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  1. #1
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    Default Tell Me About Field Trials

    For some reason lately I keep encountering references to field trials, the horse and bird dog kind. Does anyone here participate?



  2. #2
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    As a kid, I rode in them quite a bit. We were riding Missouri Fox Trotters, Walking horses and the occasional "double gaited" saddlebred back before the gaited craze took off. Its fun. Most of the people involved arent really horse folk, but use them as a means of transport. So you'll see some examples of not so great horsemanship, but exellent dog handling. And vice versa. Field trial bred dogs are unbelievable high drive dogs, most of them were not suitable for hunting on foot. They range too far and work too fast. So its kind of a specialty niche for a certain type of dog within its breed. I know a few people in the sport, so if you have an interest I could point (no pun intended!) you in the right direction,depending on where you live. Completely OT, I made a hundred bucks painting someones English Setter in the field. Pretty good cash for a teenager (way back then) Havent done it in a long time, but I would again.



  3. #3
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    I stumbled across it when I was looking for trail saddles. I saw an advertisement for a "field trial" saddle, and I thought it was a typo for trail saddle. I was only familiar with field trials on foot. Then I discovered the spelling was correct, and I started finding horses advertised as being suitable for field trials as well. As you said, mostly gaited type horses. Alas, I doubt the saddles are what I'm looking for; most TWHs are a bit narrower than my horses, and most gun hunters are a bit wider than I am. Even so, I'm fascinated to learn how many people are involved in a horse and dog sport that doesn't involve foxes.



  4. #4
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    If you get a chance to sit in one do so! Pretty comfortable, and most makers will make one with short bars, which is plus for really short backed horses like one of mine. Tucker makes one, Haggis and Christie other good brands. Tarpin Hill and M&W fine too. If your horse is gunbroke you could ride in the gallery which is a field trialers hilltopper. If you jump, you might find it boring, these guys prefer 4 on the floor. But its good all day riding. Dont need any special clothes, besides sturdy boots. Jeans get a little uncomfortable all day. The south and plains states are where you find most of the trialers, but there are some everywhere. A quick google of the AKC events or field trials, or field trial news will find you way more than you ever wanted to know. Im partial to the setter- but there are people who will debate you long and hard as to which breed and line. Same as foxhunters. Only less dressed up. When the dog "locks up" on point- it brings goosebumps. The reports can be an entertaining read as well.



  5. #5
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    My grandfather raised gun dogs, but both he and his pack were over the hill well before I was old enough to even consider participating. I mostly remember tiptoeing around the house hoping not to get bitten by one or another grouchy old pointer.

    My horses are fairly calm and are used to dogs; I don't think it would take a lot to get them used to gunfire. I've lost interest in jumping as I've gotten older, which is just as well considering the horses I own. My gelding sees no reason to jump anything he could possibly go through instead.

    How are field trial saddles in terms of leg position? I know a lot of gaited riders prefer to be in a little bit of a chair seat. I prefer a more standard equitation position because of the way my horses are trained to respond to seat and leg aids. So far I've found a dressage saddle the most comfortable, as long as it doesn't have huge thigh blocks.



  6. #6
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    Um, seriously, noone would know a chair seat from the other seat, whatever it is called. Im sure the saddle puts you in more of a chair seat. You are more or less suspended over the horse, so it feels funny at first. If you have a horse that trots, it will be a long day! The best fun is if you know someone whose a trialer, and you can road the dogs off horseback. I own a trial saddle which I love for trail riding above all others, my old cutback, and a dressage saddle. My barn is full of H/J and they more or less laugh and point at it- until they try it! For knocking around, I love that saddle. I cant believe theres no others chiming in on field trials. I havent done it in a long time, but any horsendog sport catches my eye too. Plus, a well bred dog, doing what hes meant to- is just beautiful. I have a fondness for cranky old pointers too.



  7. #7
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    Smile

    Actually......I think I'd like to try it!! But what is the quarry usually? I've foot hunted for rabbits & coons and frankly it always crosses my mind at some point that I'd like it even better mounted like foxhunting. Me lazy!! But riding a gaited horse would probably be dreamy! That is...once I got used to it! And since hilltoppers rule...even better!!
    Are there any of those hunts that meets regularly in Virginia? Are there clubs? Websites?



  8. #8
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    The quarry is birds. Pheasants or quail. And they are usually planted. The idea is that the handler or handlers let a couple of dogs loose at once and they work the area looking for birds. The dogs are judged on hunting ability- how well they cover ground, quarter and bird finding ability. Then on how stylish they are on point, and marking their partners bird is similar to retriever trials. the handler dismounts and fires a blank and kicks up the bird. THe dog is expected to be steady to wing and shot. Its helpful if the horse is too! The gallery more or less moseys around together behind the handlers- then when the dog is on birds- everyone rushes over and watches the dog work birds, then laugh at the handler trying to get back into the saddle, then go on to the next brace. Ill look for you and pm, since there are alot of dog trials, retriever trials and whatnot that arent the same.



  9. #9
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    The Virginia Horse Journal (Jan 07) has a cute intro article with some pictures. Looks like you could get a contact number off of that. SE maryland looks like theres a setter club too. Also look at akc events page, and it will list field trials. There are some good photos of the field trial saddle we were speaking of as well. I wish I knew how to put in a link http://www.virginiahorse.com/article...and-horses.jsp
    but here is the address.



  10. #10
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    Thumbs up Cool!

    Wow! Thanks! These horses skills are amazing! The ground tying part blew me away! Name one foxhunter who could count on their horse staying put with the commotion! UNLESS...there was a patch of clover to graze on....then mine would "ground tie"...... That saddle looked comfortable too. These people seem to be our kinda peeps! Yea!!! Funny that I usually think of those breeds of horses as hotter than many fieldhunter breeds. Just shows that generalizations don't always work!



  11. #11
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    Its a really family friendly sport. The good horses are mellow- yet go all day. Glad you liked the link. If you enjoy the dog work aspect of foxhunting, you will love watching the dogs go to it. I think its pretty affordable compared FH also. Especially since you dont need a whole pack, just a few... Our old field trial walkers bore little resemblance to the big show ones you see. A friend of mine does a drill team of all gaited horses. There are the hot ones, but there are lovely trail types too. Big variety.



  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by wateryglen View Post
    Wow! Thanks! These horses skills are amazing! The ground tying part blew me away! Name one foxhunter who could count on their horse staying put with the commotion! UNLESS...there was a patch of clover to graze on....then mine would "ground tie"...... That saddle looked comfortable too. These people seem to be our kinda peeps! Yea!!! Funny that I usually think of those breeds of horses as hotter than many fieldhunter breeds. Just shows that generalizations don't always work!
    Since a lot of the participants arent really horsemen the horses tend to be very novice friendly, good at taking care of their riders. Its funny, my TWH has the makings of a great field trial horse, lots of go, very sane and tractable, not spooked by canine shenanigans, all of which made me think he'd be a good foxhunter. I wouldve thought the field hunter would also need to be a calm critter.

    Its a fact that big lick horses are a far cry from good usin' hosses of the gaited persuasion. My two would be giant flops in any kind of show ring situation but they shine on a trail and on the local roads. Train coming? No problem, just get a few yards away from the track and let it go by. Strange dogs darting out of the woods barking their fool heads off? Face 'em and show 'em who's boss. Get hung up in bullbriars and grapevines? Just cooperate with your rider, do the horsey limbo, no dismount to untangle required. Not hot at all.



  13. #13
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    May. 28, 2006
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    ....thought you guys might like to hear from an AKC Field Trialer, AKC Hunt Test and NAVHDA (North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association) performance event participant. I breed, own, train, show and compete in field events with the Brittany and the German Shorthair Pointer breed(s) and have been a shotgun hunter for many years. My Grandfather, a pointing breed hunting dog breeder and hunter, introduced me to hunting with bird dogs at the tender age of 6 years old (much to the dismay of my Mother!) and from then on I was hooked! Although much of our hunting here in New England is done on foot, many other areas of the U.S. do hunt for game birds on horseback. Also, AKC Field Trials are very popular here in New England and on the east coast too and we compete straight through the Spring and the Fall of every year.

    The horse of choice for Field Trialers is the TWH and the usual gait for trialing is the "fast walk". Lastly, sitting in a "trooper saddle" is like a little piece of heaven and it better be because you usually spend a whole day in and out of the saddle.

    Breaking a horse to shotgun fire and training to ground tie is an absolute necessity. Even though we only use a 22 caliber blank pistol when trialing, the sound mimics an actual round of shotgun fire and it's very loud; so, unless your mount is well broke to gunfire, you'll find yourself on your butt or "running for the roses" if you haven't put the time into this type of training. As for the ground tying, as soon as your dog goes on point, you must jump off your horse and work your dog while he or she "works their bird" and then be ready to self flush the bird and fire your pistol after your dog has achieved a staunch point. And because of these steps a trial competitor must take, you cannot be worrying about what to do with your horse when you dismount. Therefore, your horse must stand and wait for your return because you must then re-mount and follow your big running dog while he/she scents for their next "find" and if your dog is a fast, multi-finder of birds, you have to be prepared to get on and off until time is called!

    Many trialers don't have the level of riding skills you see here at COTH so these Field Trial horses must know their jobs very well. Also, many Trialers don’t own their own horses and other folks come to ride in the gallery (to watch the competitors). So, a Wrangler (a person that owns a string of trial horses) comes to the trial grounds with many, well trained Field Trial TWH’s and he rents them for the day at a nominal fee. However, the one thing that I, as a horse owner and long time rider, find very disconcerting about my fellow Field Trialers is that they refuse to wear helmets. There’s only one other person and myself, on the east coast circuit that wear helmets (covered with blaze orange helmet covers!). Frankly, we are often laughed at for wearing helmets and are known far and wide as rebels just because we don't wear the requisite blaze orange ball cap or cowboy hat. Even though, the gait most ridden is very slow, accidents do happen (there have been several deaths on horseback at trials) and I, for one, would never consider getting on any horse without a helmet. My own horse an off-track Thoroughbred will soon be broke to the sound of gunfire (he's a very calm been there-done that type of Thoroughbred and "nothing ruffles his feathers") and I will probably make field trial news on the day I set out to trial my pointers on my handsome TB!

    If any of you would like to see some of my personal bird hunting, pointing dog training, showing and trialing photos, here’s a link: http://s140.photobucket.com/albums/r...20Romeo%20Boy/
    Does Class Always Show? You bet it does!
    http://classalwaysshows.blogspot.com
    "To Thine Own Thoroughbred Be True"



  14. #14
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    Wow, thanks for the writeup. I love the picture of your dog leaping into the water. It sounds like a field trial is a really fun day.



  15. #15
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    Talking Pretty!

    Wow! Good lookin' hounds! Is that brown/white a Brittany Springer spaniel that's been clipped or is there a pointer breed called Brittany? And they are just pointers not retrievers? And any game bird is the quarry? (Mr. Wateryglen has just acquired a batch of quail to raise and this ought be quite the adventure.... ....city people should not be allowed to do this! ) Anyway.....the horses still sound special to me as are all fieldhunters. Funny I always think of those breeds as hot. Thanks for the information; I'm learning a lot!



  16. #16
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    Dec. 24, 2007
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    Thumbs up Pointing Dog Field Trials

    Pointing dog field trials (Brittanys) was my game for 35 years. I invite and encourage everyone here to visit a horseback trial and ride along in the gallery. Watching good dogs search for bobwhite quail or other game birds in the fall is a very special thrill. You'll be warmly welcomed in my experience. There's no dress or tack code and the only no-no is not to interfere with the dogs or their handlers. Normally a gallery marshal keeps the smallish (3-12 rider) gallery behind the judges. You can't enjoy a real field trial without a horse.

    Two adult dogs are put down in 30 minute braces on either a 30 minute or longer circuit. Shorter puppy and derby stakes are also run. A buffet and happy hour follow the last brace on Saturday.

    In central Virginia, 4500 acre Phelps Wildlife Management Area in Fauquier County hosts AKC or American Field (long tailed) trials every weekend Sept-October and February-April. http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wmas/detail.asp?pid=17 Further south, Dick Cross WMA in Mecklenburg County also hosts bird dog field trials. http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wmas/detail.asp?pid=13

    If you're interested in Continental breed trials (GSPs, Vizslas, Brittanys, Weims) outside of Virginia, the AKC event calendar is helpful in locating those. http://www.akc.org/events/search/index.cfm
    Bob Kane, Chairman Emeritus
    Virginia Hunting Dog Owners' Association
    Sportsmen and Animal Owners' Voting Alliance
    http://vhdoa.uplandbirddog.com http://saova.org



  17. #17
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by wateryglen View Post
    Wow! Good lookin' hounds! Is that brown/white a Brittany Springer spaniel that's been clipped or is there a pointer breed called Brittany? And they are just pointers not retrievers? And any game bird is the quarry? (Mr. Wateryglen has just acquired a batch of quail to raise and this ought be quite the adventure.... ....city people should not be allowed to do this! ) Anyway.....the horses still sound special to me as are all fieldhunters. Funny I always think of those breeds as hot. Thanks for the information; I'm learning a lot!
    My K9's thank you for your nice comments! The Liver & White male is a Brittany and even though this breed does share some similarities to the Springer breed (as it relates to the way they look), the Springer Spaniel is not a pointing breed and the Brittany is! Many of the the AKC Field Trial folks don't train their dogs to retrieve as it is not required in trials but since I am an avid upland and duck hunter hunter first and a participant in the AKC Hunt Tests as well as the Versatile Pointing Breed Hunting Dog performance events (retrieving is required in these two aforementioned tests), I always train my dogs to retrieve in addition to helping them develop what is inherently bred into them (pointing, etc.).

    We hunt for many different game birds, quail, pheasant, grouse, woodcock, etc. and duck hunting too.

    As it relates to Field Trial dogs, many never see an actual day of real shotgun hunting (that's why I'm adamant about training for the other types of events and well as hunting wild game birds in a real hunting situation).

    Now, why is Mr. Waterglen raising Quail? ....for fun, for sale???? Anyway, please keep us posted on his new adventure!

    I think that TWH's usually are thought about "in the light of the show ring", the wild eyed (and usually one only sees the whites of their eyes), high racking, show stoppers that definitely look very hot to me; but, please know that the Field Trial TWH's don't look even remotely like that!
    Does Class Always Show? You bet it does!
    http://classalwaysshows.blogspot.com
    "To Thine Own Thoroughbred Be True"



  18. #18
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    A short postscript to my earlier post.

    Virginia foxhunter Mary Carter McConnell and her husband Jamie owned a class English Setter a few years back. It ran in the prestigious National Field Trial Championship at Grand Junction, Tennessee under a professional handler. http://www.amesplantation.org/field-trial/ This ultimate U.S. competition is open to all breeds, but only long tailed dogs have qualified since 1896 and Amer. Fld English Pointers have dominated for decades. The McConnell's setter didn't place, but Mary definitely made an elegant fashion statement, riding in the front of the 500 rider gallery.
    Bob Kane, Chairman Emeritus
    Virginia Hunting Dog Owners' Association
    Sportsmen and Animal Owners' Voting Alliance
    http://vhdoa.uplandbirddog.com http://saova.org



  19. #19
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    Wohoo! Trialers are gaining a little speed here on Coth! Just want to say that I love the setters. The pointers seem to dominate, but my heart goes to english setters. Wateryglen, are you preparing for your debut in the trial world? Raisng some quail... A nice dog.... well a field trial TWH cant be far into the future! My Rocky Mtn horse would be an awesome trial horse. Keep posting events and information and maybe others will try it.



  20. #20
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    I was participating with my Dalmatian at the national specialty in their working certificate, the Road Trials. Basically an obedience test from horse back and then either a 25 mile or 50 mile course with the dog being checked and graded on fitness. For those of us who didn't want to bring our own horses, they had one of those Field Trial horse strings mentioned earlier. When I tried out the TWH I was given to ride (I have TB's), I thought what a sluggish, uncomfortable horse. I'll tell you by the end of those miles, I was completely sold on those horses and their training. I had major respect. That running walk and those saddles were my salvation and the fact they ground tied when you were potty breaking in the woods was a wonderful asset.



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