American Field

From the President’s Desk


By David E. Williams, AFTCA President | May 31, 2019
AFTCA President David E. Williams (left) and Secretary Piper Huffman

Beech Bluff, Tenn. — Fellow Field Trialers, as the ink is drying on the 2018-2019 field trial season, I hope each of you made some unforgettable memories of good dogs, good horses, good venues, good performances, good food, and most importantly good friends.

All too often our dogs’ best efforts are witnessed only by ourselves, when the most cherished ones are shared with friends. Our sport is blessed with unequalled camaraderie and that is what keeps us going when our dogs don’t always do their best, our horses are rougher than a night in jail, and the weather is challenging. The knowledge that everyone there has seen their dream of that unbeatable championship performance turn into a complete disaster helps soften the blow to our ego when it happens to us. As friends, we share it all — the good, the bad, and the ugly. That is what makes us a field trial family.

The AFTCA has finished its sixteen National Amateur Championships and I want to thank all who helped to make these successful again this year. As all of you know, these don’t just happen. They require a great deal of effort from a lot of people, from host club members to judges, dog wagon drivers, marshals, chefs, reporters, and especially participants. I rely on our secretary, Piper Huffman, to organize and keep each of these Championships running smoothly (mostly from afar). She accomplishes this seemingly effortlessly, when I know better. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Dr. Rick Carlisle and the Ames Plantation staff of Grand Junction, Tenn., for hosting the National Amateur Quail Championship and the National Amateur All-Age Invitational Championship. They also allowed us to use their facilities during the National Amateur All-Age Derby Championship that was contested on grounds provided by Ric Peterson at nearby Hickory Valley, Tenn.

In early December, Gary McKibben of Hernando, Miss., and I judged the Amateur All-Age Invitational and when the dust (mud) had settled in this closely contested event the victor emerged as Touch’s Fire Dancer for Keith Wright and a very close runner-up to Dialed In for Jim Pendergest and his team.

The Quail Championship and the All-Age Derby Championship wereadjudicated by Hall-of-Famers Garland Priddy of Raymond, Miss., and Collier Smith of Hurtsboro, Ala. I cannot thank these gentlemen enough for judging these prestigious trials.

The weather was even wetter this year than last and played a significant role early in the stake. Touch’s Fire Dancer was named champion for Keith Wright and Pendy’s Good Grace was runner-up for the Pendergest team.

The Pendergests and the Wrights were in constant battle for most of the season for the Purina Top Amateur All-Age Dog of the Year Award. Dialed In remained consistent throughout the season and captured the honor in one of the last trials of the year. Fire Dancer made a gallant effort, but was defeated late in the season by her kennelmates that went on winning streaks. What an amazing season for both of these teams. I think that when all the points are tabulated for next year’s Invitational, these two teams will be represented by six or seven of the top twelve invitees.

The National Amateur All-Age Derby Championship was phenomenal. Mohawk Mill Trail Warrior was named champion for Gary Winall and Ellen Clements of Virginia, while Bonner’s Excalibur for Derek Bonner from North Carolina was runner-up. Our Carroll County (Tenn.) Club has hosted this trial several times and I have both judged and participated in it several times. This year’s renewal was the best I’ve seen with the depth and excitement of the performances outstanding.

Moving to the Shooting Dog arena, the National Amateur Shooting Dog Invitational Championship was conducted at Round Pond Plantation near Leesburg, Ga. Our hearty thanks to the Sandy Walker Family and their staff for another outstanding Invitational. Professional trainers Mark McLean of Doerun, Ga., and Judd Carlton of Thomasville, Ga., presided. Congratulations to this year’s winner, Rentz’s Fire and Ice, handled by Joe Rentz, and the runner-up, Erin’s War Creek for Allen Linder.

Steve Messick and his crew at Camp Robinson near Conway, Ark., once again did an outstanding job hosting the National Amateur Shooting Dog Championship and National Amateur Shooting Dog Derby Championships. Trustees Buck Neil of Ft. Worth, Tex., and Gary Young of Lawton, Okla., officiated both. They did an outstanding job with both (especially on the Derby Championship).

The Camp Robinson crew once again went above and beyond for a successful event including a fund-raiser for the 20th Century Fund. Tangled Sheets, handled by Johnny Ornsby, most suited the judges for the title, with Hale’s Kickstarter, handled by Dr. Jeff Hale, getting the nod for runner-up.

In the National Amateur Shooting Dog Derby, the judges selected Rebel Survivor, handled by me and spoiled by his scout Angie Williams, for champion, and Erin’s Ty Breaker, handled by Ted Roach, for runner-up. This was a very happy Ted as it was his first title.

AFTCA 1st Vice-President Rick Stallings and the large crew of the National Amateur Free-for-All Championship outdid themselves again this year hosting this 95-dog entry event. We can’t begin to thank the Raymond Harbert family enough for the use of their spectacular venue. The whole community around storied Bullock County, Ala., turns out in force to support this annual extravaganza.

North Mississippi supplied the arbiters for this renewal. Good friends Burke Hendrix and Jonathan Burch had the distinct honor and privilege to survive the festivities and remain in the saddle throughout. They have now recovered enough that liver transplants have been taken off the table. They both stated that they didn’t know anyone could have that much fun at a field trial. They were also amazed at the number of outstanding dogs they watched and were excited to name Crown’s Black Ice as champion for handler Brian Sanchez and Dragonfly as runner-up for Jim Hughes.

The crew at Circle, Mont., did another fabulous job hosting the National Amateur Pheasant Shooting Dog Championship.

The recently completed International Amateur Woodcock Championship held in Arcadia, R. I., was an outstanding success. Thanks to everyone there for pitching in.

Once again, a gigantic thanks to all involved in making our National Amateur Championships unforgettable.

I would also like to send a shout-out to all the people (especially our trustees) involved in our many Regional Championships.

Also, I want to congratulate Will and Rita Dunn on their National Champion and Purina All-Age winner Dunn’s Tried’n True and the Continental Champion Showtime Sam Houston for trustee-handler Larron Copeland and runner-up Erin’s Hidden Shamrock for trustee-handler Sean Derrig.

No doubt our amateur trainers and handlers are able to compete at any level of competition from walking dog to the major circuit stakes.

It is but a short time until we will be attending our annual AFTCA meeting. We will join the Nestlé Purina Top Dog Awards program again this year the weekend of June 21-22, 2019 at the Music City Sheraton near the airport in Nashville, Tenn. I strongly recommend that you get room reservations ASAP as rooms in Nashville during June will be difficult to find on short notice. I also recommend that you come early or stay over because there is much to see and do in Music City. Just to mention a few: Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium, Parthenon, Hermitage, Opryland Hotel, Nashville Sounds AAA Baseball, Wild Horse Saloon, Tootsie’s, Bluebird, Bluegrass Inn, Legends, and way too many others to mention let alone visit.

If you find time, have breakfast at the Loveless Café or dine at literally dozens of superb restaurants scattered all over Nashville. I can vouch for Jimmy Kelly’s Steakhouse and Angie and I joined Michael and Kathy Shears at Sperry’s Steakhouse recently for a superb meal.

Open topped bus tours are available as well as horse drawn carriage rides for the more romantic. The Music City Sheraton is a short taxi or uber ride from Broadway downtown. Expect to gain weight and lose sleep.

For horse lovers, Shelbyville (home of the Tennessee Walking Horse Industry) is a short drive away. Nashville is one of the hottest destination cities in the country.

When Angie and I were there recently, we were joined by 250,000 NFL fans for the NFL Draft along with 30,000 for a Marathon event.

Come join us in the Volunteer State and be entertained and amazed.

I hope this field trial year has been rewarding, as well as challenging, for you as it has been for me. Hopefully that new pup or Derby prospect will kindle the fire for the upcoming season. The last several weeks have been spent preparing field trial grounds for next year. Burning is the first task followed by flat mowing to promote successional plant growth, brush management, and encourage diversity. Planting annual food plots is next, hopefully creating suitable habitat for a successful quail release this fall.

Next is planning for our annual sojourn to South Dakota for summer training. In a blink, it will be time to see old friends again and begin competition anew. All of us look forward to seeing you there. Make the effort and take the time to mentor new blood into this, “the greatest sport on earth”.

Thank you for your help.


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