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