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feel they need to "breed out" the work ethic or "breed in" the show look? Why can't the dog look good (ie conformation) and work well in the field? Ideally, a

You are assuming that field springers are better. They are not. They are fast and flashy, with a touch of English Setter to bring them up on leg. They were bred to play a game, field trials. Show springers were bred to play a different game. And don't assume that show springers are not good hunters...some of them are very good.
Mindy and the Muddy Paws Pack
Why can't the dog look good (ie conformation) and work well in the field? Ideally, a dog that is conformationaly ... we have to exaggerate and/or diminish aspects of our dogs, why can't hey be what they are suppose to be?

I understand this. I know that some breeds are bred (or should be) only to a working standard. The founder of my breed decided to keep both conformation and working ability in the same animal. If only all of the breeders had followed his wishes. That being said, if I had to chose between a "purty" dog that couldn't find its way out of a brown paper sack or an ugly dog that could work like a dream, give me the ugly dog any day.
Beth
or discourage the natural desire to hunt in the dogs that will predominantly show and why the need to exclude features that are desirable in the ring to enhance the dogs hunting ability?

You are wrong. There are plenty of show bred springers with a very strong desire to hunt: Charm managed to fall 20 feet out of a tree trying to get Mourning doves. The difference is the game: There are plenty of showbred MH. There are no show bred Field trial Ch. They breed for speed and often the dogs trip over the birds, not actually flushing them. Neither group is what the ESS looked like in the 1900's but then, they didn't become a breed until 1902. They were a landrace, and the spaniels split then. Each side has a game and function, but don't think that the conformation dogs are all lacking ability, that isn't true any more so than all field breds have it. Further, none of my dogs have profuse coat:) but two are Ch.
nderstanding the field trial side of it. If there are lots of show bred MH and dogs such as Charm ... to be Field Trial Champions (aside from it being inherently difficult for either show or field bred to earn it)?..I'm

Different game. It is very fast, and show breds do not race, they trot. They were not selected nor bred for field trialing.
that what goes into earning a MH is entirely different from being a field trial champ? (I haven't gotten to this part of my research yet) Yes,

Completely different. Hunt tests may not be as fast, but they do have incredible water work that field trialers do not have to do.>

inability to
earn a field trial ch really mean anything that significant? or does a conf. CH and MH say enough about the soundness of the dog?

To me, nothing significant. If you like field trials, you get a field trial dog. If you like hunt tests, anything will work:)
so how does one define a well balanced ESS? One who can earn a CH and a MH or one who can earn a conf. CH and a Field Trial CH, or maybe both?

If it doesn't fall on it's face, it is well balanced. The games are different, I have people freak that I run my dogs tracking when they show...it does tend to wreck coats. Field people, BTW, do shave their dogs.
I my search for a well balanced dog, I find many conformation CH, a few junior hunters ect but no field trial Ch..How concerned with titles should I realistically be? I'm beginning to learn what they mean, but I can see how one can

There hasn't been a DC in ESS since 1938 and I suspect there never will be. Decide what you want: a field trial dog, a hunting dog, or a Champion. You are far more likely to find a dog from Ch lines to be more easily trained than a field trial dog (this was something that came out of the health seminar this year). Decide what is important to you: you don't want to show, so look at parents biddability...
That being said, if I had to chose between a "purty" dog that couldn't find its way out of a brown paper sack or an ugly dog that could work like a dream, give me the ugly dog any day. Beth

Amen to that.
I just wish somehow there was a happy medium.
Gwen