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reverse to judge the dogs left so that each dog will run under both judges. Basically, this is identical to an English trial with the exception that handlers are expected to carry a gun and to shoot game over their dogs as well as handle them. This is an interesting extra degree of difficulty as we all know that a spaniel will often be an expert in knowing exactly the moment its handler is distracted in making a shot etc… well mine do anyway!

At the completion of these two runs, it may be that the judges wish to run another dog again in order to determine the placings. It can also be that a dog, who has not had game shot over him in earlier runs despite an impressive performance, may be brought up to complete a retrieve of another dog - who has already had game to give it the opportunity to confirm its earlier work. This mirrors the process used in English trials, as well.
Tim Finlay and other competitors at a working trial around 1990

I recall attending my first wild game trial about 13 years ago. At the time, I did not run my spaniel. He was by a beautifully bred dog, Gwibernant Geyser, a son of Cortman Lane - who was imported here by my late uncle. Geyser had been put over a New Zealand bred bitch. The result was a dog with the desire of his English heritage and pig-ignorant stubbornness of the NZ strain. Steady, he was not. Obedient… maybe if he felt like it. He was great to hunt over though he would give tongue and chase just about anything. No correction seemed to dissuade him to behave himself. However, I could clearly see the benefit of this style of trialling for improving our dogs.

At the time, pheasant preserves had not been established in New Zealand. Hunting on public land was open to all as our country had been founded on a principle of dissociating itself from the English feudal system. Asking a farmers’ permission to hunt was usually favourably accepted. To charge for hunting access is illegal in New Zealand - recent changes to allow registered preserves, excepted. Vast areas of pine forest dominate the North Island and while leased to major logging companies are technically public land. (They are planted in imported radiate pine, we are not chopping down native forest.) These areas provide great refuge for pheasant, Californian Quail, rabbits and hare. Most all of the early live game trials were held in these areas.

"There are absolutely no planted birds for our trials or shooting on preserves."

It was difficult though, due to a low population of wild birds, to ensure enough winged game. So, in many cases, the humble bunny became the mainstay of the wild game trial. Many believe, as do I, that a bunny is the greatest temptation you can offer a spaniel and is also considered the true test of steadiness in many cases. However, the rabbit had developed to plague proportions, in many areas of NZ, as it did not suffer the predation here that it did in the UK and breeding conditions were great for extended periods. The government had

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