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By Cindy Findley, 2012 ESAA NFTC Treasurer

The 2012 English Setter Association of America National Field Trial Championship, held at Branched Oak SRA near Raymond, Nebraska was a grand celebration of stunning dogs, impeccable bird work, enjoyable camaraderie, and model sportsmanship. From the staggering 45 mile per hour winds—to an eerie dense fog--and ending with absolute calm, dogs and handlers came together on the rolling prairie of Nebraska to deliver championship high-class bird dog competition.

Our thanks go to Purina, our corporate sponsor, and to the following partners who supported this event: Nebraska Field Trial Association, Dogs Unlimited, Ruff Tough Kennel, GunDog Supply, DogGestive Daily, GSP Club of Lincoln, DOGTRA, and to the Central Carolinas and Western English Setter Clubs! We appreciate your support!

Beginning with the introductory course ride and tasty barbeque the evening before the National Championship stake, a friendly and energetic attitude prevailed among attendees. The course along the northwest side of the Branched Oak Reservoir was 3.45 miles long and run in a wide, looping figure 8, which required handlers to remain “in touch” with their dogs on the cross-over. The elevation change on the course was just over 170 feet and included several hills and ravines. Due to the Midwest drought, there were four strategic locations on the course where dogs had access to water barrels.

On Wednesday October 17, judges Ken Windom (IA) and Gene Moseley (TX), and judges marshal Jack Higgins (NE) got the running got underway under partly cloudy skies with the command to “turn ‘em loose!” We ran 4 braces with the winds beginning to increase, and broke for a super lunch graciously provided by Gwynne McDevitt and Double Dee Kennels. The afternoon braces had to indeed “brace” for the wind gusting to 40, but the dogs continued to perform and find birds. Wednesday concluded with a social hour sponsored by Landon Beard and Hideaway Kennels.

The winds blew all night and provided early challenges for the morning braces on Thursday. The conditions of this championship demanded fierce intensity and inexhaustible ground race from the canine athletes. However, the dogs again proved their mettle by finding and pointing birds with style. It appeared that the wind was more challenging for the handlers and gallery than the dogs! The bird planters did an exceptional job of placing birds in appropriate objectives. After carefully watching all 23 starters, Judges Windom and Moseley found themselves with several solid dogs in contention and chose to award 3 Judge's Award of Merits, and 4 championship placements:

1: Hideaway's Western Wonder (Luke)
    Owners: Corey and Melissa Ling
    Handler: Ben Garcia

2: Roundabout's Call Me Bodacious (Bodie)
    Owners: Cathy Reifschneider & Tom Workman
    Handler: Ben Garcia

3: 2X NAFC/FC/AFC Chukarhill Rimrock Ridge (Ridge)
    Owner: Cindy Findley
    Handler: Cindy Findley

4: NFC/FC Fredrichs George Jetsson (George)
    Owner: Paul Fredrich
    Handler: Dan Hoke

JAM: Chukarhill Soo Smooth (Arnie)
    Owner: Larry Schwerdt
    Handler: Trena Cardwell

JAM: Too's Fools Chukarhill Pearl (Pearl)
    Owner: Jerry & Barbara Peltola
    Handler: Trena Cardwell

JAM: FC Streek's Lil Maggie (Maggie)
    Owner: Donna Gibbons-Markey
    Handler: Ben Garcia

Congratulations to all of these fine Setters and their remarkable achievements!

Friday morning saw the 4 Open Puppy starters take to the course under Judges Tom Lococo (NE) and Brian Sullivan (SC). Each dog performed well and the judges chose the winner from Brace 3, which ran as a bye dog for trainer Trena Cardwell. The placements:

    Owner: Trena Cardwell
    Handler: Trena Cardwell

    Owner: Larry Brutger
    Handler: Matt Eder

    Owner: Anne Boyd
    Handler: Trena Cardwell

4. GHK Marauder (Max)
    Owner: Charlie & Dale Walker
    Handler: Trena Cardwell

After a short break to prepare the course for the National Derby Classic, Judges Ned Myers (IA) and Tom Lococo (NE) had their work cut out for them with 15 starters and aggressive wind. This stake featured several littermates and all eyes were focused on how well the young dogs would handle the wind and wide open area. At the end of the day, the judges were able to determine their top finishers and in a unique line-up, the first, second and third place dogs were ALL littermates, trained and handled by Matt Eder (MN), and the 4th place dog was sired by a two-time NAFC, testifying to the value of strong genetics in breeding programs.

    Owner: Chuck Brandes
    Handler: Matt Eder

    Owner: Matt Eder
    Handler: Matt Eder

    Owner: Matt Eder
    Handler: Matt Eder
    Owner: Trish and Wayne James
    Handler: Wayne James

At the conclusion of the Derby Classic, everyone had a chance to get their chores finished before gathering in the warm clubhouse for a delicious Judge's Celebration Dinner, Auction, and Calcutta. Often at national events, some of the best people memories come from the good-natured fun around the table, and certainly this was the case as we enjoyed stories from some of the judges, a warm welcome from AKC Representative Tom Maneely, and the announcement from Nebraska's Joe Fingerlin of the 2013 AKC National Gun Dog Championship to be held on the Branched Oak grounds in March of 2013.

With some high-spirited bidding and cajoling, the live auction generated much-needed funds in support of the event, and most folks went home with some memento from the collection of unique items. And as the laughter and ribbing continued among owners and handlers, the National Amateur Calcutta was a big success with every starting dog being purchased. This singular “FUN-d raising” auction provides additional support to the future national field trials.

In true Nebraska fashion, the weather did an about-face overnight and a beautiful, muted sunrise was hidden behind a calm, dense fog that prevented the National Amateur from starting until well after sun-up. The wind had suddenly disappeared and it was as quiet as a church. Judges Ned Myers (IA), Brian Sullivan (SC), and judges marshal Jim Douglass (NE) brought the dogs to the line and we cast off at 9:20. Handlers voices carried for miles as they sang to their charges and dogs were faced with the challenge of intense searching to hone in on scent cones. Temperatures began to rise and by mid-afternoon, we concluded 5 braces.

In a wonderful show of Midwestern hospitality, the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of Lincoln Nebraska hosted a fabulous social hour, complete with chicken wings, popcorn, cheeses, appetizers, and beverages. We extend our great thanks to them for a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a beautiful prairie sunset with good conversation and friendship.

With a nod to the impending temperature increase, Judges Myers and Sullivan wisely cast-off Sunday with the first brace just at dawn on a clear, magnificent morning. Again it was dead calm, and dogs needed to show some determination to locate their elusive quarry. Despite a few missteps with some dogs, by 12:15, we had completed the last 5 braces, and we settled in to wait for the judge's decision. In their complimentary remarks prior to the announcement, both judges spoke highly of the quality of dogs and especially of the solid bird work. And the placements were as follows:

1. CHUKARHILL SOO SMOOTH (Arnold Anthony Cardwell-Schwerdt)
    Owners: Shelly & Larry Schwerdt
    Handler: Larry Schwerdt

    Owner: Paul Fredrich
    Handler: Paul Fredrich

    Owners: M. Chanin & K. Rawlings
    Handler: Tom Griffin

    Owner: Susan Orlicky
    Handler: Larry Schwerdt

    Owner: Tom Griffin
    Handler: Tom Griffin

Soon after the pictures and celebration, some attendees got on the road and as quickly as it started the event was sadly over. But we had crowned two worthy champions, witnessed the spunkiness of puppies, and celebrated a unique Derby stake. And although no definite plans were announced for 2013, there was talk among a few about stepping up to insure that this event continues.

This 2012 National Field Trial Championship owes its success to a dedicated group of people including Lisa Miller, Cindy Findley, Larry Schwerdt, Sue Orlicky, Lorie Dewe, Ben Garcia, Gwynne McDevitt, and a host of others who stepped in to assist during the event. We celebrate the winners, but also congratulate all those who entered, traveled, participated, attended, and supported this memorable event. We hope to see many of you next year!

Cindy Findley

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