Samantha Morley spends her spare time training and trialling gundogs.
Labradors are principally used to retrieve birds and animals which have been shot. They may also be used to flush quarry, though will not always enter the dense cover that a spaniel would face.
Because of the skill and commitment required to train gundogs many owners do not themselves shoot and gundog trialing has evolved into a sport in its own right, its roots remaining firmly in the requirements and discipline of the shooting field.
Field trials are held throughout Britain and most country fairs involve a gun dog event, though at these shows the dogs will be working with dummies rather than live quarry. Samantha is a member of the Suffolk Gundog Club and demonstrates at various country fairs including the Suffolk Show. She also gives their open training class throughout the summer.
Samantha has achieved considerable success in Field Trials over the years, winning a number of novice stakes with different dogs and achieving numerous awards in two day open stakes. She has also trialed dogs for other trainers, most notably two of Mike Tallamy’s dogs, one novice and one open. Mike won the IGL Championship in 2002 with his dog FTCh Bringwood Bobby of Brindlebay and is a well known and established trainer.
Samantha uses her dogs at stud producing many litters over the years. Details of her current stud dogs are below. She has been judging for some time and has passed the Kennel Club examination for judging trials. She is now a B panel Kennel Club Judge for Retrievers.
Samantha also works her dogs on shoots throughout Suffolk and Norfolk during the season (September to the end of January). From the period March to August each year gundog clubs hold working tests under Kennel Club Regulations on either dummies or cold game i.e. game that has been shot the day before. These tests give the handlers an indication of how their dog is progressing with the training it has received and how it copes with a competitive situation with other handlers and other dogs.
During the shooting season August 12th to 1st February the gundog clubs hold field trials in three categories; novice, “all aged” and open. A dog must win a novice or all aged stake before it is qualified to enter an open stake. At that stage it is not entitled to run in a novice stake again but can enter all aged stakes. In our sport winning a two day open qualifying stake entitles the dog to run in the IGL Championship for that year which is the pinnacle of trialing. To win the championships is extremely difficult and just to qualify is the aspiration of many field trialers. It is held over 3 days with often over 40 dogs competing.
Trials are also held under Kennel Club Regulations but on live game. These competitions are what it is really all about and you should only enter your dog if you are happy that it has reached the required standard for working and retrieving under close scrutiny of experienced judges. Your dog must walk to heel off the lead with no command from the handler. It must stop each time the handler stops (again with no command) and must wait for its retrieve whilst other dogs are working. It must not whine or make any noise, must be able to mark birds down, take a line from its handler, stop on the whistle, take directions, hunt well, jump ditches and fences, retrieve from or over water and must not run in. It must also have the confidence in its handler to go to an area where it hasn’t seen a bird or ground game shot and retrieve. This is what we call a blind retrieve. A dog must have experience of all types of quarry, whether it be partridge, pheasant, hare, rabbit, duck, goose, teal, snipe or anything else on the quarry list.
A dog must win a novice or all aged stake before it is qualified to enter an open stake. At that stage it is not entitled to run in a novice stake again but can enter all aged stakes. In our sport winning a two day open qualifying stake entitles the dog to run in the IGL Championship for that year which is the pinnacle of trialing. To win the championships is extremely difficult. It is held over 3 days with often over 40 dogs competing.
(left to right) Zulu, Hamish, Drummer and George waiting at a drive