Thoughts on racing Part 1. by Les J Parkinson
These thoughts on racing are based on how I was racing my own pigeons. At the time in question all our racing was done on the natural system, because we like racing the hens and prefer to go for the longer Channel races where more competition at the highest level is available. Because of the preference we had with racing I felt that there was always going to be more credit to winning the Channel events, there is far more competition with the Combines, National and specialist events.
We used to have them on the open hole, but they were continually destroying the plants in the garden, so changes were made, and they were only let out for exercise and back into the loft before they started on the garden plants. Elizabeth likes here gardening, so the pigeons had to be kept under more control. In the mid 80’s we did successfully race six cocks on the widowhood from 60 to 484mls with the same six pigeons, but they were always paired after that. That year they were not all sent every week and only one or two to the channel races, they were on form from the first to the last race. However, we did discuss the easier widowhood system where there is less work required, the hens do fly well in the channel events, having said that those cocks did marvellous that year. With a limited amount of room, you cannot be too choosy in the way you race and keep your pigeons. If the room was available at the time, we would race both systems and concentrate on certain pigeons for certain races, you can do a lot with space. Having said that you can have more lofts and pigeons and lose sight of what you should be doing. Yes, we know you have more chance with more pigeons but they take some looking after and if you are not observant enough you can end up min trouble.
As I pointed out earlier, we did race in the National races etc and enjoy doing so, this is a way to test your pigeons because they are not all just racing to one area. In National competition the pigeons must think a bit more because they can be pulled in all directions if they are not on the ball. Some fanciers will race forever at club level and are happy to do so. However, when you move them into a different type of competition they can soon fail to achieve. Not all pigeons will achieve good results when moved up a step from the club, but if you don’t try you will never know.
When I first started racing the averages were the thing to go for in the club but as the years have gone by fanciers have changed their views and do not set much stall by them. I cannot highlight this better than when we took to club racing especially in the early 2000 seasons winning average trophies. When I was talking to a fancier about winning them, he said something to the effect of “Winning averages mean’s nothing”. Why that was said at that particular time is another matter, but with the decline in membership since that time in most clubs it might be correct. This same view is with club racing and not necessarily the bigger organisations where there is far more open competition.
The North West Classic have awards for “Ace Pigeons” and “Ace Fanciers” where any competing member will be able to assess their seasons racing with the club. Even today I still believe that averages should be more on fancier’s minds because consistency is what we are all after. We don’t want to be at the top one week and the bottom the next. Fancier’s want to be at the top all the time and the top fanciers are. The points systems adopted by some clubs can be useful, but they have a downside with fanciers deciding to miss races and lose consistency, that is not what we want in pigeon racing, we need competition on a weekly basis. I have always felt that when we miss a week or two, we lose focus on what we should be doing in the loft.
To get pigeons right they need to be trained properly and training pigeons is a costly business therefore many take the easy way out and train with one of the local training systems but like most things in this sport that changes from year to year. I did try multi training, but I found that the best way to get them right and on a good line was to train them ourselves. I did this so that they had little influence from others on the direction they were heading. If the weather was good and the pigeons are healthy, we would give them a couple of tosses a day to get them right. What you must remember is that if your pigeons are going to be fit then they need the training. If I was still racing and had the time and finance, I would be training twice per day at around the 45ml mark for the sprint races, but in many cases the working man at times does have to limit what they spend on pigeons and the time to do it in.
We have been to compile loft reports and fanciers have said that they do not train once the season has started but we have seen some of these same fanciers down the road on a daily basis training their pigeons. Even widowhood cocks are far more competitive when they are trained, they are kept more alert as to what is going on and what is expected of them. I think it is quite easy to lose the edge on a pigeon for racing by not giving them at least some training in the week.
You do not see top class athletes winning races by sitting at home all day, they train in one way or another every day. In the past we have had the birds on the open hole, which suits us because they have been raced on the natural and with racing the longer races they are up and about very early in the morning and even later at night. However, as I mentioned earlier that was changed because they would eat most of the new plants that were planted so the system was changed, and they were exercised and back into the loft. Even when they were on the open hole, they were still trained at least twice each week from about 25mls. The distance used to be as much as 40mls but that was reduced because of time. If a pigeon was being prepared for a particular race, then we do change slightly by giving them a few tosses in pairs.
The young birds were generally exercised at about 7am and 6pm during the season, which we liked to stick to where possible. We were never interested if young birds perform or not because the young bird stage of their racing is for experience. Our best old birds were only mediocre as youngsters and the cock that was 45th open Pau only had one training race as a baby. And our best distance pigeon the Dark W/F Cock was bred in August and went to 352mls as a yearling, he was a cracker.
Should we race our pigeons every week, that all depends on how fit and healthy the pigeons are. Years ago, for club racing yes there was no point in leaving them at home but nowadays racing is different. In modern day racing many fanciers treat their birds differently because there are so many specialist/National races about. I have noticed even those who don’t send to such races they are still not sending from the first race. I don’t see why any pigeon cannot race the full inland programme if they are fit and healthy. It could be a case of some are not giving their birds the credit for what they can actually do, on a weekly basis. I also suspect that a lot of what happens with the pigeons is based on their breeding.
Years ago, pigeons were probably bred stronger to do an all-round job and were expected to do it and they did better than they currently do. Today’s pigeons are bred more to race at certain distances than they used to be. There is a possibility that the modern-day breeding has also caused pigeons to suffer more with health issues, their immune system does not appear to be as strong as it used to be, especially for the sprint pigeons. When I think back, the pigeons were expected to race weekly to Rennes which is 352mls to Middlewich, most would fold nowadays, with such a programme. There are always comeback/training races between the channel and if you wanted them to go to each channel races they were left at home for those races. I remember Raymond Lee having a good pigeon that went to all channel races and did an excellent job. Many fanciers had pigeons that did a similar job.
When you think about it, pigeons are meant to fly and are fed and trained to race, it is a natural part of being a bird. If the constitution of a pigeon is good, then there is no reason why it should not more or less complete a club programme. Looking back to the later stages of my racing, I used to prepare pigeons for specific races and that is the way we preferred to do it, if they didn’t come then the question had to be asked “Why not”. First of all, you can take a good look at the pigeon on its return to see if there is any damage. Then if it is all right and handles well you can look at the preparation to see if something has not been done right and then of course the weather en-route after all anything can go wrong over a 500ml or so distance. One thing is for sure we make mistakes in life so why can’t a pigeon. The next time you make sure that you have everything right and then if it does not come it has to go. No one can spend their time preparing a pigeon that is always going to let them down.
With racing the natural you can try all ways and to encourage the pigeons to race home. We have had them on everything from fresh eggs to big youngsters, what will suit one will not necessarily suit the next pigeon, so you have to find the best way to the top for each pigeon. The time of the year we go for is from the end of May when the specialist races begin to get into full swing
When we were preparing pigeons for the National races, they would get plenty of private training and the odd race with the club and that would be that. Personally, I would not send them race after race for these races because that will take the edge off them, again it is a case of preparation and satisfactory result. Over the years, pigeon racing is gone more to specialist racing because of the decline in numbers at club level and this includes channel racing. Clubs would be far better not competing in the local clubs from channel events into the North West and staying on the land. This would help both parties by giving more credit to the channel winners and less stress for the pigeons. Remember pigeon racing has changed a great deal these last 15yrs so we have to change with the times. I was talking to a local fancier down at the local club about this and I pointed out that you win nothing in the channel races for a lot of effort. A few years ago, he was one of the best channel racers in the area and the one to look for but due to circumstances the results have been more on the land in recent years.
Pigeon racing is not what it used to be and over the years I did change what I did to suit, and woudl continue to do so if I was still racing.