Upland Dog Fundamentals Workshop June 19-20

Entries have closed. If you have questions, please contact the Event Chair, Steve Surprenant at Surprenant@mdsportingdog.org .

Spaniels were originally bred to hunt, find, and flush upland game out of their hiding places – pointers and setters did the pointing, and retrievers did the retrieving. Today’s upland dogs are expected to hunt, find, point or flush, be steady to wing and shot, and reliably retrieve or respectfully honor another dog’s retrieve.

MSDA is pleased to hold a late-June training workshop led by professional trainer/handler Jordan Horak. The workshop is a two-day program for dogs and handlers who are beginning upland work, or who want help taking their dogs to the highest level.

The workshop will be held on Saturday June 19 and Sunday June 20 at Thornhill Farm in Woodbine, MD. A limited number of private lessons will be available on Monday, June 21.

Jordan Horak's dog Nattie on Cato Board


Jordan Horak is an accomplished upland dog professional trainer and handler, winner of both the National Open and National Amateur Cocker Championships, and the inventor of the Cato Board placeboard (named after his English Cocker Spaniel).

In the fall of 2018, Jordan and Cato won the Open Nationals Cocker Championship. This championship and also the 2018 Amateur Nationals Cocker Championship win with his dog Breeze validated Jordan’s approach to training. At that time, Jordan realized that there needed to be a better, commercially produced, placeboard available to the public – the end result was the Cato Board, totally manufactured and assembled in the US.

Jordan will be offering a 10% discount on Cato Boards to all registered handlers, working teams and auditors alike. This discount is in addition to the quantity discounts presented on his website.


Saturday and Sunday will be “hands-on” sessions limited to 12 Working Teams (dogs and handlers) and 14 Auditors/Spectators. Working Teams will receive instructional guidance directly from Jordan both days. The workshop will include interactive discussions with all attendees, so auditors are highly encouraged. Plus, video cameras and still photographs are permitted.

For Working Teams and Auditors, there is an optional third day of up to 8 private lesson slots with Jordan on Monday for those who want an hour focused on their specific training needs. This would effectively turn the event into a 3-day workshop for 8 attendees. (All handlers that register for Private Lessons will be asked if they mind if other Private Lesson registrants watch their session.)

The two-day workshop will present the fundamentals of yard training for sporting dogs focusing on:

  • Foundation-building exercises and drills in the yard geared to puppies through adult dogs.
  • Using Cato Boards, speed leads and no leads to teach basic upland commands, e.g., place, casting-off, quartering, hand signals, steadiness, whistle commands (get out, hup, turn, draw-in and recall), and gone away.
  • How to transition from yard work to field work.

There will some field time using live birds, probably pigeons, on the second day (Sunday). Dogs that demonstrate a certain level of competence with foundation work on Saturday may be asked to participate in a demonstration using live birds on Sunday.

Handlers and owners of all levels of experience and interest are welcome. Ideally, participating dogs should have a demonstrated desire to retrieve. The ideal human attendee isn’t looking for a quick fix, but is instead looking for ways to build a strong upland relationship with their dog.


Saturday, June 19 — 8:00 am to approximately 5:30 pm

  • 8:00 am: Check-in; enjoy coffee and a light breakfast.
  • 8:30 am: Assemble in the yard. Introductions. Overview from Jordan about upland training and spaniel hunt tests. Each working team will describe to Jordan and the group where they are in their training and their workshop goals. Based on this information, Jordan will begin calling forth handler teams and tailor a drill for them based on further one-on-one conversation on each team’s upland level and experience.
  • 12:00 pm: Break for lunch.
  • 1:00 pm: Assemble back in the yard; working teams continue to run drills with Jordan.
  • 5:00 pm: Session ends with Q&A.
  • Immediately after seminar: BBQ dinner/get-together with Jordan at Thornhill Farm.

Sunday, June 20— 8:00 am to approximately 4:30 pm

  • 8:00 am: Assemble in the field. Light breakfast while Jordan answers questions and discusses previous day’s work.
  • 8:30 am: Yard vs. Field Training discussion. Intro to field concepts and field demonstration. 
  • 12:00 pm: Assemble back in the yard and break for lunch.
  • 1:00 pm: In the yard, working teams continue to run drills.
  • End of day: Q&A, discussion and final comments from Jordan at the conclusion of the workshop.


Seminar Fees are:

  • Working Team (Both Days): $300
  • Auditor/Spectator (Both Days): $175
  • Auditor/Spectator for One Day Only: $100
  • Private Lesson: $95

Registration fees range from $4.50 to $8.00 per entry.

Current MSDA members were offered a $25 discount if they register for both days as either a Working Team or as an Auditor/Spectator. 

Seminar fees include morning coffee and pastries, lunch on Saturday and Sunday, and a BBQ dinner on Saturday evening.


Registration is now closed.


There will be no refunds for cancellations by registrants before or after the closing date. Registrations are transferable to others if approved in advance by MSDA. Contact the Event Chair, Steve Surprenant if you need to cancel. If the entire workshop is cancelled for any reason, all entry fees will be refunded in full.


On a “first come, first served” basis, Private Lessons are only available to 8 of the 12 Working Teams and Auditors that register for the two-day Saturday/Sunday Seminar.

Working teams are limited to one handler and a maximum of two dogs; only one dog can be worked per concept/drill.

Workshop activities will be entirely outside. This event will be held rain or shine.

Covid precautions will be as required by CDC, Maryland, Howard County, and Thornhill Farm.

Registrants will have to sign liability releases for both MSDA and Thornhill Farms.

Video and still photography is permitted.


All Participants:

  • Clothing/footwear appropriate for dog training and appropriate to the weather forecast
  • Pad of paper, a pen, and a highlighter pen
  • Chair and a clip board or something else to write on
  • Sunscreen and bug spray
  • Plenty of water
  • Lots of questions

Working handlers also should bring:

  • Water for your dog
  • Flat buckle or training collar
  • Regular lead (slip lead)
  • Whistle (spaniel whistle preferred)
  • E-collar (optional; there will be no specific e-collar training)

Workshop topics and schedule may be adjusted based on the needs of the working teams, the weather, or other factors. Topics listed here are representative and not meant to be all-inclusive as every dog is different.


Mount Airy Budget Inn:

Turf Valley Resort:

MSDA has not worked out special hotel rates with the hotels listed above and is not endorsing these particular hotels.

There are other dog-friendly hotels in Frederick, Ellicott City, and Baltimore, Maryland that are further away from the workshop location. Please check directly with hotels regarding rates, dogs in room, and deposits that may be required.


Coffee and pastries will be provided each morning, and lunch will be provided on Saturday and Sunday. Liquid refreshments will be available during the day. No lunches will be provided during private lessons.

On Saturday evening, a BBQ get-together with Jordan will be held immediately after the seminar at Thornhill Farm.


Questions should be directed to the Event Chair, Steve Surprenant at Surprenant@mdsportingdog.org