Sunday, June 29, 2008

Field Trial Magazine Editorial...

Celtic's Sunshine Girl
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In the summer 2008 issue of Field Trial Magazine, editor Craig Doherty responded to our concerns regarding an article that was published in FTM on the topic of red setter reciprocity. As you may recall, the issue of reciprocity was brought up over this past winter when several members of the Irish Setter Club of America, notably a group of AKC red setter field trialers, expressed interest in reversing the ban on reciprocal registration, which has been in effect since 1975. As was expressed on this blogsite, as well as other arenas, there was some considerable concern expressed regarding the article, most notably the fact that the article was written by people who are not involved in field trialing, and in fact have little or nothing to do with red setters, either AKC or otherwise. Mr. Doherty, in his most recent issue of FTM, took offense at our concerns, insinuating that we (ie, the membership of the National Red Setter Field Trial Club) are "extremists" and implying that we are intolerant of anyone's opinion but our own.
Craig Doherty needs to go back and read our concerns, or perhaps talk to someone in the club. Our complaints regarding the article were directed at the appropriateness of using non-field-trialers as supposedly credible commentators on matters pertaining to field trials. By the way, Craig... they are not credible, and they were not appropriate. Yes, you are correct in your editorial response... we are chastising you for giving voice to opinions as you did... but it certainly wasn't because the article didn't happen to agree with our point of view... it was because the authors have no credibility in the field trial community.

Extremists?? You bet your sweet ass we're extremists. Extremism in the bird dog world is what field trialing is all about... go back and read William F. Brown's books on field trialing and review what he says about the topic. Mediocrity in the field trial world is the path to mediocrity in the bird dog world. If you're interested in collaborating with those types of folks, the Irish Setter Club of America has about 5000 bench dog members who would love to chat with you. They've done a great job in the past 100 years with the Irish setter, haven't they? By the way, there's a group of about 100 Irish Setter Club of America members who would like to re-unite with us in some breeding programs to continue our pursuit of producing the finest bird dogs in America. If FTM wants to promote some worthwhile dialogue, why not talk to them instead of wasting your time talking to bench people who have no interest in bird dogs.
We're more than happy to take criticism for our cause, and we certainly have taken our share (more than most breeds to be perfectly honest) over the past 60 years of our existance. But, for the record, this debate is not about our ability to take criticism... it's about your ability to take some. The article in question was OFF THE MARK. Bottom line... if you want an article about reciprocity, ask someone who actually field trials red setters to do the article. Going to the bench fraternity to do an article of field trial interest is akin to having a fox do an article about the care and nurturing of chickens. You have a classy, well done magazine. If you want to keep it that way, keep to the topic, and admit when you screwed up. On this article, you screwed up.
By the way, Mr. Beardmore didn't refer to "anyone" as daffy... he was referring to Irish setter show stock... it's an apt description of the show Irish ability in the bird field.

As a review, here is the text of the original concern posted on this blogsite last March...

The recent article published in Field Trial Magazine entitled “Seeing Red” was a sore disappoint to me. I had been contacted by the author of this article several months ago requesting some information about the red setter, with the assurances by Craig Doherty that the article would present a “balanced approach to the current reciprocity issue.” I can assure Mr. Doherty and anyone else who cares about our opinion (ie, the membership of the National Red Setter Field Trial Club) that we do not feel that this article presented a balanced or accurate portrayal of our position, our philosophy, or the truth regarding reciprocity or the red setter. What was especially disappointing to me was the fact that a magazine devoted to field trials and field trial dogs would lend so much press (and credence) to an organization and a group of people who are not in any way affiliated with hunting, field trialing, or working dogs. The bench fraternity was quoted extensively in this article, offering their “opinions” as to what should be done with the red setter. To quote virtually any field trialer that I have ever talked to… “WHO CARES?” The bench fraternity, remember, is the group who nearly ruined the Irish setter as a usable gun dog. What possible credible information could Pam Schaar, a “long-time breeder of successful show dogs and AKC judge”, for example offer the field trial community? She has ZERO knowledge of bird dogs. Why would her commentary be of any value in a Field Trial Magazine article? The only statement of importance that Pam Schaar makes is her comment regarding the mixing of show and field stock. Schaar notes that “Historically, we’ve seen the mixes of bench and field trial Irish and they are near impossible to even get a point on in the conformation ring and rarely do they perform well in the field.” No kidding… the field trial community figured that out about 50 years ago… about the same time that the National Red Setter Field Trial Club was founded. Old news.The article brings up the usual tired examples of the separation of the show and field dogs. Sorry, but that’s also old news, and the field trial community for the most part doesn’t care. We have our own gene pool, and believe me, there isn’t a red setter breeder in the United States who has any interest in breeding into the Irish setter show stock. The much ballyhooed “dual dog” mentioned in the article is, by the admission of most field trial people, a dead end. Even the article points out (inadvertently) that of the tens of thousands of Irish setters in the United States, only one breeder has been able to produce a “dual dog champion” (ie, win the ISCA National Field Trial and the conformation National). If the ISCA can only produce 1 such dog in the history of its existence, that in itself says a lot… and it doesn’t say anything positive. At least the dual dog proponents are trying to do something with their dogs in the field, misguided though it is. As Ken Ruff, owner of the well known Brophy Kennels, (who has produced multiple field trial champions in the AKC field program) points out, “dogs selected for hunting are almost always from field lines that show high degrees of natural instincts and take very little training to get them to hunt and point.“ In other words, if you want a good bird dog, you breed bird dogs. You don’t breed to show dogs.Perhaps the ISCA leadership should take a junket to Ireland, or the Scandinavian countries, or to one of the Australian regions where Irish setters are actually used to hunt. They would be surprised to find out that our red setters (referred to as a “different breed” by the ISCA bench people) actually look a lot more like the Irish setters of the country of origin than do the USA bench Irish setters. Notwithstanding the high tail set of the USA field dogs, our red setters are much closer in type and conformation than the dogs found in the show ring. Of course, that doesn’t come as a surprise to the field trial community, because comparing red setters to Irish setters in Ireland is like comparing apples to apples. Both gene pools are WORKING DOGS, still used to HUNT BIRDS. Not the case with the show dogs, most of whom, to quote a common phrase heard at field trials, “couldn’t find a pork chop in a phone booth.” Comparing our red setters to the Irish bench dog, on the other hand, brings up significant differences. What would you expect… we breed for hunting performance… the show people breed for ?? I was especially offended at the commentary (quoted by Lee Shoen), describing our red setters as “tiny white and red, yellow red, or yellowish and white animal that usually possessed a good nose (regardless of its shape or of the head), which did indeed get over the ground smoothly and fast.” This is the type of commentary that is routinely fed to the ISCA membership by the vocal elements who would like to see the red setter disappear. These descriptions (besides being half-truths or outright falsifications), have been repeated ad naseum on internet boards and listservs, as well in commentary by the same sorry tongue-waggers, for years. It’s surely disappointing to see such nonproductive nonsense show up in Field Trial Magazine. I would expect this stuff in an internet message board, but not in a national magazine devoted to the sport of field trials.Ditto for the commentary by several individuals regarding the option of establishing the red setter as a separate breed. I guess the National Red Setter Field Trial Club will need to take out a full page ad in the New York Times, or perhaps place it on a billboard. So, I state our position once again (and this is official, folks)… the National Red Setter Field Trial Club has absolutely no interest in registering our breed as a anything other than what it is: an Irish setter. Our dogs are registered with FDSB and AKC as Irish setters. If the ISCA show fraternity is so interested in producing another breed, I would suggest that they establish their show-bred dogs as a new breed. Perhaps you could call it the “American Irish Setter.” That would be fitting, because it certainly doesn’t resemble anything that could resemble the Irish setter of Ireland. I would also recommend that you remove yourself from the Sporting Dog group of the AKC, because for the most part, your dogs do not engage in any sporting activity, ie, bird hunting.One of the questions that continually intrigues and confuses me is why the field trial people of the AKC continue to support the efforts of the ISCA?? What exactly is the ISCA doing in support of your efforts to produce a high quality bird dog and field trial competitor? I’m hard pressed to answer that question. As an organization, the ISCA has engaged in tactics which encourage the breeding of show dogs. They continually trivialize and marginalize the efforts of field trial fraternity. It’s no secret that there are factions within the ISCA that would prefer to dismantle your National Field Trial. There have been allegations for years of illicit outcrossings of show dogs to Afghans. The article mentions the death threats to members who are supportive of the field trial efforts. The list goes on and on. It’s illogical to me why the AKC field trial fraternity continues to tolerate this nonsense. And now, your Board of Directors is going to allow the general membership to decide the issue of reciprocity? Let’s do the math… the ISCA has a membership numbering in the thousands. Of those thousands, how many are active field trialers, or breed for field quality in their litters? Perhaps 200? Probably less. The outcome of that vote is very predictable. It’s a shame, because the field fraternity is the only aspect of the ISCA that is supporting the mission of the Irish setter as a working bird dog. And your organization is crushing you at every turn.Field Trial Magazine can do much better than this contrived, same-old, story. It offers nothing new in the way of news or options. It’s basically a rewrite of old ISCA gossip and hate-mongering of the red setter club by those who would like to see us go away. It presents nothing of the huge advancements of our breed in the field trial arena. Where is mentioned Bearcat and Desperado, Abra, Clancy O’Ryan, or Chantilly? Does Connie Lyons or Pam Schaar even know who these dogs are, or what they accomplished? How dare they deem to be competent to make judgment on the red setter! I recently returned from our spring National Championship and Red Setter Futurity, where I saw some of the best red setters in the world competing head to head for the 2008 Championship. And, it was awesome. Not only are our dogs beautiful to see, they are beautiful to watch as they run the courses, hunting, finding, and pointing birds. Contrary to Lee Schoen’s description of our red setters as “tiny white and red, yellow red, or yellowish and white animal that usually possessed a good nose (regardless of its shape or of the head), which did indeed get over the ground smoothly and fast”, our red setters are beautiful bird dogs, pleasing to the eye, wonderful hunting companions and housemates. They are classy, intelligent, and have the drive and desire to compete in any bird venue in this country. But that’s not anything new… the field trial community knows that. Just ask anyone who competes against Roger Boser, who has won or placed in over 700 field trials with his classy red setters. When I pick up an issue of Field Trial Magazine, I’d like to read about field trial news… I hope the next issue does a better job than was done with this article.

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