My journey to creating the Gundog Girls Brand.
Having been brought up in the countryside surrounded by horses, it was no surprise that I was sat on a pony long before I could walk. Having spent my early years riding and travelling to shows, I was given the opportunity to groom for Ann Varley with her carriage driving turnout at Burghley Horse Trials. After her demo of driving trials around parts of the cross country course I was soon hooked, this was what I wanted to do.
A string of ponies soon followed with successes as a Junior, taking the Championship sash at Ponies UK in the first year. After many successes, I purchased a sports pony from Holland called Dutch Courage. After a summer of training, we took the indoor circuit by storm and he quickly became my pony of a lifetime racked up numerous consecutive wins and unbelievable scores, all over the UK.
A chance encounter got me into the world of gundogs. I was helping a friend at the Game Fair who was clay shooting and found myself drawn to the gundog displays and competitions. I already owned a Brittany, Pop who was my trusty carriage dog and I saw no reason why we could not try our hand at gundog work. After enrolling at our local gundog club, it soon became apparent that we were not made welcome both being female and having an unusual breed. Being not easily deterred, I set out to find other people who were prepared to help train us.
After speaking to other lady dog handlers, I found that I wasn’t alone in feeling unwelcome at gundog clubs and events. Clearly there was a need for a friendly environment in which ladies could come together, learn and enjoy their gundogs. After much thought, I came up with the concept of Gundog Girls, ladies-only training days and competitions with different guest trainers, from well-respected judges to the local gamekeeper. It was an instant hit and that was just over 13 years ago.
Whilst other ladies organisations have started up, Gundog Girls are still going strong with an online community of likeminded ladies. During the start of the pandemic, we made free daily video exercises and training tips to keep the nations dogs ticking over. Held online competitions and self assessment gundog tests with awards being sent across the UK, Europe and to the USA.
Instead of sitting back whilst there was nothing happening during the lockdowns we opened our doors to rescue dogs from Spaniel Aid UK, carrying out vital training to better equip these dogs for a career or new home. Our own dogs got in on the act and started the online craze of the 5 Biscuit Challenge, raising much needed funds for the charity and featuring in the Daily Mail.
Since training my first Brittany, I have gone on to train and handle several spaniels and Labradors with numerous awards across the different gundog disciplines. Whilst there have been highs with prestigious wins in Scurries or Working Tests, there has also been some real lows like losing my dog due to a tragic accident at a field trial. Training a dog is very rewarding and that is why we continue to train and compete our own dogs as well as training other peoples.
We welcome all kinds of Gundogs to our training facilities and this is reflected by the mixture of breeds that we have ourselves. The latest addition to our pack is another Brittany this time a rescue from a Spanish Perrera, who arrived knowing nothing and within a few short weeks has already shown great promise and has won an award in an online working test and achieved her Kennel Club Working Gundog Certificate.
Gundog Girls prides itself on being friendly and welcoming. We only use trainers that have achieved awards in Tests and Trials and have passed their Kennel Club J Regs examination for the relevant subgroup. This way we can ensure that all participants in our training classes are getting honest feedback and advice based on practical experience.
We have recently started to open up events to everyone, whilst some still remain ladies only. More people need encouragement and advice, especially the novice handlers, for this reason we like giving out prizes, trophies are awarded to the winners of each of our events.
Throughout the year Gundog Girls will be holding various training and competitions at our purpose built ground in Nottinghamshire, and will often travel to country shows and different venues to provide events. We also have two in house female assessors for the Kennel Club Working Gundog Certificate.