It was Kiki’s turn to lead out the latest
expedition into the enchanted Flaxley Wood in search of the Faraway Tree.
Mikey & Aimee had been enjoying their
Easter Holidays and decided to come visit the Schunikkas. Although the hidden valley in Forest of Dean
has seen its fair share of April showers this year, the weather was bright and
sunny so we all set off up through the cow field and into the forest.
We turned left again but this time we
headed straight up the Greenway and soon came to the spot where we emerged from
our epic climb through the scene of the Earth Eater’s battles on our last search. We could still see the trees that had been
pushed down but today we were going to carry on up the track into
new uncharted territory.
We didn’t get far!
A short way up the Greenway the track was
completely blocked by a massive tree which had fallen right across the gravel.
There was no way around it on either side
so everyone had to clamber over its huge trunk.
Aimee came rushing to rescue dad who was really struggling (very
helpful, well done Aimee).
While Mikey climbed right through all of
the branches to jump down on the other side.
As we carried on up the track we saw scenes of devastation on both sides as huge areas of the woodland had been
cleared by the Forest Rangers. Mikey and
Aimee were sure that this must be the territory of the Ghost Armies because it
was so eerily quiet.
In one of these clearings however, we found
that a single tree had been left standing on it’s own.
This was obviously a Fairy Tree. There were 3 or 4 small doorways at its base,
it split into a hundred branches which each had its own little forest growing
on it, it was covered in sweeping vines that dangled right down to the ground
so that fairies and their visitors can pop up and down to just the right branch
and the ground around it was covered with bluebells which the fairies use for
Mikey had a go at climbing one of the vines
and it was easily strong enough to take his weight.
We carried on, reached a fork in the track and took the
right hand path down the hill along Snake Pass.
This winding track crosses from one side of
a huge gulley to the other and, as we crossed over a culvert, we saw that a
stream came running down the hill, disappeared under the track and re-emerged
again on the other side to carry on downhill.
At the bottom of the Pass, we turned right
again onto Boar Path. In our very first
search for the Faraway Tree last Autumn, we had walked some way up Boar Path
but we were now coming down it from the other end and this was new ground.
The name of this Path is not to taken
lightly! Just three days earlier Gramma
Josi and Grumpa John had watched a family of Wild Boar - with 8 little squeakers
crossing the lower pasture and entering the woods.
So we all proceeded with caution.
We had to navigate thick sections of gloopy
mud all churned up by the Boar and the horses.
We waded though a sticky swamp with tall clinging grass and we had to
scramble under and around two fallen trees.
It was worth it though, because halfway
down the Path we found a cleverly hidden and well camouflaged hide. It had a comfy chair and great view across
the valley and you had to climb up a steep ladder to get into it.
With Kiki leading the way and scouting
ahead of us we carried on down Boar Path and eventually came to the Enchanted
Chair that we had found on our first search all those months ago.
Last time Mikey had clambered up into the
chair Hope had tried to follow him up the ladder but Kiki was much more
sensible and sat at the bottom waiting patiently for him to climb back down.
We carried on to the end of Boar Path,
through the gate and into the cow field.
In no time at all we were back at the cottage.
Although we had found a lovely Fairy Tree
on this search it was much too small to be the Faraway Tree and so the search
must go on. However, we had ventured
deep into Flaxley Wood on our longest expedition yet.
Kiki had done a wonderful job of finding
the best path for us and protecting us from Earth Eaters, Ghost Armies,
strangers on Snake Pass and Wild Boar – well done Kiki.
Having now covered most of the southern
woods, we are going to have to tackle another section altogether next time.
This search was filled with so many wonderful adventures that it deserved a photo album all of its own - go to http://gallery.schunikka.co.uk to see all the pictures we took on our travels.
It’s half term and the sun is shining
(despite weather forecasts for torrential rain) so Mikey and Aimee decided to
come for a surprise visit to the Schunikkas.
Staying indoors on such a lovely day was
not an option especially when Mikey was itching to go on another hunt for the
Faraway Tree in Hope Woods. He was
adamant that today’s expedition leader should be Celsie, so we put our wellies
on and set off.
After a brief scramble up through the woods
from the corner of the field, we emerged onto a gloriously sunny greenway and
set off in the opposite direction to our previous searches.
We circled around the South West corner of
the woods and then turned into the trees and started hacking uphill. It was hard going, stomping down brambles and
crossing a steep slippery-banked stream as we climbed further up the rugged
Then suddenly, Mikey spotted evidence of a
mighty upheaval. A number of the huge
trees seemed to have been pushed over.
They were right in the middle of the
tightly packed forest, so the wind would not have been able to get at them to
blow them over. They had fallen uphill, so it was not a landslip or gravity and
there was no evidence of them being cut down by people.
It was a real mystery and even Aimee and
Celsie clambering over the tree trunk couldn’t find any more clues. Then Mikey came up with a theory…
It must have been the Earth-Eaters who had chewed
away the soil around the roots to weaken the trees and then a raging battle
with Trolls or Ogres took place, which resulted in the trees being knocked
It was a good theory and everyone was much
happier for knowing what probably happened on this strange hillside.
Then Mikey and Aimee found the evidence
that proved the theory – huge footprints all around the trees.
By the size of these footprints, it must
have been Ogres ranging around from Ogre Valley to battle the Earth-Eaters
before they could do too much damage to the forest.
Celsie took the lead again and guided us on
up the hill until we arrived at the central greenway track which we followed
back down to where we had started.
Unfortunately, there was no sign of the
Faraway Tree anywhere in this part of the forest but that is not surprising if
there have been Earth-Eaters here.
As we wended our weary way back around to
the gate at the top of the field we stumbled upon the work of the Forestry
Commission. Mikey and Aimee were amazed
by the huge tractor, which had no wheels but instead had massive tank tracks.
They have been beavering away for the last
couple of weeks coppicing the woods and just across the junction with Boar
Path, we saw the results of their labours.
It is simply not possible to see a pile of neatly stacked logs and not
climb on them so we scrambled up.
We emerged out of the forest just as it
started to get a bit cloudy and Celsie, who had been a great scout and expedition
leader, herded us back down through the field to the cottage.
This was our third excursion into the
forest and we covered completely new ground.
When we look back at the routes we have taken so far we have searched most
of the Southern end of the woods.
Next time, it looks like we may have to venture
deeper into the heart of the forest – further up Boar Path and maybe even as
far as Snake Pass – can’t wait!
It’s Christmas time and Mikey & Aimee came to Flaxley
again. Once pressies had been opened and we’d all had a catch up the
conversation turned once again to the search for the Faraway Tree.
Although it was a tough decision, Aimee opted to stay behind
with Mummy and Grandma Josi to bake some crispy cornflake cakes.
This time, Sandy was selected to lead the expedition and we
set off straight up through the field, which was full of sheep (it had cows in
it last time). After entering the woods,
we turned right to search the eastern side and we’d only been walking a short
way when we found evidence of an Ogre – a really big one!
In addition to some massive footprints, we found a sizable
tree that had obviously been ripped up out of the ground and cast aside.
Now that we knew what we were looking for, there were signs
of Ogres everywhere and, as we headed steadily down the side of a steep hill,
it became clear that we were in Ogre Valley.
Once we got to the bottom, brave Sandy guided us up a very
muddy path and we hurried up the other side of the valley. Mikey set a fast pace finding us the best
route through mud, past Orge damage and over fallen trees.
Once we’d got up the other side, we were able to look back
across the valley at the path we’d just walked down.
We’d looped back towards the edge of the woods and as we
headed through the trees, Sandy suddenly stopped and stared – we had found a
There were lots of twisty turny branches covered in vines
and holly just like the pictures of the Faraway Tree in the book. It was pretty small though and there were no
signs of the fairy folk. We discussed it
and decided that no fairy in their right mind would live in a tree that was so
close to Ogre Valley so it was really no surprise to find it deserted.
We came out of the woods at the top of the hill and looked
down at the magical River Severn and by the time we got back to the cottage it
was starting to get dark.
We plotted the route we’d taken to see how much of the Woods
we had managed to search.
Sandy had done a wonderful job of guiding us round this
section of the woods and keeping us safe from the Ogres in the valley.
We had found a Faraway Tree, even though it
wasn’t the Faraway Tree, which gave us extra faith in our ability to eventually
find it – perhaps next time!
When Mikey and Aimee found out that the Schunikkas had moved
to a Forest, with Grandma Josi and Grumpa John, their immediate reaction was that
it might be the Enchanted Wood where the trees are “a darker green than
usual”. If so, then in the woods is the
Faraway Tree - a huge tree inhabited by fairy-folk and laden with fruit
of all kinds from acorns to lemons and its topmost branches lead to
ever-changing magical lands above the swirling clouds.
They came to visit at the end of October, intent on
searching for the Faraway Tree and, of course, the Schunikkas were all happy to
Could this be the Enchanted Wood?
The southern part of the woods is called Flaxley Wood
because it nestles above Flaxley Abbey but the northern part sits underneath a
village called Longhope and it is called “Hope Wood”. So everyone agreed it was only fair that Hope
should lead the first expedition.
Coats and wellies on, the gang scrambled up into the woods.
Mikey and Hope, following the sunlight through the trees,
led us all straight up a track that we’ve named Boar Path (because there were
wild boar on that path when we first moved in).
After a while we came across a mysterious seat – propped
halfway up a tree – and Mikey climbed up to see if he see the Faraway Tree.
Aimee watched in awe of her big brother…
…then insisted on having a go as well.
Hope tried to follow us up the ladder but gave up and dashed
off to catch up with Mikey who had gone to the next bend in the path.
There was still no sign up the track though and we decided
to head back. We ambled back through the
cow field to the cottage then looked at where we’d been on the map.
Although we didn’t find it up Boar Path, Hope had done a great job of leading this first search. Eeveryone had a
wonderful time and we are already planning the next search for the Faraway Tree
in the Flaxley “Enchanted” Wood.
A huge amount of time has passed, and an
awful lot has happened, since our last County Top!
Our last jaunt was way back in June last
year and, in the intervening months, we have mated Kiki to Sandy, had a litter
of puppies, raised them until we found new loving homes for some of them, put
the two we have kept (Hope and Lemmie) through puppy training and trained Hope
to take part in her first dog show – oh, and we’ve moved house.
So much time passed in fact that Kiki also
came into season again having fully recovered from being such a wonderful
We believed that having one of the girls in
season was always quite hard on poor old Sandy but we didn’t know the half of
Having finally been allowed to be amorous
with Kiki, he now knows exactly what he’s been missing and exactly what it is
he wants to do again now that she’s in season again – what a nightmare!
Today was the first free day we’ve had in a
long, long time and the weather is finally starting to brighten up and, in a
moment of inspiration, Josi suggested I take Sandy out of the house to get him
away from Kiki for a while and go and do a County Top.
I bundled Sandy and Celsie in the car, picked up Dale who was also
chilling and well up for a day out, and we headed North.
The next County Top on my list was
There is a lot of contention surrounding
this particular County Top.
For many years there has been a battle
raging between the residents of the Strawberry Bank housing estate in Huthwaite
- who were so firm in their belief that they have put a brass plaque on a bench
stating that the spot is the County Top - and those people who thought the high
point of Newtonwood Lane on the Nottinghamshire Derbyshire border was higher.
This battle was trumped in 2005 when the
local council quite deliberately added a mound about 5m high to the top of the
man-made Silverhill Colliery site. This
hill was created from one of the spoil tips from local coal mines. It was planted with young trees and grasses
and criss-crossed with footpaths to form a new recreation site. The addition of the 5m mound, which was
topped with 8 standing stones (representing the points of the compass) and a
statue of a coal miner on a large rock plinth, made the hill higher than either
Strawberry Bank or Newtonwood Lane according to the Council Surveyors and
official notice boards were erected at the foot of the hill pointing this out.
As you can imagine, many stalwart
hill-baggers as well as many locals have argued that a man-made hill shouldn’t qualify
as a County Top and so this third contender for the title actually caused even
The matter was actually resolved in October
Surveyors John Barnard, Graham Jackson and
Myrddyn Phillips conducted a comprehensive survey of all three locations using
state of the art GPS equipment and line-of-sight level and staff. They measured Strawberry Bank at 202.33m,
Silverhill at 204.26m and Newtonwood Lane at 204.77m – declaring that
Newtonwood Lane was the highest point by half a meter.
We decided to visit both Newtonwood Lane
and Silverhill so that Celsie and Sandy got more of a walk.
We pulled off the M1 at Junction 28 and
within minutes we were pulling into a small layby opposite a Severn Trent Water
Treatment Plant called Whiteborough.
This site pretty much covers the whole of
the crown of this hill with 4 man-made little reservoirs and some outbuildings. There is also the almost mandatory
telecommunications antenna to one side of the site.
We skirted around the outside of the fence
until we found what looked to us to be the highest point and posed for our
Once the dogs had had a blast around the field
we were in, there was nothing else to do but head back to the car.
We drove a few miles up the road and
There is a car park but there is also a caravan
park and couple of laybys all along a short stretch of road so finding somewhere
to park was no problem.
This is obviously a very popular dog
walking location – we could see about a dozen dogs of all shapes and sizes
either on the gravel pathways or in the car park itself, some on leads and some
There seemed to be a very wide gravel
roadway that leads directly to the top but we decided against that route
because of the number of dogs and bicycles on it and instead headed left on a
path that looked as if it skirted around the bottom of the hill.
The path went half way around the hill
before it eventually bore right and started upwards and it brought the massive
facade of Hardwick Hall into view on the next hill over as we walked around.
After a short sharp climb, the top was
pretty obvious - the 5 meter high mound had paths and steps up to the larger
than life statue of a coal miner on a large plinth.
A family had arrived just before us and we
waiting for them to finish taking photographs before posing for our own.
We angled these photographs to show the
telecommunications antenna that we had just visited at Newtonwood Lane in the
We took the direct path back down and were
back at the car in no time.
This would have been a long drive and short
walk for Celsie and Sandy if we hadn’t opted to take the more circuitous
It was a nice site though, well
laid out with benches every so often to enjoy the views and despite the number
of other people and dogs there, we had a great time.
However well constructed this hill is, with
it’s new trees, pathways and statue, it is still a constructed hill and I
personally find it difficult to think of it as a County Top at all. So, I'm
pleased that the entirely natural hill at Newtonwood Lane has been proved to be
the true County Top of Nottinghamshire (even if it is a more boring site).
At 3am on the morning of Saturday 14th
September I was awoken by a cold wet nose and slobbery kisses – Kiki was
telling me something.
She had clambered up onto the bed and was
panting heavily. Even without having
done this before, it was obvious that the whelping process had begun and I was
wide awake in seconds. I woke John and
we calmly laid out everything we had prepared while making soothing noises to
After 30 minutes however, we noticed that
the discharge that Kiki was doing her best to lick clean had a greenish tinge
to it and warning bells started to go off.
We rang the vet and she advised us to bring her in to the surgery so she
could have a look at her.
Our vet is only 4 miles away but it seemed
to take forever to get there driving as carefully as we could while Kiki
continued to strain and pant. A very
quick inspection when we arrived and the vet confirmed that, although the
birthing had begun, the first puppy appeared to be breech. We looked at each other, thinking the same
thing – if we had left Kiki to carry on rather than ringing the vet when we
did, there could have been a disaster!
The vet was marvelous, having felt that the
breech puppy was still alive, she worked gently but firmly, to reposition the
puppy and help Kiki to push the little one out despite being the wrong way around.
It seemed to take forever, but then
suddenly, at around 5am, the first puppy popped out. This was an obvious release for Kiki and it
opened the floodgates of emotion for us as well – what an incredible thing to
The tiny little white baby with a head that
looked too big for it’s body started moving and mewling like a kitten as Kiki
licked it clean and carried on licking to stimulate it. It was a little girl with an adorable black
patch over her right eye. We remembered
the sounds that Kiki’s breeder, Brenda Rance, had used when soothing her
puppies “dee dee dee dee dee” a sound that will calm Kiki down even now that
she has grown up and we started making this sound and ended up calling this
special little one Dee Dee.
On the vet’s advice we stayed there with
Kiki on a vet bed, with us sitting on blankets and towels around her, until the
second puppy arrived. This was a
completely white little boy who started squeaking from the moment he cleared
his lungs. We called him Squeaker.
As the second birth had happening
naturally, the vet declared that the rest should go smoothly. We decided to take kiki back home so she
could have the rest of her litter in the comfort of her own home. We bundled her into the car and drove home as
quickly as possible whilst trying not to throw her around too much for fear
that she would have the next puppy right there in the back of the car.
Back in her whelping box, Kiki took some
time out to relax and recover some of her strength. The car trip, the breech and the manipulations
by the vet had all taken a toll on her and she seemed content to just lie still
and clean her two new puppies for a while before there were any more signs of
Another puppy came along and, having seen
what the vet did for the first two, we did our best to help Kiki bring another
little boy into the world. His nose seemed
to be much darker than the other two with a strong black colour so we called
him Big Nose.
A fourth puppy also turned out to be a
little boy and, having been up most of the night, Kiki took another break at
this point. She didn’t seem to want to
eat but she had a long drink of water and was relaxed enough to nod off for a
short nap while the four little puppies squirmed and tumbled over each other.
It was while we were coo’ing over these
four gorgeous little bundles that we spotted a very small patch of colour on
the left cheek of this fourth boy.
It was a very pale brown so we assumed it
must be a liver patch that would darken as he got older but, being more like
the colour of a piece of fudge, we laughed about the odds of us having a lemon
coloured Dalmatian and we started calling him Lemmie as a joke.
After her rest, Kiki had another little boy
with prominent pigmentation on his nose but not as much as Big Nose so we took
to calling him Little Nose.
The next puppy, also a little boy, quite
literally clambered his way into the world.
Whilst each of the others had been born in their sack and Kiki’s
ministrations had released them, this determined little fellow had been clawing
his way out of the sack even as he was emerging. He seemed to be smaller than the others so we
took to calling him Dinky.
The was another long pause and Kiki had
something to eat, a nap and seemed perfectly happy to play with her new
puppies. We began to suspect that it was
Our objective with this litter however was
to have a little girl who we might be able to breed from in the future and, so
far, all of the puppies had been boys, except the first little girl who had a
We began to lose hope that we would get the
little girl we wanted and Josi searched with her stethoscope for another little
Kiki must have heard our wishes and
realized that this would be our last hope.
She gave one last effort and out popped a lovely little girl.
There was no patch and she was a lively
little thing. As she was an answer to
our wishes we started calling her Hope.
So, by 5pm – a full 12 hours after the
first puppy Dee Dee appeared in the vet’s surgery - we had a full compliment of
7 puppies lounging around on the heat pad.
Although the puppies seemed to settle well, we
started to be a little concerned about the first little boy, the
"Squeaker", who became very listless and seemed to separate himself
out from the rest of the litter. He
continued to fade and, despite all of our efforts to revive him repeatedly,
this little angel fell asleep for the last time less than 18 hours after being
born - we were heartbroken!
The whole experience had been an emotional
rollercoaster and we were absolutely shattered.
Ecstatic at these little gifts and devastated by the loss. It was very hard to stand still and dwell on
anything that had happened however because the puppies were constantly moving
around and being cute. We quickly
settled into our new found hobby – puppy watching.
At the start of this adventure, we had
thought of Kiki as our little puppy.
Although she was three and a half years old, we still considered her to
be our baby. Throughout the whole
experience however, she was a proper little mummy. She had weathered the initial stress and
strain of Dee Dee’s breech birth and from then on she seemed to know exactly
what needed to be done and just got on with it.
Our little girl is so grown up and now has
little girls and boys of her own to look after.
We are so proud of her – well done Kiki.
SchunikkasPosted by Josi Fri, August 23, 2013 09:36:49 Dont dilly dally, do a 'Dally Rally' - Carriage dog training with ride and drive.
This is a great opportunity to find out more about Dalmatians and their innate affinity with horses.
Come and join in the Dally Rally in one of the forests in Mid Wales on Saturday 31st August. This is a training day for Dalmatian carriage dogs and ridden or driven turnouts. All are welcome for a unique and fascinating day. £15 per person via booking form.
There is also a British Driving Society (BDS) carriage rally at the same location the next day, so a great weekend of carriage driving in the Welsh forests.
Specialist Dalmatian training advice will be offered from Dalmatian experts John Wilmot and Alison Burgess.
This event in sponsored by the British Carriage Dog Society, visit their website for more information or to become a member
The British Carriage Dog Society (BCDS) ran their annual
National Trials on
Saturday 6th July at Lincomb Farm, set in the rolling Herefordshire
countryside, near Stourport-on-Severn.
The event was an outstanding
success and congratulations need to go to everyone involved in its
organisation. The relaxed format also
encouraged a wonderful atmosphere enjoyed by the handlers with their horses,
drivers or grooms where needed and of course the all important Dalmatians.
The Trial consisted of three elements. First was the obedience test and this was followed by the endurance test over
a lovely cross-country course. In
addition, all Dalmatians went through vet checks, both before they started and
again when they finished. A pass was
needed in all three of these elements in order for the Dalmatian to achieve an overall
pass for the classes in which it had
There are two disciplines in this growing sport – Road Dog and Carriage Dog.
For the Road Dog discipline, a handler rides a horse and the
Dalmatian runs along with them.
[Vicky Brennan riding her Fell Pony Elma with Gemma running obediently alongside]
the Carriage Dog discipline, the handler is either the whip (driver) or groom (assistant) on a carriage.
There were three classes available to enter at these Trials - Bronze, Silver & Gold - with
higher scores and feats of endurance required to achieve each. All parts of the Trial were completed with
the Dalmatian working off lead.
The purpose of the Trials was to demonstrate the ability of
the Dalmatian to fulfill the role it was originally bred to fulfill, which
is that of working alongside horses. A major factor for the judges therefore was
that the Dalmatian showed willingness and enjoyment of its work throughout the
In 2012 the endurance element of the Trials had to be
cancelled due to unsafe wet weather conditions (see our Blog 18-8-12) but this year was the exact
opposite with blazing sunshine and searing heat. Extra vet checks were added
for the longer distances to ensure that both Dalmatians and horses were coping
with the extreme heat.
It takes time,
effort and training to prepare for these Trials, so it was gratifying to see
people turning up to watch the proceedings and the glorious weather provided
the perfect conditions for the spectators.
The Road Dogs’ judge was Ali Rummey and the Carriage Dogs’
judge was Tim Stafford. Both judges carried out their duties from
horseback. The obedience tests took
place on a flat field enclosed with a fence.
The aim of the obedience test
was to replicate, as far as possible, the scenarios encountered in modern horse
and carriage working environments, where the dog must be under the handler's
control at all times. The dog started
with 100% and marks were deducted during the test for a wide range of reasons,
some serious and some minor. The pass
mark for Bronze competitors was 50%, Silver competitors needed 60% and Gold
needed a pass of 70%. This was no mean
feat when off lead and coping with distractions such as the spectators seated
around the fence, a deliberate distraction dog walking on lead inside the
perimeter fence, the atmosphere on the day and the added diversion of swooping
swallows skimming across the grass as if taunting the dogs. The judging was firm but fair and a pass was
needed in order to move to the next element – the endurance test.
element tested each competing Dalmatian's stamina and capacity for work and
covered a 10km (6 mile) cross country course skirting the fields surrounding
Lincomb Equestrian Centre.
The course included some very sharp hills, rugged
ground and a water obstacle. The Bronze
competitors had to complete a single circuit of 10km, the Silver competitors
completed two circuits at 20km and the Gold competitors went round a staggering
four times to complete 40km. The task was made even more challenging because
there were also set time limits that the distance had to be completed within.
At the start and finish of the endurance test there was a
vet check. This was not only for the
safety and wellbeing of the Dalmatians (and the horses which were also checked)
it also contributed to the Dalmatian’s scoring and for this reason the vet is
an official judge in the competition.
Dogs needed to pass the vet check at the start in order to be allowed to
compete and also pass the vet check at the end (with Silver and Gold dogs also
checked at mid-point). Each Dalmatian was awarded up to 200 marks for their
fitness levels, based on their heart rate, temperature, mobility and condition
and these marks contributed to their overall scores.
The day commenced with staggered start times with those
entered in the Gold classes going first, followed by the Silver entries and
finally those in the Bronze. Vicky
Brennan was first in the obedience field, competing for the Road Dog Bronze
with her Dalmatian Gemma. Vicky was also
driving her 13.3hh Fell, Elma, for my Dalmatian Celsie and me as I was
competing as groom handler later in the day.
The first whip handler competitor was Miranda Purves who
worked her Dalmatian Splash and her Fell Harry
with Laura Fraser as groom. After completing and passing all of the
obedience exercises, they were the first carriage out onto the cross country
course, which Splash completed within the allotted six hours to achieve an
overall pass at Carriage Dog Gold.
Splash was one of the few Dalmatians to go through the water obstacle,
not sure if that was because of the heat or if she was living up to her name
Julie Swindells was the next whip handler entry, she drove Emmy,
a 14.0hh Fell x Thoroughbred with Phil Swindells as groom. Julie was the only handler working a two
Dalmatian team, consisting of littermates Rolex & Clover.
Clover received the “Judges Special” for
passing the obedience test with an outstanding score of 100%. Unfortunately, during the endurance test,
before Clover could complete the distance, she scuffed a pad while out on the
course. Although it was not causing
Clover a problem, Julie agreed with the vet judge to withdraw her immediately
to avoid any further damage. Julie continued the Trial with Rolex and he
completed the full 40km distance that is required to pass the Gold Class.
Then it was the turn of the Silver Carriage Dog entry, Chris
Cleland who competed with her Dalmatian Ozzy. As Chris was competing as a groom
handler she took to the back step behind whip Mandy Hawley who drove Simon, a
15.2hh KWPN to a Fenix Flyer. Chris and Mandy were dressed to impress in their
white silks with black spots and looked a perfect match for black spotted Ozzy. After successfully completing all the
obedience exercises, they set off around the cross country course to complete
the 20km required to pass Silver.
Celsie and I had entered the Bronze Carriage Dog. We had to wait until our whip returned from
completing her Road Dog Trial before we could set out, because I was a groom
handler. It was late morning when we
were finally able to set out behind whip Vicky Brennan who drove Elma, a 13.3hh Fell pony also to
a Fenix Flyer carriage.
We were the last ones onto the obedience field and completed all
of the exercises to gain a pass, then it was off to the marathon course. We
stopped en-route to put some fly spray on Elma, as by now the sun was reaching
its midday climax and the temperature was rising. As Vicky had already ridden
the course on Elma she knew that parts of it went past water and there was one
particular bit where flies were rife.
Elma is a pony whose happy pace is a steady trot, so we made
good time on the first part of the course that enabled us to walk some of the
last sections, as by then the sun was beating down unmercifully and there was
little shade to be had.
The highlight of the course for me was the water obstacle. It
was the first time I had come across one as a groom, so was thrilled that Vicky
agreed to take us all through, not once but three times.
Celsie was not tempted to follow, preferring
to keep her feet dry and skirt the edge of the water obstacle each time. Out on the course the views were amazing and
we completed the required 10km within the allotted time.
Celsie, tired and very hot, passed her Vet Check and enjoyed a long sponge down with cold water. When all of the timings and scores were collated, I was delighted to discover that she had passed her Bronze Award and is now officially a Carriage Dog - Fit for purpose - fit to do what she was bred to do.
[Celsie with her rosettes]
It was the first time I had worked my Dalmatian behind a
carriage at a Trials and it was both a privilege and pleasure to do so. I had
such fun as a groom at the Trials that I was left wanting more. If anyone in
the Midlands region needs a groom, I’d love to come out on a regular basis.
information on the British Carriage Dog Society and to become a member please
visit the website carriagedog.org