Spaniel Field Trials

2009 National Cocker Championship
November 5-7, 2009 – Clinton Corners, NY

By: Tom Meyer

The 2009 National Cocker Championship was held at Dyson Orchard in Clinton Corners, New York. The orchard has been inactive for a number of years, perched on top of one of the highpoints in Duchess County the picturesque 200 + acres that surround the orchard has been left fallow and has developed into a true test for this hardy, close working and diligent Spaniel. The Championship being the culmination of 1½ to 2 years of pre-planning and hard work by a very well organized group of Spaniel enthusiasts was everything the owners, handlers and spectators could ask for. The cover was native grasses, interspersed with orchard grass, golden rod, wild raspberry and multifloral rose bushes. The terrain was an undulating side hill with drainage ditches in varied locations throughout the course for the first and second series. There were 60 dogs entered with 58 starters on a very brisk morning with temperatures in the high 20’s and the promise of warmer temperatures with a 50% chance of more rain in the late afternoon. A few handlers and dogs demonstrated the National adrenaline hype and were done in by the day’s challenges. The first series finished at around 2:00PM. The second series began shortly afterwards with 48 dogs remaining after the challenge of the side hill retrieves and difficult cover. The first day concluded around 4:00PM as cloudy skies and darkness made it impossible to continue. The second series had approximately a third of the dogs yet to be run and would start at 8:00AM sharp on Friday. The rains came as we were leaving the grounds.

Friday began on time and the second series finished at approximately 10:15AM. After a short break for call backs, the third series started with 26 dogs still in the hunt. The third series course was in the old orchard, the north winds kicked up and caused scenting conditions to vary because of the trees and terrain. The renewed adrenaline you might expect with a cover and location change to the orchard was too much for some of the handlers and dogs. The pheasants that managed to fly quickly above the trees were soon aided by the 20mph winds. The gunners were being tested as well. The fine gun team that was put together by Captain John Castellani arose to the occasion to the approval of all the contestants with many good retrieves. I believe only three dogs eliminated themselves in the third series, the remaining 23 dogs were called for the fourth at around 1:00PM. The winds moderated slightly as the temperatures moved into the lower 50’s. The familiarization of the course was evident in the dogs and handlers, with many redeeming performances by multiple dogs. The judges were going to have their work ahead in selecting those chosen to move on the fifth and final land series tomorrow.

The fourth series finished at 3:20PM, which gave the judges some time before the evenings’ festivities to make call backs.

It was later announced that there were 16 dogs called back for the fifth series and we were to start out the morning at new grounds. The fifth series and water test was going to take place at Verbank Hunting and Fishing Club in Verbank, NY. The promise of "ideal" Cocker cover was going to take place in the tree lines and hedgerows of this old established private hunting club established in the 30’s. Well, no one was disappointed least of all the dogs. Terry Oliver, the grounds Chairman, and his crew were to be commended in their choices and hard work for presenting the opportunity with the proper cover to show-off this diligent, hard working Spaniel and to allow a National Championship out come. The weather conditions for the final day couldn’t have been any better, temperatures in the 30’s & 40’s, 5 to 10 mph winds and blue sky. The anticipation and excitement was apparent from the moment I arrived in the parking lot. The planned 9:00AM start was fast approaching. The handlers meeting was at 8:45AM with an explanation of the course and with the judges instructions to the gunners, handlers, gallery and marshals.

All headed for the woods at 9:00AM, the course was a challenge and it was perfect for most, unfortunately three dogs eliminated themselves. The course allowed for two full passes before all 16 dogs had run. A little over two hours and the land work was done for the 2009 Championship. I viewed all the dogs and had seen very good bird work by many of them, some the entire trial. My thought at that point was the Judges had a tough job ahead.

Thirteen dogs remained for the water so we all relocated at the pond area for what was going to be disappointment for a few handlers as their dogs failed. The water set-up looked as though it could be a simple 40 yd. retrieve starting on the bank with a few goldenrods and weeds to sit in and a pheasant thrown high from a winger. It must have been more than that as four dogs failed at the water and if I had a guess a couple of the four were in contention for a placement. There seemed to be a lot of head shaking and hand wringing by contestants and judges. The drive back to Dyson Orchard for the placements took some time but it gave the Judges the opportunity to determine the winner. I had seen some outstanding performances for many of the dogs through the last three days and I knew the decision was not going to be easy. In the many years I have been involved in judging, gunning and just plain watching how far the evolution of these Cockers and their handlers have progressed, I would say this years winner should be very proud.

The Committee for the 2009 National Cocker Championship is to be congratulated in all its hard work and organization in again putting on a Championship to be remembered.

Barbara Haupt as the Chairperson was absolutely on top of it all and her committee of Rumi Schroeder, Field Trial Secretary, Noel Cacchio, Marilyn & Mike Gilpin, Shelley Huenergardt, Dick Dixon, Cary Haupt and Terry Oliver followed Barbara’s lead.

With much anticipation the winners were announced:

1st Place 2009 National Cocker Champion
Trendsetters Black Beauty SH "Lucy"
Owners: Sheryl and Jim Mayo
Handler: Sheryl Mayo
Also best dog handled by an Amateur

2nd Place
NFC FC Chyknell Megan "Megan"
Owner: A.R. Ginn
Handler: A.R. Ginn

3rd Place
FC Fallen Wing’s Elvis SH "Elvis"
Owners: Mike and Rumi Schroeder
Handler: Jim Keller

4th Place
Brown Betty "Betty"
Owner: Harold Bixby
Handler: Paul McGagh

Certificate of Merit
FC Isle of Man Aurora "Bones"
Owner: Rosemary Altea
Handler: Fred Bradley

Guns Award
Trendsetters Black Beauty "Lucy"
Owners: Sheryl and Jim Mayo
Handler: Sheryl Mayo

Photos by Shannon W. Wooten

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