The Vizslas of Red Mesa Kennel
Bird dog winter camp in the Wild West of Prewitt, New Mexico, is a spiritual coming together, where a string of red dogs, known as Hungarian Vizslas, and their pro trainer and handler escape to decompress, recharge and fine-tune their pointing and retrieving skills. Taking a break in this rustic paradise brings clarity and purpose to the mission of raising the bar for Vizslas on the highly competitive bird dog circuit.
Riding up on a stylish pair of his starter team dogs staunchly pointing game, Brian Gingrich sits tall in the saddle atop Tennessee Walker “Chaco.” Donning a cowboy hat, the 6-foot-4-inch solidly built bird dog trainer looks like he could reach up and touch the open blue sky. His ruddy cheeks and suntanned face attest to his outdoor lifestyle. His sparkling blue eyes and easygoing smile speak to his love of the versatile hunting breed and the field trial sport.
Locked in on the find, “Red” (NCH NFC DC Bangert’s Red Baron), a conditioned, muscular 7-year-old male, is pointing the bird, and “Scout” (NCH 2XCH 3XRUCH FC CK Post Route Scout), an athletic, far-ranging 5-year-old male, honors the find with calm resolution. Arguably the top-performing Vizslas on the circuit, they have come by their talents humbly, hand-developed and trained by Brian since puppyhood. “I worked with a lot of dogs to get these exceptional dogs,” Brian says.
Bringing out the power-driven bird-finding ability of the red dogs to run competitively with Pointers and English Setters in shooting dog and all-age horseback stakes takes grit. “This is what excites me,” Brian says. “I am looking to put together an all-star team of big-running dogs that I can take to new places and raise people’s expectations of Vizslas.”
He knows there are naysayers, those who don’t believe Vizslas have the engines to run a fast-forward one-hour endurance trial, the bird-finding finesse to trump a brace mate or the focus to stay the course. Brian aims to prove them wrong. So far, he’s won 10 National Championships with six different Vizslas, an impressive claim for 10 years on the circuit. He’s also won eight all-breed open championships.
Brian did not start out planning to be a professional bird dog trainer. “It started real innocent,” he says, grinning.
With time on his hands in 2009, Brian started yardwork training his father’s Vizsla puppies. At first, Brian was training dogs for Vizsla Club of America weekend trials sanctioned by the AKC. In 2010, he entered the National Vizsla Association’s National Open Championship in Grovespring, Missouri. The one-hour format of the American Field event was “eye-opening,” he says. “Going from 30-minute weekend trials to a one-hour championship was a whole different level.”
His competitive nature kicked in. Working Vizslas at his parents’ farm in Winnebago, Illinois, Brian started shaping dogs to win by making training fun and giving lots of praise. He and his father bought Tennessee Walking horses and a trailer, transitioning to handling on horseback from walking.
More and more field trialers had begun seeking Brian to train their dogs in 2014 when James Gingrich bought a property in Prewitt, New Mexico, which he named Mt. Taylor Vista Ranch. The rugged Southwest scenery with gorgeous red mesas, windblown blue grama grass, and scattered pinyon pines and cedar trees offers nearly a dozen areas to run bird dogs. Once home to Anasazi Indians, reminders such as sacred burial grounds, pottery chards and dugout fire pits on top of mesas abound.
Working hard physically blended with time spent training and building relationships with the dogs have been life-changing for Brian. “This is my heaven,” he says. Befittingly, he recently renamed his BG Gundogs to Red Mesa Kennel.
As winter camp comes to a close, Brian is satisfied with the dogs’ progress. His love for the red dogs, these Hungarian Vizsla hunting dogs, is mutual. The spiritual coming together that took place at winter camp at Red Mesa Kennel will soon be seen at bird dog stakes across the country, where Vizslas will be taking the game to a whole new level.