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