Thursday, 21 June 2012

Abinger Medieval Fair

Friday morning and Helen, Jess, Tinker, Casper and myself set off for the long journey down to Abinger Medieval Fair.  This was to be our furthest away show of the season, and it certainly was a long drive!  I had guessed it would take us six hours to do the 250 mile journey (the lorry is not the fastest thing on the road), but it ended up taking seven.  The first problem happened on the M1, somewhere down in Northamptonshire, when we were happily whizzing (I use the word in the loosest possible sense) along without a care in the world.  I looked in my mirror and suddenly realised that half of the lorry's skirting had come away from the body and was flapping around like a fish out of water.  EEEEEKKK!!!!!  We pulled off at the nearest exit and hastily found a layby.  I was busy trying to repair the damage with my trusty roll of red gaffa tape when a very helpful gentleman pulled up behind us and got out to help.  We obviously looked like three girls who didn't have a clue what we were doing as he promptly took charge and stuck everything back together with a very serious roll of extra sticky super grey gaffa tape.  Hooray!  We were back on the road again in no time.

The next problem we encountered was the M25.  Unfortunately we hit it at 4pm, not ideal on a Friday afternoon, and we proceeded to cover about five miles in the next hour.  Having got on our way again the only part of the journey left to overcome was the last wiggly woo bit to Abinger itself.  I was following the sat nav and it took us down the narrowest, windyest, steepest hill imaginable (about a 20% gradient apparently!).  My heart was in my mouth on the way down, just praying we wouldn't meet anyone coming in the opposite direction.  Luckily we didn't coming down the hill, but then there seemed to be no end of them.  Most people were very kind and either rammed their cars over as far as they could, or reversed back to the nearest passing place to let us come by.  However, one particular car did neither of these things, resulting in me having to get further over than I really could - and bashing one of my hub caps in in the process!  On top of this we had been scraping along past trees and hedges which I don't think did the paintwork much good.  Needless to say I have now purchased an HGV specific sat nav...

We finally arrived in the village with the lorry in a much poorer state of repair than it had been when we left home - oops!  This seemed to matter even more as we were sited on the driveway of a gorgeous house, with beautiful grounds surrounding it, all obviously very cared for - we looked like a right bunch of scruff pots in comparison!  Katie, the organiser, came to meet us, and showed us a paddock where we could turn the boys out after their long journey.  They couldn't believe their luck to find themselves free in a big grassy field, and promptly galloped off bucking and farting!  Having got the tent and stables all set up (in another new record time!), it was time to get the boys back in and settle down for the night.

In the morning the boys went back out in their field for an hour for a leg stretch and when I went to get them in again they were absolutely filthy.  They were both not only grass stained, but had also obviously found a muddy patch - so they both ended up having virtually full baths again!  Luckily the fair wasn't due to open until 2pm, so the boys had plenty of time to dry.  We spent the morning doing the usual jobs - checking the music, marking out the arena (once it was set up), showing the horses the arena, setting up the shop etc etc.  The fair set up was brilliant.  There was absolutely nothing on the green when we arrived on Friday evening, but by midday on Saturday there was an arena, PA system, endless stalls all decorated beautifully, a tombola with an impressive array of alcoholic prizes, a sheath tossing arena, flags and banners everywhere, and everyone involved was wearing medieval dress - all done in the space of a morning!

Before long it was time for our show.  We were doing things a bit differently for Abinger, and were going to be performing our longer two horse show, as we did at the private wedding back in May.  I couldn't decide which costume I wanted to wear, as I love my spotty dress but it was a very windy day and I didn't want more of the same problems I had had at Rawdon Fun Day the previous weekend.  Shorts, dress, shorts, dress - I just couldn't decide.  So I decided to wear both - problem solved!  I put the shorts on underneath my dress so when the wind blew my skirt right over my head it wouldn't matter as much!

I start the show on Casper and we were cantering around doing the introduction when disaster struck.  Casper managed to shy slightly at one of the billowing flags, which wouldn't have been a problem, but at the same time he ran into one of the bases knocking it over, tripped over the bunting and nearly fell flat on his face.  He managed to right himself but I wasn't so lucky and hit the ground with a massive thud, which I'm sure reverberated through the mic in my hand and over the speakers!  If that wasn't embarrassing enough, it was at the point in the introduction when I had just said 'remarkable feats of equestrianism, the likes of which you will never have seen before!'.  Whoops.  What could I do other than jump back up and say 'you see ladies and gentlemen, I told you you would never have seen this sort of thing before!'  The whole thing was so funny, it couldn't have been more embarrassing, and I am giggling away as I write this now!  Two of the stewards quickly dismantled the offending flag, and it was on with the show as if nothing had happened!  Thankfully, the rest of the show went through absolutely flawlessly.  Casper redeemed himself by doing a fantastic dance and chasing me the best he ever has.  I was sprinting as fast as I could around the arena and he was charging after me, and doing fantastic rears every time I asked.  The Roman Riding went without a hitch, and I managed one legged stands on both of them alternatively in canter which I was really pleased with.  Following the Roman Riding, Tinker skipped beautifully and then was lovely to vault on for the rest of the show - I always breathe a sigh of relief when Tinker comes on!  The audience were absolutely brilliant as well, I think the best we have had so far.  There was a collective gasp when I came off, a round of applause when I got back on, and then lots of laughing, clapping and cheering throughout - just what we like!  Following the show we were due to fill the rest of our fifty minute slot with a ten minute meet and greet.  However, we got absolutely mobbed and after fifteen minutes had to move the shop, horses and crowd out of the arena where we stayed for about another fifteen to twenty minutes!  We sold hundreds of posters, keyrings and horseshoes, and answered endless questions - happy days!

It was a real shame when it was all over, as it really was a lovely afternoon.  Everyone was so friendly and we were looked after extremely well.  You can see some photos of the weekend by clicking here, and I'll be uploading some more taken by Katie in the next few days.  There was so much praise following the show I was made to blush on a number of occasions, but my favourite comment came from Robert, the gentleman who put us up on his driveway, who said 'That was the best fair entertainment I've seen in over fifty years!'. 

We packed down as fast as we could (not as fast as the fair though - by the time we drove past the green it was completely clear and virtually deserted!) in order to get set off on the long journey home as soon as possible.  We were on course for the drive to be six hours, possibly even less, but it was not to be.  There were night closures on the A1, which meant a massive diversion right through the centre of Pontefract, before getting on to the M62 and finally back on to the A1.  It was a very tired team who eventually got home at about 1.30am!

We're off to Brocklesby Country Fair this weekend, where it'll be back to normal with the two single shows - I just hope Casper stays upright this time!  I'll let you know how we get on.

Love Rosie x

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Rawdon Fun Day

Last weekend it was sunglasses and shorts, this weekend it was wellies and waterproofs!  We were due to leave on Friday afternoon for Rawdon Fun Day on Saturday, but on talking to Mark, the organiser, on Friday morning they were unfortunately planning to either cancel the day entirely, or postpone it to Sunday.  We kept all our fingers, toes and hooves crossed that it would go ahead as planned, and by midday we were on!  So Tinker, Casper, Helen, Jess and myself trundled off as planned - hoping for at least a break in the rain, if not some sunshine!

On arrival it was clear why Mark had been so concerned.  The field was totally sodden, and absolutely ruined where vehicles had been trying to get through.  We got as far as we could but then had to unload the horses before having a tractor tow us into position - never a good omen!  Having set the tent and stables up (far quicker than at the Yorkshire Game Fair!) we went to mark the circle out and assess the arena.  One word - squelchy.  It was the most perfect size, round, and relatively flat, but just very, very wet.  We would definitely be having to move the circle in between the two shows.  Having got everything set up, and the horses settled down (two bales of straw just to try and keep them a bit dry), it was time for bed - and time to listen to the rain batter the lorry all night...

Come the morning and it was still raining.  I took a very excitable Casper for some work and it wasn't long before his lovely white legs were covered in mud - so much for his bath!  Having worked him in the arena a bit we'd finished just before the show opened - with cannons!  The cannon blasts were in series' of three, with each bang getting progressively louder.  The first one was ok, the second one made me jump, and the third blast was so incredibly loud it set off some car alarms!  I can genuinely say now that both my horses are bomb proof - they didn't even flinch!

Ben was also at the Fun Day with his Eagles and Vultures, and having him at a show always makes me enjoy it more.  Once the rain had stopped (which it did briefly) the conditions were perfect for his birds, and his first show went really well.  The birds flew spectacularly as the wind coming up the hill was quite strong and ideal for them.  Not so ideal for me though, and it was still blowing a gale as Casper and I went in for the first show.  Everything went well until the start of Casper's dance.  Helen asked for the music and no music came.  She then asked again only to realise that her microphone wasn't working either.  Neither was mine.  So, with no music, and no mics, we carried on as best we could.  And then it started raining.  A lot.  We ploughed on through with Helen and myself both shouting as best we could, but the audience just couldn't hear what we were saying over the wind and the rain.  Despite the setbacks people stayed around the arena and when we got to the final freestyle we set everybody off clapping a rhythm for me to vault to.  Needless to say the vaulting was a bit dicey.  Casper had had enough of the weather by this point (he doesn't like the rain at the best of times!), and showed it by putting his head down and back up - not ideal for vaulting!  I managed a full freestyle on him though (still just to the clapping - thank you to everyone who did!), but I have to admit I was very glad to get out of the arena by the end of what seemed like a very long show!

We'd only just got back to the stable tent when the music came back on and the commentator could be heard again!  It turned out that a trailer door had slammed shut in the wind severing a power cable which had caused the whole system to short circuit.  Typical!  By this point the rain had stopped as well, so we were just hoping for a better time of it for the second show!

Ben's second show also went really well, with the birds again flying beautifully - and then it was our turn.  The weather had broken and during the show we even had brief spells of sunshine - I'm sure I saw my shadow at one point!  The show went through very well, with the only problem being the wind.  My dress really isn't very suitable for windy days - all I can say is it's a good job I have very big knickers on!  You can see from the photos what problems I was having - even standing on the ground it wouldn't stay down.  We also had a small break in proceedings just before Tinker's dance as the Air Ambulance was due to leave.  We were asked if we wanted to take Tinker out of the arena whilst the helicopter flew out, but no need for that with the Tink - I didn't even hold him and he stood like a rock even as the helicopter went right over us!  The rest of the show went really well, and it was great to finish on a high.  Lots of people followed us back to the stable tent afterwards for meet and greet - again, I'm sure this is Tinker and Casper's favourite part of the day!

Before long we were packed down and ready to be towed off the field.  It seemed a shame to be going as they were in the midst of a brilliant welly wanging competition, and I'd have loved to have had a go!  You can see hundreds (literally!) of photos of the day by clicking here.  Despite the weather and power cut we had a lot of fun, and it's good to know we can carry on with the show regardless.  We've got a long drive tomorrow as we're off down to Guildford for Abinger Medieval Fair.  It'll be a bit different to usual there though, as instead of doing two one horse shows we're doing one two horse show - the same as we did at the private wedding show back in May.  I'll let you know how we get on!

Love Rosie x  

Friday, 8 June 2012

Yorkshire Game Fair

Credit: Karen Mitchell at The Peppermint Gallery

Last Friday myself, Helen, Jess, Tinker and Casper trucked off to Stockeld Park, Wetherby, for the Yorkshire Game Fair.  We were there to perform two shows on both Saturday and Sunday, and it was due to be a weekend of firsts!

This was the first show at which we had to set up the stable tent, which I had only finished putting together the previous weekend.  I had reckoned on it taking about an hour for us to work everything out and get it all set up satisfactorilySo, two and a half hours later...!  Once we were finally set up we took Casper up to the arena for a run through, which went far smoother than the tent set up!  Having finally got the horses sorted and settled, and fed ourselves, it was a very late bed time and we were all shattered!

Saturday was another glorious day and we were due on at 11am with Casper and then 4.30pm with Tinker.  This was to be Casper's first big show of the season (his second ever!), Helen's first big show commentating and Galloping Acrobatics' first big public appearance.  To say we were all slightly nervous is an understatement!  On came the music and in we went!!  I can honestly say I really enjoyed the entire show.  Casper was lovely to vault on and did a perfect dance.  Helen's commentary was brilliant and the crowd clapped and cheered in all the right places - success!  We were absolutely buzzing when we came out and really looking forward to the second show.  Helen's parent's and younger sister were there and having not seen us since our little demo at Richmond were suitably impressed!

The afternoon whizzed by and before we knew it it was time for Tinker's show.  This was the very first time we had run the show through with an audience, but once again everything went smoothly.  I haven't vaulted on Tinker at an outdoor show since Frampton Show last September as Jive Pony, and I have really missed it.  It was just brilliant to be out in front of an audience with Tinker.  He is so lovely to vault on - I don't even have to think about him, I just know and trust him completely.  Although I love vaulting on Casper he is still at a stage where I have to concentrate on him throughout; making sure every move is at a point where he can cope with it, taking into account all the variables in an arena and how they may affect him, encouraging him that he's doing the right thing and correcting him if not - it's hard work!  With Tinker I can just enjoy myself, as I know he'll always (99.99% of the time!) be there for me.  The amount of appreciation I have for Tinker has only been heightened since his operation (more on this anon), and the possibility that I may not have him with me anymore.  Needless to say I enjoyed the show more than I can say, and everyone who came to see us afterwards commented on how much fun we looked like we were having!  You can see a little bit of what we got up to in the video below.

On Saturday evening Helen and I took the boys out exploring to see what we could see.  We had a lovely ride all around the show ground, past the gun dogs, clay shooting, stalls, lurcher racing, zorbing, crafts and poultry - just to name a few sections!  We then went out all around the park, before going up to the house and then making our way back home.  Then it was supper and bed before doing it all again tomorrow!

Sunday was another scorcher of a day, and there were even more people we knew coming to see us - no pressure then!  Casper's show went through well until the chasing and rearing section.  I run out of the circle with Casper chasing me, up to one side of the arena where I do a count down - 'THREE, TWO, ONE, HIGH!!'  On 'high' Casper rears right up, before we run off to the next side of the arena and repeat the exercise.  Jess was holding Tinker at the side of the arena, just to give Casper some moral support throughout the show.  As we ran past Tinker Casper was obviously reluctant to leave him.  Still, he chased me down to the bottom of the arena (quite a fair slope) where I asked him for the rear.  'THREE, TWO, ONE...'  Casper just looked at me, turned around and cantered back up the hill to Tinker.  '...BYE!'  So I then had to race back up the hill after him - very embarrassing!  Other than that the show went through really well so I was very pleased with him.

We passed the time between the two shows wandering around the stalls, where we found the Cyclo-ssage stand.  I always love a free massage so we were on the demo table without further ado and had a lovely twenty minute of being vibrated, heated up and wobbled!  We also watched Ben's (my boyfriend) Eagle and Vulture Show, as he was flying the birds in the main arena.  It was lovely to see them fly, as although I see them every day it's not quite the same at home.

Our afternoon show with Tinker went through really well again, and lots of people followed us back to the stables to see the horses and talk to us.  I think this is Tinker and Casper's favourite part of the day, they get so much fuss from everyone! 

It was finally time to pack down (much quicker than setting up!) and come home - our weekend of firsts was finally over!  We had a brilliant time, and you can see a few photos here.  We're off to Rawdon Fun Day tomorrow, where we will be performing on Saturday - I'll let you know how we get on!

Love Rosie xx