The weather was ideal – sunny, but not too warm and the paddocks at Springbridge were in very good condition and looked stunning.
Alison Burgess (Chairman, British Carriage Dog Society) led the training assisted by Ali Rummey, both having travelled from East Sussex. Both trainers are experienced competitors in Carriage Dog Trials – ridden and driven. In addition both have extensive experience as dog trainers with Alison currently the only Kennel Club Accredited Instructor for Carriage Dogs.
The day began with a presentation on the history of the breed, exploring the earliest evidence of Dalmatians accompanying carriages. The group then moved outside to begin on the ground training where a range of exercises had been designed to assist in preparing Dalmatians for accompanying either carriages or ridden horses. All of the training was based on praise and reward for success.
After coffee the group were joined by Jane Stretton driving Harry (Craignant Satellite), a Welsh Section D pony to a Fenix carriage. Delegates were delighted that Jane had chosen to sport a spotted shirt! Jane and Harry were incredibly patient whilst newcomers introduced their Dalmatians to following the carriage. More experienced delegates were able to complete more complex activities. Carriage dogs often wear a bell on their collar to indicate location to the handler – especially if this is the whip. Harry accepted this immediately with nothing more than a ‘what next?’ look!
After lunch, taken on the lawn, training recommenced with a circuit of activities planned to replicate participation in competitive Trials. These included collecting heart and respiratory statistics, visiting the vetting area and practice for obedience judging. Ekko, a Norwegian Fjord Horse from Springbridge, patiently walked the paddocks with each Dalmatian who was unfamiliar with horses. This proved to be a very successful exercise with neither Dalmatians nor Ekko having any reservations about walking together.
Jane and Harry then re-joined the training and delegates were offered the opportunity for their Dalmatians to achieve Instinct Certificates behind the carriage.
Following presentation of the Instinct Certificates, a question and answer session completed the training.
Presentations were made to both trainers and the guest driver, Jane Stretton, with all delegates agreeing that this had been an excellent event.
Linda and Dennis Cotterill and Jane Stretton were thanked for the very warm welcome they had extended to all delegates and for their generous hospitality throughout the day.
Special thanks were extended to Harry who demonstrated the versatility of the Welsh cob in his patience and willing response to a new situation.
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Written by Lesley Suggett