Continental Field Trials
Dixie Plantation proudly teams with the Continental Field Trial Club to host the Annual Continental Open Derby and All-Age Championship Field Trials.
Field trialing is a competition to display a bird dog’s ability to successfully find and point coveys of quail. While riding on horseback, dog handlers, judges, officials and a gallery of spectators follow the dogs that run along designated courses. The sport began in 1874, near Memphis, Tennessee, with a group of nine men competing to settle the claims of who had the best bird dog.
The Continental Field Trial Club is almost as old as the sport itself. The Club’s first meeting was held March 6, 1895 in Chicago with seventy-five charter members. In September of that year their first trial was held in Manitoba, Canada, where 19 derbies (a bird dog two years old or younger) and 24 all-age bird dogs were contenders.
Gerald Livingston, founder of Dixie Plantation, was inducted into the club in 1933 and within two years was elected its president. In 1937, Livingston was instrumental in bringing the trials to Dixie Plantation, where they have been held since.
The Continental Field Trials are held the third Monday of January each year. There are two trials held back to back. The Continental Open Derby Championship is run first, followed by the Continental Open All-Age Championship. Winning the Continental Open All-Age trial entitles the dog to compete in the National Field Trial Championship, the highest honor a bird dog can attain.
The objective is for pointing dogs, primarily English Pointers and Setters at Dixie, to locate coveys of quail and to point steady to wing and shot (the dogs freeze in that position as the handler flushes the birds and a blank shot is fired). The dogs are judged on their ability to find birds and their style and enthusiasm in doing so. In the Continental trials they run one-hour heats initially; those that qualify for call-backs run one hour and fifty minutes. This is a true test of stamina.
Embedded in the famed Red Hills Plantation Belt, Dixie is in the perfect location, with over 6,000 of its 9,100 acres intensively managed for wild quail. In addition to prescribed burning, hardwood clean-up, seasonal disking, and other land management techniques; quail are fed year round and nests predators are kept in check. High density wild quail populations are a high priority for the field trials as well as hunting. Today the Continental Field Trials are recognized nationally as one of the premier wild quail trials in the country.
Historically, the competition is fierce and the stakes are high. In a letter to the American Field Publishing Company dated March 25, 1895, it was stated “Purses of sufficient size were arranged to guarantee a satisfactory number of entries.” Minutes of the May 10, 1912 Continental Field Trial Club Board of Governors meeting noted that purses would be $1,000 in both the Derby and the All-Age states ($500 to first, $300 to Second and $200 to third), an impressive amount in 1912. Today, the purse is still impressive. Handlers of the Open Derby Championship winner and Open All-Age Championship winner receive $4,000 and $10,000 respectively. For the all-age event, a 24″ X 36″ original Oil Painting of the winning dog commissioned from one of America’s best wild life artists is awarded to the owner of the Continental All-Age Championship winner. In addition, the owners of the winners of both the All-Age and Derby Championships enjoy rotating trophies for the following year. The All-Age trophy will become the permanent property of an individual who has three winners. The Billy Lane family, in memory of Mr. Lane, who contributed so much to these Continental trials, donated a beautiful punch bowl, tray and cups as the rotating trophy for the winner of the derby stake. There are also prizes given to the owners of the runner-ups in both trials.
The trial is held the third week in January and depending upon the number of dogs competing usually runs 14 – 16 days. Dixie Plantation is located between Monticello and Greenville, Florida, north of County Road 146. To ride with the gallery that follows the competitors, guests must have a horse. For field trialers, the gaited Tennessee Walking Horse is the breed of choice because of the smoothness of its gait, calm disposition and stamina. Trial horses must cover a lot of territory in a short period of time as the morning course is approximately 19 miles long and the afternoon course is 16 miles.
2018 Continental All-Age Championship Winners
The mystique and glory of Dixie Plantation once again revealed itself in the 123rd running of the Continental Championship. Conditions were dry and birds were elusive in the early stages of the competition, but a soft rain and small changes in the climate allowed more than adequate game contact as the trial continued. Erin’s Redrum’s strong forward race with 4 clean finds were enough to tip the scales during the climactic last brace of the one hour and fifty minute callback series to garner the Championship laurels for owner/handler Sean Derrig and his attractive pointer male.
The title of Runner-Up Champion was claimed by Touch’s Mega Mike, first year pointer male, owned by Eddie Sholar of Leesburg, GA and Ted Dennard of Haddock, GA. Under the whistle of handler Mark McLean, Mega Mike appeared in the 2nd brace of the seven brace callback series. His powerful race and 3 finds set the bar high in this grand event.
Judges were Garland Priddy of Raymond, MS and Jim Davis of Pavo, GA.
Report courtesy of Steve Standley, President Dixie Trace Field Trial Association. Photo is courtesy of Chris Mathan. Visit her website to see a timeline of Continental Winners: http://strideaway.com/…/
2017 Continental All-Age Championship Winners
2017 Continental Derby Championship Winners
2016 Continental All-Age Championship Winners
2016 Continental Derby Championship Winners
2015 Continental All-Age Championship Winners
2015 Continental Derby Championship Winners
National Amateur Championship
The Amateur Field Trial Club of America puts on this trial, which is considered one of the premier amateur trials in the country and draws the top amateur handlers and dogs.
Champion—Lester’s Skywatch, Eddie Sholar
Runner-Up—Cocklebur Treasure Quest, Bubba Spencer