THE EDUCATION DILEMMA
by John Ghent
Before I start my latest writings, I must first thank Cameron Stansfield for giving me the lightbulb moment which has inspired this article.
Do we give our birds enough credit? Enough respect? Do we take a step back and look at how we manage them, look after them, train them? Do we take into account their different characters, their idiosyncrasies, their natural behaviours? And how do we use these to get the best out of them? All questions that we probably do not ask ourselves enough throughout the long Winter months when we should be planning our attack on the following season's race programme.
The lightbulb moment for me came when Cameron Stansfield likened the way I was going to treat my pigeons, and the way many other marathon men treat their birds, to that of a University lecturer. Now to put this into concext, I want you to imagine that your sprint widowhood men, racing every week up to 250-300 miles are like primary school teachers. Sprint pigeons need routine, control, to be told what to do and when to do it. They exercise at the same time, feed at the same time, and are then rewarded with a treat for doing as they are told and behaving well, much the same as our primary school pupils.
University students on the other hand are cut a bit more slack. The lecturer thinks; "turn up if you want to, learn if you want to, leave the course if you want to. One thing is for certain, if you are still here at the end of the term, then you will be taking the test and you will get graded." It took me a while but I could see what Cameron was talking about. Yes there are exceptions, but generally speaking fanciers that employ the University lecturer approach to pigeon racing fair much better at the marathon events than they do the short sprints this side of the channel, and the sprint events are dominated by the primary school theory up and down this island of ours. Marathon fanciers up and down this country prove this theory to be correct because typically speaking if they have birds in the loft come the big race, after all the freedom, tests, and problems they will have faced in the year, whether it be Barcelona, Tarbes, Lerwick or wherever, then those birds go!
So, ask yourself these few questions: do I rely on routine the whole season? Do I train hard? Am I religious with feed quantities/medications/times of darkness? If the answers are yes to all of these questions then you probably lean towards Primary school tendencies. If however you answer predominantly NO to these questions then ask yourself these: are my pigeons out at all times of day? Is my feeding "regime" fairly loose? Do I race natural for the whole or part of the season? Am I attracted to long hours, waiting in the garden for my birds to return? Am I happy that my birds go ranging, then come back and sit on rooftops, leading a natural lifestyle? If the answers to these questions are yes then you are probably a "Lecturer".
If your answers lie somewhere in the middle then you want to be a Secondary school teacher, lots of hard work trying to get students that want to be able to do their thing to conform to the regime that you are attempting to lay down.
I am quite happy with my lecturer approach and all three of my proposed methods have their merits. As long as you know which one you are and your birds are happy with this then you are more than halfway there. The problem comes when you are trying to get the university student to conform to primary school teachings, or you give the primary school pupil the freedom of the campus!
On that note I am off to plan my next lecture!