We often hear from people who are keen to get into shooting but have been put off by the enduring myth that they would need to be from a particular background or to already know the right people.
This myth is one we’re very keen to dispel – as newcomers to the sport soon find, on a shoot you will come across people from all backgrounds and from all walks of life. The one common thread tying them all together being, of course, a passion for the Great Outdoors.
Few people embody this spirit like Sam Barber, a young man who, with no background in field sports and the added challenge of cerebral palsy to overcome, found himself inspired to get into the shooting world along with Harry, his Springer Spaniel.
With characteristic self-determination, Sam asked us if we would be interested in sharing his story…
My name’s Sam Barber and I have a Springer Spaniel called Harry.
From a young age I watched Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on television and became interested in the idea of being self-sufficient. This led me to have an ambition for working my Springer Spaniel, Harry.
I began my field sports journey back in 2017 after attending a clay ground local to me – from there I went home and started looking into how I would train Harry to become a working dog. I was slightly apprehensive as I had no background in field sports, but as I started to do some research I found that picking-up would most suit myself, with having a physical disability cerebral palsy and as I have some limitations.
I then began my search for a gun dog trainer. At first it was difficult to find a trainer local to me, so I started looking further afield until I came across Damian at Tessleymoor Gundogs in Preston. We started doing monthly lessons, and we continue the training. Damion has been a great support and kept me focused on my end goal, which was working Harry in the shooting field.
When we knew the time was right to introduce Harry into the field I then started our search. Due to having cerebral palsy, walking on uneven terrain can be difficult and make me lose my balance. Therefore finding a shoot that is easy-going underfoot for myself and that could cater for my needs wasn’t an easy task, so I took to social media to ask for help to find a local shoot to me.
I came across Next Generation Shooting on Instagram who are a page dedicated to helping the next generation into field sports. They kindly put a post out to their followers explaining my needs and that I was looking for a local shoot, and from there we instantly got a lot of support from the shooting community.
Me and Harry then attended a shoot at Whitmore Hall Estate where the keeper, Harry, arranged for me to get a lift from each drive on the game cart. We then got invited to attend Upperwood Estate, which is owned by The Crowther Family. It is a local shoot just 20 minutes drive from my home – me and Harry instantly fitted right in. We were greeted by Claire Crowther and her team of picker-uppers and we had a great days picking up.
I found that I was able to get around most of the flatter areas of the shoot and any terrain that I couldn’t get to I was able to get a lift on the game cart to be able to enjoy every drive to its full potential and enjoy working Harry in the field. We continued to attend on a weekly basis for the rest of the season and we are looking forward to going back this year and enjoying the 2020 season there.
While out of season I have continued to stay in contact and become great friends with a number of people from the shoot, and we continue to meet up to do some group training. I was kindly invited to go down to Northumberland where I had the pleasure of meeting Andy Cullen of Laochin Gundogs to do a training lesson with some of his fantastic facilities. Me and Harry learnt a lot from Andy’s knowledge, and we have been invited back down to continue the next chapter of our training.
Carrying on with my journey I would like to be able to introduce a puppy with the end goal of having a field trials dog. This is something I have no knowledge of, but I am spending my spare time doing the research so I am able to achieve this. I am hoping I can share with you the next chapter of my story soon and I will have been able to successfully push myself in not only training to pick up with Harry, but I would also like to be able to write and talk about my introduction into field trials and hopefully my successes in this too.
I strongly believe that, if you have a disability or limitations, if you have a dream to achieve it can be possible if you have enough willpower and determination. I set up Sam’s Gundog Journey on Instagram to try to show that people with disabilities can achieve in field sports too. I am hoping that people will get to read my story and be inspired to try something out of their comfort zone and be able to enjoy it.
I have been overwhelmed with the support that I have received by posting on Instagram to publicise how much shooting helps many people in so many different ways. It provides physical and mental stimulation for myself, as walking on rough terrain is a good form of physio therapy and keeps me active and on my feet.
After sharing my story on social media I received a lot of support, especially from CAB Animal Transit Boxes from Saddleworth near Manchester, who kindly made me ambassador. They supplied and fitted a dog box for my vehicle which makes going out training and attending shoots a lot safer and easier for me and Harry.
I’m hoping more people with a physical disability will come across my story and not let it defeat them.
Thank you for taking the time to read my journey so far.
Thank you to Sam for sharing your story. For more from Sam & Harry, find them on Instagram.
For more tips & advice for on getting into shooting & field sports, please see our guides below.