Fourth NGSPA Open All-Age Invitational
Hell Creek WMA, MS. January 4-6, 2022
By: Keith Richardson
The fourth NGSPA Open All-Age Invitational was held on January 4-6, 2022, at Hell Creek WMA, Mississippi. It is the only NGSPA event held on these grounds, which are regarded by many field trialers as the best All-Age grounds in the country.
Hell Creek WMA is owned by the state of Mississippi and managed by the Department[g1] [g2] of Wildlife, Fish and Parks, under the management of Nathan Blount, Regional Biologist. Nathan has been very helpful to work with, allowing us to keep the same dates year to year, and allowing two extra days in case of bad weather. These grounds were opened in 1999 and include dog kennels, a horse barn with 38 stalls, outside paddocks, a spacious Club House with cooking facilities, and a hard pack area with a few hook-ups for trailers.
Jack Griffin retired in 2020 and he was the man responsible for maintaining the grounds and providing other field trial support. We missed him last year, but Nathan Blount was responsible for bringing Jack back on a part time basis. One of his tasks was to care for the grounds and they have never looked better. The cover was well groomed and held birds well. Thanks also to Jeremy Taylor and the other Hell Creek Field Trial Clubs who have all pitched in to keep the area clean and in good shape.
The grounds present a number of long bottoms and some piney woods providing a variety of cover to challenge and test our dogs. There is plenty of dense cover to hold quail. The grounds demand a powerful All-Age dog that stays to the front, carries a line to the end, and seeks timely guidance from its handler. Absences of five to ten minutes are common. The courses flow nicely but penalize dogs that get behind, won’t carry a line, are seen too often, or won’t respond to their handler.
We were blessed to have Korry Rinehart and Nick Thompson advise us on how to best utilize the grounds to produce three courses, and then they used their knowledge to plant quail in strategic places. All three courses provided their own challenges and opportunities to show and evaluate an All-Age dog.
We were honored to have two outstanding judges: Kipp Linard of Foristell, MO and George Hill of Wentzville, MO. Both are amateurs and well-respected judges in the American Field world. They have been in the game for many years and have handled and trained their own dogs as well as working along-side some notable pros. They know what a Championship All-Age performance looks like, and they offered a consistently positive, informed and focused evaluation of the 12 competing dogs.
A talented crew came together to put on this quality event. Edie Lee Adams and Tireca (ReRe) Turner catered three wonderful meals a day with coffee ready at 5:30. Joe Frauendienst oversaw tons of details, and also drove the dog wagon. Penny and Rich Robertson helped with preparation details. We could not have put the event on without the oversight, attention to details, and hard work of Bobbi Richardson, and our Executive Assistant, Brittiny Habercorn.
The grounds tend to be confusing for most of us and it was a tremendous help to have Korry Rinehart serve as lead Marshall with assistance from Rich Robertson, Nick Thompson and Dan DiMambro.
Our incredible sponsors made this trial possible. Greg Blair and Purina supports all three of our NGSPA Invitationals, which showcase the excellence of their product which is currently being fed to all dogs competing in this challenging endurance event. They provided important financial assistance, including 12 bags of product for the Champion handler, 12 bags to auction, and helped with a Ross Young original oil painting of the Champion gifted to the owner. Garmin provided an Alpha 10, their latest GPS tracking device to the Champion’s owner. Ross Young donated much of his time because he is not charging full value for his truly fabulous works of art. The winning handler also earned a $5,000 purse.
All attendees received an exceptional package of gifts including a warm and attractive vest with dog and owner’s names and logo, best-in-class CSI Saddle Pad with logo, dog vest with logo by Ruff Wear, and other items.
The Guidelines and Philosophy are essentially the same as the NGSPA Shooting Dog Invitationals. We ask the judges to pay close attention to our NGSPA All-Age Standard. The 12 top winning All-Age dogs from the past year are invited. There are three continuous days of running. The first two are hour stakes and the third day is a 90 minute call-back, which tests the endurance and stamina of the top dogs like no other trial in the NGSPA world.
The judges maintained a consistent pace along a consistent course. They expected the handler to “show them their dog”, explaining that it was the handler’s job to show his dog, not the judge’s job to follow him around. Handlers were free to leave the “path” and do what needed to be done to show the dog to the judges like riding to gather up his dog, heel it, or hold it up at a choke point for release when the judges caught up. They wanted handlers to quickly gain the front after bird work. They were both very experienced and their depth of knowledge and “bird-dog sense” was apparent in their evaluations.
The judges called back four dogs. A predicted storm and freezing rain arrived as forecast at 4:00 A.M. and bird planting and running was delayed until a noon cast off. It was still drizzly, wet and extremely cold so as to threaten the dogs with hypothermia. With the approval of the stake manager the judges decided to shorten the 90 minute call-back to 60 minutes recognizing it was safer for the dogs and their evaluation was not hindered because only a dog with extreme stamina could withstand 60 minutes in the extant conditions. In light of the harsh conditions they further announced that they had one dog in the first brace with two consistently good days. Every other dog had a “hole” on one of the two days. Therefore, if their number one dog had a strong performance they were going to name the Champion without running brace 2.
JUDGE’S GENERAL COMMENTS ON THE RUNNING
Neither judge had judged GSPs before. We have found that this “outside perspective” has helped to raise the “All-Age” bar not only for our dogs, but for our handlers, owners and trainers. It also helps to spread the word that the GSP All-Age dog is worthy to compete in any American Field venue. Both judges were impressed with the range of our dogs and their quality application to the course. Every dog that finished the course showed all-age range. The quality of the bird work was also exceptional. They noted that some of the handlers missed opportunities to show their dogs by not allowing them to work smaller enclosed fields that could have demonstrated their power and application to edges with no danger of the dog getting away, or aggressively heeling their dog through a choke point and releasing it out of sight to the judges, thus preventing them from seeing what may have been an impressive move.
BMB’s Free Ride (Lewey), owned by Brandon and Jennifer Blum and handled by Brandon, and scouted by Josh Nieman, was named the 2021 NGSPA All-Age Invitational Champion.
Lewey was the only dog that had three strong days. Over the three days he had 15 finds, and no NPs. He was a tough dog and finished the final day with a strong finish and a race undiminished by the harsh conditions even though the hair on his back was raised by exposure. He consistently ran to the extreme-filling up the country. For the first two days Brandon was able to sit back and “let him go” with little or no commands and no hacking. On day three he let his excitement get to him and a few times he detracted from the ”show”. The judges were impressed when Lewey was the only dog to take the distant side of a very large field, demonstrating beauty and grace as he flowed around the edge with speed and power. Lewey did not break off any lines. He pin-pointed his birds so that most flushes were quick and clean. Some of the other dogs seemed to have a hard time pinning the location of birds resulting in a number of lengthy flushing attempts. Lewey required no warning-whoas while Brandon flushed and he maintained his attractive style with unmoving intensity. When his third run was over he was the clear Champion, and the only dog with three days of Champion performance.
THE OTHER CALL-BACK DOGS
Hi N’s Hasty Matilda (Matte), owned by Hank Lewis and handled by Dan DiMambro and scouted by Hank.
Matte’s first day was weak with one find the first 20 minutes before checking out for the rest of the hour. While she was under judgement she covered the ground in nice all-age fashion and had good application to the course and impressive style.
Her second day was strong with 6 finds, and one NP. She went nicely with her handler and possessed a big, quick, and snappy race. Her bird work was excellent and she showed an impressive finish.
On Day 3 she was braced with the Champion. She had four finds, all with nice style. She filled up the country, handled kindly, and stayed with the handler. She was consistently to the front and took the edges to completion. Matte showed she was tough having a strong finish in adverse conditions.
The following two dogs distinguished themselves by being called-back, but their brace was not run for reasons already noted.
BMB’s Freeloader (Hewey), owned by Brandon and Jennifer Blum and handled by Brandon, and scouted by Josh Nieman.
On the first day Hewey had a strong race with 3 finds and 1 back. His range was good, but not as extreme as Lewey’s. On day 2 Hewey had three finds, a good range and stamina. He hung the edges nicely. He had a solid performance overall but didn’t show as well as Lewey.
Riden High Rudy (Rudy), owned by Ray Nelson and handled by Dan DiMambro, and scouted by Hank Lewis.
On Day 1 Rudy had two finds and one NP. His race was acceptable but not as big as some. He handled well and looked good on his birds.
On Day 2 he had three finds and an adequate race with a tremendous finish. His handle and bird work was consistent with his performance on Day 1.
NON CALL-BACK DOGS
Stoney Hill’s Pinnacle Dee (Dee), owned by Kirk Loftin and Meghan Hagedorn, handled by Kirk Loftin and scouted by Sherri Tangsrud.
On Day 1 Dee had three finds including one with an impressive relocation and one NP. Her race was adequate, but she had a rough handle at times. On Day 2 she had 3 NPs and one divided find. She had an adequate race with good style on her birds.
PW BDK’s Dot on the Horizon (Dot), owned by Keith and Bobbi Richardson, handled by Rich Robertson and scouted by Nick Thompson.
Day 1 Dot had two finds and one back. She had a really strong race taking the edges beautifully but was pretty “fired up” and had a rough handle at times. On day 2 she had a really strong race and plenty of stamina but three NPs hurt her.
Joke’s On You (Buddy), owned by Steve Erickson, handled by Chris Goegan and scouted by Staci Goegan.
Day 1 Buddy had two finds, and one divided find with a big showy race. He had great style and the handler did a superior job showing him, holding him at choke points, and letting him roll unimpeded by unnecessary commands or hacking. On Day 2 Buddy had an extended flushing attempt with no birds produced and it put him way behind. He was gone much of the hour.
AO Tripps to Win (Tripp), owned by Alan Davison, handled by Josh Nieman and scouted by Brandon Blum.
Day 1 Tripp started off with a long absence of over 15 minutes and returned to have a really nice performance. He had five stylish finds with a great race. His application was impressive, and he filled the country with his reach and had a strong finish. He handled well for Josh. Day 2 Tripp was seen for five minutes and then disappeared for the rest of the hour.
Rumel’s Augie Doggie (Augie), owned by Jim Yates and Frank Mucci, handled by Dan DiMambro and scouted by Hank Lewis.
On Day 1 Augie had three finds but each time the judges and handler had to ride back to them. His race was erratic and he was gone the last fifteen minutes. On Day 2 handler pulled tracker after an extended absence. It wasn’t Augie’s year.
High Standing Cuttin Edge (Woody), owned by Anthony and Dayna Rusciano, handled by Dan DiMambro and scouted by Hank Lewis.
Day one-Woody was gone after break-away. Day 2-the tracker was pulled after a long absence.
H’s AM Cruiser (Cruiser), owned by Harlan Higgenboth and Chase Verdoorn, handled by Chase and scouted by Mark Verdoorn.
On Day 1 Cruiser was gone for the first 40 minutes and returned to have one find and one back. His race was adequate. He was quick moving and he had beautiful style. On Day 2 he had fast ground speed but was not listening and disappeared early on.
Chicoree’s Elvis Aairing Felty (Elvis), owned by Lance Felty, handled by Chris Goegan and scouted by Staci Goegan.
Elvis was soon gone both days.
CLOSING THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS
We had great weather for two days of running, but overnight on the third day a severe storm and cold weather moved in. Hell Creek was safe to cross, and accommodations were made as noted previously. This is not to be viewed as precedent-setting.
The judges commented on how much they appreciated the camaraderie and sportsmanship that was exhibited on and off-field. They both commented that they really enjoyed themselves.
The number of finds was very good and was improved over prior years. We increased the number and our new bird supplier, Chris Sellers, provided outstanding birds that seemed able to withstand the severe weather. We did not see dead birds which are often observed after a cold and freezing storm. Korrey and Nick really have the planting down, and it showed.
With our fourth year of running the All-Age Invitational, we can certainly see improvements in support of our objective: to raise the bar for our GSP breed, and for the GSP trainer and handler. The number of dogs exhibiting consistent All-Age range and application has continued to increase, and their overall performance on birds is outstanding. There also seemed to be a noticeable overall improvement in the level of control the handlers had over their dogs, which is a necessity to win on these grounds. The handlers seem to be more comfortable with the consistent pace and “show me your dog” philosophies that are a hallmark of all of our Invitationals. Yet there is still room for improvement and as time passes the bar will continue to be raised. The future of the All-Age GSP remains bright, and their impact on the genetics of the GSP Shooting Dog bodes well for the future of our breed.