Walking Field Trials Attract New Participants
by Don Paltani, AKC senior executive field representative
Dennis Pierce started in German Shorthaired Pointers in 1993, having no knowledge of formal dog training. Dennis became involved in NAVHDA (North American Versatile Hunting Dog Assn), which has a strong training program for new handlers. Dennis ran his dogs through the NAVHDA programs including natural ability and utility with much success. Dennis' dogs were very strong hunters for NAVHDA, which was not a surprise as they both were out of AKC field trial lines.
So when Dennis titled them both in NAVHDA, he took his male through the AKC hunting test program with one of them receiving his MH title at 2 years, 2 months of age. Dennis then found the AKC walking field trials. He entered his dogs in just a couple, which soon became more.
Dennis' dog also had his first points in a horseback event at Danville, IL, and a 2-point 2nd place in a 5-point major. He rode on a borrowed horse to run his dogs. Dennis continued to run walking events and soon became heavily involved in field trials. Dennis purchased a horse and horse trailer, etc...and built a pasture. He had all the necessary things.
Dennis finished his first male, Max, to make him a NAVHDA prize 1 and AKC FC, MH. He then started running field trials exclusively.
"I have tried NSTRA and NAVHDA hunt tests, but the field trials are the format that showcases the traits I and most other people require in hunting dogs. I do hunt off of horseback, out in the grasslands of North and South Dakota, and also in the thick woods of northern Wisconsin for ruffed grouse, " said Dennis. "All of my gundogs that I run in the AKC trials can make the switch from open prairies to thick woods. If you look at my evolution from a NAVHDA guy to a horseback trialer, you will find one very important link -- the AKC walking events. They allow for a person to try field trials first without the major investment of horses, trailer, etc."
"I cannot state strongly enough that the AKC walking trials must be a big part of field trials. If we want to continue to attract new trialers, and to sustain the sport, with increasing land prices and horse costs, the AKC walking formats allow for learning about the sport, or finishing a FC dog without a lot of money being spent," Dennis said.