“The race that change my life”.
Hello, I'm Richard, aged 55 from Shropshire.
It was the Barcelona international race 2019, that changed my life seriously, I had been sprinting my loft of racing pigeons for the last seven years, down at my local club, it is great fun ,especially when winning and a few prizes ,and having a laugh with the local flyers. But after a few locals left the club, and 7 years later, it wasn't as exciting for me, and I was thinking of calling it a day, also for my health reasons, I then started thinking about the long-distance racing , and decided to send all my birds , for my first ever time, in the BICC nationals to see if they can produce the goods. If not that was it!
I had 28 birds in my loft, so off they went to the nationals, they done well up to 350 miles, I lost quite a few on a 460 mile race, to Poitiers, but felt good with the ones that returned, I was left with eight.
Barcelona international - which has always been my dream was getting closer, so I decided to send them all there, after a month's rest and a good rich feed for a month, to see if I could realize my lifetime dream of just getting a return from Barcelona, a distance of 833 miles to me here on the Shropshire border.
My grandfather, ex commando, kept pigeons, but never told me much about them as a kid, but I do remember him saying they send them to Barcelona! I couldn't believe it, aged 9, even looked it up in the atlas. Too far, I thought. Well my last three went off in the big truck to Barcelona. Would I ever see them again?
A week had gone by of me looking up into the sky's with hope, neck ache was setting in, the race was open for nine days, so after day nine I didn't expect to see any of my birds.
Day 10 arrived and I received a phone call to say one of my entries had landed in a local loft, only 2 miles away, I was just happy to see her, late and not quite home but still managed to get back somehow.
Day 11, I was feeding my birds down the loft, out the corner of my eye I spotted a pigeon coming into land, is it a return I thought, she landed on the board and went straight in. Better late than never I thought. Brilliant, at last! Her mate landed half an hour later! God knows where they'd flown in that time!
This was the best buzz I'd ever had from pigeon racing since I started the sport 10 years ago. I was now hooked again! The pigeons looked happy and fit, I couldn't believe it. I sent eight pigeons, and now three ( two pictured below) were back home! Not even a placing, but I'll never forget seeing her gliding home to her loft.
I tried with these 3 the next year, Barcelona 2020, and two returned, again slightly late. But they were supposed to be sprinters, or so I was told originally. I was trying to imagine which way they'd got back, or where they got blown off course for days maybe! No one knows!
This got me thinking, could I now make a start to build up a team for long distance racing, so firstly I ordered a new pigeon book online, Pigeon Racing- by Jim Emerton.
I'd heard he was a good, old fashioned, used simple methods and a great distance racer, in his day, so I gave his book a read. A great read, with many simple tips, not like a lot of pigeon books I have on my shelf, it was different somehow, the main point being you've got to have the right pigeons to begin with.
I had read that Jim Emerton’s birds were now with Nick Harvey in Somerset. I sent Nick a letter of interest in the post, as he has no email etc, anyway he liked the letter, as it was a similar way to how he started up on the Barcelona mission, by writing to Jim. He forwarded my letter to Jim. The next thing I know Jim had phoned me up!
We chatted and got on well, one thing led to another and I had got 12 of his young pigeons coming my way! I was on the racing mission once again, but distance racing this time.
The reason I was so happy to be getting the pigeon bug back again, was it has been an enormous help to me, both physically and mentally since I had to stop working, due to a bad motor bike crash, where I had damage to my spine, never to work again the doctor said. I gave up work in 2012, started keeping Pigeons, in 2013, and I'm now well in the process of building up a distance racing team. I also find it easier to manage the distance racing rather than the weekly sprinting. Every fortnight or monthly racing suits me fine. It gives me something to get up for every day, without it I don't know what I'd do with my mind and my free time. I suffer from severe neuropathic pain daily, but the pigeons take my mind off the matter, even if only temporarily sometimes when I'm feeling bad, every morning when I see them to feed and watch them flying. The odd day I can't make it up out of bed, I can still watch them whizzing past my bedroom windows, especially when high winds are there to help them fly about even faster! I would spend more days in bed without my daily pigeon buzz, as I need to see them daily, so it makes me more mobile too. I even miss them when on holiday. Recommended for many people out of work due to injury or any circumstances really. It should be on the NHS. It gives you an interest and fun again, as well as meeting a varied selection of interesting folk who also fly the Angels of the sky.
I keep all my racing pigeons on open loft and feed a rich mix, consisting of several different corn mixes, mixed with peanuts, sunflower hearts, hormoform and a good all-around nutrient grit mix, this seems to keep them fit as they have access to the skies at all times, they even learn to avoid the hawks and falcons this way - most of the time anyway! No better sight than your pigeon out manoeuvring a peregrine attack, I've witnessed it several times. Also occasionally not!
Other supplements when racing, such as Aviform race boost etc, but I try and keep the medication side simple, and natural if possible, definitely prevention before cure is better. The yearly jab and a treatment of 4 in 1 is usually enough for mine. Keep them healthy and they'll stay healthy if flying out in all conditions. They love it. Mine are out first light every day.
I am now race partners with Jim, and he has since supplied me (us) with many good stock birds of his selection, since the original 12 off Nick Harvey, there are another 12 of his marathon strain (of 45 years) coming here next month to add to the stock. The other types we have purchased to test them against include Jellemas, Padfield, Stichelbaut, Louella Jan Aardens, Jim Donaldson type and a few other especially selected types of distance pedigree pigeons direct from proven Barcelona raced and/or marathon winning pigeons . Amazing quality, let's just hope they can breed birds to handle the upcoming distance races and future tests, it's not easy at all for them.
Not much racing this year due to Covid, although they have all flown up to 200 miles this year, with several wins in my club, also a bird I sent to Ireland to my mate John Hewitt, had a 1st last weekend, so looking ok so far. John and I exchange a few birds yearly, just to test for each other's interest really. See if his can keep up with my Emerton’s, and to see if mine can manage Ireland from France or even Spain. 1000 miles to him!
I will be racing them a lot further next season, and testing out all the ones I have bred to find out the best marathon types, to suit our system.
I hope this article has been an interesting read, the main point being how that one siting of my Barcelona hen homing in to its loft, gave me such a lift that I am still caring and enjoying my racing pigeons daily. In fact I hardly ever stop thinking, reading about, or watching them. Looking forward to the new Jim Biss pigeon book due out soon too. An ultimate racer at distance!
I take several painkillers daily, and still suffer, it's also un-operable due to it being nerve damage, but a simple animal, such as a beautiful racing pigeon can change your lifestyle and outlook so much for the better, it's unbelievable! Best thing that's happened to me since my unfortunate accident. An underrated, and unheard of sport (in some circles of people) which can help so many people, old and young, whether forced to stop working, or retired, or just want a fulfilling new hobby, then pigeon racing is it. Pity more youths don't take an interest, my generation did. It's helped me incredibly, also the people in the sport that I've met are generally very helpful. Long may it continue.