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Venue: Ballater
Trial Held: 25 June 2016

Trials Manager’s Report

What a fabulous way to enjoy a weekend – no mobile signal, no traffic, good food, excellent company, fantastic scenery, fauna and flora, including red squirrels, red deer and wild orchids, and lovely dogs working their hearts out. That’s Ballater trial.

Inchnabobart, a small cottage on the Queen’s Balmoral estate, is our trial base where everyone meets up to chat, watch control and enjoy catering by Alison and her team. Chris runs the barbecue and cooks fresh to order. Carol and Bob keep the scoreboard in order while Pat and Dennis run base beautifully. Thank you all. And thank you to Ann and Lorna for lots of help prior to the trial, and to everyone who turned up to help set up on Friday.

Our liaison with Balmoral estate is Fiona, the ranger, who is so helpful before, during and after the trial – just brilliant.

The weather ranged from thundery downpours to hot, bright sunshine. Control is downhill from base and spectators can gather on the grassy slope to watch the dogs work. Tracking is on heather, some high above base in the shadow of Caisteal na Caillich which, at 862 metres, is classed as a Corbett, almost a Munro; the tracking ground is at 446 metres, which is almost half the height of a Munro. Others are near Loch Muick with Ant-Sron rising behind, often watched by inquisitive red deer, truly beautiful.

Thank you to Bill for bringing the jumps up to the new regulations before the trial. Thank you to Jim, Jim and Hilary, the judges, and their teams - I will leave them to name names and list the results. Thank you to Colin, assistant trials manager, who did all sorts of sterling work from beginning to end. Thank you to Beryl, who helped in so many ways and travels so far to help, even brings the mop and buckets. Thank you to everyone who helped in any way: food donations, raffle prizes, clearing up etc - too many to name. Thank you competitors and I hope you enjoyed the trial and will be back next year.

The biggest thanks go to Her Majesty the Queen for allowing us to use her private cottage at probably the most beautiful place on earth.

Steve Hirst, Trials Manager.

 

Stakes: CD and WD.

Judge: JIM MCKAY

Steward: Sandra Dawson

Tracklayers: Bill Mackie, Jacquie Hall, Jackie Hilton

I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend. I would like to thank Steve who as Trial Manager had everything organized superbly; Alison, Chris. and Pat for feeding us so well; and Bob and Carol for their careful work on the scoresheets. My tracklayers were Bill, Jacquie and Jackie - as I said at the trial, people like these who can and will lay competition tracks are in my opinion worth their weight in gold! My steward was Sandra Dawson, who has a lovely way with competitors and was an ever-cheerful support to me.

CD Stake:

There were two entries but only one competitor. Conditions were very good.

1st       Mike Wilson with MELVIN, X-breed, 98.5, Q. The mark says it all: this was a nearly perfect round. Mike may have been the only competitor but he definitely deserved a first place.

WD Stake:

There were eight entries; five competitors. On the Saturday Yvonne had fair conditions for her control and agility but terrible conditions in every respect for her track. On the Sunday the others got pretty good weather but of course, being at Inchnabobart, were tracking in a morass.

1st       Jenny Beaton with AXEL, GSD, 184.25, Q. When I judged Axel at Dundee in February of last year he just played in the snow rather than do his control round. What a difference this time – losing only 0.25 in his control!

2nd      Sharon Brown with ERNIE, Lab, 182.75, Q.

3rd       John Turtill with KEELA, BC. John still has work to do on the jumps and was unfortunate to lose the track about half way round, but got all four out of the square and took full marks for a very, very impressive control round.

4th       Alison Robertson with FOLLY, GSD. Alison was also unfortunate to lose the track about two thirds of the way round. Alison lost marks here and there but I'm sure it won't be long before it all comes good.

I was privileged to see three great tracks in this stake. We were tracking on what is traditionally the UD ground at Inchnabobart, and with the heavy rain it was even more of a quagmire than usual.

On the Saturday Yvonne's Meera tracked in torrential rain with an impressive accompaniment of thunder and lightning virtually overhead, and also with about eighty large stags as an interested audience on the perimeter of her ground. Meera tracked virtually perfectly to the last corner, which she missed. I thought that in those conditions she was definitely lost. I have to say, however, that Bill Mackie, who had laid the track, never doubted her – and sure enough Meera persevered and persevered till she got back on the corner and completed the track. That was the first time this weekend that I said, “What a dog!”

On the Sunday Sharon turned up at the tracking ground - with one artificial knee and a cruciate ligament replacement in the other knee! As she floundered her way up to the pole I mentally wrote her off. However, Ernie (who had only just turned two) took over, put his head down and physically towed Sharon round to record the best WD track. For the second time I said, “What a dog!”

Next up was Jenny - who had just had a hip replacement at the end of March! To go one better than Sharon, Jenny required to be helped to the pole and the whole thing was beginning to seem like something of a farce to me. However, now Axel took over, literally dragging Jenny round. As she staggered and stumbled (and fell her length twice in the bog) he was constantly being shouted at, pulled about, yanked back and stopped and still he kept going to complete his track! For the third time I said, “What a dog!”

Inchnabobart was the first trial at which I competed, and the first trial at which I was a judge; and I was also Trial Manager here for four years. I was therefore, being rather sentimental, delighted to be asked by the SWTS to be a judge here for my last trial. I am no longer working a dog and as I am losing touch with trials I have decided to call it a day. I have great memories of trials, with which I will no doubt bore friends and grandsons for years to come; and I am very grateful for the support and friendship I have been given by many in trials. I would particularly like to thank Ailsa Anderson for all her encouragement and help down through the years.

I was sorry to see that there were no young people at Inchnabobart; hopefully that is something that is going to be addressed?

For myself, my great regret is that both my last two dogs had to be retired early because of the jumps. (The removal of the slats from the scale didn't help. Surely if there was a problem with a loose slat the answer should have been to make sure all slats were tight and flush – not just to do away with them.) On the one hand I don't want the standards of Working Trials diluted, because I believe that it is a very real and singular achievement to get a Working Trials qualification, but on the other hand there are problems with the jumps (although there appear to be some in the Working Trials world who seem to be in denial about this). Perhaps a compromise is possible: perhaps competitors could be given the choice of shortening the long or lowering the scale for fewer marks while still being required to score the same total qualifying mark? Thus, if competitors opted for an easier jump they would need to score correspondingly higher in all the other exercises in order to qualify - and thus standards would not be diluted?

I have learnt a lot about dog training which I have often tried to pass on. In general terms I particularly like the advice: “You'll never be happy till you want the dog you've got.” I also like something reported to me by Sandra, who had just recently attended a talk by Geert de Bolster from Belgium. He had said: “At the end of a training session look at your dog and say, 'How was it for you?'” If you have the imagination to be able to guess what your dog's answer might be then that answer would certainly inform your future training!

Anyway, that's enough from me. I hope that the sport regenerates and flourishes: Working Trials is a great sport and one which I will sorely miss!

Jim McKay.

 

Stake: UD

Judge: HILARY HIRST

Tracklayers: Jenny Wood and Bill Mackie

Steward: Beryl Gummow

Thank you to SWTS for inviting me to judge UD at the spectacular Inchnabobart trial; it is easily my favourite.  Thank you to Steve and Colin, “The Management”: Beryl, Jenny and Bill for stewarding and tracklaying in the heather, always a challenge: everyone at base especially Alison, Chris, Pat, Dennis, Bob and Carol, all of whom never seemed to stop working for a moment: and also Ann and Lorna for lots of help before the trial.  Forgive me if I’ve forgotten anyone, but thank you all.

Special thanks to the competitors for entering – such a shame about the downpour during stays but I hope you enjoyed your day.  No qualifiers but good luck for the future.

1st                Mike Wilson and Melvin, THE MELV MIX, X, D, 176, NQ.  Just the down stay and the sendaway, otherwise near perfect - and best nosework.  Well done qualifying CD next day and good luck with your lovely dog.

2nd              Lorraine Wilson and Riley, BLIMEY LIFE OF RILEY, X, D, NQ.  Riley wasn’t in the mood today but did some good work nevertheless.  I’m sure this experienced handler will get the best out of him.

3rd          Jackie Hilton and Piper, GOOSECREEK DAKOTA, ASD, B, NQ.  Good search and terrific sendaway.  Lovely young Aussie showing great potential at her first trial.

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