by Scott Wilson
In a lot of the trials I’ve attended, it seems many of the competitors place much focus on speed. What is this magic thing, “speed”, that everyone keeps mumbling about? Why, if you listen to some guys, all you need is a dog with the right speed!
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard someone say “my dog was too fast for those judges” or “she just didn’t have enough foot for those dogs”. While I know these examples could occasionally be accurate, if you catch yourself using these excuses more than once every couple of years, you should take a look in the mirror. Let’s look at a few examples and maybe you will see what I mean.
A few weeks back I was judging a nice class of little bitches. During one of the 1st series packs, we had run the group down to three dogs. Now these three little bitches were really moving the rabbit. As we followed, it became obvious two of the hounds were doing most of the work. We ordered up the low dog and handled the pack. At hearing our judgement, the handler of the now eliminated dog asked, “Did she not have enough foot?” I answered him, “She had enough foot, but she didn’t score favorably compared to the other hounds”. Just seconds passed when the handlers buddy approached him asking, “Did you get picked up”. The handler replied, “Yea, I didn’t have enough foot”. So here is another person who thinks he was beat because of speed! Did he have a quality hound? I believe so. I’m convinced his hound can circle a rabbit by herself. She is probably a big part of his hunting pack. Her problem was, she scored significantly lower than the other two hounds she was competing with.
Let me give you an example on the other end. A friend of mine has a male that can really run a rabbit. If he’s by himself or with one other dog he looks like a million dollars. He can really push a rabbit and makes few mistakes. Guess what happens when he gets down with a good pack of dogs. You guessed it. He can’t handle the pressure! As my friend Jerry Charleston likes to say, “pressure busts the pipe”. As luck would have it, I passed my friend coming out of the field with “Rough Rowdy”. I asked him if he stayed down. Can you guess what he said? You guessed it, he said, “I don’t know why they picked him up. Rowdy was coming down through there leading the pack. I guess he was running too much rabbit for them boys”. He failed to mention that Rowdy charged to the front disregarding the line, skirted two briar patches and violated every other rule in the book to ensure he was in front of the other dogs who were truly doing all the work.
In both of these examples, the owners believe that their dogs weren’t the “right speed” for the field trial. In reality, these dogs didn’t show the ability to compete favorably in the field trials. Remember that the difference between doing well and not so well in a trial is just a small amount. When you take that on to the winners pack, the difference between 1st, 2nd, and 3rdgets even tighter.
Developing an eye to differentiate between dogs takes time. Wear out a couple of boots a year. Follow those dogs! Follow as many hounds as you can. Study what qualities make the race better and what actions seem to create more checks or losses. Look for the dog that keeps saying, “I got him guys, here he goes”.