Europa Cup, The Hungarian Vizsla European Field Trial Championships
Well Done with your achievments!
See below for the report of the event and photos attached!
In 2008 I was privileged to travel to Hungary as a spectator to the Europa Cup, The Hungarian Vizsla European Field Trial Championships. A competition solely for Vizslas, both wirehaired and smooth. This year I was asked to accompany ‘Team GB’ as their ‘Rover Reporter’ to Etaing in Northern France to report on their participation in this year’s Europa Cup.
The Europa Cup is held annually and is hosted by various Vizsla clubs around Europe. The competition is run along the lines of the autumn equivalent of the British spring pointing tests. In previous years ‘Team GB’ have been somewhat out in the wilderness, often with only Roy Bebbington (Gonegos) with his wirehaired flying a solitary Union Jack, but this year the team felt they had a lot to offer as four out of the five dogs running had either field trial awards, spring pointing awards or indeed both. In fact one of the team had acquired an ‘excellent’ grading on grouse (one of only two Hungarian Vizslas in history to gain this grading) and another a ‘good’ grading the previous month.
Team GB consisted of Adrian Shaw (Magyar) the team Captain with his dog, Chester; Richard Chilly-Chellumbrun (Vizellven) with his bitch, Mila; Mel Crook (Finnougric) with his bitch Fern; Shirley and Mac Mattravers(Hunterstone) with their mother and daughter combination, Loki and Rusty. Claire Chellumbrun (Vizellven), Dick Evans(Magyar) and myself (Bardantop)as team support. We met on a glorious September morning at the entrance to the Eurotunnel , our Europa Cup had begun! Arrival in Calais necessitated a visit to the Carrefour supermarket to collect the requisite bottles of light beer that were offered around during the running of the competition. We then made our way to Hotel Ibis in Cambrai which was to be our ‘billet’ for our stay. This is a very historical region of France with Cambrai being the site of the first tank battle in WW1 and the neighbouring town of Arras was the scene of a particularly bloody conflict with over 45,000 British troops losing their lives …. hopefully our competition would prove more friendly!
Thursday afternoon the team were able to run their dogs as a practical training exercise on sugar beet, a crop that the Welsh contingent rarely had an opportunity to run on. It also gave the dogs chance to absorb the sound and scent of rural France. After a typical French picnic of bread, pate, cheese and fruit we made our way back to the hotel for the competition draw. This gave us the chance to meet our fellow competitors and renew acquaintances made in Hungary in 2008. As there were 7 countries and 30 dogs taking part so it was necessary to split into 2 groups/concours with judge Christian Boucher taking the ‘white group’ and judge Jean Lassandre taking the ‘red group’. At this meeting everyone was given a comprehensive running order complete with pictures and pedigrees of all the dogs taking part as well as rules and regulations.
Friday, the first day saw Chilly, Adrian and Shirley run their dogs under Christian Boucher, with Mel and Mac running under Jean Lassandre. The second day trial, on Sunday the groups were to change over and be given the chance to run under the other judge and on the other ground.
It was an early start on Friday morning to the village of Etaing where the teams were introduced and their national anthems played. Team GB looked extremely smart in their traditional shooting attire accompanied by the smart matching polo shirts and fleeces which had been generously sponsored by SPORTING SAINT Gundog Supplies. The dogs hadn’t been forgotten and they all had matching leads and a comprehensive canine first aid kit provided by a one of Team GB’s local dog training group and veterinary practice. We then split into the 2 concours and travelled to the sugar beet ground by car. The ground around Etaing is flat and stretches way into the distance with sugar beet and standing maize as far as the eye could see……….superb HPR country and no excuse for dogs not to run.
These trials varied somewhat to our trials in the UK, yet there were also similarities. The first difference is that they use ‘dizzied‘ pheasants to ensure that all dogs had opportunity to find game (wild game is a bonus). Dogs run for 15 minutes under a single judge however it could be longer at the judges discretion. Another difference was that ground treatment was not given the same importance as in the UK, but they DID expect the dog to cover the ground equidistant and with pace. Bumping or chasing game was an eliminating fault as was running wrong side of the wind. Dogs were given a minute to settle and a hunting horn signalled the end of your run. Another major difference is that the handler can walk into the point with the dog and produce the bird with a shot being fired to honour the flush. The dog should be steady to both shot and flush. This was causing some concern to the GB team as their dogs are not expecting their handlers to produce the bird or having handlers ‘stealing’ their point. If the dog had a successful hunt and point they were then given a retrieve on cold game however the same bird was used for every dog! Again very different from the UK.
What an eye opener for those that think the Vizsla is a clingy, non-hunting dog - Without exception, whichever country, smooth or wirehaired - those dogs ran! And there is nothing more striking than a Vizsla bounding through sugar beet with purpose and sun gleaming on its russet gold coat. It was also very pleasing to see the British dogs more than holding their own and giving of their very best on unfamiliar terrain. Word got back to us that in the ‘white group’ Jean Lassandre had ran Mel and his bitch Fern for 35minutes! The judge must have liked what he saw - we were hoping that this was going to be a good result for Team GB. Back to Etaing for the results and our hopes had been realized …… Chilly and Mila had been awarded very good with Mel and Ferns running not being in vain - she also gained a very good. Points for Team GB.
Day two was set aside for conformation and water retrieves. As many of the Vizslas entered from the various countries were rarely shown, they were not always ‘stacked’ to advantage and the judge had to get to grips with some very wriggly Vizlsas! All the dogs were graded either good; very good or excellent for their conformation and then points were awarded accordingly. Team UK were awarded 2 very goods and 3 excellents - more team points on the scoreboard. We then drove to a nearby shooting ground for the water retrieves. If the HPRs get a water certificate in the UK I hope that it is nothing like the water retrieves that we watched in France! All dogs are expected to retrieve from water to land by whatever means. The dog weren’t penalized for ‘running in’ as long as it made the retrieve. If the bird had not been marked a stone or second bird was thrown to give the dog a second or even third chance and all this was accompanied by hollering and barking of the other competitors and their dogs who crowded the bank behind the judges and handler! One of the UK dogs found it all rather off putting and chose to leave the water further along the bank to avoid the baying hordes .
It was then back to the vehicles for what was for me one of the high points of the trip - After I had been free’d from my borrowed wellies, we sat in the glorious September sunshine and shared our picnic, beer and wine with some of our fellow competitors. We came from 4 different countries: Czech, GB, France and Denmark. Five languages were spoken and yet as we all spoke Vizsla, jokes were shared and laughter echoed through the woods and friendships were made through our common language. The same camaraderie was shared that evening when we went to Natalie Parents (French Vizsla Club President) for a B-B-Q, an evening shared with some 12 of her wirehaired Vizslas who waited in vain for a sausage to fall off the barbeque!
Day three saw us change ground and judges with Chilly, Adrian and Shirley running under Jean Lassandre and Mac and Mel under Christian Boucher. Again they ran sugar beet with ‘dizzied’ pheasants being put out earlier that morning. The beet there was much taller than the ground on the first day and some of the smaller bitches struggled to exhibit the pace that they had shown previously. Again resplendent in their SPORTING SAINT polo shirts Team UK had another encouraging day. Adrian and Chester had a good run in shorter beet, with Chester showing very good pace and style as he worked onto his bird. Mila however, as one of the smaller bitches was often lost from view from the gallery as she did battle with a patch of taller beet however nothing daunts Mila and she found, pointed and flushed her bird - looked like more points for Team GB. Other competitors were certainly sitting up and taking notice of the Brits now and comments that I overheard in the gallery were very complimentary - It’s helpful to have a smattering of another language - and if the spectators were ‘really’ impressed they told you in English too!
Before we made our way back to the village of Etaing word had reached us that Shirley had been graded very good with Loki and that new champion had also been made by another competitor. To follow the two days trials there was a barrage or run-off to find the overall winner of the Europa Cup. This year it was between two smooths; a 16 month old Czech bitch and a 10 ½ year old Danish gentleman who had nothing left to learn and indeed showed his maturity and went on to win the individual Europa Cup overall a great result for Denmark as it was their first time competing at this event and they are also not used to the FCI way of trialling..
It was with great anticipation that we made our way back for the presentation dinner. Both judges gave an overview critique of the dogs and the trials with positive words for everyone which Natalie Parent gamely translated into English. There were awards for everyone, no-one had been forgotten and applause for all was generous. The winning team was France (a very loud cheer!) and there was indeed a new champion . The diminutive Jeanine de Greef of Belgium had made up her wirehaired Vizsla; Ullysse du Domaine St Hubert over the two days. If possible the cheers for this were even louder as the dog had been bred in France by Natalie Parent as had 3 out of the 4 wirehaired that were running. It was also Ullysses last competition prior to retirement! What a fantastic finale to the dogs career and Jeanine left with a trophy that was very nearly as big as she.
Team GB had finished 5th overall with Chilly and his bitch finishing 8th in the individual competition and one of only 4 dogs to be graded on both days trials. Our hopes and expectations had been realized and we now knew that a carefully selected team could indeed, hold their own against the best of the European dogs under their own FCI rules and ways of working.
We returned to our billet tired, but really chuffed at what Team GB had achieved and I would like to say we had an early night in preparation for our early start home on Monday …….. but NO we sat in the lobby of the hotel and celebrated well into the night with the last sound I heard as my head hit the pillow was that of all our empties hitting the side of the recycling bin!
Some of the best memories for me that I can share, are the camaraderie of ALL the competitors from the different countries; watching Vizslas at their very best; being kidnapped by a French lady; wrapping my arms around an Italian as I was wrested from my borrowed wellies; sharing our food and drink in the woods and many hours of laughter with new found friends. It is hoped that Denmark will host the Europa Cup next year - a long journey, but if it is anything like 2010 it will be more than worth it and I’m saving now!
Unfortunately I don’t have a wirehaired to run at the moment, but it is something I might consider in the future.
TEAM GB would like to show special thanks to the following for their generous sponsorship of this event:
SPORTING SAINT GUNDOG TRAINING EQUIPMENT - www.sportingsaint.co.uk
IN LINE DOG TRAINING - www.inlinedogtraining.co.uk
ARNWOOD VETERINARY CLINICS - www.arnwoodvets.co.uk
Chris Guest (Bardantop) ‘Rover Reporter’ to Team GB