Late last summer I was lucky enough to be asked if I would like to come ‘up north' once a month and join in with a small group of people who enjoy training their HPRs. For me this entailed a round trip of approx 4 hrs but as I found out it is well worth the trip each month. Having heard how this group was formed I approached Ingrid Moyser and Marie Holt to see if they would like to share their experience of setting up and running this training group. Between them they have a very interesting story to tell.

 Colin Elliott

Marie
“The next animal I get is a fish” rang the words on nearly the last training night at Coventry. A joke that myself
and Ingrid often shared when training hadn’t turned out as we had expected. It was always sad to say goodbye to the people who we had spent 16 weeks with. Training a dog in Nottingham was hard as nobody really worked HPR’s and the only chance we had was either one to one with Peter Everitt Stewart (which is fantastic and highly recommended) or Coventry & District Gundog Club which only runs April to July (again wouldn’t miss it for the world). We spoke to a few people who had become friends over the past couple of years, and asked them if we could find the land would they be willing to come and train? Everyone said yes. Ingrid, David ( Ingrids other half ) and I the year previous had carried the Thursday nights out with our dogs until the nights got to dark with my poor long suffering husband Wayne throwing dummies for us in the local woods. We said wouldn’t it be nice if we could find land that we could use once a month and carry on everything we had learnt and work on the things we still hadn’t!
 
Ingrid
Finding ground to train our HPRs (a spinone and a weimeraner) in Nottinghamshire has not been easy. For the last 3 years Marie and I have travelled hundreds of miles across Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, Worcestershire and Staffs to join various training groups.  But in between our formal training sessions we have struggled to find anywhere local suitable for everything we needed to practice. As Notts is made up of huge areas of forest and farmland it shouldn’t be the most difficult place to throw a few dummies and let our dogs hunt safely.  But most of the farms also run shoots and didn’t want us disturbing their birds.  We found a few spots open to public access; a huge park was fine for a while until we had to start dodging quad bikes.  Another site had two good size ponds but we soon gained an audience plus some help with dummy retrieval from local dogs.  We could not fire the dummy launcher nor use a starting pistol without fear of being arrested.  Then we gained an odd man who liked Marie a bit too much so we decided it time to find a more private place!
 
Marie
We both got together after a dog walk in Ingrid’s pristine garden (and my dogs doing a nice impression of a grass cultivator on her lovely lawn) and talked about what we needed “LOTS OF LAND AND A VERY GENEROUS NATURED FARMER” They come along every day, don’t they?
 
Ingrid
Marie loves a challenge and quickly produced a list of farmers/landowners across Nott’s and Derby’s.  We sifted through over 120 and chose ~100 to write to, then produced a suitably grovelling letter asking to use a couple of fields for our training sessions. A few phoned us quickly to say “no” then we did a lot of follow up phone calls.  Most were very apologetic but really didn’t want us doing anything on their land let alone running gundogs!!  Desperation was beginning to set in when we got a call from a farmer who was willing to let us use a couple of his fields.  We raced to see him the same evening (about 15 miles away) and were really thrilled with what he offered us.  We could have a couple of fields one day a month, although we would have to move around to different fields because of the farm’s activities.  The farmland is arable, stubble, beet/root crops or set-aside, each field is 10 – 20 acres so ample for retrieving and a little hunting.
 
Marie
We have now been using the land one Sunday a month for two years. I have become friends with both the farmer and his wife. I pick up on his farm throughout the season.
 
Ingrid
Our generous farmer rides with bloodhounds so was very understanding of our need to access land for training our dogs.  He asked that numbers should be limited to 10 so we decided to meet one Sunday each month with just a few other friends who live locally as a “self-help” group.
 
Marie 
We have no trainers to help us; everybody who comes gives a little to help others and takes a little home with them. All we ask is everybody gets something out of the day and enjoys it. The social side is as important as the training. A few new people have joined the group and they fit in with the rest of us, we are not a training group we are a group of friends who train.
 
Ingrid
Nearly 2 years on and our Sunday sessions are still going strong and are surprisingly well organised. Our group includes spinoni, weimeraners, HWV, LM, and a KG, so a good cross-section of the HPR breeds. We have amassed a huge variety of equipment between us so are able to share a bolting rabbit, different dummies and dummy launchers etc. The day is a really full one starting with refreshments and biscuits!!  We tend to split up into a couple of groups, one for retrieving the other hunting depending on what we want to practice.  Marie’s husband Wayne and his sister Wendy come along and valiantly throw dummies, organise refreshments, help with steadiness exercises and generally keep us working.  Wayne also takes photos of us and dogs (see his superb pictures).  The latest addition to our equipment is a tripod for his camera!!  We are able to set up all sorts of tasks, long seen retrieves down hedge lines, jumps, blinds through hedges, splits with or without launcher using all types of dummies and the occasional piece of cold game.  The hunting ground differs month to month depending upon what we are offered but there is usually enough game around for all the dogs to have chance to find either partridge or pheasant (occasionally snipe).  Marie always provides a wonderful beef stew for lunch then we “swap” activities and continue on until 2 – 3pm regardless of weather then finish the day with very welcome cakes (donated by a group member).
 
Marie
Why did we write this? Because even though we can’t help people by inviting them to our group (the farmers good but I’m sure there is a limit to the amount of people on his land) but on the hope other people will get together in their area and see if land is available for them, trust me if we can do it anybody can.................. OH and the name of the group.....NAF TRAINING (Next Animals a Fish!) Wayne (the long sufferring husband of Marie) The wife conned me into throwing dummies for a few people once a month. It turned out to be, whatever the weather would you take pictures, throw dummies, make the tea, serve the dinner, get your sister involved to help throw dummies, stand for hours in bad weather with a bolting rabbit, throw dead birds/rabbits around a field and smile!
 
I enjoy watching everybody get pleasure from working their dogs. I take photos when I can so they have something to remember the day and see how good their dogs look when working. At lunch we get together and talk about what they want to do in the afternoon, normally more standing in the damp and cold until they get that perfect retrieve from the dogs! I asked my sister to give up her warm Sundays to help me, so the group could have more throwers, she jumped at the chance to see the dogs and now I won’t let her back out of it!
Even when the weather is at its worst everybody comes with a smile, enjoys the day and always says thank you to me for the work I do.
Below are a few pictures from the many taken over the last couple of years.