Masters of extreme long distance racing!
My visit to the Padfield Family loft this year was to photograph yet another extreme distance winner for them, this time from Barcelona, a distance of 758 miles to their loft in Abertillery. Over the past two years I have been to visit them several times to photograph first open National winners, such is the success these two brothers have in extreme distance racing.
Abertillery, as with most of the South Wales villages, is situated in a valley with high mountain ranges either side, which forces the pigeons to fly high over the terrain to reach their home lofts, and run through the valleys with all the usual predation such scenic landscapes can hold.
On this occasion they had won 4th Open British International Championship Club and first in the Gwent Greater Distance Club, a club which uses the British International Championship Club race program as its own. Members send to all the B.I.C.C. races and the distance enthusiasts in the Gwent area of Wales compete against each other for the top honours on an equal basis.
In the Barcelona race of 2014 they had entered a total of 8 of their long distance racers of which 6 returned home and 4 of those, was in race time. A creditable performance in itself considering the loft location is one of the most westerly in the British International Championship Club, with a prevailing west wind to contend with, as well as the altitude to climb in the final stages of the race.
Their winning pigeon named “Lady Barca” is a direct descendant of their Wim Muller family, which they introduced some years ago after careful study of the International race results. Wim Muller was the only loft to ever win the Europa Cup twice at the time and good fortune came their way when news came of the Ponderosa having 100 late breds in the UK, as a result of the Eijerkamp partnership with Wim Muller. Dave arranged with Tony from the Ponderosa UK to have the pick of the first 100 to enter the UK. Dave selected a cock and a hen, which went on to be the foundation of the loft.
This proved to be a huge turning point for the partners in their long distance aspirations, as they went on to produce champions both pure and crossed with their existing long distance pigeons, based mostly on the Morgan & Cook pigeons and the Willy Clerabaut pigeons they flew, and over the years they built a firm friendship with Wim Muller, who now has pigeons returning to his loft from the Padfield Family. Other crosses have been brought in selectively, like the Invincible spirit lines, the Bruggermans and Newcomb’s with outstanding success.
Vince Padfield had flown in partnership with the Preece Brothers for a number of years when it was decided that David, Vince and their Father Albert would join forces and race as the Padfield Family once again. There was a huge north road federation in Wales at the time, sending over 20,000 pigeons each week and Lerwick was the main aim with pigeons from Morgan & Cook. These were bred around a pigeon called “Iron Man” which flew Lerwick in the Shetland Isles, no fewer than seven times, a distance of 580 miles.
Pigeons with extreme distance qualities have a different mentality to most and very careful consideration needs to be given in both the racing system and feeding program. Pairing for the race pigeons takes place around the end of February or early March and they are allowed to rear two youngsters. Early season racing is not a priority at this loft, only when the weather warms up will they will send in the club and that will be for training only, and will not have a clock set.
They want to time the top form in their pigeons for the longer races in June and July and David says “you can not expect to win the first race keeping them tight for food and then feed more for the longer ones. You have to feed for the long races right from the beginning of the season” So they send and relax to enjoy their pigeons until such time as they want to compete, which is in as many races as possible over 500 miles.
In the beginning of the season the old bird team are separated after breeding and exercised as early as possible in the morning on the roundabout system, cocks first and then the hens for one hour each, which is repeated again in the evening. Once the main races in their calendar approach they will re-couple the pigeons and skillfully prepare each candidate scheduled for each of the International races. In the last two seasons the partnership has not repaired the birds until basketting their Barcelona and Tarbes NFC birds.
They are then able to resend birds that come from the early Pau races with BICC and CSCFC, driving, or sitting or on youngsters and these pigeons go on to win again up to 700 miles i.e.: St Vincent, Narbonne and Perpignan. Although the boys would prefer to repair earlier as in previous years the change in methods allow them to get a 600 miles and up to 700 miles in the same season from selected birds.
Vince Padfield, who is a retired miner, will study them for hours during the build up to the races and motivate them according to his observations. Food troughs are in all sections with a good amount of breeding mixture, along with individual food pots in each nest box, in which a richer mixture is constantly topped up allowing the pigeons plenty of opportunity to take what they need, as they are slowly building their reserves for the task ahead.
Interestingly, the nest boxes are back to back running down the center of the loft. This enables them to make sure both sexes are bonded to their box for racing and it works like this. For the first round the nest is built in the cocks section and the youngsters are reared there but once the cock begins chasing the hen to nest for the second time, a sliding partition in the back of the box allows them to build it in the rear compartment, which is in the hens section.
Once they are sitting the second round of eggs in the hen’s side of the loft for a few days, the partition door in the nest box is closed and the hen sits out the eggs. On a twice daily basis the hens are liberated from the rear of the loft to exercise and return through the front, which is the cocks side of the loft, and go to their nest box to feed before being ushered through the small door to the hens side again, after the cocks have been let through to exercise themselves.
As I have said before they will use this system for the first few weeks of the season to get the pigeons race fit before repairing prior to the main races which are at 500 miles or over for the old pigeons although they have not repaired until Barcelona basketing in the last two years. The yearlings will all go to Cholet with the National Flying Club, a distance of 350 miles before being put by for the following season as their main races come from two year old and upwards.
For the 2014 season they finished with 30 yearlings that had all been to Cholet and out of the old pigeons they have 31 that flew 600 miles, 6 that flew 760 miles and 7 of those flew 600 miles twice. For the next season they will have 28 very experienced pigeons of 3 years old and above, plus the yearlings and two year olds. Such is the strength of their bloodlines that they have been able to build a team of pigeons they have supreme confidence in achieving the distances asked of them, and a lot of them too.
Each year the 60-67 young birds are given three training tosses before the first race up to 15 miles. They are not darkened or put on any kind of system, so once young bird racing begins with the club they will send them but not for competition. They will feed them to grow strong for the old bird stages and give them just enough race experience to over winter them with confidence. Its all about a steady, gradual schooling and build up over the first two years of their lives, to the biggest test of all for all long distance fanciers in Europe…Barcelona!