Attending your first field trial

Labrador sat with hand pointing forwards
Cleo Bolt Photography ©

After becoming a member of a field trial society, attending training sessions and entering a number of gundog working tests, you may feel ready to enter a field trial. Field trial societies send schedules to all their members informing them of what trials the society will be holding for the forthcoming season.

Schedule

A schedule is a small booklet of information detailing the trials information and includes the entry form. It will list all the classes available, the judges who are judging the classes, the secretary’s information, the class definitions, the venue address and much more. These can be obtained free of charge from the trial secretary or online at Fosse Data.

After the closing date for entries, the society committee will conduct a draw to pick the competitors for the trial. As has already been mentioned, field trials are usually oversubscribed, so you may not be lucky enough to get a run the very first time you apply for entry. Different types of trial allow different numbers of competitors and the trial secretary will advise all entrants of their placing in the draw. If there are only 20 places available, and you are number 32, you will not get a run unless 12 people in front of you withdraw.

Entry form

To enter a trial, you will need to find your way to the right part of the schedule, which has the entry form. From there you will need to select which stake you would like to enter.

Signing the entry form is important as it forms the contract between yourself and the society. If the dog is jointly owned, both owners should sign the entry form, unless one of the parties has the written permission of the other to sign on their behalf. By signing, you are declaring that your dog is fit and healthy to take part in the trial, and that you will abide by The Kennel Club's rules and regulations.

Before you attend your first trial

There are a number of things you should remember to do before heading off to your first field trial.

Checklist of things to do
  • It is very important to familiarise yourself with The Kennel Club Field Trials (J) Regulations so that you are fully aware of what will be expected of you
  • Although the schedule and draw will tell you where the trial is going to take place, you should also take a good map with you. Field trials are usually signposted when you get near to the meeting point, but it can often be very difficult to track down exactly which area you need to be heading for
  • Arrive in good time before the start of the trial
  • If you think you will be late to a trial, let the secretary know your expected arrival time, so that they can decide whether to wait or invite a reserve to take your place
Things to take with you
  • Field trials are often held in the winter months so you should wear plenty of layers of warm clothing wellington boots and a waterproof coat are a must. It's also important that your clothes are dark or in neutral tones brightly coloured garments may startle game
  • You should pack the food and drinks you are going to need during the course of the day. Sometimes judges do not stop for lunch, particularly when there are reduced daylight hours in the autumn and winter. Should you not wish to wait until a day's competition is over before eating, be prepared with food you can eat in the field
  • Field trials can mean a long car journey, so think about your dog's needs too. A good, strong travelling box and plenty of water will make their trip comfortable. Remember to pack some dog food, as you may not return home from a trial until late in the evening

What to expect at the trial

What do I do at the trial?
  • Once you have found the meeting point you should let the field trial secretary know that you have arrived. They will mark you as present on the card, which lists all the people and dogs taking part in the trial. They will give you a numbered arm band which you must wear throughout the trial – this will help you to be easily identified throughout
  • Before the trial starts, a briefing will be held to introduce the host (if present), the gamekeeper and the guns, to explain how the day will run and give any special instructions. Competitors must always attend this briefing both for their own interest and to be courteous to the trial organisers and host
  • After the briefing, everyone will either walk or drive to where the stakes are to take place. Safety is a very important consideration spectators, dogs and owners not competing must all stay behind a red flag carried by one of the stewards. This ensures that everyone stays clear of the guns and that people do not stray onto parts of the estate they are not meant to
  • During each stake, the judges will ask each dog to work a number of times under various conditions. Judges will be looking closely at how your dog works, making a note of both its strengths and faults. If your dog commits an eliminating fault it will be excluded from further participation in the trial. Full details of what is expected of your breed can be found in The Kennel Club Field Trial (J) Regulations booklet
  • If your dog has been eliminated and you wish to leave the trial early, always inform the chief steward before you depart
Handling your dog
  • Attending your first field trial may cause your dog to behave differently than it normally does in training. Let your judge and steward know that you are competing in your first field trial, as they will make their directions very clear and can offer you help
  • Working gundogs should be kept under good control at all times, both whilst waiting to compete and during the stakes
  • All dogs should be trained and worked using plenty of encouragement
  • We all have our off days, so if for any reason you become aware that your dog is not going to work well, you should ask the judge's permission to withdraw. This is a courtesy that must be observed and ensures that the judges' and stewards' time is not wasted
At the end of the trial

At the end of the trial there will be a number of presentations that all competitors are expected to stay for. The host, gamekeeper and guns will be thanked and awards will be handed out to the winners.