Sporting Dianas: Lucinda Southern

A junior driving winner who found a passion for gundogs, Lucinda Southern founded Gundog Ladies to assist ladies wishing to compete

Lucinda Southern found her love for gundog training following a chance encounter at the Game Fair.

Previously a junior driving winner, this is a chance encounter at The Game Fair that introduced Lucinda Southern into the world of gundogs. And following a rather less than warm welcome at training class, she founded Gundog Girls to assist ladies wishing to compete.

Our Sporting Dianas column celebrates seriously sporting ladies and offers encouragement and advice. To learn more, Lucie Boedts-Kuehnle set the Ladies Macnab Club after being inspired by The Field to take on the challenge. And Philippa Holland founded a side-saddle race after finding you can just ride astride in point-to-points.

LUCINDA SOUTHERN

I was brought up surrounded by my loved ones horses, so being placed onto a pony before I could drift was just natural. Apparently it was the only means to keep me quiet and I have fond memories of riding out accompanied by our two faithful labradors. I had been riding successfully in the show band for a number of years after Ann Varley inquired if I would groom for her personal driving turnout at Burghley Horse Trials. Ann taught me all about forcing trials and even gave me a presentation near the cross-country course. I thought that it was brilliant.

I convinced my mother to let me have driving classes and the following year I was Junior Champion at the Ponies UK Summer Championship. The year after I got to the national finals and could have been Junior Champion but also for my troubles with the bible — I chose the wrong course. Only a few months later, after winning at an outdoor event, disaster struck. My pony collapsed and needed to be laid down.

The search was on for a replacement, that arrived in the kind of a sports pony from Holland called Dutch Courage. After a summer of training, we took the indoor circuit by storm and my own pony of a life racked up numerous consecutive wins and unbelievable scores, all over the UK.

A chance encounter got me to the world of gundogs. I was helping a friend at the Game Fair that was clay shooting and found myself attracted to the gundog displays and contests. I was hooked and took it on myself to have a go at gundog training together with my existing puppy, a Brittany, even though I had been utilizing the spaniel for a dog. I soon realised that it was going to be much more difficult than I thought, so I enrolled at my community gundog club. In my very first training class I found the reception to be welcoming. I suspect I was disapproved of for being female and young, and it did not help that I had a Brittany. I decided that the way forward was to get a springer spaniel and after studying several young dogs I stumbled on a liver and white bitch. She wasn’t actually available at the time but it was love at first sight. Training a spaniel brought with it new challenges and openings together we attained a range of awards.

Having always said that I did not want a labrador I acquired a delinquent prior pet — but there was something particular about her. It took some time and patience but we formed a winning partnership and have gone from strength to strength. Macy is a prolific winner on the scurry circuit but can also put her best paw forward — she’s won Best Bitch at the Gamekeepers classes at Crufts for two years running.

My own group of dogs keeps growing and I am fortunate enough to have been asked to train and handle other people’s dogs for them, hence the kennels are always full.

After contending with my dogs around the country and talking to other lady dog handlers, I found that I wasn’t alone in feeling undesirable at gundog events and clubs. Obviously there was a demand for a friendly environment in which ladies could encounter, learn and revel in their own gundogs. After much consideration I came up with the idea of Gundog Girls, ladies-only coaching days with distinct guest trainers, from well-respected judges to the local gamekeeper. This was an instantaneous hit. We started compiling novice handler working tests and fun contests, and each year that our followers continue to grow. We now offer a wide variety of events for dogs and handlers at different levels, such as a Dog Challenge as well as Dog and Gun, as well as online competitions. Our take days and field evaluation experiences always show popular.

Gundog Girls also conducts events at local state fairs for every person to enter with their dogs. The judges sometimes have their boots scattered by a puppy but it’s all shot in good humour.

In my interests within fieldsports, the opportunity of a career shift shortly followed and I have been employed at a sporting service for nine years. Here the key earnings are game in Spain and Portugal following a decline in interest for big-game hunting. My job was a real eye-opener, as I frequently cope with a variety of high profile sporting divas. Believe me, it is quite the norm to request specialist bathroom tissue for your next stalking trip.

TOP TIP:After a chilly, wet day I love to twist off the dogs and put coats on them before loading them in a vehicle. This enables them to be completely dry upon arrival home, ready to return in their kennels.