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

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