After a too-short night of sleep, I arrived at the field HQ at 7:00 AM to pick up the supplies for marshaling. I had the honor and pleasure to share the marshaling duties with two of our most experienced field trainers, Bunny Milliken and Karen Peterson. The marshall is responsible for getting dogs and handlers to the line to run in a prompt fashion. I decided years ago that I was good at it because I have two important skills for marshaling: I have a loud voice and I'm bossy :-).
There were 27 dogs in our division (C) of the Steady Singles competition. This is an event held at most FCRSA Nationals, and the goal is to pick a winner, vs. the pass/fail judging for hunt tests. The rules more closely resemble the Field Trial rules, but I don't think I've personally read them (shame on me). The first series consisted of two single marks (all the marks are singles). The 1st mark, on the left, was thrown left to right and landed in front of a tree. It was about 80 yds from the line, through one of those crazily mowed fields. The 2nd mark was thrown right to left, down a slight hill, and was at about 125 yds.
After Karen's nearly-12 year old Sardou ran as honorary test dog, the competition got underway. Dog after dog completed the two marks with very little problem. I went to the line with Ty 1st of my two dogs, and I confess I kept thinking, "Please don't let her be the 1st dog incapable of getting both marks!" I shouldn't have worried. While her line to the long mark wasn't super straight (there were lots of cover patches she was veering around, as did several others), she got both birds just fine. Gryff did as well, as did all 27 competitors, so everyone was invited back to run the 2nd series.
The 1st series gun stations were removed, and one station was set up waaaaaaay our on the hillside (not way out by current field trial craziness, but far by hunt test standards), with 3 gunners in their white coats. The throw was an angled-in one, left to right towards the woods, at 245 yds. This mark definitely separated the experienced dogs from the inexperienced. There were the ones who ran a lovely straight line out to it, the ones that took a far less straight line, maybe hunted the old fall at the right gun station, but eventually got to the bird (Gryff was in this category), and the ones that either didn't go at all or who ran off into the weeds to the right of the correct line (Ty was in this category). Eighteen dogs were called back for the 3rd series, Gryff being one of them.
After taking a break for lunch, we moved to the Backwater club's big stick pond (a stick pond means there are dead stumps and logs in the pond, some sticking up out of the water, some submerged). The judges set up a single mark, thrown from the left shore in a big arc. Most of the throws landed just in front of a patch of reeds in the water at 145 yds. From the shore we ran from, it looked like there was a series of pockets in the reeds, but friends who went and looked at it after we were all done said it was just a big patch of reeds with many submerged logs - very hard going for the dogs. There were also a couple of visible logs near the shore where the dogs had to enter the water. The ideal line was right over those logs. Again, some of the dogs didn't go at all or quit soon after, but many were making the long swim. Almost all of the dogs appeared to see an invisible left turn sign about 20-30 yds short of where the ducks were landing, and headed in to shore. Many dogs had long hunts, most coming up with their duck eventually.
Gryff was one of the final dogs to run, and as is his habit, he got in and went 'fat' to the right - he almost always swims in an arc to his right, especially when he has to go a long way. He was doing some connect the dot swimming, checking out some of the logs along the way. I thought he might avoid that invisible left turn sign given his angle of approach, but he took it afterall. He did some hunting on the shore, but disappeared into the reeds and found his duck. He looked like he might be trying to run back to me via the shore, but I guess his conscious got the best of him and he decided he'd better swim at least part way back. His success with this mark meant he joined the large group of dogs who earned a JAM (judges' award of merit) in the Steady Singles.
Once each division was finished, the judges named a winner of that division, and an exciting runoff was held at the HQ grounds. The test dog, Karen Peterson's Po, performed the mark brilliantly. It was a long, downhill mark, with an angled entry across the corner of a pond. The three division winners then each ran the mark. This resulted in another tie between the two younger competitors, so one more mark was planned and executed. It was an exciting finish to a great day of competition.