The Best of Intentions, the Worst of Results
There is art in the beauty of an extraordinary field trial performance. Presenting a performance in a raw simple format elevates not only the art but in a stunning way amplifies the great gifts of the outdoors, the passionate pursuit of the human and animal bond in sport and the seemingly limitless potential of our dogs.
The memorable beautiful days we occasionally experience motivate us to pursue our passion no matter the obstacle. We tolerate failure, injury, pain and heartache all in pursuit of one more such day. When it comes we are enriched and thankful, but not quite satisfied, and begin the pursuit of the next beautiful day. Field trials, in all their simplicity, have for more than a century provided these memorable and beautiful days. The game works.
The bond of handler and dog pursuing a performance that often eludes us is a worthy and challenging quest. It is in this raw and simple format that a dog is presented, unaided, in the hopes of producing that great performance so that others may appreciate it with you. When it happens it is pure art. It cannot be adequately described, it cannot be repeated and it surely cannot be measured. Great performances are each their own original work of art.
No doubt we have sacrificed some of the rawness of our game by allowing radio recovery units to help assure the swift and safe retrieval of our dogs. It was not an easy decision, but in the end, on balance most of us feel we gained by eliminating a risk to the dogs that seemed unnecessary. The question now is whether to approve the use of advanced technology that has an extensive capacity well beyond the ability to aid in the recovery of our dogs.
The current transmitting and receiving units used today are, for all practical purposes, the same radio transmitters and receivers originally approved for field trials. The radio signals they send and receive are indicated on simple LED display, a dial and/or beeps. The strength of the signal defines direction and distance, the type of signal whether the dog is moving or not. The difference between units is their capacity to define direction and distance more or less accurately and swiftly. The receiving units are simple and have limited capability making them perfect recovery units for field trials.
The Global Positioning System (GPS) would bring another level of technology to field trials. Unlike radio frequency technology currently used, the GPS device uses satellite technology allowing for fast and accurate measurements of distance and speed, showing exact course of travel and signaling specific activity in vivid detail on a pocketsize handheld receiving unit with a digital color display. Any number of handheld receiving devices can quickly and easily be linked to a single transmitting collar. As with all computer technology, additional capabilities to any GPS device will no doubt cascade in an ever accelerating technological fest…which brings the issue not to the transmitting collar which has a simple size requirement, but to the receiver.
The GPS unit is not primarily a recovery device. The discussion is not about allowing recovery devices in the field trial game. That discussion occurred and the specific technology approved has proven over time to be a workable solution. This current discussion should be about ever advancing technology with capabilities well beyond the required minimum to accomplish the task of recovery.
Will we draw a line in the sand or be forced to evaluate every new and innovative technological device for trialing fitness? Technology, most likely, will continue to provide powerful new training tools. But like the innovative training tools of the past their use belongs in training, not trialing.
In our game, subjective judging based on standards determine the winners. In subjective judging PERCEPTION is everything. The discussion is not even about those who may choose to use this highly advanced equipment to cheat, but about our willingness to allow it in trialing, thereby opening the participants and ultimately the game to criticism and accusations that cannot be defended. True or false, accusations of wrong doing damage the game…simple as that. How our game is perceived matters. Turning the equipment off during the running of an event does not change the participants or the field trialing games vulnerability to wrongful accusations. If the perception is that the game lacks integrity (because abuse is simple) then there is no game of field trialing. Disallowing equipment on the field trial course because it has a great capacity for misuse is a legitimate and responsible rationale. In fact it is a duty of the governing bodies. Protecting the integrity and perception of the game must be paramount to all else.
Undeniably the presence of a GPS brings nothing to the ultimate goal of trialing and unnecessarily complicates a venue that thrives on simplicity and minimalism. Allowing this equipment into trialing will place objective computer generated data within one click of being available for judicial decisions. Why would we allow any measuring device, turned on or turned off, on a course during competition? A measuring device represents the very antithesis of the craft of trialing. It blurs the distinction between sterile objective data and the legend of pure artistry.