About British Field TrialsBritish Field trials differ quite substantially from the field trials and hunt tests held in the states. American trials are test contrived by judges in controlled environments, which are meant to simulate an actual hunting experience. Dogs are run individually on exactly the same test pattern. Contrarily, a British or Irish Field Trial is conducted on an actual day's hunt where all dogs work from a line on a driven or walk-up shoot in a field, woodland setting or over water.
There are two types of trials recognized by the British Kennel Club; a 12-dog (one-day) trial or a 24-dog (two-day) trial. Each trial will host 3 or 4 judges. All trials are actual shoots involving gunfire and live game in free flight. Designated shooters (guns) are in the line with handlers and judges. Dogs are sent from each side of the line in prescribed order, each instructed to "pick up" the specifically identified fallen game.
Numerous birds, hares and rabbits may be shot on the drive before a retrieve is requested. The shot game my well fall among unflushed game, yet when sent, the successful retriever must pick the specific fall requested by the judge while ignoring all other live and fallen game. In an Irish trial, it is not unusual for a drive to result in 50 birds down at one time before retrievers begin!
Once a trial begins, all dogs form in one of two lines for the shoot. At this time the dogs' leads are removed and they are expected to remain quiet and at heel, without verbal correction, throughout the entire drive.
The actual qualification of an outstanding British Field Trial Retriever is, above all else, their game-finding ability. The dog that quickly and stylishly locates and retrieves to hand both dead and wounded game whose location is unknown to the guns or which perhaps lies in difficult terrain will be recognized.
A good trial dog, as well as an excellent personal shooting retriever, needs to possess a good nose, wide range, a soft mouth and remain under complete control of the handler. A dog on the line of a trial must be rock steady and absolutely quiet. Should a dog as much as whine, move in off the line or require a verbal reminder of such manners, he is promptly eliminated.
The amazement to many is how calm these dogs are on the line in the company of strangers and other dogs; remain under the pressure of constant gunfire and multiple game falls; distinguish between wounded and live game on a retrieve and yet remain absolutely quiet and steady until sent. When sent they run with the speed, drive and style equal to any exceptional retriever.
Retriever field trials sponsored by various clubs throughout the UK trials are classified as follows:
- Open Stake
- Working test
The open-stake is the most important because to earn the title of field trial champion in Britain, a retriever must win both a 12-dog and a 24-dog open stake. Awards include a first through fourth place, plus certificates of merit may be awarded by judges for outstanding performances. An International Field Champion title is a retriever that has earned the title of FTCh in both Britain and Ireland. A Field Trial Winner (FTW) is a retriever who has placed first in a novice trial under kennel club rules.