rattle with food as happy canines bark for pets and dinner.    Tired people attend chores and stop by a friends trailer to revisit the days highlights, a beer is often tossed to a friend, and those with fewer chores help friends with more animals and more chores.  Dinner is made and shared or truck caravans formed to head to the local eatery.  The day's winners are congradulated, stories told, laughs shared, people head to bed as the stars brighten the sky, often earlier than normal than when at home.  Morning at 5:30 will come quickly as happy hearts and tired muscles climb into bed.  Falling asleep to a trailer powering generator hum, a bark of a dog, and nicker of a horse, and most often, a warm dog with a cold nose under the bed covers.  If this description tugs at your spirit, then you my friend, can understand the allure of "Field Trials".

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