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Coldwater Thunder: 2021 National Champion


By William Smith

Coldwater Thunder achieved an elusive and much-sought after aspiration when she was declared the victor of the most prestigious field trial in the world. This was the white, liver, and ticked pointer bitch’s fourth time to run for the crown.  Although reduced in the number of entries, the competition was still of the highest level. A superior performance leaves no doubt in the minds of those who witnessed it that this performance has set the bar and it will be difficult to beat; that was the case after Thunder had completed her bid for the elusive title. It takes a lot of grit to grind it out for three hours over ground that is rocky, muddy, wet, and cold. She traversed the courses always subservient to her handler and always hunting, going to the likely places. She carded four finds—one in the first hour, two in the second hour, and one in the final hour. She was motionless on each occasion as her quarry took to the air and she stood for the shot.  She exhibited class and courage throughout her 3-hour quest. She ranged over the Plantation course seemingly with ease as her untiring gait ate up the country. Her performance ranks high on the list of previous winners, and the announcement on the green steps of the Ames Manor House made it official—Coldwater Thunder is the deserving 2021 National Champion.  Thunder is the first female of any breed to win the National in 22 years. Cedar Oak Kate, PF, was the last to accomplish the feat in 1998 for owner/handler Tom Honecker.

The Running
Brace 6. Coldwater Thunder was the top dog in the sixth brace Wednesday afternoon (February 10), the only female in this year’s competition. Thunder is owned by Doug Arthur, Billy Blackwell, and Rachel and David Russell; all were mounted to watch the action. Steve Hurdle handled and Korry Reinhart assisted when needed. The veteran, Lester’s Jazzman, was the bottom dog. He was handled by Randy Anderson and scouted by Stegan Smith. Jazzman’s owner, Dan Hensley was not present.

The temperature was 50 degrees when Thunder took the south side of the East Pasture and Jazzman went down the power line. Jazzman scored first at :06 under the power line on the east end of the pasture. They were ahead through Jim Miller and Buster Graves. Reinhart was sent to the south in the Mounting Block field and Jazzman was out of pocket.

The next sighting was Thunder in the Horseshoe as she made a nice move around the big field at the top of the hill.  Thunder was fast through the Chute and Hurdle found her standing at :44 in the rough just south of the Agronomy field.

Both dogs were together out of the Strawberry Patch and faded away into the Water Truck field. They were seen sparingly through Prospect, and Thunder made the turn at the Dairy Barn headed toward Lawrence Smith. Smith was out looking for Jazzman.

They were in Turkey Bottom where Thunder made a strong forward cast toward Alfalfa Bottom on the south edge and Jazzman took the north edge. Hurdle went to the southwest corner and found both dogs standing in weeds that were as high as a horse’s back. Hurdle called flight of birds as the judges rode toward Hurdle. When the judiciary arrived, Hurdle asked if they had seen the birds. When the answer was affirmative, Hurdle shot. The judiciary reported than since both dogs were standing, both were given credit for a find here at 1:22.

Hurdle’s call of “there she goes” was heard throughout the brace. Thunder was going places and she was going fast. She was out of sight at times, but she always appeared to the front where she should have been. Thunder made quick time through Pine Hill, Kerry 7 acres, the Agronomy unit, and turned into Wolf Crossing.

Jazzman was in and out, with Smith looking most of the time.

Hurdle found Thunder standing the third time at 1:52 in the cut over north of Jack Harris Cabin field. She was a pretty sight as she stood statuesque waiting for Hurdle.  No bird work was recorded through Caesar’s Ditch or Cox’s Ridge.
Jazzman made an appearance in Carlisle Corner and stood at 2:11 in weeds on top of the hill overlooking Fason Bottom. They crossed Ellington Road with 30 minutes left in the brace. Thunder was pointed out ahead in the Tennessee field. Jazzman was not in sight. The distant call of point was heard with the judges and gallery in the Avent field. It was a long ride back to the Avent Big Oak field where Thunder was standing at 2:50 at the base of the Big Oak. Thunder finished her 3-hour bid in the morning Breakaway field. Jazzman was out of pocket at pick up, but was seen officially at 3:06. It was a fast, enjoyable hour.

Lulu’s Back in Town
By Rachel Blackwell

I guess it has finally set in; thank you to everyone for reaching out to us after the announcement that Coldwater Thunder (aka Lulu) won the 122nd running of the National Championship! We are proud of her for finishing the three hours strong with perfect bird work (after being worked for 30 minutes a couple of hours before her afternoon brace), and for the fourth time in her seven years of life of competing, taking the National Champion title is such an honor and accomplishment.

Although there were fewer entries this year (21), there were the same number of 3-hour finishers (7) to pick a winner from as there were in 2018 when there were 42 entries. There were six finishers in 2019 and four finishers in 2020. I think this clears up any doubt when anyone may want to discredit this year’s National Champion because of the lower number of entries, poor weather conditions that other dogs had to run in, etc. This trial truly separates the elite from the good and that is what makes it so special.

Lulu is a special dog, and I think most people who have watched her run or have been around her can testify to that. She’s a strong, tough competitor, loyal to her handler, and possesses a drive and range that is admirable in the all-age field trial world. She is also a sweetheart and loves curling up on the couch, watching TV, and riding shotgun in the car.  She is such a well rounded dog and what we like to call “the full package:” friend and competitor, soft and fierce.

To say that Mr. Doug Arthur takes care of all of us would be an understatement. He raised Lulu from a puppy and the two of them have always had a special bond. She lives with him in the off season and enjoys riding around in the front seat of his Jaguar. He starts getting her in shape for the season in the early fall, when she has the opportunity to point any of the 10-15 wild coveys on the farm, and makes sure that we have everything we need to get the job done.

My dad, Billy Blackwell, has poured hundreds of hours into training her since she was a puppy - nearly daily October-March of every year. His track record speaks for itself. My dad has a way of bringing out the best in a dog and he is always planning his next move with her, trying to stay a step ahead. He works her for big country, like Hell Creek Wildlife Management Area one week, when we have an upcoming trial, and then shortens her up the next week when we have tighter grounds to work on, such as the grounds at the Ames Plantation.

Along with a change in grounds comes a change in how much to feed her for weight gain or loss to speed her up or slow her down. There is a lot more to it than what meets the eye, and after training bird dogs for 60 years, my dad has it down to a science. He spends the most time with her of anyone, and she does a special dance just for him when he sweet talks her and gives her a nightly treat. Their favorite hobby is finding woodcocks this time of year when they migrate through this area.

The last few years my husband David has been right beside him in most workouts, always stepping up to road her the morning before she runs, put out birds, take her to out of town trials, flush in the thick cover, and to run or scout for her in amateur trials.

Steve Hurdle is all that you could want, and more, in a professional handler. He makes handling a dog go like clockwork, and those of you that have handled a big running dog know that it is anything but that. He gives each dog all that he’s got from the time they are turned loose until pickup, even when he has back to back braces all day long. He loves Lulu as much as we do. He is what I call a “People’s Handler:” what you see is what you get. He advocates for what’s right and gives back to the sport. Steve has handled her in open stakes since she was a Derby and she strives to please him (although this may have a little to do with the chicken tenders that he sneaks her).

Korry Rinehart started scouting Lulu as a Derby, so he has a history with her as well. He scouts hard and smart, and has found her pointed in deep cover too many times to count. Over the years, he has learned to think like she does. We are so thankful to have him scout for her.

I have worked her, run her, carried her around, scouted her, roaded her, snuggled her, and cheered her on from the gallery. We have all poured so much into this fun little dog and as you can see, it truly takes a team. We are so proud to be a part of #teamLulu!

Thank you to the sponsors, the judges, the marshalls, Rick Carlisle, Charlie Frank, Ryan Braddock, Brad Harter, William Smith, and all of the people who keep this whole field trial world going round. The last time I was on these green steps was in 1996 with my dad when he won it with Warhoot Rogue, and I hope this isn’t the last time.

Lulu’s background
Doug Arthur owned Lulu’s mother, Thunder Bess, and Gary McKibben owned her father, Coldwater Warrior. McKibben bred them and Arthur raised Lulu from the time she was a puppy; he always saw something in her that set her apart from the others.

When Lulu was a few months old, Doug took her to Gary McKibben to let him run her in front of the four wheeler with his other puppies. He called Doug a couple days later and told him that he ran the puppies and, unfortunately, Lulu did not come back and he could not find her. Four or five days later, Burke Hendrix was driving through the area and saw an English pointer puppy in a culvert. Low and behold, it was skinny little Lulu, and she was returned home. She’s been a strong little fighter since she was a puppy!

As far as her personality, she’s a quirky one. Sometimes my dad has to sit outside and talk to her the whole time she eats to get her to finish her bowl of chow. She will snap at our male house dogs when she comes inside, letting them know not to mess with her. But most of all, she’s a sweetheart. She loves a pat on the head, loves kids and adults alike, and will sneak in a kiss if you stick around long enough. 

Doug took her to my dad, Billy Blackwell, to train her in October of her Derby year and she earned nine open placements from the Fall of 2015 through the Spring of 2016, one of those being Runner-Up at the National Derby Championship.

My dad and Mr. Doug have been friends for nearly 50 years. He was at the hospital when I was born and has been like a second dad to me. We do Thanksgiving and Christmas together, as he is part of our family. We additionally bonded over the love we all have for this sweet dog, and that’s how #teamLulu was formed.

In the off season, April-September, Lulu stays with Doug. She can be found sunning in her kennel, running around the lake, or riding to town in the front seat of his Jaguar. He starts roading her in late summer to start to get her in shape for the season. She jumps up ready to roll at the sound of a side by side or four wheeler. She loves what she does.

During the season, she gets worked and/or roaded 5-6 days a week, depending on how close the next field trial is. She often gets to ride home from a trial in the cab of the truck and gets to come inside and lounge on the couch when the weather turns unusually chilly. I’ve been carrying her around since she was a Derby. She sits in my arms like she knows the drill. She trusts me and I value that, as I trust her, too.

In a single 90-minute workout a couple of days before she ran in the National Championship, she pointed one wild covey of quail and 13 different woodcocks. My dad has always said, “She’s the one with the nose,” so we trusted her and flushed every time she pointed. She is an exhilarating dog and I am privileged to be a co-owner of her.

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