International Retriever Event
Report by Jeff Boston

Skinners International Retriever Event

Sherborne Castle - Dorset

30 & 31 May 2004

With the Quarantine laws being relaxed other countries are now able to take part in our gundog competitions. This year, for the first time, the USA and Canada are competing in the working tests at the Skinners International Retriever Event.

The Sherborne Castle Estate is a wonderful setting and an ideal location for an event of this nature, with an extensive variety of ground and ground cover including hills and valleys, parkland, fields and lakes.


(For the purpose of this report I will confine most of the information regarding team performances to England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, USA and Canada, as all tests were being run concurrently it was impossible to report on every teams performance at every test, some of my comments have been deduced from the score sheet)

First day - Sunday 31 May 2004 0900 start.

Judges: Dermot Donnelly - Ireland.

Werner Haag - Germany.

Tony Parnell - England.

Malcolm Stringer - England

With a true international line up of 13 countries, the competition started at 0900 prompt, Sunday morning, the countries were split into 4 groups as follows:

Group I. Wales, Holland, Belgium, Scotland.

Group 2. Austria, Ireland, USA.

Group 3. Canada, Italy, Germany.

Group 4. France, Sweden, England.

There were 4 tests scheduled for morning session so each group started the day at a different tests simultaneously. Group 1 went to test 1, group 2 to test 2 etc. etc.

Test 1. Judge - Werner Haag. Maximum team score 80

Short walk-up alongside and parallel to the lake, two dogs in line. Two shots and two water retrieves with each dog retrieving one dummy, then repeated changing the order the dogs were sent. The dogs had to get through a strip of reeds to get to the dummies.

This test was for heelwork, steadiness to shot and water, steadiness to another dog working in front, bold water entry, retrieving one dummy whilst ignoring the other, and looking for a good delivery.

England had an excellent run in this test with a total team score of 78.

Ireland also did well with a team score of 72.

Scotland had a set back here with Billy Steel’s dog Broadlaw Jake refusing to leave the reed bed, ignoring commands and whistles, continued hunting until called up, resulting in a zero. The remainder of the team performed reasonably but the reduced team score was 51.

Wales seemed to have a poor start when Mark Betinson’s dog Jagdens Jude first appeared to drop the dummy just prior to delivery, then on his second run looked to return from the waters edge and then re-enter. Apparently the dog initially went down a fishing pontoon then came back to try further down, non of which was penalised too heavily with the team scoring 70.

USA also had a set back when Connie Cleveland’s Golden Retriever AFC. Topbrass Ascending Elijah was judged to have whined and was disqualified, therefore taking a zero. I spoke to Connie about the incident and she maintained her dog yawned, although the judge did not see this, just heard the noise. Connie accepted this decision in good spirit knowing that noise was an eliminating fault in the UK. The remainder of the team did reasonably well but a poor performance from Brad Bower’s FC. AFC. Maple Creek’s Maggie May reduced the total team score to 51.

Canada also had a set back with a zero mark for R Modesto’s FT Ch. AFT Ch. Sam Tweed. The remainder of the team scored well only dropping one point. Team total for this test 59.

Test 2. Judge - Tony Parnell. Maximum Score 80.

Two retrieves with gunshot in thick bracken, first a mark then, on the dog’s return, a blind was thrown in the same area as the mark. Both retrieves were up a steep hill and over a fence at about 75 yards from the peg, the retrieves were about 15 yards further back from the fence. Several dogs ran the fence and one or two found a way around it. Others pulled toward the gun on the left.

This test is for marking, negotiating a fence whilst going uphill, hunting and holding an area, handling and response to commands.

England. Annette Clarke and her dog Pointraire Cromwell struggled on this one with the dog running the fence before jumping over and then pulling toward the dummy thrower, lots of whistling and handling resulted in a poor score of just 11. The rest of the team did quite well dropping only four points giving a team total of 67.

Ireland did well on this test dropping only eight point between them. Two team members took a maximum 20 giving a total of 72

Scotland had a minor disaster here with two team members, Billy Steel with Broadlaw Jake and G Younglove with Gusty Gary, through a number of faults, taking a zero. Another team member only managed a 10 but David Robertson with Bengrave Michael Mols managed a very respectable 19. Team total 29.

Wales had a reasonably good run on this test with a team score of 70.

USA being in group two this was their opening test in the competition and one of their poorest. This test involved much of what is new to them, hunting in thick bracken [they do not have it in the US], jumping over fences is not something they normally train their dogs to do and returning to the same place for the second retrieve is also something they never do. This is also where the team afterwards realised that whistling and handling on a mark does not necessarily result in disqualification as it does in the States. All the team struggled with dogs running the fence, pulling toward the gun and taking in too large an area, together with a reluctance to handle resulted in a team total of just 50.

Canada . Three of the team faired very well with J Balesdent and Caroube de Moranville achieving a maximum 20. Regrettably R Modesto and FT Ch. AFT Ch. Sam Tweed getting another zero reducing the team score to 54.

Test 3. Judge - Dermot Donnelly. Maximum Score 80

Double mark, one to the right and one to the left both with gunshot, the right hand dummy had to be retrieved first. Both retrieves were about 80 yards and over a fairly deep gully. An added obstacle was a large fallen tree half way up the hill to right hand dummy

The test was initially for the dogs marking and memory, plus handling and response to commands.

England had a good run with Annette Clarke and Pointraire Cromwell taking a maximum 20. Team total 73.

Ireland. Fairly good run but with J Black and Ice House Captain scoring just 5 reduced the total for this test to 56.

Scotland. Good above average team performance, total 69.

Wales Maintained a consistent performance scoring 68.

USA. After the previous poor performance they liked this one, two straight marked retrieves. Very good result with Connie Cleveland’s GR AFC. Topbrass Ascending Elijah and Andy Attar’s FC. Hunting Hills Natchez Trace taking maximums the team finished with a 75.

Canada Again a very poor effort, another zero for R Modesto and FT Ch. AFT Ch. Sam Tweed and only a 6 for team captain Dennis Voigt and his dog NAFTCh. FT Ch. Prariemarsh Madness saw a score for this test of 36.

Test 4. Judge Malcolm Stringer. Maximum Score 80

This test I did not see at all but it was a double blind.

Tests handling and response, holding an area and hunting ability.

England had another good run with the exception of Andy Latham and FT Ch. Endacott Shelf who lost 9 points for poor control, final total for this test 66.

Ireland with scores ranging from 12 to 20 finished this test with a score of 64.

Scotland. Best result so far, 3 on 19 points and G Youngson with Gusty Garry achieving a maximum 20 gave a total of 77.

Wales put in another good performance totalling 72.

USA had a reasonable result with 2 on13 and 2 on 17, total 60.

Canada had a much better result with R Modesto and FT Ch. AFT Ch. Sam Tweed this time getting a maximum 20, total 70.

Test 5. Judges - Tony Parnell and Werner Haag. Maximum score 80.

Walk up in deep bracken, 4 team members in line together. Single mark in front followed by a return walk up with another mark behind. The bracken was some 3-4 feet high so it seemed debateable as to whether the dogs would actually see the mark, therefore making it important that the handler paid attention. On the second mark a smart about turn was essential if dog or handler was to see the mark. It was difficult to see the action owing to the depth of the bracken and the line moving further away. Difficult though this test was only 4 competitors out of 52 took a zero.

Test heel work, steadiness, marking ability, handling, response to handler and hunting.

England I felt did rather poorly at this, lots of handling was required to succeed, performances were relatively even giving a total score of 63.

Ireland did even worse, J Toal with Jazz Prince James collected a zero and the other performances were very substandard, team total 35.

Scotland continued the poor standard with a score of just 51.

Wales continued their good run with a score of 73.

USA. The team were not looking forward to this test as it is something alien to their competitions and therefore not regularly trained for, this showed as Brad Bowyer with FC. AFC. Maple Creek’s Maggie May picked up a zero for poor heelwork, the dog persistently venturing too far forward. The others in the team scored a 9 and a 15 with Andy Attar and FC. Hunting Hills Natchez Trace getting 19. Total score 43

Canada A good showing by three team members but alas another zero for R Modesto and FT Ch. AFT Ch. Sam Tweed , team total 52.

Test 6. Judges - Malcolm Stringer and Dermot Donnelly. Maximum Score 80.

This test was a blind and a distraction. A dummy was thrown into a pond 30 yards to the right of the handler and dog as a distraction. the blind had to be retrieved from a distance of about 80 yards directly forward from the dog’s position. The route was through trees and over a ditch where the handlers momentarily loses sight of the dog, and out into a field. Scenting was good with dogs easily picking up the scent from 15-20 yards the difficulty was keeping the dog in sight as it was easy to lose the dog into the trees left and right.

This tests the dogs ability to ignore the distraction, response to handlers signals and commands, holding an area and response to scent.

England performed well on this test with Andy Latham and FT Ch. Endacott Shelf collecting a maximum 20. Total team score 72.

Ireland had an excellent run scoring three maximums and finishing on 77.

Scotland did fairly well with David Robertson and Bengrave Michael Mols taking a maximum, total 65.

Wales continued their good run with a team total of 73.

USA really enjoyed this one with Brad Bowyer with FC. AFC. Maple Creek’s Maggie May and Connie Cleveland’s GR . AFC. Topbrass Ascending Elijah both scoring 20. team total 76.

Canada also scored high with three 19’s and a maximum from team captain Dennis Voigt and his dog NAFTCh. FT Ch. Prariemarsh Madness, total 77.

This concluded the first day

Scores and positions [revised]

England 419

Wales 419

Holland 378

Ireland 370

Austria 368

France 357

Sweden 356

Belgium 355

USA 355

Canada 348

Scotland 342

Italy 337

Germany 310


Second and final day - Monday 31 May 2004. 0830 start.

So all was to play for with England and Wales tying for first place and USA, Canada and Scotland, languishing in the bottom half of the board with everything to do to climb to a respectable position.

Test I Judges - Dermot Donnelly and Werner Haag. Maximum Score 80

Two dogs standing in line. Two marked retrieves for each dog. The dogs and handlers were positioned alongside a hedge looking down a field with the hedge on their right. Two fences 30 inches high and about 40 yards in length had been erected, the first at approx. 80 yards from the line and the second a further 50 yards out positioned at right angles to the hedge. The first shot signal a dummy thrown 20 yards beyond the furthest fence, a second shot and a dummy is thrown about two thirds of the way between the two fences. The right hand dog is sent for the nearest dummy over the first fence and then the left hand dog is sent for the second dummy over both fences, the dogs then changed places and the test repeated , there was a temptation for the dogs to go around the fences but this only happened once or twice.

Tests steadiness to shot and thrown dummies, steadiness to another dog working in front, marking, negotiating obstacles, handling and control.

England had a minor disaster at this stage with Andy Latham’s FT Ch. Endacott Shelf going completely out of control and not returning for several minutes despite Andy’s continuous recall whistling, the dog went through the hedge on the right and hunted it up for possibly a hundred yards or more, this obviously resulted in a zero. The other team members did well accumulating a total score of 54.

Ireland had good and bad luck, the first three team members scored well, even taking a maximum with J Black and his dog Ice House Captain but this was followed by a zero for retrieving the wrong dummy, by A Donnan’s Int.FT Ch Glenloch Trojan. Team total 55.

Scotland had a steady run here with all of the team scoring, although Gregg Paterson’s Avonstream Atlas needing a fair bit of handling to keep him from picking the wrong dummy, losing a few points, however the team total was 66.

Wales had a good even performance with all team members taking 15 - 17 points, total 63.

USA were a bit worried at seeing two fences as they had struggled so much on the first day over the fence on test 2. However, gaining inspiration from somewhere they all succeeded well with the dogs now taking fences as a matter of course in fine style. The scores showed how well the dogs performed with the team achieving a 15, 17, 19, 19, totalling a very respectable 70.

Canada faired even better with two of the team, J Balesdent with Caroube de Moranville and Dennis Voigt with NAFTCh. FT Ch. Prariemarsh Madness both getting maximum points. Team total 70.

Test 2 Judge - Tony Parnell. Maximum Score 80.

This test was a long double blind without shot. The competitors were given an area of long grass, about 150 yards distant to the side of a large stubble field, from which to retrieve two dummies. One dummy for each team was placed in the hedge on the left, the handler often needed to be persistent in the handling for the dog to retrieve this one.

A good test of handling and response to commands needing the dog to hold and hunt an area, neither the handler or the judge knew exactly where the dummies were, although the gallery saw them placed every time.

England had an excellent run on this with all team members scoring a 19 with the exception of John Halsted whose dog Tintoview Tweed of Laggenhill took a long time to locate on the first dummy and dropped a few points in the process, team score 71.

Ireland continued with consistent performances taking two maximums with J Black and Ice House Captain and A Donnan’s Int.FT Ch Glenloch Trojan. The other two scores of 14 and 19 gave a team total of 76.

Scotland Every team member managed to get points on the board on this one although Billy Steel’s dog Broadlaw Jake needed quite a lot of handling to keep her hunting for the one in the hedge, time and time again the dog disbelieved his handler and ventured out into the wider area and had to be handled back to the hedge. Gregg Paterson’s Avonstream Atlas managed a 19 to give the team a total of 66.

USA again scored very well demonstrating how their dogs will go out in a straight line. In some cases it was obvious the dogs would have kept on going for the remaining 300 yards across to the other side of the field had the handler not blown the stop whistle. The best performance I saw of all the teams was by Connie Cleveland’s 9 year old GR AFC. Topbrass Ascending Elijah who collected both dummies without a single command, whistle or voice. The dog recognised the area by the numerous scent spots and hunted it out impressively. With all dogs doing well the team score total was 72.

Canada put in an average performance but with J Balesdent and Caroube de Moranville picking p a zero for either poor handling or out of control the team scored 46.

Test 3 Judge - Malcolm Stringer. Maximum score 80.

Blind retrieve into the corner of woodland with shot. The dogs had to go ever a small grassy bank, into the woods and work completely out of sight of the handler at a distance in excess of 120 yards. I learned later from the judge that their were always 4 dummies in the woods so failure would be difficult, many dogs however seem reluctant to get over the bank and into the woods, preferring to stay out in the open. But once in there all dogs except one from the Belgium team succeeded.

England had a respectable run with a maximum from Tess Lawrence and Willowyck Ruff who obviously knew the job in hand a retrieved in record time with the minimum of handling. John Halsted really struggled to get his dog Tintoview Tweed of Laggenhill into the woods and keep it there, dropping a few points to give a team total of 65.

Ireland did very well with two maximums and a 19, but lost a few points with

A Donnan’s having difficulty in getting Int. FT Ch. Glenloch Trojan to the area. Team score 72.

Scotland Gave a good performance with scores ranging from 14 - 18. Team total 67.

Wales now on a roll continued with a good performance including two maximums from Gareth Davies with Ropehall Star and Alan Rees with FT Ch. Morayglen Tinker. This giving a score of 72.

USA. This test again set the pulse rate up as their dogs were expected to hunt out of sight on the handler, something I am led to believe is not practised for their own competitions. Their reservations proved to be unfounded as the team performed reasonably well. All team members had their own struggles scoring 15 each but Andy Attar with FC. Hunting Hills Natchez Trace producing an 18 giving a total score of 63.

Canada Average performance with scores ranging from 10 - 18 giving a total of 56.

That concluded the main working tests.

Monday afternoon saw a final test staged alongside the lake and in the castle grounds, a most beautiful setting. A crowd in excess of 300 spectators, watched this final test consisting a mark with shot thrown into the lake and a blind to be retrieved first from a group of trees about 70 yards away, the dogs having to run parallel to the lake and past the mark. One competitor from each team was nominated to do this concluding test. This was not overly difficult but one for the crowd.

The nail biter seemed to be that if England scored a maximum 20 and Wales failed the teams would be on even scores.

England was first to go, Tess Lawrance with Willowyck Ruff completing the test with a minimum of handling to the blind and a perfect water retrieve. Score 17

Ireland A Donnan’s with Int. FT Ch. Glenloch Trojans struggled on the blind as the dog persisted in pulling towards the mark in the water. Score 13

Scotland produced the best performance with David Robertson and Bengrave Michael Mols achieving the only perfect score. Score 20

Wales Under the weight of mounting pressure a very nervous Gareth Davies with

Ropehall Star stumbled and fumbled their way to completing the retrieves. So much was the nervousness transmitted to the dog it refused to cast first time. However with a little thought it would have been realised that the England performance was not entirely perfect so Wales could not lose, even with a failure. Score 13.

USA Average performance from Andy Attar with FC. Hunting Hills Natchez Trace with far more whistle corrections than expected. Score 15.

Canada J Renouf also struggled a little to get his dog FTCh. AFTCh. Melmerby’s Maggie Mae to the blind. Score 16.

Final results and positions.

Wales 642

England 626

Ireland 583

Holland 575

USA 575

Austria 572

Italy 570

Scotland 561

Sweden 559

France 555

Belgium 553

Canada 539

Germany 502

Top Dog: Ropehall Star owned and handled by Gareth Davies [Wales]

In the final placings Wales pipped England to win the International Retriever Event 2004 with Ireland coming in third. The USA climbed the board to tie for a very respectable fourth place with Holland. Whilst Scotland did manage to lift a few places they remained in the lower half of the board and sadly Canada dropped even further and finished second from bottom. I’m sure, when the teams analyze the results in detail they will be much better prepared for the 2005 event. With the USA finishing just 8 points behind third placed Ireland, one of the home countries, and this their first experience of working tests, UK style, they will be certainly be in a better position to challenge next year.

All in all a very good two day’s competition, during the tests I never heard anyone complaining albeit some teams were playing a very different game to what they are used to. Credit should go to the test organisers, John Birket and Rupert Hill for designing and laying out the tests, they were extremely well thought out to test almost every aspect of gundog work in the shooting field. The judges should also be commended for taking account of the international nature of the entry, giving everyone a chance to succeed. Also a first for me was the applause the competitors received after a good performance, something I suspect started by the US supporters but quickly spread to all teams.

The parade of teams and trophy presentations took place in the main arena in the pouring rain, although this did not in any way dampen the enthusiasm. Thirteen teams all circled the arena carrying their own country flag then lining up with 52 dogs all on a sit and stay.

Putting this event together was indeed a mammoth task and credit for this should go to Caroline McGregor - Event Co-ordinator.

I for one deemed it a resounding success.

Jeff Boston

2 June 2004

Order your Gundog Training Broadsheets

For Discount Gundog Books in America:

For Discount Gundog Books in Britain: 

  image linking to 100 Top Birds and Waterfowl Sites