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

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