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Today I went to the breeding loft to clean out and whilst scraping the floor I picked up a pot containing a vitamin supplement and immediately thought of the Fancier who told me which was the best to use, and although he has passed away, I can still hear his voice. And all through my everyday life I am constantly reminded of friends and aquatints who have passed away and who willingly passed on the benefit of their wisdom, which means for me at least, they live on. A modern day philosopher once said "the best way to achieve immortality is to share your knowledge and when one teaches, two can learn."
All to often our sport is shrouded in secrecy as if there is an innate fear of loosing if words of wisdom or advice are passed on, and I have been giving this some thought.....
Top flyers and Champions could be put into one of two categories;
There are those whose motivation to win comes with the feeling of superiority and a desire to create a kind of enigma about themselves. Far from their minds is the will to impart any information or advice to anyone, be they new starters or long time also rans because they feel taller by keeping their competitors small. This can sometimes be aligned with a commercialism in which you are encouraged to believe that the only way to even gain his attention is by enquiring to buy some of his birds. Even then he will not give advice because to him that as not part of the deal and of course if he is all booked up for the foreseeable future it will boost his ego even more, even though he may not be.
The second category of Champion is far more motivated by the recognition of his peers. For another Champion to say to him "well done Mate, you had a good race there" is all the adulation he needs. Not for him any veal of secrecy and if serious questions are asked, by equally motivated fanciers, serious answers are given. Good birds are freely exchanged in a genuine effort to discover the strength of his strain, raced in another dedicated loft. He feels taller by seeing the opposition grow and he knows that its only in this environment that he too can grow.
Yesterday, I went to the funeral of such a man. He was a fellow member of the Midland Social Circle, an association which has been going for nearly 50 years and its members to the last are of the second category. Social events are arranged and during these we often discuss the various aspects of the sport and some of his input will live on, long after his death.
I could name many other associates whom I admire and I can get no greater accolade than to be recognised as one of their peers, which is the true, genuine motivation of our great sport. The same modern day philosopher also said;
"Where there is competition, it should be used in a good way. It is positive to want to be first, provided the intention is to pave the way for others, make their path more easy, help them, or show the way. Competition is negative when we wish to defeat others, to bring them down in order to lift ourselves up."
I often hear negative language being used in the sport like "he kicked your arse" or "he was gutted when you had beat him" and when there is only one winner in the race, several others can be left feeling deflated and discouraged. It is far better to try your very best to win the race in order to test your birds adn methods against others and encourage them to think the same.
Not a very nice subject and a very pessimistic point of view, but not one I hold. I am actually quite optimistic about the future of our hobby in the UK. I know we are loosing more members than we are gaining each year but I feel it will level off in the very near future.
I have been lucky enough to have been asked to sit on panels in the past and there is always one or two in the audience who decry the downfall of Pigeon Racing in the UK. "it will be finished in 10 years" is a very common statement but I always put my hand up to disagree and ask "how many of us race Horses?" to which no one replies. But Horse racing thrives in the UK, due mainly to the gambling industry that follows it. It's big money and here is where I see the future of our sport. There may not be as many Fanciers competing as there was in it's hay day and to be honest I have never suggested that there would be, only a dedicated percentage will be around to take advantage of the future bonanza that lies in store.
When the Electronic Timing System came within the rules of the R.P.R.A. there was an outcry from the establishment and grass roots, because people do not like change, they like to move within their comfort zones and this blindfolded them from the real possibilities E.T.S. can give to our sport. It is now possible to verify our first arrival from National races via the internet and it will not be long before some bright spark connects the E.T.S. directly to their computer so that as a bird crosses the sensor pad, it records on a central computer to let the race unfold before your very eyes.
Imagine the odds you would get on a bird winning in Wales in a West wind National? The fastest velocity of the day? The colour of the fastest bird, the first hen, the first yearling. The list is endless and a cherry thats there for the picking! It is possible now and it will not be too long coming.
Off course there will always be natural wastage in our sport and some very dear friends of mine have passed away to the great loft in the sky. Only this week I was physically rocked by the news of Carlo Napolitino, Loft Manager to the Queen passing away unexpectedly. He was a great ambassador to the sport and in the words of Kipling he could "walk with Kings yet not loose the common touch" I had some great times in his company and I consider myself fortunate having known him. But he is gone now and someone else will pick up the banner on behalf of the Queen, and I have no doubt Pigeon Racing will go on too.
I was also uplifted at the end of this very sad week when I was told Eric Ceulemans from Antwerp was coming to England to deliver some youngsters and experience Pigeon Racing English style this Saturday morning. I asked if I could go along to take some photographs as I always like to be around pigeon fanciers and if I can take my camera that's even better.
So here comes the enlightenment; it's the first time I have met Eric although I have heard a lot about him and more especially his pigeons performances here in the UK. An out and out sprint man, his birds have been here for about 5 years and Alistair Ewart has had some directs for a few years, so after the exchange of the youngsters he had brought with him, Alistair began to show him around his loft. As he passed each bird of Ceuleman origin to Eric he began to recount the history of each one as if he had raced it for 5 years when in reality they had left his loft at three weeks of age. I was struck by his passion and knowledge of sprint pigeons in the Antwerp area and was listening intently when unbeknown to us both Alistair slipped him a different pigeon.
"This is an exceptional pigeon" he proclaimed, "but it not one of my origin". Indeed it wasn't, it was one I had bred for Alistair out of my stock loft and when he was told he said "you must race middle distance and you go to the East Flanders for your pigeons" He had no knowledge of me or this pigeon before the meeting, he just knew the type of bird from that area and the distances they flew best at. Not many of us can do that I know and he is still fairly young too!
You can see more of Eric at this link http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1889193841759.2104744.1598866709&l=3493c5deea
When My Wife was a Child Minder, Parents would come and speak to her to asses her qualifications, her ability and most importantly, her attitude to her job. After all they were expecting her to take the best possible care of their loved ones whilst they could not.
When I hand my own Children over to the School at 4 years old I have every right to expect the Teachers to look after their best interests. Also when I tell my Children to go to a Policeman if they ever find themselves lost or find something valuable, I expect the Police to look after them and return them to us. When I was in a Management position in the Construction Industry and I employed a night time Security Guard, I had every right to expect him to look after the work place as if it was his own, because as in all of these Roles they are in a position of trust. And if at any time, one of these people betrays this trust the full weight of the law comes down on them because society believes in the importance of TRUST.
Now to put this in terms of Pigeon Racing, when I hand over my pigeons to an Organisation as regards to a race, I have every right to expect them to be looked after and released in the best possible conditions. The Convoyer is in a position of trust. I have invested hard earned cash and time into my pigeons and I do not expect anyone to take their welfare lightly.
But when a Convoyer takes a chance or gamble with the liberation of the pigeons he is breaching this trust and the full weight of the Union should come down on this individual. He is a paid servant of the Organisation, he has taken the job and he should respect the position of trust he is in. I know that most organisations have a position of Race Controller to help and guide the Convoyer, but sometimes after a poor decision to liberate in bad conditions they resort to pointing the finger at each other and members are left in a difficult situation as to trying to decide who to believe, who is telling the truth.
The truth is, the final decision to liberate lies solely with the Convoyer, it says so on his licence. The Licence given to him by the Union whose rules we race under. It has been designed to give no doubt that all Convoyers know they are placing themselves in a position of trust and responsibility and if they breach this trust they should be removed forthwith and banned from any such position for the future. It is exactly what Society would expect if any of the above roles abuse this trust, be it a Child Minder, Teacher, Policeman, Security Guard or Convoyer.
Also when I pay a large subscription to an Organisation upfront for race costs at the beginning of the season, I can rightfully expect value for that money. Right now with one Organisation I am a member of I feel like demanding a refund because in two of the first four races, very poor decisions have been taken that have not been in the best interests of our pigeons. But unfortunately no one accepts or can be held responsible, we can only keep taking the knocks and hoping that next weeks race will be better. And thats just not right!
Can we keep the pigeon lofts too clean?, well sometimes,I think so. It's a matter of life stages and the job at hand. In my stock loft at the beginning of the season I want the loft to have had a good clean through to ensure all is OK for winter breeding and by clean through I mean scraped, hoovered and disinfected, followed by the flame of a blow torch to eliminate mould spores as best as I can. This is due to the often damp atmosphere in November and December, which is when I pair up my Breeders. The Roundabout lofts get the same treatment a month later as I pair them on the first of January. This not only spreads the workload but gives darkened youngsters chance to moult right through before paring. I then have two rounds of youngsters one month apart ready to go into the young bird loft early February onwards. My young bird loft is facing south east and bone dry, consisting of three sections. Two identical sections with 60 box perches at either side of the middle section which has some nest boxes and plenty of perches. My first round out of the Stock Loft go into one side and the second round out of the proven Racers (not all are allowed to rear) and the second round from the Stock go into the other side and the Stock are then allowed to rear a third round which will go into the middle section.So, three sections of youngsters about a month apart in age are put on a deep litter which has now been down for years, never changed, only topped up. It consists of a 7cm layer of wood chipping's, 10cm of good Barley straw and of course plenty of DRY droppings from previous years, I can not emphasise too much that it has to be bone dry to work as intended.Now I can tell you some youngsters are going to go bad on this, because it is full of all sorts of pathogens both good and bad and I initially feed in the trough plus some scattered around in the deep litter. They learn to look for more and can often resemble chickens scratching around looking for food. But when they become challenged by the pathogens within they have to build their immune system to be able to live in my loft and its micro organisms and I know if they can survive in this they can survive the challenges training and racing will bring. Training and racing youngsters is initially very stressful and this stress lowers the immune system which could allow diseases to flair up but with my youngsters their immune system has been built so high that any lowering due to stress has a minimal effect, often not even noticeable. Once the youngsters are all flying a strong as each other I allow them to mix and I often have Fanciers comment on how well they look and accuse me of having a secret potion or two. I suppose I have, but it's in the deep litter not a bottle, because once all is living in harmony with the environment it creates it's own perpetuation by the birds re-ingesting dry droppings via their feeding and scratching. It's akin to a good probiotic in my view and as cheep as wood chips!
Golf and Pigeons? What have they in common I expect you are thinking. Well quite a lot actually and I shall explain...
I have never played a lot of Golf but I do understand the game. I especially like to watch the professionals on the TV playing high profile tournaments. For these Professionals it's a game of decisions, strategies and skill that can bring great accolades as well as financial rewards. They will study the Golf Course in great detail, play a few practice rounds and hire the best Caddy to assist in decisions to be made whilst playing in the competition, decisions like the distance of the shot, which club to use, what is the wind direction, where the bunkers lie ect and then its up to the skill of the player to take his shot as straight as possible.
So how does Golf compare to Pigeon Racing, well firstly we should study the line of flight our birds (should) take, take into account the wind, and just like choosing the right club to make the shot, feed accordingly.
To give an example, I enter my pigeons into the National races based on the racepoints which will give me a choice as to the line of flight and I calculate their feed based on an average speed of 42 mph. Falaise is 266 miles to my loft and at 42 mph the birds should take 6 1/2 hours, so my feed is calculated to give them enough fuel to fly the hours comfortably. Then as the race approaches I study the weather forecasts on the internet, like the Caddy walking the course and make subtle adjustments as the race approaches.
Pigeons use 3 to 3 1/2 grams of fat as fuel per hour. Top quality feed companies give the fat percentage of their mixtures so it can be fairly simple to feed according to the distance to be covered. No more and no less. Then its up to the quality of the pigeon to shine, to fly a straight a line as possible, at the highest possible speed, and at least I know I have given him enough fuel to do so.
Feeding is an art, but no secret!
Well I have finally done it and set up my web site. Although I have been using the internet for years now and always wanted to put one together I did not like the "I am fantastic buy my pigeons" type of site we have all become used to.
Over the last two years I have been lucky enough to appear on Jim Jenner's excellent videos "Secrets of the Champions" and since then I have had a steady stream of queries or requests for clarification on certain subjects within the sport so I thought I would set up this blog to give you, the reader, my thoughts for the week.
I have always found Ad Schaerlaeckens web site very interesting because he posts his articles regularly and I hope you will find my writings equally interesting and visit my site on a regular basis too.
I have had two races up to now and although I set my pigeons up for the June middle distance races, they have done quite well. The first race we finished 6,7 & 8th from 100 miles and the second race, yesterday, we finished 8th. As most of my team are still sitting eggs (parted today) I will not expect any great results for another two or three weeks. My first National race is due May 15th so I am just letting them get as fit as possible nice and steady, without forcing form. Forced form does not last very long.
I had split my team between two Federations yesterday, one takes the South route from here and the other the South West route. So for national racing I like to have plenty of experience in my pigeons and the two route serves me well. Got up yesterday morning looking forward to watching my birds come home and after cleaning out at 7am I called the lib-lines. Nothing updated from last week so at each half hour I called back. Still nothing and at 9am I wandered down the garden to "just look" at the youngsters and to my surprise one team of race birds were sitting all over the lofts. Shit! I thought and quickly switched the ETS on and let them in. Then went back up home and called the lib-line again, still no update so while I was looking for the club secretaries number the phone rang and it was him, 9:25 am, "the Fed lorry has broken down and the birds brought back and let go" Of course I was very frustrated by this late information because if I have been on Widowhood it could have been very dis-heartning for the cocks to come home to nothing.
So my message today is this....
If you are in a position of responsibility within any organisation and you have the tools at your disposal to give your members information (lib Line) please do so because I began calling at 7am and the lorry broke down the evening before!