Saturday, 11 October 2014

Kings Bromley Show

Photo by Beth Dillon

The last weekend in July saw us heading up to Staffordshire for Kings Bromley Show. Luckily Imie was out of hospital and on the mend, although she still looked quite pale and interesting!  As the show was northwards Helen was due to meet us on site, so it was just Tinker, Casper, Monty , Imie and myself who set off on the Friday afternoon.  After the expected horrendous M6 traffic we finally arrived on site, and what a beautiful little show ground it was!  Everything was very square and neat and tidy, with lots of white marquees and plenty of bunting - perfect!  We had our own little coral, which meant we could have the horses wandering about whilst we set up.  The horses always love going to shows, as there is always so much more grass than they have at home.  Unfortunately Helen had got held up in traffic as well, so it was just Imie and I setting the tent up.  Poor Imie was still feeling very weak, but we just about managed it between us.  We'd just got the main awning up on the lorry tracking when Helen turned up - perfect timing!

I'd been looking forward to this show, as some friends were also going to performing with their horse act, Big and Little, and I had been wanting to see them for a while.  Pete and Tash had also bought the old Jive Pony lorry (affectionately known as Big Dur), which I had spent many a year driving up and down the country, so I was looking forward to seeing the old girl too!  I know it's silly to get sentimental about vehicles, but when Becca told me she'd sold Big Dur to Pete and Tash I was so happy it was still going to be out and about on the show circuit, and was hoping I'd bump into it (not literally of course!) sooner or later. 

There was also another old friend on site who I hadn't seen for a year or so.  John Pollard, or Polly, has a parrot show using rescue parrots which he trains to do all kinds of things.  He has a lovely set up and the birds really have fallen on their feet when they end up with Polly.  He came over for a chat whilst we were setting up, and it was great to have a long overdue catch up.  One of my favourite things about going to shows is meeting up with other performers.  Over the course of the year we meet up with so many old friends, as well as making plenty of new ones!

It was such beautiful weather that once we were all set up we decided to dine al fresco.  The shop table doubles up as a brilliant dining table, although unfortunately our camping chairs are a bit too low - our food ends up at about chest height!  The horses were still mooching about, and typically they both wanted to get far too involved.  I got up to take a photograph but has to dash back as I nearly lost my supper to Casper!

After a peaceful night (I always sleep really well at shows) we woke to find Pete and Tash had arrived during the night.  Big Dur had been re-signwritten and smartened up quite a bit inside, with lots of spotty oil cloth and new paint.  It looked great but it was funny to be back inside it.  When Becca bought it it seemed like a massive lorry, and it was compared to what we'd had before.  But then I'd bought my lorry which is a bit bigger with a much more spacious living, and having got used to that Big Dur seemed quite small!  And Becca has since bought an even bigger new lorry - lorry size is escalating!!  We spent a large chunk of the morning catching up with Pete and Tash, and it was lovely to see them.  Monty got on well with their two collies, mother and daughter Pickle and Lily, and we also had a visit from Alice, one of our most loyal fans who we hadn't seen since Stapleford Carnival last year.

We were due to perform our double act, and the arena was absolutely perfect for us.  Just the right size and dead flat - a welcome change after our last show at Rushden!  We just about had time to watch Pete and Tash's first show with Billy and Magpie before having to dash off to warm up, and it was really sweet.  Billy and Magpie are ex-circus ponies, and they have a lovely little liberty routine which we all really enjoyed watching.  You can find out more about their act on their website.  Before we knew it we were into the arena and away!  The show started off really well and was going perfectly until the start of Tinker's dance.  We'd just got into it when a fly flew straight into my mouth and went straight down my throat.  Yuk!!  I was coughing and spluttering whilst all the time trying to continue on with Tink's dance as if nothing was happening.  It felt like it was there for an absolute age, but by the time Tink was finishing up with his bow I'd manage to dislodge/swallow the offending fly.  Much as I hated it I'm sure it was a far worse experience for the fly!

The rest of the show went through really well, and Casper was a very good boy!  Helen was once again very nervous about her walk freestyle, having fallen off at every previous attempt during performance, but... SHE STAYED ON!!!!!  Not even a bit of a wobble in the lie out, hooray!!  I was so pleased for her, and you could tell by the grin on her face that she was over the moon as well.  I knew she could do it, it was just a matter of time.  It helped that Casper was walking nicely, and he kept up the good behaviour for my canter work.  A chap called Mervyn filmed this section of the show, so you can see for yourself how good he was.  I was a bit cautious though and didn't let go as much as I usually do - I wasn't going to be lulled into a false sense of security as I know him too well!! 

Mervyn also managed to get a couple of really good shots of the show, you can see them here along with a few others.  The whole show went brilliantly, although by the end I felt like I may actually spontaneously combust.  It was one of the hottest days of the year, and to be running around and vaulting virtually non-stop for forty-five minutes is beyond exhausting!  We had a lovely time though, and were so well looked after.  It's definitely a show I would love to go back to again, so fingers crossed we get invited another year!  Next up is a trip down to Poole for the two day Poole Town and Country Show - I'll tell you all about it soon!

Love Rosie x

Friday, 3 October 2014

Rushden Party in the Park

 Helen and Charlie in their playsuits - neither of which burst during the show, unlike mine!

The week after our long road trip of the North of England, we had our closest show of the season.  We were due to perform at Rushden Party in the Park and as it was only about forty miles away, and we weren't performing until the afternoon, we decided to travel that morning rather than the night before. Unfortunately during the week Imie had been rushed to hospital with suspected appendicitis (although she had the appendix removed it turned out to be a case of E coli - much nastier!  She's fine now though, phew!!), so it was a last minute call to Charlie who was thankfully available.  So in the morning we set off with the lorry crammed full; Tinker, Casper, Monty, Helen, Charlie and myself.  It was such a gorgeous hot sunny day that there was no need to set the tent up, just the stables which we did in no time.  As usual, we asked if we were able to turn the horses out into the arena whilst we set up.  The organisers were quite sceptical, and one lady seem convinced the horses would jump out!  I assured her they absolutely wouldn't - the grass was so lush and the arena very large, there was no way they were going anywhere!  It was also fenced with metal barriers, and as neither of mine have ever been taught to jump I knew they'd never attempt it.  She wasn't convinced though and I had to promise my insurance was in place and that I took full responsibility for any 'mishap'.  Needless to say they barely lifted their heads and just ate the entire time they were in there!

The arena itself was a tricky one.  It was on quite a slope and must have been ridge and furrow historically.  As such I knew it was going to make for a difficult time vaulting.  I wasn't wrong and as soon as I went in on Casper it felt like we were on a roller coaster!  I managed the first freestyle with no problems, until the very end.  I did a big flank off and as I pushed off from the roller I heard a rip and felt my costume give way - eeek!  I was wearing the stripey playsuit which has a halterneck.  The halter neck strap had torn from the top of the playsuit on the left side, leaving the whole of my costume precariously positioned with nothing to hold it all up!!  I motioned to Helen that something was wrong, so she talked and talked until I managed to sort something out.  What to do though?!  My mind was racing - we've safety pins in the lorry but Charlie won't know where and pins are painful to vault in.  I couldn't cover it with the cardigan as there still wouldn't be a way to hold the playsuit up.  Then I realised what to do.  I ripped a hole in the top of the costume, poked the strap through and tied a knot in it.  Not ideal as the halter neck was now so tight it not only hurt but was under more strain so may give out on the other side.  Fingers crossed it would be ok though!  I hate costume malfunctions, but it's only the second time it has ever happened, the first time being at Castle Howard last year when the zip on my dress burst!

On with the show!  Next was Casper's dance which he did beautifully.  However, he was an absolute monkey in the games section, and kept doing laps of honour on his own whilst bucking and farting - much to the crowds amusement!  Not mine though, as each time I would have to sprint around the arena to fetch him from wherever he ended up - not ideal on a boiling hot day in a big arena with a precarious costume!  Helen was to do her freestyle next, and given that she'd fallen off the previous two attempts she was pretty nervous.  But she stayed on!  First time ever in a show!!  I was so pleased for her, and the audience gave her a massive round of applause.  Still, however happy she was, I know she was very happy to give Casper back to me and take the microphone back!  I wasn't looking forward to the last freestyle because of my costume, but thankfully it held.  And chatting to people afterwards it would seem nobody even noticed - phew, got away with that one then!!

Tinker put in a near perfect show, as ever (what on earth I would do without him I don't know!), although even he struggled with the arena a bit.  However, I don't think we found the arena as difficult as the motorbike display team that were also performing.  They had to adjust all their ramps, take offs and landings.  Nothing any of us could do about it though other than get on with it!  To be fair the arena was on the flattest part of the whole park, it's just a very wonky old ground which you notice more upside down on a cantering horse or flying over ramps on motorbikes!  We had a great day, although it felt very odd to have the whole thing done and dusted in less than ten hours - it's usually at least twenty-four or more!  Everyone was really friendly and looked after us well, the crowds were brilliant and the weather was amazing - what more can you ask for?!

I didn't get any photos of the day unfortunately other than one of Helen and Charlie and a very sweet one of Monty, both at the top of this post.  Next up is Kings Bromley Show which I'm very much looking forward to as some friends are also there with their act, Big and Little, which I haven't seen before.  I'll let you know how we got on soon!

Love Rosie x

Friday, 26 September 2014

Croft Carnival and South Tyneside Family Fun Day

I'm so behind with the blog it's untrue!  But going right back to the first weekend in July we had a road trip of a weekend planned.  Adam and I set off on Friday, with Tinker, Casper and Monty on board.  We were off for Croft, near Warrington, where we would be performing our double act at their carnival on the Saturday.  Imie was staying with her sister nearby so was due to meet us on site, and Helen would be driving down to meet us also.  Once again it was a Friday afternoon spent sitting in Traffic on the motorway, this time it was the turn of the M6!  We finally arrived to a beautifully kept green, but unfortunately the organisers weren't aware of the size of the lorry and stable tent, and hadn't accounted for the amount of space we needed.  We ended up with the lorry wedged into the corner of the green as far as we could get, and luckily the tent fitted perfectly between a group of trees.  It was as if we'd been made to fit the space!  It was a little bit drizzly as we were setting up, but I didn't mind at all as it meant the boys' new spotty rugs could come out!

When we arrived Monty jumped out of the lorry as usual, and was met with looks of horror by the organisers.  It transpired that the green had a very strict 'no dogs' policy - oops!  We promised he'd be on his best behaviour, and that we'd keep him in stealth mode for the duration of our visit - easier said than done!  

It also turned out there was no place for us to warm the horses up on site.  Warm up is obviously vital, so they ended up coming up with a solution.  Across the road from the carnival field, and down the way a bit was a green space designated for dog walking - perfect!  We'd just have to factor in walking there and back into our preparation time, but it would be lovely to warm up away from the hustle and bustle of the carnival.

In the morning (after a quick stealth walk for Monty!) we tacked the horses up and headed down for warm up.  As we were doing the double act we had both working at the same time, and we had a good practise with both horses behaving brilliantly.  Helen ran through her freestyle a few times as well, as once again she was going to be performing during the show.  This time she'd be on Casper, so a little bit different to the previous week when she'd been on Tinker.  Fingers crossed he behaves!  Before we knew it we were back on the carnival field and it was show time!

Tinker opened the show and was his usual brilliant self, but out of the corner of my eye I could see Casper being an idiot and making Imie's life very difficult.  The music box was a big trailer covered in mirrors down one side, and he was using this as an excuse for silliness - he obviously saw a fool in the mirror and decided to join in!!  This didn't bode well for Helen, and I could see the dread in her face as the moment for her freestyle approached.  She started of beautifully, but before long it was time for those dreaded shoulderstands.  Casper was being particularly unhelpful with an incredibly active walk, not making it easy for her at all.  Unfortunately this was her undoing, and once again she tumbled off during the shoulderstand on the back.  I know she can do this move, so we're just going to persist until she can do it in front of an audience every time!

Casper was very full of beans throughout, but the show went through really well.  The audience were amazing, and really supported us right the way through.  It's a great feeling to be up on a horse clapping along to the music and have a big crowd clap along with you - I love it!  Imie and I spent a lot of time following the show chatting to people with Tinker and Casper, and all our shop goodies went down really well.  We were so busy that by the time we were finished Helen and Adam had virtually packed the whole stable tent down - result!  When it was time to leave Helen and Imie went ahead in the car, and Adam drove the lorry.  It felt very strange being driven in my own lorry, as it's not something that has happened before.  Although I've been driven miles and miles by Adam in Devil's Horsemen lorries it felt odd being driven in my own. I could definitely get used to it though!  

We were on our way up North again, this time up to South Tyneside for a Fun Day.  Because it was the weekend of the Tour de France in Yorkshire, we avoided the M62 and went up the M6 and across the A66 instead.  I've always liked driving the A66, and the whole drive was beautiful.  My ex-boyfriend, Ben, had recently moved into a farm along the A66, so as Helen and Imie had whizzed ahead in the car they stopped in to say hello to him.  They hadn't been there long though before we flew by in the lorry, and then the race was on!  As we were driving I was texting Imie saying how many miles we had to go and our ETA, she was doing the same and even though we'd had a good head start they were gaining on us!  We ended up arriving at exactly the same time, who'd have thought my old lorry could nearly beat a nippy little Golf!

We were right next to the seaside, so having set up Adam and I took Monty for a walk along the beach.  He absolutely loves the water, and is obsessive about his ball, so with the combination of the two he was in heaven!  It was a very tired, soggy, happy hound that returned to the lorry with us - he definitely slept well that night.

We all did, and were up bright and early the next day ready for the show.  We were the only act in the arena all day, which was great as it meant we could set the bunting up and leave it up all day.  It also meant we could warm up in the performance space, which usually means Casper is very well behaved as he's already seen everything there is to see.  The only slightly strange thing is that we then usually end up having quite a large crowd gather during the warm up, and today was no exception.  It's always a bit odd being applauded for simple warm up moves, but is something I always appreciate!  Warming Casper up in the arena did wonders for him, and he pulled his best show of the season out of the bag.  I was very grateful, as I had some old friends who I'd not seen for ages in the audience, a lovely couple called Alan and Dorothy.  Alan and Dorothy are great friends of Ben's, but I hadn't seen them since leaving Yorkshire in December.  South Shields is pretty local for them, so they'd made the trip up to see the show, and was really lovely to see them and have a long overdue catch up.  Also in the audience were some friends of Helen's, so we were really hoping today would be the day she managed to stay on!  Alas it wasn't to be, the shoulderstand on the back once again proving to be her undoing.  Adam was taking photos and managed to get a hilarious sequence of shots showing the whole thing - you can click here to see them along with lots of other photos from the weekend.

After another great show from Tinker we packed up and headed for home.  It was a long long drive, made even longer by the remnants of the Tour de France traffic which had us stationary for quite some time.  We finally made it home and Peroni (Adam's horse) was very happy to see the boys back - he doesn't like being on his own in the field, even if he has got neighbours.  Even though we covered some miles we had a great weekend, made easier by having Adam share the driving with me - and Helen share the vaulting!  I'm determined that she'll master the freestyle and make it through with out falling off - maybe next weekend?!  In contrast to this weekend's mammoth road trip we have a relatively local one day show next weekend, so local that we're doing the whole thing in a day and won't even have to put the tent up!  It's Rushden Party in the Park in Northamptonshire, and I'll hopefully get around to telling you how it went soon!!

Love Rosie x

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Ackworth Gala

Last Saturday we were at Ackworth Gala - and it was a show with a difference for us! Helen was due to meet us on site, and Imie was away on holiday, so it was Tinker, Casper, Monty, myself and new girl Charlie who set off up the motorway.  This Friday it was the turn of the M1, and I was hoping it would treat us better than the M6 had the previous week.  It didn't unfortunately, and it took us five hours to do the 130 mile journey.  Not to worry, we arrived to a gloriously flat and empty field (I love doing shows on cricket pitches!) and were set up in no time.

We spent the morning talking through the shows, as they were to be slightly different.  Casper had unfortunately come in from the field with a slight knock to his leg, which had since filled up with fluid.  Although he wasn't at all lame, he did have what resembled a small water balloon attached to his leg, so we decided to give him the day off from vaulting.  This meant Tinker would have to step in and do the vaulting work, allowing Casper to have an easy day!  Poor Charlie not only had to learn the show, but also a confusing version involving lots of swapping horses around.

I'd also decided during the week that it was high time Helen tried some vaulting during the show.  She's been having lessons on and off for the past year or so now, and can do both freestyles through in walk on both Casper and Peroni (Adam's lovely big Irish Draft).  We'd been saying since last summer that she could do the explanation walk freestyle in Casper's show and that was what we had planned.  Unfortunately though, Helen has only vaulted on Tinker a couple of times, and whilst he and Casper may look fairly similar they feel completely different to work on!

Show time was rapidly approaching, and having given Tinker a brief warm up we ran Helen through  the freestyle.  Again and again.  And again.  It's the dreaded shoulderstands that she struggles with.  You have to be so strong in your core to be able to hold them on a moving horse, and I was expecting her to do two!  Plus a lie out onto the back following one of them.  I knew she could do it as I've seen it happen, but Tinker is different to both Casper and Peroni, and she kept collapsing or sliding off.  Practise was over far too quickly and then we were into the show!

We opened with Tinker before swapping him for Casper, who did his maths, dance and games really well.  He was full of beans once again though, and let it out by doing the most impressive rear he's done all season - go Casper!  Following the games we got Tinker back in and it was time for Helen's debut vaulting performance.  Having never before vaulted in front of an audience, and having spent most of the rehearsal time falling off, Helen was pretty nervous.  As was I!  Up she went and with the music playing we were away!  I was commentating through the freestyle and really enjoying myself, as I don't get to do much commentary these days.  Before long it was time for shoulderstand on the neck, and although Helen couldn't hold it for more than a couple of strides she didn't fall off - hooray!  She did really well with the whole thing, but then it was time for the second shoulderstand, this time on the back followed by the full lie out.  I turned around for a moment to move one of the posts to stop the bunting sagging, when I heard a groan from the audience and looked around to find Helen standing on the floor!  That wasn't in the script!!  Not to worry, we had a contingency plan.  It's called the leg up.  Up she went again to try for a second time, and plopped off for a second time!  Oh no!!  Up she went again and, moving swiftly on (!), on to the neck to continue with the routine.  The rest of it went through beautifully and then it was over - Helen had vaulted in front of an audience!  They were brilliant and gave her a well earned huge round of applause.  I know she enjoyed it but I also think she was very glad to take the microphone back from me and hand me back the horse!  Tinker and I finished the show, with lots of commentary from Helen along the lines of 'Doesn't she make it look easy Ladies and Gentlemen?  I can assure you it is NOT!'

After the show we had a bit of a breather and changed costumes before taking Tinker back into the arena for his full show.  He was brilliant as usual, apart from repeatedly falling out of his pirouette.  I couldn't work this out as this is one of his best tricks, until I remembered he had studs in his shoes!  The ground was quite soft and the poor boy was quite literally stuck to the spot - despite his best efforts there was no way he could spin around himself.  Oops!

Following the shows we packed up as quickly as we could ready for the journey home.  However, we weren't nearly as quick as the Ackworth Lions - about forty minutes before we were done the entire field had been packed away.  Everybody had vanished and the field was once again completely empty - although not quite as flat anymore!

Thankfully the drive home went much better, within three and a half hours I was home, having dropped Charlie off on the way back.  She did really well for her first show, so hopefully will come with us again if needed!  Casper had his leg drained this morning (Wednesday) so will be back in action this weekend.  I was planning on giving him another weekend off from the vaulting, but it turns out we have the double act booked in for Saturday so no such luck!  It's a bit of a monster this weekend; we're heading up the M6 again on Friday ready to perform at Croft Carnival on Saturday, then packing up and driving North some more up to South Shields for their Summer Fun Day on Sunday.  Then it'll be a very long drive home on Sunday night.  Luckily Adam is coming with us and I've put him on the lorry insurance now so he can share the driving with me!

I didn't manage to get a single photo from Ackworth Gala, but I've got the camcorder on charge so will be able to get video evidence of Helen performing this weekend!  I'll let you know how we get on!

Love Rosie x

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Todmorden Agricultural Show

Last Friday Tinker, Casper, Monty, Imogen and myself loaded up and headed off up the M6 towards West Yorkshire for Todmorden Agricultural Show where we were to perform on Saturday.  Helen was going to meet us on site, but it always feels very odd driving off in the lorry without her!  The journey was 160 miles, so I was reckoning on about four hours maximum - how wrong I was!  Traffic and roadworks were horrendous, and there were a fair few overheated broken down cars and a couple of accidents as well.  All this combined meant it took us six hours to get there!  My sat nav log on arrival to site informed me that our average speed was 27 miles an hour - even though my top speed had been sixty!  We had a good welcoming committee on arrival, Helen (the organiser) jumped into the cab to direct us onto site, and our Lovely Helen was also there along with Stuart and Olly from the Sheep Show.  It was a very tight squeeze on to the showground through a little gateway with stone pillars either side and over a small bridge.  It took a couple of attempts, but with Stuart stopping traffic and Helen and Olly directing me we made it - breathe in lorry!

We unloaded the horses and turned them out into the arena for the evening whilst we got set up.  I moved the lorry to where we were to park up for the night, but then we decided to go back a bit to straighten up so we weren't on a slope (Helen might have rolled out of bed otherwise!).  Back I went, then stopped.  And stayed stopped.  I'd managed to find virtually the only piece of soft ground on the entire show filed, and all three wheels on the right hand side of the lorry were sunk up to the rims.  Whoops.  We were going to make do and set up with the lorry now on even more of a slope (Imie would be the one rolling out of bed now), but Helen and two other chaps were unbelievably helpful and arranged for a JCB to come and tow us out.  Shortly afterwards we were repositioned and had the tent and stables all set up in no time.  Olly very kindly helped us with the set up, and along with our shiny new ladders, this had us done in no time.  Good job too as the midges were out in force and we were very glad to finally be able to shut ourselves away in the lorry for the night!

In the morning we had a really good rehearsal.  Tinker and Casper were both brilliant, and as we were doing our double act I practised the Roman riding through as well.  Walking back towards the tent I was so happy - the whole set up is finally (three years down the line!) exactly how I always wanted it.  Everything looks just right, and I'm so glad I put the extra effort in to paint the stables blue and the tent poles red - it was definitely worth it!

Show time soon came around and in we went.  Tinker opened the show and did the first freestyle beautifully, followed by a lovely dance and some fast skipping.  Next up was Casper, and he went really well too!  His maths were good and he was good to vault on too, if a little fast, but much better than last week.  Next were his games, and although he was more interested in eating the grass than fetching his dog toy he did manage it eventually!  Roman riding next, and it went brilliantly!  I did loads on them; lots of jumps, going from one to the other and stands on one leg then the other - it was almost a shame when the music came to an end and I had to stop!  Tinker's turn again with the choreography vaulting, and the crowd had me going all over the place - not an easy freestyle!  We finished with the bridleless vaulting on Tinker and once again he was superb, I really cannot ever fault him.  The audience were absolutely fantastic all the way through, cheering , laughing and clapping along, we couldn't have asked for more.

In fact, we were looked after brilliantly all day long.  Soon after the show Helen (the organiser) bought us over three platefuls of sandwiches and cakes, as well as cartons of orange juice - none of which lasted very long!  Absolutely everybody we met and talked to were so friendly and interested in the show and the horses it really was a delight, and we stayed chatting to people for a good hour following the show.  This booking had been three years in the making, what with other bookings and cancellations getting in the way, but it was definitely worth it!  I've been in email correspondence with Helen all this time and was so glad to finally put a face to the name, and will absolutely now count her as a friend.  We were sorry to pack up and leave, but we soon did and were on our way again.  Luckily the drive home went a lot quicker, and we were back in under four hours, even with a fuel stop.

We're back off up North again this Friday (but the M1 this time, hopefully it'll be better than the M6 was !) ready for Ackworth Gala on Saturday.  I'll let you know how we get on, but in the meantime you can see a few photos from Todmorden Show here.

Love Rosie 

NB: I received the most wonderful thank you letter through the post this morning from Helen.  It's always nice to know the show organisers are happy, but this was above and beyond and bought a tear to my eye!


Flitwick Carnival and Tunstall Carnival

Photo by Andy Timms

Photo by Imogen Barnes

Last weekend we had a brace of carnivals!  Saturday was Flitwick Carnival, and as it wasn't very far and the event didn't open until noon we decided to drive down in the morning.  It always feels very strange on a Friday knowing we've got a show the next day but not packing up and going!  Bright and early Saturday then and Tinker, Casper, Monty, Helen, Imie (who had helped us previously at Lambourn Open Day), Adam (my boyfriend) and myself all piled into the lorry and set off for Flitwick.  Despite me putting the wrong postcode in the sat nav and having an impromptu drive through Woburn Park (beautiful) we arrived in good time and only had to set the stables up.  We had the arena marked out in no time, and took Casper in for a rehearsal.  He was so full of himself it was unbelievable! We were haring around at breakneck speed, even after an hour and a half!!  I was full of trepidation for the show, as there were a few people that I knew coming to the show so I wanted to put on a good performance.

Before long the carnival procession arrived, and what had been a relatively empty field was absolutely rammed within a very short space of time - there were so many people it was untrue!  Our performance time came around in no time, so into the arena we went!  Casper was STILL full of bounce, and the first freestyle was fast to say the least.  However, I'm quite used to him going so fast now, so I can still do every move - even going upside down twice!  Everybody in the audience really loves it when he goes fast, and Helen has come up with a brilliant line: 'He's really putting the galloping into Galloping Acrobatics!'.  He did all his dancing and tricks very well, so I was pleased with him for that, and he settled down for the final freestyle so I didn't have to hang on quite so much.  The only slight problem we had was that we only had one microphone between us, so had to keep swapping between us - microphone baton change!

Following the show we were joined by my oldest friend Alice and her family.  She has a lovely little boy called Albert who had met Tinker and Casper a couple of months ago at home and had a sit on Casper.  Before long he was up on Casper's back again, sitting up there as happy as anything!  It was lovely to see Alice, as she has been wanting to see a show of ours for years.  Flitwick was the first time we'd been local to her, and thankfully we didn't mess up! 

The organisers were so lovely, and they were really happy with how the day went.  It was the first time they'd put the carnival on in fourteen years, and it was so well supported by the town.  We had a massive audience for Casper's show, and they were all still there for Tinker's later on in the afternoon.  Tinker was absolutely brilliant as usual, he hasn't put a foot wrong all year - where would I be without him?!  

Following our second performance we packed up (in record time thanks to Adam), and headed off for Tunstall, where we were due to perform at their carnival the following day.  The journey was only 130 miles, and mostly motorway so pretty easy.  Adam has his HGV licence, but unfortunately isn't on the lorry's insurance - yet!  I would have loved for him to drive, as having been up since 5am and done two shows I was pretty tired.  Luckily Helen is a good co-pilot, and after three hours or so of chatting nonsense we pulled onto site.  We set the tent up in in record time - far quicker than the six hours it took at the Royal Bath and West Show!  This was because during the week I had taken the offending tent poles with thick spikes to my Dad's workshop, and he had done a fantastic job with his metal lathe making them the correct diameter - hooray!  Within an hour and a half of pulling onto site we were sitting down to supper with the horses tucked up in their stables.  Perfect.

In the morning we were gratified to see that the weather was an improvement on last year - not that it could have been much worse!  We weren't due on until the afternoon, so we had a nice morning pottering away sorting everything out.  Adam's parents arrived so it was another day when I had people I knew watching so really didn't want to mess up!  The other arena act was the Mighty Smith, a lovely chap called Adrian who I haven't seen for a while.  He does a great act where, amongst other things, he rips telephone directories in half - and I think I'm quite strong!  

Before long it was time for Casper's show.  He'd been full of himself again in the warm up, and I was dubious as to how he'd behave in the show.  I wasn't mistaken and we went in all guns blazing!  He was FAST!!  Tunstall is quite tricky as the arena is on a bit of a slope as well, so I was having to time all my moves really well - not helped by my silly flying horse!  I can't get too cross with him though, as it only seems to add to the show - the audience were loving it!  He did a really nice dance as well, but then in the dog agility he decided to go for one of his laps of honour.  He was flying around the arena, with absolutely no intention of stopping or being caught whatsoever.  Everybody was laughing at him and he was having a whale of a time. Eventually Imie managed to get hold of him and we carried on with the show, much to his disgust!  He was actually really good to finish with, and I was especially pleased with him as he really concentrated for the final freestyle holding himself up perfectly around the full circle, even down the slope.  It just goes to show he CAN do everything absolutely spot on, it's just whether or not he chooses to!

Once again Tinker was fantastic.  I always feel like we've redeemed ourselves once we've done his show!  I shouldn't though, as whenever we ask anybody which part of the shows they like best, the answers are generally always along the lines of 'when Casper was going fast!'  It's just so much easier for me to do Tinker's show, he is so reliable that I don't even have to think about him and vaulting on him is a pleasure, whereas Casper exhausts me both physically and mentally!  I wouldn't ever change the little bugger though.  I don't have many photos from the weekend, but you can see the ones we did get by clicking here.

Next weekend we're off to Todmorden Agricultural Show, which I have been looking forward to for years.  I have been in email contact with Helen, the organiser, for about three years now.  She tried to book us back in 2012, but we were already booked elsewhere.  Then last year the show unfortunately had to be cancelled, but we're finally going this year, so I'll let you know how we get on!

Love Rosie

Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Royal Bath and West Show

                                                              Photo by Helen Gilbertson

Photo by Avon and Somerset Police

We survived our first ever four dayer at The Royal Bath and West Show!  We didn't get off to a very good start though.  Helen, Little Rosie (our new girl), Tinker, Casper, Monty and myself had set off early so we'd get to the show with plenty of time, as we had our new tent on board and wanted to get it set up before having an arena rehearsal on Casper.  We arrived at 3.30pm and turned the boys out in the arena whilst we set up.  I had reckoned on the new tent taking about two hours to set up, bearing in mind neither Helen nor Little Rosie had ever set a tent up before, and I'd never done this particular one.  It's a six meter by six meter marquee which attaches to the side of the lorry via a 'p track' and is supported by lots of poles of varying length.  One of the main features is the ridge pole which is a thicker pole the width of the tent which supports the roof.  It is held up by three equally thick poles, all of which are bigger than the other eleven poles.  Each pole has a metal spike on it which goes through an eyelet in the roof, and then guy ropes are staked out to keep the whole thing tight.  In theory.  We got the tent attached to the lorry and started putting the poles up.  The first two went in perfectly and we staked them down, next came the ridge pole, which is where the trouble began.  The spikes on the two thicker poles were too big by far for the eyelets in the roof of the tent.  Massive problem.  After trying unsuccessfully for a while to bodge fasten them up using a combination of bungee cords and rubber tree ties we realised we'd only end up making a hole in the roof if we continued.  Besides that it just wasn't working anyway!  I was quite angry at this point (who makes a tent that doesn't fit together?!), but we realised the only solution was to try and find someone with an angle grinder.  Luckily the Royal Bath and West Show is very big, and there were numerous people setting up their stands.  It wasn't long before Helen found a chap who was willing and able to help us, and he managed to get quite a lot of each of the spikes.  No mean feat as they're made of stainless steel so very very solid!  Back to the tent with them we went, pleased as punch at having managed to solve the problem.  No such luck, the spikes were still way too thick for the eyelets.  Back up onto the showground we went, the nice chap ground more off them (using up all his pads so he couldn't have done anymore), back to the tent - still too big!  I was getting really angry now (who makes a tent that doesn't bloody fit together?!), and as it was getting late most people were packing up and heading off - taking any potential angle grinders with them!

Somebody suggested seeking out the blacksmiths in the forge, right at the far side of the showground.  Luckily, one of the stewards in our Countryside Area was a lovely helpful fellow called Peter, and he offered to drive me up there.  Off we went, and having finally found the forge were disappointed to learn that the blacksmiths didn't think they could help.  They suggested going to the showground workshops.  Back into the car and off to the workshops we went - where we found a grinder and a man to operate it!  This chap took what looked like loads off each spike and we were convinced it had done the trick.  Back to the tent we went sure they would now fit - no!  So, starting to loose the will to live and about ready to throttle the tent manufacturer (who bloody makes a tent that doesn't bloody fit together?!) we went back up to the workshops.  The chap who helped us previously had gone and the place was deserted.  Peter discovered that the spikes could be worked out from the poles, and we had a hilarious few minutes where we found a vice and both wiggled the poles until the spikes were free.  They both made a very satisfactory popping noise when the eventually came out!  I found a thin metal fencing stake and a hacksaw, we cut it to the right lengths and put them in the poles in place of the too thick spikes.  Back down to the tent and they fit!  Problem solved!!  Finally!!!

By the time we'd done all of this, finished putting the tent up, set up the stables and the rest of our paraphernalia it was about 9.30pm - it had only taken six hours!  The horses were very happy, as they'd been out in the arena munching grass all the time.  They'd both rolled and were filthy as well!  We gave up on the idea of an arena rehearsal, and just marked the arena out, had some supper and fell into bed.

Come the morning we were up early and took Casper in for rehearsal.  He was foot perfect which always makes me very nervous!  The was loads going on all around us, including canoeing, fishing, miniature steam trains, giant inflatables etc etc so plenty for him to look at.  The arena was the perfect size for us though, and I was really looking forward to a good few days.  We weren't disappointed - we had a lovely week!  Casper was quite mischievous (nothing new there!) in all his shows, but in a funny way.  For instance, in a couple of shows when I asked him to do his hoop jump he came charging towards it only to duck out at the last minute before spinning around and jumping it from the opposite direction!  He also had a couple of occasions where he'd do an impromptu lap of honour of the arena on his own.  Sometimes I have to then go and fetch him, but here he decided to come flying back towards me skidding to a halt right in front of me.  I don't know where he gets his ideas from but everybody finds him hilarious!  He is always so full of beans, I very often spent the opening of the show at a pace faster than I would like, and I even had to do the first freestyle in a couple of the shows with a few added broncs - not conducive to easy vaulting!  I was really happy with him during the week though, even though he is a naughty monkey!  Tinker was just amazing all week, he really is such a pleasure to work with.  Even though it was raining during his very first show on the Wednesday (we had an audience of about six!) he just gets on with the job and never messes about.  It's always a welcome relief after Casper to be able to run a show through knowing you're in safe hooves, as Tink looks after me no matter what.  He likes a sedate pace to his life does Tinker, and I find myself more and more inclined to agree with him - I just wish Casper would too!

There was so many people at the show that we knew, so it was lovely to see everybody and we had a very sociable week.  Our arena's commentator throughout each day was Chris Green, the Cornish Countryman.  He did a fantastic job all week really selling our show and rounding everybody up to watch.  Our arena was a little bit out of the way of the main show, but we were still very busy (especially Friday and Saturday which were heaving) and we had fantastic audiences every time.  This was mainly due to the Army boys, who were there without fail clapping and cheering us on at every performance!  They were a cheeky lot though, and on the final day we were doing the choreography cards in Tinker's show when out came an imposter card; 'Back Rub and Massage on the Neck'!!  Ben was there as well with his Eagle and Vulture Team, and also Becca (helper) and Luke (German Shepherd) had come along too.  It was especially lovely to see Ben, as we hadn't seen each other since we separated last year.  The birds all looked amazing and flew spectacularly, Camilla in particular.  She is an enormous Stellar's Sea Eagle and this is her first season out doing shows as she is still very young and Ben has only had her since February last year.  As well as Camilla there were all my old favourites (Arthur in particular), and it was lovely to watch them every day.

Also performing were the Devil's Horsemen, although they were up in the main ring.  Timetabling meant we only got to see a couple of their shows, but it's always great fun to cheer along to the trick riding and jousting.  The main arena was massive, I'm so glad it wasn't us in there - even with nine horses and riders charging about it still looked big!  The Sheep Show were there as well, and Stuart had his whole family with him including the very aptly named Mad Max, who definitely played up to the camera when Helen took some shots of him!  We made new friends as well - Casper in particular who fell in love with Quantock, one of the police horses who were doing displays in the same arena as us. There was also lots of people visiting the show who came to say hello, so thank you for the support if that was you!  All in all we had an absolutely fantastic week, and I am hoping very much we will get to return another year.  We were very well looked after all week, and (unlike the main arena!) our arena ran like clockwork!  I can't remember the last time I felt so tired after a show though, I felt like I could have slept for a week when we got home.  I didn't though - on the Sunday morning we were up and having done the horses (where I live now I muck out a few horses in exchange for accommodation) we set off for a day out at Warwick Castle as a few friends were performing there as fighting Knights.  It was the perfect sunny Sunday and we had a lovely day out eating ice cream and generally being very lazy!

Next up is Flitwick Carnival on Saturday followed by Tunstall Carnival on the Sunday, so it's a bit of a road trip!  I'm looking forward to them both, but I must admit it's much easier being in one place for four days!!  We had quite a few photos taken of us over the week, so click here to have a look, and I'll let you know how we get on at the two carnivals!

Rosie x

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Starquest Spectacular and Woodhall Spa Country Show

Photo by Aggie Moore

Well what a weekend we've just had!  It's Friday today and I only just about feel recovered!!  Last Friday afternoon, Tinker, Casper, Monty (the dog) and myself set off Northwards again, heading for Wetherby Racecourse ready to perform at Starquest Spectacular on Saturday.  As the show was in Yorkshire we would be meeting Helen on site, and it felt very peculiar to be washing horses, loading up and leaving without her - I had a strange feeling the whole journey that I'd forgotten something very important!

The journey was very slow and it took me five hours to make the 160 mile trip - good old M1 traffic.  On arrival we set everything up and marked out the arena, but didn't have time to practise as it was starting to get dark, we'd have to have an early morning rehearsal instead.  Sophie was due to come in the morning to help, so even with Helen and myself we still felt like we were a man down!

Morning came and as we were due on at 10am with Casper we were up early to have a practise with him.  He went really nicely and I had high hopes for him.  The event itself was the centenary celebrations for all the Rainbows, Brownies and Guides in the North East of England, and although it wasn't a public event they had sold 11,500 tickets - we were in for a busy day!  It was gloriously sunny and as we were setting up the arena became surrounded by girls - I don't think I've ever seen so many all at once!  Casper and I were walking around chatting to them, he was saying yes and no to their jokes, counting out his age for them and generally being lovely, when all of a sudden an ENORMOUS crane went up over the far side of the field.  I can't really describe it but it was for an aerial act, so had lots of silks draped from it which were floating in the breeze.  Something in Casper just clicked and he started jiggling about.  I knew then I'd be in for a difficult show but didn't realise quite how difficult!  On the music came and off we went - like a speeding bullet!  It's a good job I'm used to him, but I had to do the entire show hanging on as he whizzed about broncing - not ideal!  I still managed all the moves, but they definitely weren't that pretty.  He did his dance very nicely so I was proud of him for that, but he completely messed up all his dog agility - I don't think he's ever done it so badly, he just wasn't concentrating at all which is beyond frustrating.  He redeemed himself with the maths and walk freestyle, and was much nicer to vault on at the end, but I was very glad when the show was over!

We had our little shop set up and within minutes we were absolutely inundated!  I have never ever been so busy with selling posters, keyrings, horseshoes and DVDs, we literally didn't stop.  I left it until the very last minute before we had to go and get Tinker ready for his show, and it was a welcome relief to have a breather.  Not much of one though as we only had forty-five minutes to change costume, redo hair and make up, and tack and warm Tinker up - phew!  We were back in the arena and the audience this time was even bigger!  The girls were amazing, as I was cantering round to open the show they were waving the posters they'd just bought from us and clapping and cheering like I've never heard - and they didn't let up!  They were easily the most responsive audience I've ever had.  Helen and my favourite part of the whole day was just before Tinker's skipping.  Helen says 'Can we get a drum roll please!', meaning for the music to start, but as she said it all the girls starting banging their legs and feet on the ground and slapping their thighs - we had a mega drum roll!  Tinker was superb throughout his whole performance - I really don't know what I would do without him, he more than makes up for Casper!

Following the show we went back to the shop and were inundated once more!  We were there for ages and had to get a queueing system set up where the girls bought the posters from Helen then came to me to get them signed.  It's a good job I'd bought a new pen as I was writing constantly for hours!  First to go were the horse shoes, then we completely sold out of posters.  Before long all the DVDs had gone and soon after the keyrings ran out too.  I could barely believe it but we had totally sold out of everything!  I had thought we'd have enough stock to see us until about the end of June, but I hadn't reckoned on 11,500 brownies!  All stock gone in just one day!!

It was a beautiful sunny day, and so hot it really felt like summer.  Despite Casper being naughty we had a fantastic day, but it wasn't over yet!  We had to pack up and drive one hundred miles down to Lincolnshire, where we would be performing at Woodhall Spa Country Show on Sunday.  Helen went ahead in the car, whist Sophie came in the lorry with me and the boys.  Nearly four hours (!) later we arrived at Woodhall Spa.  The arena looked absolutely perfect size for us and was round which we always love.  We were also in our own little fenced off area, which meant we could have the horses and Monty loose as there was no means of escape for them.  The boys were loving the long grass; there's very little in their paddock at home so they were making the most of it and stuffing themselves!  Once we were all set up Helen and I set off to mark out the arena.  Where's the lungeline? (Vital for marking out the correct size circle).  It's still attached to the arena gateway at Wetherby of course.  Ooops.  Not to worry, we very quickly fashioned a new one out of string - very high tech we are!  Once we were done and fed it was a very tired and quite sun burnt team which eventually fell into bed.

It was another early start as I wanted to work Casper in the arena prior to the show opening at 9.30am.  Helen and Sophie dragged the trolley up to the arena when disaster struck!  The wheel fell off!!  This happened before at Garstang Show last year, but not until we were on our way home.  For it to happen in the morning with two performances to go was awful.  Luckily we were soon joined in the arena by Helen, the organiser and a couple of stewards.  One of them, John, looked like a very handy chap, and I asked him if he would be able to have a look at it.  Luckily, the wheel hadn't sheared off as before, just that it's bolts had jiggled out over time.  Off John went with it, and was back before we knew it with the trolley as good as new!  Hooray!!

Casper was lovely in rehearsal, even doing his fetch despite the long grass.  I could barely see his toys for the grass, which was really lush - and Casper was far more interested in the grass than his toys.  He behaved perfectly though and did everything just as I asked.  Before long it was show time and in we went.  Once again Casper was perfect!  I was so happy with him, he was lovely to vault on and did all his dancing and games spot on.  What a complete turnaround from the day before.  Just goes to show that whatever happens one day doesn't influence the next with horses!

Tinker was perfect for his show once again, especially for the bridleless work.  It doesn't seem to make any difference to him whether he wears his bridle or not, he still trundles around at his set pace regardless!  We had a brilliant crowd for both performances, they all clapped and cheered in all the right places, so thank you if you were there!  Even though we didn't have any stock to sell, we spent ages chatting to lots of different people which is always lovely.  Everybody was very complimentary, one elderly lady even told me we were the best act she'd ever seen 'in all her years'!

It was another gorgeous summer day, and we had a fantastic time.  We were beautifully looked after from start to finish throughout the day, and the show ran really well - hopefully we'll be invited back one year!  Once we'd packed up Helen and Sophie set off in the car back up North, whilst the boys and I headed down South in the lorry - it still feels very strange travelling with just horses and the dog, none of them are very good at passing me food or making conversation!

We've the bank holiday weekend off (which is unheard of!), but then on Tuesday we're off down to Somerset for the Royal Bath and West Show.  It's a four day show and we'll be on at 2pm and 5.30pm every day from Wednesday to Saturday.  I'm very excited but have got lots to do before then - mainly restocking the shop!  I'll let you know how we get on, but in the meantime have a look at some of this weekend's photos by clicking here.

Love Rosie x

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Lambourn Open Day

Photos by Geraldine Smith

Friday morning found myself, Helen, Tinker, Casper and new girl Imogen heading off for our first show of the season - Lambourn Open Day.  I had been slowly preparing for our first show, thinking it to be 17th May, when this booking came in - with only eight days notice!  They had been let down by another act, and needed a replacement pronto.  Obviously I said yes - and then started panicking!  We'd agreed to do the forty-five minute double act, and needless to say I hadn't done as much Roman riding practise over the winter as planned.  And am not nearly as fit as I need to be for the forty-five minute show.  Nor are the horses.  Hey ho!  Helen came down from Yorkshire on Wednesday morning, and we launched into a two day frenzy of rehearsing, lorry packing, costume fittings, tack cleaning and more rehearsing.  I could hardly believe how quickly show day came around, and before we knew it we were on site and setting up!  As we weren't due on until about 2.30pm, we travelled down in the morning and just set up the boys' stables so no tent to mess around with.  The arena was pretty big, but nice and flat and we soon got it all marked out before having a little practise with Casper.  I was anticipating naughtiness and I wasn't disappointed!  We were piaffing down the long side of the arena at one point, and although it was by no means intentional according to Helen and Imogen it looked really impressive!  He did settle down eventually (after A LOT of cantering!) and we managed to do both freestyles through in canter as well as all his games and tricks.  Even though the show field wasn't officially open there was quite a crowd gathered by the time we'd finished - enough for a good round of applause!

It was soon time to get ready and don the old fake eyelashes - for the first time in 2014!  Then horses were tacked up and we set off up the hill to warm up.  Due on before us was the Household Cavalry, and they had come out in force with twenty-six horses and riders.  We'd not long been warming up (Helen on Tinker, me on Casper) when they came marching past us two by two on their way to the arena.  Tinker and Casper were both boggle eyed at them, even Tinker who doesn't bat an eyelid at anything was quivering with excitement!  After a while we looked down onto the arena, and couldn't believe the crowd!  The whole ringside was absolutely packed, it must have been at least fifteen/twenty people deep all the way around - I don't think you could have squeezed another person in if you'd tried!  And then it was our turn...

In we went and I was so worried about filling the arena following the Household Cavalry that I didn't really think about anything else.  The girls set up very quickly then in Tink and I went!  He was absolutely brilliant, and was lovely to vault on.  I was very out of breath to start with though, so apologies to anyone listening for my huffing and puffing down the mic!  Next up was Casper, and despite my qualms he was brilliant!  Vaulting and games went well, although he did decide to go for one lap of honour on his own - we're getting so used to this now we've got commentary to cover it!  Helen did a brilliant ad lib as Casper was charging around at breakneck speed, something along the lines of 'Casper's just having a go at being a racehorse himself!' - which looked pretty accurate!  Unfortunately halfway through the show we were interrupted by an announcement to say that the race horse schooling sessions would be beginning in five minutes on the opposite side of the show field.  I was expecting the majority of the audience to leave, given that this is why many people go to the open day, and although some did leave we kept the huge majority!  I was so happy about this, and hope they thought it worth their while.  Next up was the dreaded Roman riding, which I'd had a few problems with last year.  Nothing disastrous, but usually if it isn't Casper being naughty it's Tinker.  We'd done quite a bit of practise over the past couple of days, and I'd also walked them around and around Roman riding whilst warming up.  Something worked though, as they were beautiful!  They were really well in time, and I managed to do lots of one leg then the other, then jump, which always goes down well.  I also stepped across onto Tinker and was dancing away on him, just getting really into it when I realised the music was coming to an end - oops!  Cue emergency brake and salute!  We finished with the bridleless vaulting on Tink, and he was brilliant.  So before we knew it the show was over!  We headed back to the lorry, put the horses in their stables and opened the shop.  Far more people than I anticipated followed us back, and we were selling posters, keyrings, horse shoes and DVDs like hot cakes!  Everybody was very complimentary of the show, so I couldn't have been happier.  The boys got endless pats and strokes, and even a packet of polos from someone!

We had a lovely day, made even better by the fact that we saw some familiar faces I've not seen in years.  Particularly Mike, who helps with the Fuller's Dray horses and who I've been bumping into at shows for years - although haven't for at least three!  It was lovely to see him again, and the horses always remember that he has treats in his pocket!  I also met another old acquaintance in Geraldine, a lady who had one of my old horses on loan for a few years.  Again, I can't have seen her for about four or five years, so it was lovely to catch up with her.  Geraldine had a fancy looking camera, and I spotted her at the side of the arena taking endless photos, some of which you can see by clicking here.

We've not got another show for nearly a month, when we'll be heading up to Wetherby Racecourse on 17th May for Star Quest Spectacular, followed by a quick one hundred mile trip down the road to Woodhall Spa Country Show on Sunday 18th May.  I'll be busy between now and then though, as I've got plenty of props to repaint and tidy up, horseshoes to clean and spray, costume to organise, lorry to fix (the exhaust dropped off on the way home!), new tent to collect and practise erecting, stables to maintain, horses to train, fitness to achieve(!!) etc etc - the list is endless!  It feels so good to have started the season though, I cannot wait to get into it properly.  I'll let you know how our first mini tour weekend goes when we get back!

Love Rosie x

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Stapleford Carnival

 Photos by Helen Gilbertson

Well it was a while ago now, but our last show of the 2013 season took us down near Nottingham, for Stapleford Carnival. We arrived to an empty field but were assured that by 11am in the morning it would be packed, and they weren't wrong!  It always amazes me how quickly small shows can be built up, and this one was no exception.

Once the arena had been set up in the morning we were straight in there with Casper for some practice. We'd almost finished and were just about to go back to the lorry when we were approached by a lady with a parrot. Gizmo is apparently a very famous parrot, having appeared at events all over the country, met royalty and even ridden a motorbike at speed.  Candie was wondering whether he'd be allowed a ride on the horse. Why not?!  To start with I had Gizmo riding on me as we cantered around the circle.  He was supposed to be sitting on my shoulder but almost immediately he climbed up on top of my head - not very comfortable I can assure you!  So there I am, cantering around on Casper with a parrot on my head.  As you do.  Next we decided to let Gizmo ride Casper on his own.  It was going really well, Casper was cantering around beautifully, when Gizmo squawked and put his wings out.  At this point Casper actually realised what was on his back!  Luckily he is very used to big birds, as he has lived with thirty odd birds of prey for the past two years, but it was still a bit of a shock to him.  And at the point that he sped up and refused to slow down I realised what an idiot I was!  Poor Casper, not the best way to settle him down before a show!!  He soon stopped and we rescued Gizmo and Casper from one another.  They were both fine really, and Candie was convinced Gizmo had really enjoyed himself!  Helen got some photos and video footage, so you can see our funny warm up for yourself:

Once we'd finished rehearsal we were joined by one of our biggest fans, Alice.  We met Alice back in 2012 at Ibstock Country Fair, and saw her there again in 2013, just a few weeks previously.  She stayed with us throughout the day, and was very helpful holding spare horses, keeping folk safely out of the way whilst we were warming the horses up, etc etc.  We're very self-sufficient but it's always nice to have an extra pair of hands!

We did have a minor disaster just before the first show.  Helen managed to stand in some dog poo and walk it right through the lorry - yuk!  I really didn't want to go and do the show and let it settle in, so I was there on my hands and knees scrubbing away with marigolds on whilst in my stripey playsuit.  Not ideal! 

Both the shows went through beautifully, and we had a lovely day at Stapleford.  Robert and Katharine, the organisers, looked after us really well and the sun shone all day which always makes for a good show!  The carnival got some really good publicity, and Robert and Katharine were kind enough to send me through copies of all the newspapers we'd been in.  You can have a look at these, along with a few photos from the day by clicking here.

I can't believe we've reached the end of another season.  2013 has been busier than I ever hoped for - I was aiming for twenty show days and we've ended up doing twenty-six!  I'm so happy with how everything has gone, everyone has helped so much, but especially Helen who is now more than critical to any Galloping Acrobatics outing!  I also couldn't do anything without either of my wonderful horses.  Both Tinker and Casper are so kind and generous, despite all the crazy things I ask off them.  I love them both so much, and owe them everything - thank you boys.

Onwards to 2014!  At the time of writing our first show of the season is only three days away!  EEEEK!!  It came in as a last minute booking five days ago, so not much notice!  We're off to Lambourn Open Day, and will be performing our double act display.  Nothing like being thrown in at the deep end!  I was thinking our first show was 17th May, so still a while away yet, but they had been let down by someone so needed a gap in the arena programme filling.  I'm very much looking forward to it, although to say I'm panicking slightly would be putting it mildly!  I'll let you know how it goes - if we all survive!!

Love Rosie x

Monday, 27 January 2014

Stockton Summer Show

Photo Copyright Stockton Council

August bank holiday and once again I found myself at Preston Hall Park for Stockton Summer Show.  Back in 2012 I had performed at the show as part of the Devil's Horsemen, so it was great to bring Galloping Acrobatics instead.  On arrival we found a perfect fenced off enclosure specially for us, and having set everything up we went about the showground to see who else was about.  The first person we bumped into was Stuart from the Sheep Show which was lovely as we haven't seen him for a little while.  One of the things I most enjoy about the shows and the life we lead is meeting up with people and meeting new people every weekend - you never quite know who you're going to bump into!

The weekend was due to be hot and lovely, and Sunday certainly didn't disappoint.  We were joined in the morning by Ben with his Eagle and Vulture Team, although as the event is so close to home he hadn't had too much of an early start.  This also meant that there were a number of friends and relatives who came to see us all perform - no pressure then!  Thankfully there was lots of space for warming up, and I made sure Casper had a really good session given his performance last week at Ibstock County Fair!  It paid off as he went into the arena and after a slightly excitable entrance he was foot perfect for the vaulting.  He did have a couple of naughty moments during the chasing sections, namely chasing me then charging off on his own for an undeserved lap of honour - rude!

Tinker did a brilliant show in the afternoon, I think it was possibly his best one of the entire season - he actually seemed to put a lot of oomph into it!  It would be so helpful if I could somehow mix my two horses up together to combine their enthusiasm and confidence.  Tinker is so confident I would 100% take him absolutely anywhere, safe in the knowledge that he would perform without problem, but he is never very enthusiastic about it.  On the other hand, Casper absolutely loves his job, and is so enthusiastic for everything he is a joy to work with.  But (and this is a big but) he lacks confidence and can get upset quite easily, which can make for a difficult show on occasion.  So, if there was a way of combining the two it would be amazing!  I wouldn't swap either of them for the world though, despite their foibles!!

Sunday evening and there was a treat in store for us.  There was a concert in the park, and a particularly good Beatles tribute act called Beatlemania were playing.  Anyone who has ever seen our shows will realise my taste in music is quite vintage (it's what I grew up listening to thanks to my parents), so I was able to sing along to virtually every word!  We were having a run through with Casper in the arena, so as the crowd were filing in we had a bit of an audience and a live sound track - what more could you ask for?!  After we'd finished with Casper we had some supper (Helen makes beautiful 'nomelettes'), and joined Stu for drinks whilst watching the main act of the evening, a local band called the Wildcats of Kilkenny.  They were very good and we all had a little dance, it really was a very fun evening!

The next morning was lovely and sunny again, and today we were joined by Benji with the Interesting and Unusual Team.  At least the weather was better than Benji had had at his last show with us, when we were up in Scotland at Sanquhar and it had poured with rain.  Given Casper's practise the previous evening I had high hopes for his show and I wasn't wrong - he was brilliant from start to finish!  I was especially thankful for this as once again there were quite a few familiar faces in the audience.  Tinker was a fantastic thing as well, and we managed to film the whole thing too ready to put our showreel together (watch the finished showreel here!).  Following Tink's show we were doing the meet and greet when a giant giraffe came over to say hello - Tinker was most bemused by it!  It was obviously the mascot for somebody, but I'm afraid I've forgotten who!  Tinker's face was a picture though!!  We've a few images from the weekend, just click here to see them.

We're nearly at the end of our season, with only one more event left.  Saturday 7th September will see us down near Nottingham for Stapleford Carnival - I'll let you know how we get on! 

Love Rosie x