Field Trials


Gateway Vizsla Club is Proud to Support Field Trialing

What is a Field Trial? Take a moment to read below, we’ll set the scene for you!


Can You Picture Yourself Here?

First of all slow down. Let your mind calm down. Place yourself in a vast open space with morning song birds just waking up. Now, imagine dawn is just breaking through the eastern sky. Beautiful hues of red and orange promise a spectacular morning. The silhouettes of horses dot the grounds around the campsite. People are stirring, and you can hear the mellow rustle of hay being thrown to a gentle nicker. More people wake- some a bit fuzzy after a long night of catching up with old friends. The camp has a quiet excitement as everyone gets tacked up.

Now, inhale. Fresh, crisp morning air fills your lungs. The aromas of horses, early morning, and coffee is subtle. Look around. What a sense of the great outdoors! No houses, roads, telephone poles, streetlights, or water towers. No TV, telephones, honking horns, or radio. Just the gentle sound of metal trailer doors being quietly opened and closed as people get ready for the day. The trailers are circled around, much like I imagine covered wagons camped at night long ago. Most of the riders, dressed in an assortment of oilcloth clothes, jeans, and Carhart jackets, are men that look like they have stepped right out of the pages of Lonesome Dove.

Somewhat skeptical of strangers they give an up and down glance to size up new comers. By the end of the day we ride alongside each other in the gallery and chat casually about horses and dogs. At the end of the day, after hours of riding in whatever weather Mother Nature deems, everyone gathers again at camp.

How Does A Field Trial Work?

Let me give you a crash course in what happens at a field trial. A field trial is an event that mixes dogs of pointing breeds, the outdoors and horses. Typically a trial is held in a wide open space- thousands of acres worth of space. The dogs are paired up by the event organizers, and run in a “brace”. Each brace typically lasts 30 minutes, puppy stakes are 15-20 minutes. That’s solid running. Owners, handlers and spectators all follow alongÉ and that’s where the horses enter the picture. If you’ve ever spent a long day in the saddle you can easily figure out why gaited horses are the horse of choice for people involved in field trials.

How Do Humans Play a Role In This? How are the Dogs Judged?

The dogs have specific requirements and etiquette to follow depending on their age and level, which is too complicated to go into here. Suffice as to say there are intricate requirements. For each dog there is a “handler”. Each “handler” has a “scout” who is a partner on the horse assigned while not interfering with the dogs running, must make sure the dog never gets lost, and when the dog disappears, hopefully find it standing on point and notify the handler. There are also two judges assigned to watch the event. In order to keep up with the dog; the handler, the judges, and the gallery are all on horseback. Who or what is the gallery??? Spectators. The gallery is comprised of other handlers, dog owners, and casual observers. There are a few other specific people involved in running a field trial, but all in all these are the basic players.


How Do Birds Play a Role In This?

Birds like quail and pheasant are farm raised and then brought to the trial and “planted” in the spots birds would naturally be found. Dogs are set loose at the breakaway point to find these birds like hunting for Easter eggs. A puppy must look like they are ‘trying’, a derby dog must locate a bird, point it until it flushes either naturally or by the handler and then is free to do at it pleases, a broke dog also known as a gun dog, must establish point, wait for the handler to dismount the horse, flush the bird while the handler fires a blank pistol all while the dog stands steady as it flies away the handler grasps the dogs collar walks it away and then re-casts him off to hopefully do it all again. In gun dog retrieving stakes the top 4 dogs are brought back at the end of the event to prove they can retrieve a shot bird. The situation is set up, the bird is flushed a gunner shoots the bird and then the handler sends the dog to retrieve it back to hand. First through fourth placed are then awarded on style, skill, and overall ability.

Sound Exhausting?

Once all the dogs for the day have run and the call backs for retrieve are completed, trailers head off to do chores and care for their animals. Horses are returned to their stakeouts on the outskirts of the trailer ring.. The Tired people attend to their evening chores while stopping at a neighbor’s trailer to revisit the highlights of the day. Snacks are grabbed and those with fewer chores often help those who travel with more to care for. An occasional cold beer is tossed to those who have come without while the evening dinner plans are made amongst the group. Bed time comes early around 9pm as the morning wake up is just around the corner at about 5:30, tired heads lay on the pillows, falling asleep to a nicker of a horse, a bark of a dog, and the soft hum of a generators powering trailers. If this description tugs at your spirit then you understand the allure of “Field trials”.

Have Questions?

Field Trial Coordinator

Allison & Jarrett Bell