"Hemma vid köksbordet blir det inga jakthundar"
In the Summer of 2003, Thore Sandström came to Ireland with the Swedish Red Setter Club to watch the Irish Red Setter clubs annual Summer trials on grouse. These trials are one of the highlights of the trialling circuit. At this time I competed with a dog Creg Jake who had strong Sheantullagh lines. He achieved 2nd place that day and Thore introduced himself and said he would like to use this dog in his future lines. Creg Jake went on to be a field trial champion amassing over 50 championship wins including 5 wins, 12 seconds and 8 thirds while also being placed 3 times in the International Championship stake. Thore admired the balance of the dog, head carriage and ability on birds years before this general consensus was reached.
So a plan was agreed that Thore would send over a female from his next litter and this would be the first Irish setter to be imported back to Ireland. Thore would pick the smallest female in the litter as in Ireland a lot of the competitions take place on soft ground. In Ireland field trials are open to all setters and English pointers. The dogs are hunted into the wind in braces searching the ground left and right of the handlers. The ground covered would be about 150 metres each side at a maximum. The dogs are expected to be steady to shot and wing. There is no retrieving in our trials and dogs are judged on ground treatment, style, speed and control. A dog is eliminated if he passes a bird or flushes a bird without pointing. There are at least two judges but often three judges, the third judge being trained and receiving experience. There are a number of classes of trials- the novice class is for dogs who have never received an award in a field trial and the open class is where Championship points are awarded. To run in an open class the dog must have received a top 3 place in a novice trial. In the open class, 12 points are required to be a field trial champion. There are 4 points for a win, 3 points for second and 2 for a third. There are no points for a fourth place. Irish trials also have a grading system which is Excellent, Very Good and Good. An excellent grading means you can receive the full complement of points, while Very Good means a deduction of one point while a Good means you do not receive any points. To achieve field trial champion status the dog must have at least one win with grading of excellent and two seconds with grading of excellent under different judges. It is difficult but it maintains an extremely high standard of dogs in our country. To be recognised under the kennel club as a champion you must receive a first, second or third in a recognised championship show. In the Irish trials there are 30 dogs in every trial with usually 10 reserves. Only a maximum of 30 dogs can compete in a trial. Dogs are run in pairs and are expected to cover the ground methodically in front of the handlers and judges. There is always a second round where approximately just under half of the dogs get another run. Often there can be a third round to decide the placings. Each dog must run at least 15 minutes in a field trial to be eligible for awards. Obviously when running the dogs are not allowed interfere with each other or bark. The trials run from 1 February to 31 March and 1 August to 31 October each year. From September most of the trials are on arable lands on pheasants but in the last few years there are a number of partridge trials on moorland. Last year in South of Ireland the red setter won _ trials, English setters 8 trials, Red & white setter 2 trials and pointers 3 trials.
So it was with huge excitement that the crate arrived with all the paperwork on a SAS flight from Stockholm. T- Ebba (called after Thore’s daughter Ebba while all the litter began with the letter T) was a tall, lanky, skinny dog. She was not as good looking as Thore’s usual lines. I took her out the first day and her feet cut up as her feet were soft from the snow. I walked her on the road to make her feet harder. I always will remember the first day I took her out and she pointed. I had a 12 week old setter puppy with her, who played with her tail and yet T-Ebba never moved from her point. She produced the pheasant and sat down. I had never seen such steadfast point from an Irish setter that met its first bird. On the moors she ran very wide maybe covering 400 metres each side of me. She never got tired and never panted after heavy exercise. I had never seen such speed and her point was just as sudden. She stopped as if she hits a wall. I was so worried something would happen to her and people would never get to see her compete. Because she was so talented I never really formally trained her. She pointed from the start and she was extremely intelligent so took hand directions naturally. You only had to tell her something once and it was remembered forever. She did not like if you were excited or angry and learned to sit in the front of the car while the other dogs sat in the boot.
At 10 months I ran her in the Irish Derby. She was remarkable and she covered the mountain at extreme speed. The judges liked her and gave her a third round as you must point a bird to receive an award. Indeed she did point grouse and stayed but I was so nervous I pointed her and did not move so eventually she moved off to hunt again. She ran in another open stake and had a memorable back at top speed a skill a trait that is not renowned in red setters in Ireland. She was very stylish and people were very excited to see this Swedish dog returning to her native land. I ran her in a novice trial the same month and she got 2nd place in arable lands so this qualified her for open trials. It was her first time in this sort of ground and it was the first time I had qualified a dog so young. In the pub afterwards people told me that she was special. Then disaster struck!
Due to some damage to my house T-Ebba lived in Galway with my father and F.T.Ch Creg Jake mated with her. Through the pregnancy she did not show anything – she was as lean as ever. In fact five days before the pups came she was awarded 2nd place in an open trial. Pups were an impossibility! However she whelped eight pups (5 dogs and 3 bitches) and the Ballydavid kennel was born.
Three months after the pups were born the famous Irish Red Setter Club two day trials were held on grouse. The first day was the Confined All-Aged trial on grouse and in the second round she followed a cock grouse a long distance and produced him. She won the trial and I was presented by the breeder of T-Ebba’s grandmother Thodos Lazy which was Britt-Marie Dornell. This was a most momentous day for me. The next day was the International Open Stake for Setters and Pointers and again she won this prestigious trial. Only John Nash’s Moanruad Quiva had done this double. She also won the next trial I entered her becoming a champion in a month at the age of 20 months old. She also won the Irish Red Setter Club Open International trial for Setters and Pointers on pheasant becoming the only dog to ever win three of their 4 trials in the one year. She received 3rd in the final confined red setter trial on pheasant. She was to win this trial in 2010 therefore being the only setter to win the 4 Irish red setter trials – two on grouse and two on pheasant. Also in that first year she came perilously close to winning the Irish Championship coming second and winning two more trials. The most memorable being the Irish Field Trials Association where she pointed a grouse in each of her three rounds in extremely hot weather and high heather.
International F.T.Ch Remkilens T-Ebba at 20 months
The following Spring she won 4 more trials including one under Great Britain Kennel Club rules. The trial was the Ulster Gundog League and she had run remarkably well and the judges gave her a third round. Not long off the lead she pointed and walked slowly after the bird down a turf ridge. She jumped from the ridge and the bird flew. It was one of the most thrilling moments of my trialling career. It was because under Great Britain rules the dogs run closer to the handler maybe covering 80-100 metres each side. Their dogs are really well trained and most handlers do not need to whistle to their dogs. Their dogs back naturally and when covering the ground pass-by in front of their handlers very closely. I had to train T-Ebba for the first time. She did not like it at all, as she knew best. I found her nose was too strong and she did not understand why I made her run in straight lines when she could smell the birds out in front of her. Our relationship was not the same and this training meant it would be difficult to win in the South of Ireland where dogs have more latitude to cover wide ground and hunt a long way ahead of the handler. However her greatest day came in 2012 where she won the Ulster Irish Setter club stake making her into a Great British Champion, thus adding to her Irish Champion title gave her the sought after and extremely rare title of International Champion.
International F.T.Ch Remkilens T-Ebba Winner of 14 Open Stakes
A famous vet in Ireland said to me, I do not know about the finer points of red setters but as a vet I believe this is the best confirmation in a dog I have ever seen. She has a 0/0 hip score, her back is muscular, her hocks are straight with high loins and great angulations on the shoulders. She weighs just 14 kilos and is very tall. No leg front or back is thicker than the other. Her neck is stiff when she runs and when she moves there is no movement to the side when you look at her from above. She has received excellent classifications in championship shows and has won first prize on 4 different occasions. She has won best field trial female three years from 2008 to 2011 in the Irish Red Setter Championship Show.
T-Ebba has consistently won trials every year that I have competed with her. Her speed has not diminished and she is very competitive at competitions. When I hunt with her she has proved to be a good retriever though she does not swim. She has won 14 trials (I think she has equalled the record for an Irish setter is 14 trials by Mountlake Banner), but it is a new record for a female of any breed. It is more impressive given that she has not been my priority after her first two years as I focussed on her puppies and my girlfriend focussed on Creg Rena.
G.B. & Ire F.T.Ch Remkilens T-Ebba Pointing Grouse
Her progeny and she has only being bred once, were very successful. I will talk first about the two pups that I kept. Ballydavid Airforce has perhaps become one of the most famous dogs in Ireland ever. He was the first International Champion in 35 years since Ranger of Lusk. He won a puppy trial at 1o months old and became an Irish field champion at 22 months. He was a Great British champion before he was 3 years of age though he had limited opportunity as I only compete in Northern Ireland where there are not so many trials. He has since won 10 trials and 5 of them under Great British rules which is very impressive given the high standard of their trials and the fact they are 40 dog trials. He is a beautiful looking animal, very dark red but with a pleasing expression. He is extremely fast and travels with a very high head. They say he runs like an elegant female but with the fire, power and passion of the male. He never gets tired running and covers a lot of ground. He has the same intensity on point as his dam T-Ebba. Many show people wish to breed from him and he was won in the Show Ring best overall field trial in the Irish Red Setter Championship Show from 2008-2011. His progeny have won field trials in Great Britain. He seems a dominant sire as the pups from him are dark red and a lot bigger than Airforce. They must revert back to strong Swedish lines. Airforce is probably everyone’s favourite pet as he has a great sense of humour. He is a brilliant retriever when hunting and will retrieve teddy bears you hide around the house. He talks to you and when he is not trialling he lives as a house pet in Kilkenny with Aodh.
International F.T.Ch Ballydavid Airforce and
International F.T.Ch Remkilens T-Ebba pointing a pack of grouse
International F.T.Ch Ballydavid Aodh owned by my brother is similar build to Airforce but maybe stronger in the back. He is a little heavier in type and is a machine to cover ground and obstacles. He never gets tired even if you run him for many hours. He is more Irish in personality and was slower to point. He became an Irish field champion easily and has won 7 open trials. He became the second International champion in Republic of Ireland in 35 years after Airforce. He achieved this at the beginning of his fourth year. A dog would be extremely well acknowledged in Ireland if he won 3 trials in his whole career. Like T-Ebba and Rena, Aodh has won one trial under Great British kennel club rules. You need two wins to make your dog a British field trial champion and for these dogs it would make them an international champion. He has a very strong pattern of ground treatment and never fears obstacles on his beat. He has a very long scenting nose but took longer to learn his distances. A quieter and more easily trained dog than Airforce as he has become older he has become more confident. He probably is the best dog I have ever had in terms of covering the ground methodically. I believe since these dogs are out-crossed between Irish and Swedish lines they are not nervous or shy. They cannot be intimidated when they are being trained so a trainer must be more inventive. Chastisement has no effect.
T-Ebba’s son G.B. & Ire F.T.Ch Ballydavid Airforce at 30 months
The rest of the litter went all over the world. Amber (f) to Thore Sandström in Sweden, Angel (f) to Italy, Abba (f) is a F.T.Ch in Ireland, Athenry (m) an excellent show dog in France, Admiral (m) to Sweden, Apache (m) to work in Scotland. They were an extremely good litter and achieved their successes early in life, which is unusual for Irish setters as they usually develop more slowly. Aodh has also bred once and three of these pups competed in the Irish Derby with distinction. The pups are very tall and athletic with an affinity to cover a large amount of ground and follow their long noses. The greatest difficulty is for them to maintain a pattern and their interest in hares. They are also noisy on the leads waiting to run and whine a lot more than I would like. I have seen some of the grandchildren of T-Ebba do not point as early as her pups. However this is just based on my experience of two litters one from F.T.Ch Shinlogue Fionn x Int. F.T.Ch Ballydavid Airforce and Sunlight Girls Delight x Int. F.T.Ch Ballydavid Aodh. However the pups are similarly tall and rangy with beautiful heads and with more bone and aptitude for ground coverage.
Airforce has been bred three times to Shinlogue Fionn and Creg Rena (pups just 2 weeks old) and a pet red setter. Aodh has been bred just once.
Bild Ballydavid Aodh
T-Ebba’s son G.B. & Ire F.T.Ch Ballydavid Aodh at 3 years
If I was asked what my own opinion was of the major difference between the Swedish influence and Irish dogs I have trained and competed with since I was 10 years old. The would be firstly build- their backs are very strong, while they are tall they are not heavy in weight, their noses are too good which makes it difficult to train them to cover ground in an even pattern, they are friendly and fearless so cannot be intimidated. They are playful and when not working make ideal pets. We are often gone 12 or 14 hours to work and T-Ebba will not wander from the house just lay on the door step waiting for our return. During these summer months when there is no competitions or hunting the dogs come camping with us, swimming at the seaside and basically live in the car as we travel round enjoying ourselves. They are not excitable and enjoy meeting new people. I enjoy their calmness and domestication as at trials I can leave boot of car open and they will sit there until I require them. They spend half of the year as pets sleeping in the house and watching television and it is easy for them to adapt. Of course they love getting exercise as any athlete would so when I give them to people they realise this.
Bild Ballydavid kennel
Ballydavid Kennels: Won 10 Trials in 2011and 4 Classes in Shows (though I did not compete for 6 weeks) International F.T.Ch Ballydavid Aodh, International F.T.Ch Ballydavid Airforce, F.T.Ch Creg Rena, F.T.Ch Creg Jake and International F.T.Ch Remkilens T-Ebba in 2012
Every time I watch her hunt I see she misses the wide spaces of the Swedish mountains. She would cover the ground of a kilometre consistently for a few hours. This is her natural state. When she points she will stay with the birds as long as required and will not move till she is commanded. I wish she could run in Sweden so she can run the ground as wide as is natural for her. We grouse count in Scotland every year and the gamekeepers love her as a lot of ground needs to be covered. She covers a lot of mountain and she produced the birds gently. She does not tire and will run maybe 4 hours each day for 5 consecutive day in arduous mountains. For me she is such a special dog in terms of her ability, her progeny but most of all her gentleness and intelligence. When she is not working she is the ideal pet so much so people do not believe she is a hunting dog.
She is a once in a lifetime dog and I have always appreciated her. I firmly believe if she had not had pups at such a young age (two of which I kept) she could have won up to 20 field trials. For the last two years I enter four dogs in the competitions but due to the popularity you may only get two dogs in the main draw. She is a reserve a lot of the time and lives with my parents for a lot of the year. I have received and accepted some great hunting experiences in Ireland because people have wanted to see her work and in terms of success at field trials she has brought me to a level I had never felt possible.
Now if only she would have pups again!
Written by Hugh Brady.
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