"I close the meeting and wish you all a good season."
Those are classic words that are usually spoken by the chairman after a club meeting. As a faithful priest who gives the blessing.
By "a good season" he mainly refers to the weather.
Because in a country like ours inevitably comes that smash once a year or even more often. What you can hope for then is, that you did not enter your best birds and that the birds have good condition.
Because the difference between people that lose many birds in a bad race and those that hardly lose any is condition!
You often encounter a smash when you do not expect it.
The scenario is familiar in most cases:
The birds stay away too long, the first that get home are "the wrong birds" and proven good pigeons are too late.
For some mysterious reason poor navigating also seems to tire the birds.
Even from 200 miles they get home exhausted.
When the birds have to stay in the basket for 2 nights for the first time it is often a bad race as well. Apparently they are restless the first morning because they are used to be released then. And the stay in the basket for a whole nervous day will not do them any good.
Concerning this something interesting happened a few years ago.
There was this middle distance race on a Saturday and for this one occasion the birds were basketed on Friday instead of Thursday as usual.
And what did we see?
Players who have traditionally a reputation for pure sprint pigeons discovered to their surprise that they could do more.
Their birds performed extremely well in this hard middle distance race.
I heard one say: The difference between short and middle distance is not so much the distance but the stay in the basket.
I"ve heard greater nonsense than that.
It will take weeks before a bird that is so worn out will be fit to be raced.
Furthermore I believe there is more than wind speed, wind direction and distance that makes races hard or easy. And sometimes you can see that.
Pigeons get home as fresh as a daisy from a race of 400 miles with headwinds while they get home from 200 miles completely shattered. Difficult orienteering seems to fatigue them more than many miles to fly.
In bad races you see them fly in all directions. They fly hesitant, not in a straight line, without confidence and sometimes they make a sudden turn around.
And ... they get home dazed and tired.
After such a lousy flight fanciers have questions.
How to welcome the birds?
What to do for the coming weekend: play or keep at home?
It will not hurt if the birds are pampered after such a flight.
- Let them have plenty of food and let them choose, trust on the instinct and certainly do not let them go into the night hungry. And remember: Peas or beans do not belong in the food for a weakened body.
- The lofts should be made agreeable. A heater may be useful.
- Many Belgians use eye drops after a bad race, the Dutch do not believe in it.
And I? I do not know.
- Watch out for canker after two nights in the basket, especially in warm weather.
It spreads much faster in the drinking troughs in the pigeon trucks than normal.
"Threads" in the throat or a throat that is too reddish means danger.
- I do not believe in most of the additives that are available but dextrose, honey or electrolytes after a flight in warm weather are useful.
And a slight cure with antibiotics to fight respiratory problems?
I do not believe in slight cures.
Absolutely not fit to be raced.
When can birds be raced again after a hard race that fatigued them a lot?
That"s not an easy question because every pigeon is different.
Furthermore, a pigeon that got home in the evening may have suffered more than one that got home the day after.
Personally I find the third day after a hard race or smash a crucial day.
When there are doubts about the condition check the throat, but also the behavior of the birds. Racers that do not spontaneously get out of the loft for training and reluctantly train around the loft have not recovered. And therefore not ready to be basketed again within 10 days. They also need to be hungry.
Pigeons that have no appetite are not recovered and that certainly applies to birds that are not back on weight soon.
The color of the flesh is also an indicator.
Pigeons with dark blue flesh and scales are not recovered properly and of course not fit to be raced!
"Not recovered properly" does not necessarily mean they flew too many hours, as I said before. Concerning this I am sometimes surprised by youngsters.
Unlike the Belgians in Holland we cannot race them long distance any more. Thanks to animal protectors who lost contact with reality.
But in the past we could.
Although I am no "fond flyer" I raced my babies long distance in the past and without bragging, I would not know who in Holland did better.
I remember this hard race from Chateauroux, 570 kilometers. The babies arrived late in the evening and the following day already the desire to fly was stupendous. They stormed out of the loft as if they had not flown 1,500 kilometers in 14 days.
If birds do poorly of a 500 km flight keep them home the week after. They lack condition.
And maybe you know my mantra: Good condition is more important than quality.
Furthermore it may sound strange but bad races have something positive.
Then everyone wins prizes, no one dominates.
I remember that in my club, from such a race, the first 16 prizes were won by 16 different fanciers. In nice and hard so called "pigeon weather" that does not happen.
Then few fanciers (the champs) win all and many fail.
So we may thank the Lord that it is not always nice "pigeon weather".
Knocking down the champions every now and then will keep the others in the sport.
And that is what we all want.