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"On The Road" with Keith Mott - 17-06-21


Three Borders Federation (Okehampton Race).

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The Three Borders Federation were at Okehampton at the end of May for the fifth old bird race and members sent 735 birds, for what turned out to be a good steady race, being liberated at 09.00hrs in a light east / north east wind. A partnership who have been ‘knocking at the door’ all season is Terry Leonard and his wife, Sue, of the Ashridge club. They chalked up 1st, 2nd, 13th, 20th Federation from this 172 mile race, with the first two birds on the ETS being two yearling widowhood hens of the Eric Ceulemans bloodlines and bred from Frank & George Bristow stock birds. The Federation winner was a beautiful mealy hen now named, ‘Tony’s Girl’, after the partner’s eldest son, Tony. The 2nd Federation winning blue hen was named, ‘Tommy’s Girl’ after their youngest son. The 2021 racing season has seen Terry and Sue win so far: 7th, 8th Federation Blandford (864 birds), 23rd Federation Wincanton (927 birds), 12th, 14th Federation Honiton (885 birds), 4th, 8th, 9th, 15th Federation Kingsdown (832 birds), 1st, 2nd, 13th, 20th Federation Okehampton (735 birds). The week before winning the Federation the Leonard partnership won 1st club, 4th Federation with another yearling Eric Ceulemans blue chequer hen named ‘Terry’s Girl’ and she was raced on the widowhood system. Brilliant pigeon racing!

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The first ten in the Okehampton Federation result were: 1) Terry & Sue Leonard 1284: 2) Terry & Sue Leonard 1284: 3) Paul Arnold 1284: 4) Alan & John Stoner 1283: 5) Terry Goodsell 1281: 6) Paul Arnold 1279: 7) Paul Arnold 1278: 8) M/M Burczak 1265: 9) Paul Arnold 1264: 10) Bob & Anthony Besant 1264. This was race number five of the season and at this point the Ashridge club are leading for the ‘Federation Points Trophy’ with 28 points, with the Mitcham & Morden club being R/U on 24 points.

In spite of the problems the Covid 19 virus has put on pigeon racing, the competition in the Three Borders Federation had been strong and hard in the 2020 season, and the mighty Ashridge RPC have come out on top for the third season on the trot, winning the ‘Federation Points’ Trophy’, with 114 points. Terry & Sue Leonard of the Ashridge club won the ‘Individual Points Trophy’, with 73 points and won 1st Federation several times in the 2020 season. Terry & Sue Leonard’s positions in the Three Borders Federation in the 2020 racing season were: (Old Bird): 12th, 16th, 18th Federation Honiton (925 birds), 22nd Federation Newton Abbot (846 birds), 19th Federation Yelverton (708 birds): (Young Bird): 3rd, 4th, 6th, 14th, 18th Federation Wincanton (1,051 birds), 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 8th, 21st, 23rd Federation Wincanton (750 birds), 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 23rd Federation Blandford, 10th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 24th Federation Wincanton, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 14th, 15th, 18th,24th, 25th Federation Honiton (608 birds), 4th, 6th, 11th, 12th,13th, 15th, 16th, 17th Federation Newton Abbot (314 birds). Brilliant pigeon racing!

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I recently met up with Terry and we had a chat about his loft and young bird management. He told me, ‘The main loft is 35 years old and has been altered numerous times to the annoyance of Sue. My main loft is 18ft long and has three sections, the first section is for the first round babies which has 40 ‘pipo’ boxes converted into 20 nest boxes, and has three chimneys go through the ceiling. I have two young bird sections and both have grilled floors. The other young bird section has 35 of the same boxes and both have a ‘Unikon’ four bob hole trap. We feed our young birds Vanrobaeys & Beyers mixtures and both teams are school carefully with the training, so as to avoid knocking their confidence. They go through to 42 miles with their training before coming back to the 21 mile. We are not heavy users of antibiotics’ preferring to have screening done by vets and only then treating if necessary. They were jabbed twice in 2020 for PMV. We keep on top of any respiratory problems through checking them every three or four weeks and treating for three days if needed. They had no canker treatment this season as tests were clear and same with old birds last season and this season. All birds were darkness babies raced natural. We don’t clean out after May as we think this is beneficial, although both teams did go down with young bird sickness after their first race. Fortunately the younger team were started after the first so didn’t miss any races other than the Federation cancelled race which everyone missed. The 2020 Honiton Federation winner, ‘Kayla’s Girl’, is 25% Vander Merwe through a granddaughter of his National winning hen that also won a motor car, and is 75% Eric Ceulemans. The 2020 Blandford Federation winner, ‘Samantha’s Girl’, is 100% Eric Ceulemans. This winner came through pigeons from Frank & George Bristow, who I have bought pigeons from since 2014 and have become good friends with. Sue and I visit the Bristow family every year, except this year due to Covid. We are very grateful to Frank and George for the pigeons we have obtained from them and now have a very comprehensive stock team of their Ceulemans, off all their best lines’.

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I first met Terry Leonard a few years ago when he came to my home in Claygate to have several of his Federation winners photographed and ever since he has continued to do well in the Federation and Combine results. Flying in the strong Ashridge club, members of the Three Borders Federation he had put some good performances in recent seasons. Terry won the Federation from Honiton in 2019, recording 1st, 3rd, 5th Federation and has previously won that season: 9th, 10th, 19th, 22nd Federation Blandford, 14th, 23rd, 24th, 25th Federation Blandford (2), 14th, 24th, 25th Federation Yeovil, 3rd, 11th Federation Kingsdown, 15th, 17th Federation Yelverton, 5th, 11th, 22nd Federation Exeter. The 2016 racing season saw the Leonard loft have some outstanding success, with the highlights being: 1st club Honiton, 2nd club, 20th Federation, 26th SMT Combine Falaise (1,591 birds), 1st club Blandford, 1st club, 10th Federation Yeovil (769 birds), 1st club, 3rd Federation Yeovil (878 birds), 4th, 5th, 6th club, 19th, 21st, 22nd Federation Exeter (651 birds).

Terry Leonard started up in pigeons at the age of twenty in 1978 and previous to that, was good friends at school with, Dave and Mick, the pigeon racing White Brothers of Epsom. After they had all left school Dave White moved into the house opposite Terry and after a few visits to Dave’s pigeon loft he caught the pigeon racing ‘bug’. Terry’s father had local pigeon racer Mick Heasman working with him and he presented some late bred youngsters to the young Terry too start him off in the sport. His first club was the Epsom Downs FC and his first loft was a 10ft x 6ft two section structure lashed up out of a load of wooden pallets that he had purchased for £10. They also straighten out the nails from the pallets and used then again! Terry and his dad built the loft, but he says, they were not carpenters and the shed reflected the fact! He also obtained birds from local Epsom fanciers including Dave and Micky White, Johnny Reynolds and Andy Norman, which started to win races from the outset. His early mistake was over feeding, but some of Terry’s early successes racing in the Epsom club were: 1st & 2nd club Blandford, 2nd club Vire and 1st club Bergerac. The fanciers who first impressed him with their performance was Bobby and Ken Besant of New Malden, who at that time were winning the Federation out of turn and in later years the late Ewell ‘ace’, Doug Walker. Doug was the first fancier to race on the widowhood system in the Epsom club and notched up countless winners in the early 1980’s. Terry race well with his ‘Heinz 57’ birds for several seasons and got more serious when Andy Norman bred him some pedigree Pol Bostyn stock birds. Andy put him in contact with Cliff Dobson of Idle Bradford and he had some of the first direct Bostyn pigeons in the UK, and Terry won well with them.

Terry now races in partnership with his wife, Sue, to their loft in Carshalton and when he was interested in sprint racing he was very successful racing the Paul Arnold / Staf Van Reets pigeons. One of his best sprinters was the Staf Van Reet mealy cock, ‘Taunton Boy’ and he was bred from stock obtained from Paul Arnold and Vic Emberson. This brilliant cock won 1st Federation Taunton, 1st Federation Portland, 1st Federation Taunton and was 2nd Federation Taunton, being beaten by his nest mate when they dropped on the loft together. Brilliant pigeons! The current loft is an ‘L’ shaped Kidby style structure and is very well ventilated with chimneys in the roof. Terry races his cocks on the widowhood system and these are housed in two sections with a glass frontage. These sections are very spacious and he tells me he never keeps more than eight cocks in each parting. He has 30 young birds to race each season and these live in a nice 6ft x 6ft section. Terry tells me he stole his wife’s 8ft x 6ft garden shed to house his 12 pairs of stock birds and now her new replacement shed has also been taken over for extra young bird accommodation. What sort of man is he! Deep litter is used in the young bird compartments and Terry tells me, since he started using the litter he has not had young bird sickness. He thinks the main factors behind good health in the pigeons are a well ventilated and bone dry loft.

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He races the widowhood system and says he has tried various feeding systems, breaking down, not breaking down, but now feeds a light mixture at the beginning of the week and a high carbohydrate strong mixture for the last couple of days before the race. He doesn’t show the hens to the racing cocks on marking night, but is a great believer in leaving the hens with their mates on their return from the race, some times several hours. The cocks are trained well before racing, but never after it has started, only exercising around the loft for an hour twice a day. They stay on the widowhood right through the season, but Terry says he will try re-pairing for the longest race at some time and see if this improves the results. He told me resting pigeons after a hard fly is very important, as some times they look OK, but are they alright inside? The loft has won many premier positions in the Federation, Combine and Classic through the years including 2000: London Federation young bird average, 2007: 10th open L&SECC Tours, 2008: 7th open L&SECC Guernsey (2), 2010: 1st SMT Combine Fougeres (215 miles), plus many times 1st Federation.

The Leonard loft’s three top racers were: ‘Fougeres Express’ a two year old widowhood blue chequer cock and he won 1st Woodside FC, 1st Surrey Federation, 1st SMT Combine Fougeres, lifting the ‘Eric Matthews Trophy’. This game cock was a Romani Janssen / Kees Bosua cross and his sire won 1st Federation twice. The Combine winner was bred down from a wonderful line of winners, with his mother winning the Federation as a young bird and his grand sire winning seven times 1st club, three times 1st Surrey Federation and 1st SMT Combine. A brilliant family of winners! ‘Mr. Consistent’ another two year old blue chequer Romani Janssen / Kees Bosua widowhood cock and he had won a list of premier prizes in the Federation and L&SECC. ‘The Blue Boy’ a nine year old blue cock bred from the Paul Arnold bloodlines and is a grand son of Paul’s champion Staf Van Reet stock cock, ‘The Guvnor’. This great old widowhood cock won several top prizes including 1st Surrey Federation Portland and 2nd Surrey Federation Messac.

The two main families kept at the Leonard’s loft these days are Kees Bosua and Romani Fitzhugh Janssen, which have raced well pure and crossed. The stock birds are paired up in December and the first round of eggs are floated under the widowhood cocks. Terry visited Kees Bosua’s loft with some friends who were purchasing stock birds in 2005 and all the Leonard birds are bred from those purchases. Terry currently races about 40 young birds every season and is a great believer in schooling them well, by giving them many 30 miles plus training tosses before their first race. He puts his young birds on the ‘darkness’ system, giving them nine hours day light every day and they are taken off on the 21st June. He races them to the perch and they are allowed to pair up to motivate them for racing. The youngsters are raced through the programme to the longest race, Wadebridge (214 miles).

That our article for this week. Well done to Terry and Sue Leonard for their Okehampton Federation win. I can be contacted with any pigeon ‘banter’ on telephone number: 01372 463480 or email me on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.