Thursday, 18 August 2011

Wisbech Country Fair

The weekend after the Three Counties we were back on the road (minus Smugmore Ronan who was enjoying his time off!), and this time headed for Wisbech St Mary up in Cambridgeshire for a one day duo.  As Ronan was having time off Becca was going to be vaulting on Navvy, I had Tinker, and Amy and Tim were there doing their parts too.  Having wiggled our way along the A14 to the site we were pleased to see some familiar faces - Martin from Xtreme Falconry who'd been with us at the Three Counties the week before, these bird men get everywhere!  On meeting the organisers we were surprised to find out that the show was actually on for two days, and they might be requiring us to stay an extra night and perform on the Sunday too!

Having set everything up and settled the horses down it was time for bed, but it was very strange to look out of the window and see a black horse where there is usually a white one - quite disconcerting for a second!  It rained and rained and rained throughout the night, and when I woke up in the morning it was to discover that the lorry roof had leaked and all my bedding from my knees down was sopping wet - again, quite disconcerting for a second until I realised why!!

It was in the morning that we realised we were missing two vital things for the show - treats for the horses and our schooling whips for the dances, eeek!  So we sent Tim off to see if he could come up with anything.  He didn't disappoint!  He very quickly returned with two enormous carrots (kindly donated by the mysterious Pearl) and some very long birch sticks.  Having chopped the carrots into titbit sized morsels he then set about whittling the birch down to make us some brilliant sticks!  Well done that Timothy!!  I think I might even prefer my new stick to my old one...  I also managed to use some good sized twigs to beef up our ribbon sticks - we'll definitely be able to grab them easier now at the end of the show, hopefully no more fumbling around for them!

We also spent some time in the morning practising the Roman riding with Tink and Navvy as they'd not done it together before, and they were really good!  We were hoping to do it in the show, but just in trot for the main part, then into canter at the end.  Fingers crossed we'd all survive that far!  Luckily it didn't rain throughout the day, but the wind was something else.  We were warming up in the adjacent fields, and the wind was causing all the surrounding fencing, signs and everything else to bang and crash around a huge amount.  Unfortunately it managed to wind both the horses up (they really did get the wind up their tails!), so we went into the first show with trepidation.  Which proved unfortunately to be totally justified!  In conjunction with the wind, the sound system didn't help with the boys' states of mind.  There was one truck at the end of the arena with a massive bank of speakers on.  As you came round the top end of the arena the music was so loud it was literally shaking the ground!  Navvy spent the whole show whizzing round at a thousand miles an hour, and I'm amazed that Becca managed to do anything on him at all!  Naughty Tinker (who by now is old enough and wise enough to know better) used Navvy as an excuse and also spent the whole show going as fast as he possibly could - I was having flash backs to his early seasons when that was a normal occurrence, but that doesn't mean I enjoyed it!  I pulled out all my superfast safe moves though, even if it was like vaulting on a motorbike around the corners!  Needless to say we didn't attempt the Roman riding!!


The second show was a slight improvement in that we had requested fewer speakers be employed - the earth was no longer moving beneath our feet!  Tinker slowed down (I think he'd worn himself out earlier!) so I was able to do a full show, but Navvy stayed at top speed meaning Becca had a very difficult time - and again no Roman riding!  It was a real shame he was going so fast as he'd been brilliant the previous week at Malvern, but he was obviously having an off day!

Following the second show we still didn't know whether we were going to be packing up and heading home or staying on for an extra day.  After talking to the organisers they decided not to have us stay on.  Unfortunately due to the weather they'd had a smaller attendance than they'd hoped for and couldn't justify the extra expense.  Although it was a great shame not to be staying I was actually quite pleased - I'd only packed enough knickers for the one day!

We'll definitely be practising the Roman riding again during the week as we've got quite a busy weekend coming up.  There's a duo show on the Saturday at Pymoor followed by a drive up to Yorkshire for a solo show at Howden on Sunday - Navvy won't know what's hit him!

I'll let you know how we get on...

Lots of love,

Rosie xx

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Three Counties Show

The Thursday after Bolesworth we were back on the road again and this time headed for the Three Counties Show.  This is my absolute favourite show of the year so I was a happy thing to be on our way there again.  In the lorry we had Becca, Amy, Tinker, Ronan, Navvy and myself - no boys yet, they were due to join us later on.  So it was up to us girls to erect the tent on our own again, and we did a blinding job - no saggy corners on our watch!

We were there for a three day duo, and planning to have Becca vault on Ronan for the first show followed by Amy vaulting on Ronan for the second show on Friday (with me and Tink both times of course!), then over the weekend have Becca do the first show on Navvy whilst Amy did the second show on Ronan.  However, unfortunately things didn't go to plan.  Having done two shows during the day on Friday Ronan was unmistakeably lame in the evening.  He'd been intermittently unsound for the last couple of weeks, but we thought he'd be ok due to having fancy new shoes with pads under his soles (at great expense to Becca!).  He'd had an easy couple of weeks and was on every supplement, lotion and potion under the sun to try and get him right, but it wasn't to be.  The following morning the vet prescribed three weeks rest, which had mixed reactions from us all: Becca, Amy and I horrified (how would we cope without him - lots of upcoming bookings, Navvy not ready to step into Ronan's shoes, double bookings looming?!); Navvy anxious (no pressure mate, but it's all up to you now!); but Ronan was nothing other than SMUG!  'Three weeks off you say, no work, don't mind if I do!'  We even started referring to him as Smugmore Ronan instead of Strathmore Ronan!  So whilst the rest of us toiled away for the weekend Ronan spent his time mooching about in his own specially constructed turn out paddock complete with gazebo to shelter under - all right for some!

So Navvy was chucked in at the deep end with two duos per day to perform.  Luckily, he'd had some show experience the previous week at Bolesworth, but not yet attempted a duo show.  The arena at The Three Counties is perfect for us though, it's just the right size, is lovely and flat, and has a warm up area at one end.  It was at this show back in 2007 that Tinker made his debut, again in a duo show, so we were quietly confident Navvy would be just fine - and he was!!  We introduced him as our newest member of the team and explained that he may be a bit wobbly and that anything could happen, but he was brilliant!  Becca did all her freestyles, he did his dances well, and did either the vault off with Thunderhoof or clown volunteer depending on the show.  The only thing that was a slight problem was that he'd cut across the ring to try and be as close to Tinker as possible - not helpful if you happen to be upside down!  We missed out the Roman Riding as we haven't rehearsed Tinker and Navvy together, and didn't think it'd be wise to try it for the first time in front of a very large audience!!  

All four of our shows went without a hitch, until the very last one on Sunday afternoon.  I'd done my dance with Tinker and jumped back on him to set up for skipping.  And that's when I smelt it.  Dog poo.  And far too close for comfort.  I'd manage to step in a hound turd and had very limited time to sort the situation out.  The last thing you want is to vault with turd on your foot.  It gets all over the horse and pads, which in turn gets all over you.  Becca had a very similar incident back in November when we were on tour, and it really isn't pleasant.  Luckily, Tim was approaching with my skipping rope, and Tinker's catching cloth was nearby...  It was over and above the call of duty for Tim to clean my shoe off with the cloth - but very very much appreciated!  And that cloth made a rapid retreat to the nearest bin!  So we'd reached the end of the final show with no major incidents, and then in the last five minutes the heavens opened and it poured with rain!  We've got some lovely photos of Becca and I carrying on regardless, and all you can see in the background are people huddled under their umbrellas!  Click here to see the photos of this and lots of others from the whole weekend.

Aside from the vaulting there was lots going on all weekend.  On the Friday afternoon following our show Amy and I were asked to pop down to the lake to 'brighten up the fishermen's day'!  So off we went, only to find ourselves five minutes later actually fishing!  We sat there for about half an hour with the very friendly teachers and both managed to catch a few fish.  I felt particularly guilty when I caught a goldfish, but just like the others he was unhooked before being put back in the water - hopefully not to make the same mistake again!  The whole area was organised by the Young Anglers Project to try and promote fishing, and they provided coaching all weekend for a huge variety of people.  It's the first time I've ever tried fishing, but I actually quite enjoyed it!  Good job too because imagine my surprise when I arrived back at the lorry later in the evening (having been for a wander around) Tim informed me that one of the anglers had been round to say I'd won a rod in their competition!  I didn't even realised I'd entered one!!  So the next day I went back down to the lake with Amy and they very kindly presented us both with a four metre whip rod complete with rig and disgorger (??!) - first time I've won anything since I was about six I think...

We also found time to visit the countryside marquee where there was a lovely selection of pigs, goats, sheep and chickens - some of which were actually hatching out of their eggs whilst we watched them!  Hatching is obviously very hard work - look how tired this little chick is!

After only an hour or so though look what there was!

Tim and Alex were delighted to discover the 'Potato Council' marquee one evening, and as we were planning to have sausage and mash in the evening for supper they drew faces on two of the doomed potatoes and took them off for some counselling!  I'm not quite sure what the people in charge made of our boys and their depressed potatoes but they came back with a whole lot of stickers with various potato-ey slogans on which they then proceeded to stick everywhere (much to Becca's annoyance!).

We saw loads of different things over the weekend, met up with lots of friends (old and new!), and generally had a jolly good time!  It was just unfortunate that we had to pack everything up soaking wet and it was once again a very bedraggled team who headed off in our separate ways on Sunday evening.

Next up is a one day duo show at Wisbech Country Fair, where Navvy will once again have to step up to the mark and perform two duo shows.  We're going to practise Roman Riding with him and Tink this week so I'll let you know how we get on with it!!

Lots of love,

Rosie xx

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Bolesworth Castle Showjumping Classic and Country Fair

The first weekend in June saw us packing up and heading up to Bolesworth Castle in Cheshire for a four day duo show.  We've not done a four day duo since way back in 2008 at the Royal Show - so it was going to be a bit of a shock to the system!  We had Navvy on board too for his first show experience, so the lorry was fairly cosy on the way up!  Having arrived and set up Becca, Amy and myself were soon joined by Alex and Bryn.  No Tim this weekend as the lucky grease monkey was working with the vintage Bugattis at Le Mans (alright for some...).

The arena was massive with loads of very big jumps, a non-movable water jump, a few ferraris, a prizegiving summerhouse type structure and a large tree all making impressive obstacles.  We spent quite a while marking out where we were going to put all our stands and ropes so best to avoid as much as we could.  And then discovered we were only expected to use one small end of the arena up by the grandstand.  Ooops.  So, arena remarked (nice and small, no obstacles!) that was us done for the day.

Our first show went well although it being 11.30am on a Thursday afternoon there very very very few people actually there watching!  Bryn debuted as the back of the pantomime horse, and as Amy was spare she did the music - it always feels safer when there's someone in charge of the music who knows the show!  As we were trying to save Ronan a bit we opted to do a solo show in the afternoon with just me and Tinker, and we had a slightly bigger audience which is always nice!

Friday again was quite quiet - so it was time to bring out the Navvy!  Him and Becca did a solo show and he went really well.  We did it as a baby show and I kept him on the lunge, but he coped well with the slightly slopey arena and did his dance much better than expected!  The only slight issue was that he has so much more movement than Ronan Becca had to adjust some of her moves - lots of oomph for swings and scissors though!  In the afternoon we did a duo show with Tinker and Ronan which went really well.  There was a whole bus load of school children who sat right at the front of the grandstand and were just brilliant - especially during Thunderhoof where they were on team Rebecca and made sure she won!  They were also fantastic during the roman riding and the whole lot of them joined in with the grease arms!  It really makes all the difference to have a good appreciative audience!  However, later on in the afternoon we weren't quite so glad to see them...  Becca and I were busy doing the washing up (round behind the toilets where there was a trough and tap).  There we were, show make up off, scruffy clothes on, scrubbing away at our pots, pans, crockery and cutlery when all the children filed past the other side of the fence.  'Brilliant' we thought 'they haven't seen us!'.  Then we caught the eye of one of the teachers who smiled and waved before announcing 'Look everybody - it's Rebecca and Rosie!'  Cue the stares, waves and shouts!  So, one minute you can be standing on the back of a cantering horses waving your ribbon stick to the admiration of everyone - next you're scrubbing pots behind the toilets with the same audience.  Life is a great leveller.

That evening was Wild West Night in the main marquee so we all trooped off to see what was happening.  There were a few people who'd got into the spirit of things and dressed up, and although Becca had a checked shirt on it was so cold she had a jumper on too so you couldn't see it, and Amy, Alex and I didn't realise it was supposed to be wild west so were in ordinary jeans and jumpers!  Anyway, there was a good bar and disco so the marquee soon filled right up.  We were standing right next to the rodeo bull watching people attempt to ride it and biding our time before having a go ourselves (we all love a bit of rodeo!) when we saw something that put me off ever riding one again.  There was a lady riding the bull, and doing quite well, before she was flung of with a sneaky twist.  As she fell, the bull swung around and managed to smack her in the face with it's bottom.  The poor girl was crouched on the floor with her hands over her face and obviously bleeding.  The paramedic arrived and it was then that we realised she had had one of her front teeth knocked out!  The paramedic had the tooth and was trying to put it back in, but as we were looking at the mat around the bull we realised there were still bits of tooth lying there - it hadn't only knocked her tooth out but shattered it!  We weren't quite sure what to do so I went to get a glass from the bar whilst Becca retrieved the bits of tooth.  Becca then had to give the grisly contents to the girl's friend ('I'm not sure if she might need these...?'), before she was taken off to hospital.  Not a nice way to end your evening but I hope she's ok by now!  The atmosphere was understandably a bit subdued for a while but it soon picked up and we spent the rest of the evening dancing away, especially with Del, one of our friends from the Champions Tour, with her signature moves - tits and teeth baby, arse and smile!!

On Saturday we repeated the shows with Navvy doing a solo in the morning and Tinker and Ronan doing the duo in the afternoon.  Navvy went off the lunge and went much better - although still very fast in comparison to Ronan!  Saturday was also the Express Eventing day so there was some different things going on which was really good to watch.  The cross country jumps looked beautiful but enormous, and I'm very glad Tinker views such jumps as barriers instead of obstacles to be jumped!  I could have done with a few decent barriers for him though back at the lorry.  We'd made the horses some good sized paddocks as we were in quite a large space, but by the afternoon Tinker had worked out how to escape from his (the grass is always greener on the other side), and I just couldn't keep him contained!  The string keeping him in (or not) was a lot higher up than we usually have it, so the little monkey was simply ducking underneath it!  I'd put him in, tell him to stay, walk into the lorry, look out of the window, and there he'd be wandering around free!  So, stable only for the naughty Tinker!

Sunday was our final day, and it was a wet one!  It absolutely poured with rain all day and we got soaked through.  We did two duo shows, Becca and I did the first one and then Amy took Becca's place for the afternoon.  Although I hate warming up in the rain (especially when you find out they're running forty-five minutes late and you've done it for nothing!) I actually quite like doing the shows in the rain.  We take everything as steady as possible, but it's quite fun to be up there doing your thing and looking out at the audience who are all huddled beneath their umbrellas!  Having said that, I MUCH prefer doing shows in the sunshine so hopefully the 'summer' will give us some soon!  We finally packed everything up (still in the pouring rain) before heading home - once again a very bedraggled and tired team!  You can click here to see some photos of our time at Bolesworth. 

We've got the Three Counties Show next which is my absolute favourite show of the year - so hoping for some decent weather - I'll let you know soon!

Lots of love,

Rosie xx

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Yorkshire Training Weekend and Sherbourne Castle Country Fair

Well we had an absolute monster of a weekend at the end of May - I feel exhausted just writing about it!  It started on the Friday afternoon when Becca and I set off with all four of the horses up to North Yorkshire.  We were on our way to spend the weekend with Hannah Dawson, who I met back in September when she came down for a vaulting lesson with me and Tinker.  Hannah is a very established clicker trainer and Becca and I were keen to learn more about this method of training - as we've always gone for the 'make it up as you go along' approach!  However, setting off on the journey we had forgotten it was a Bank Holiday afternoon and consequently spent a looooonng time sitting in triffic traffic.  Boring!  I spend a lot of my time driving backwards and forwards to North Yorkshire as this is where Ben (my boyfriend) lives, so I sort of knew where we were heading which always makes a journey easier - not so for Becca who got quite irate with the whole thing!  We finally made it up there and having settled the horses were treated to a very lovely meal cooked by Hannah and her boyfriend Dexter, all very civilised!

In the morning it was down to serious business.  We started off talking through the theory of clicker training and how it could help each one of our horses, who are all very different, and what it was we wanted to achieve with each one.  It was fascinating talking about all the different training methods and experiences we'd all had with our various horses - I'm more than sure we could have talked all day!  But it was soon time to put it all into practise and see what the boys made of it all.  

We started of with Casper.  I wanted to work on him to be able to concentrate more and not be so easily distracted by everything going on around him.  He does his tricks beautifully at home but as we discovered back in November if I take him out of his comfort zone away from other horses he gets very bad separation anxiety and cannot calm himself down enough to concentrate on what it is I'm asking of him.  So, out of the paddock away from Tinker and into the barn with him!  And he was not happy!!  He ran around like a total mad brain and wouldn't settle at all.  Tinker didn't help either by being an idiot and whinnying back at him - not conducive to calmness!  After a little while he settled enough to start doing some basic work, and he picked everything up really quickly!  We worked with him for a little while before putting him back out with Tink to think about what he'd just done.  

Then it was Navvy's turn.  At home Navvy is quite bargy and pushy, so Becca was wanting to work on manners with him and also how to progress with his tricks.  Hannah recommended starting with the barrier (just a couple of rails) in between them to try and deflect the pushiness.  However, Navvy totally surprised us by being very wary of the barrier, almost as if he couldn't believe we'd done such a thing to him!  He was very quiet and a totally different horse from what we were expecting.  Becca then did the work without the barrier and Navvy was very responsive - and the politest he's ever been!

We swapped backwards and forwards between Casper and Navvy for most of the day - and couldn't believe the change in them!  Casper became more responsive and picked new things up ever so quickly, and Navvy also really concentrated and was polite for the whole day - result!!  Although we both know our horses really well the work we did throughout the day seemed to amplify their personalities.  Along with Hannah's insights we picked up aspects of their characteristics far stronger than either of us ever have before.  By the evening all five of us were really tired - and then it was Tinker and Ronan's turn!

We bought them into Hannah's arena where we set up the 'Pony Playground'.  This consisted of a lot of 'toys' to try and engage the boys a bit more.  The problem we've been finding with both of them is that they lack enthusiasm (they've both been doing it a long time now!), so we were trying to encourage them to play and just enjoy themselves.  The toys included a pedestal (Tinker's personal favourite - he kept just wandering off to go and stand on it!), a rug, a giant gym ball (football size for horses!), an umbrella, some tarpaulin and a little jump - all good fun for horses!  Ronan thought the whole thing was wonderful and played with as much as he possibly could, chasing Becca around and generally having a whale of a time!  Tinker is much more reserved and as a result I sometimes wonder if he's only doing what I ask him because he feels he has too rather than because he wants to, and that he really couldn't care less about the whole thing!  However, Hannah had a different take on him and made me realise that he does engage totally with me, just in a very quiet understated way.  I must be more considerate towards him!  We had great fun playing with them with all the toys, and adding their tricks in as and when.  Because they were enjoying themselves they really worked hard at their tricks - for the first time in a long time!  Both Becca and I certainly have a lot of work to do to maintain their new found enthusiasm!!

By now it was really quite late, but Hannah bought out her pony Toby to show us what clicker training can achieve and what he can do.  Coming down the yard he really didn't look very impressive - he's a twenty-one year old small cob, and looked like a little old man!  However, as soon as he started working the transformation was amazing!  Hannah was working him at liberty and before long she had him trotting around her on a circle, performing shoulder in, with a beautiful collected outline and really working up through his back - no more little old man!!  All this was done with nothing but voice and body language, and was just beautiful to watch.

By now it really was very late, and as we hadn't let up all day we were all exhausted!  It was pizza and chips before bedding down in the lorry again - tomorrow was a full vaulting day!  We were due to have two three hour sessions, with six people in each class.  First up were the more mature group - a bunch of lovely ladies who mostly wanted to work on their confidence and feeling more relaxed on the horse.  We did lots of barrel and walk work with them all - and then came the canter work!  Despite some of them saying they wouldn't be cantering (Hannah's mum Rachel included!), by the end of the session all of them had!  The looks on their faces as they were cantering around on Ronan was brilliant - some of the grins were just huge!  They all did fantastically well, and I gather that they are all keen for another go!  After lunch we had the more confident group so we were able to push them a bit.  Given that Hannah had already had a lesson we really pushed her and by the end of the session she was mounting and standing in canter on Tinker - no mean feat I can tell you!  I also have to mention Elaine, who having tried a flank off on the barrel just went for it and did one off Tinker at canter - I hope I'm that active at 63!!  We had a lovely day again and met some brilliant people, in fact the whole weekend was really interesting and we were hosted amazingly by Hannah and her parents - we will definitely be back!!  (One slight issue though...  The Yorkshire wind was really strong all day, and on the way back both our faces were just glowing red - we'd both got really bad wind burn!  We both spent the next couple of days looking really embarrassed - which in itself was embarrassing!!).

No rest for the wicked though.  No sooner had we finished the afternoon session than we were on the road home (along with a delicious packed lunch from Rachel - thank you!).  The idea was to truck on home, hopefully arriving at about 11.30pm, then unload the horses.  Ronan and Tinker to stay in the stables with Navvy and Casper going back out in the field.  Unload the lorry, reload the lorry with all the show kit, snatch a few hours sleep before getting up again at 4.30am to load up and set off for Sherbourne Castle down in Dorset - phew!  And that's exactly how it happened!  Tim arrived at Becca's shortly after we did, and with his and Bryn (Becca's boyfriend's) help we soon had the lorry sorted.  I slept really well although when my alarm went off again at 4.30am it felt like I'd only been asleep for a few minutes!

We arrived at Sherbourne to friendly faces but a very grey sky.  Luckily the rain held off until we'd got the awning up and were able to get the horses under cover.  I think they were just as tired as us and were quite happy to just stand munching away on their haynets.  Then the rain set in.  It was that horrible persistent drizzly rain that just seems to soak you right through and chill you to the bone - so much for a sunny May Bank Holiday!  Nevertheless the show must go on - and on we went!  Despite the horrible weather the show went through really well.  We were quite concerned about the roman riding as not only was it raining but also the arena is on quite a slope - cantering down hill standing up on two horses in the rain is not much fun!  We needn't have worried though, Tinker and Ronan looked after us so well, they just went beautifully steadily and the whole thing went without a hitch - they really are fantastic horses!  We put into practice what we'd learnt over the weekend with trying to engage them before their dances - and the results were two very good performances from them!  Happy days!

Unfortunately, for the first time ever, Ronan was unable to do the second show.  A combination of the extremely hard ground we've had recently, a lot of different work and lots of travel had all combined to make him really stiff and slightly lame, so there was no way Becca could risk him by doing a show.  So it was Tinker and me on our own!  We hastily cobbled together a solo show with the available costume and music, added in the skipping, and hey presto a new show was born!  The arena was quite large so I had to make everything even larger than usual, and in trying to make the strip fill the long duo track all on my own I got so carried away I actually ran out of music!!  The arena was really slippery, I was skidding about all over the place, especially on my mounts and dismount-remounts, but good old Tink caught me on every one and I managed not to fall over!  Same can't be said for Tim, who's body went one way and feet another doing a spectacular fall whilst carrying the pom-poms early on in the show - he looked like some sort of crazy pom-pom explosion as he went down!  Despite the horrible weather the crowd were amazing during both our shows, cheering away from under their umbrellas, and it really does make all the difference.  Thank you Sherbourne for keeping our spirits up!

It was finally time for a very bedraggled and tired Jive Pony team to head home.  Having eventually arrived back we all fell out of the lorry, sorted the horses out, before heading back to our respective homes and, finally, beds.  It really was monster of a weekend, but  a thoroughly enjoyable one!  As we were so busy we hardly managed to get any photos, but please click here to see the ones Hannah took.  (I'll add ours when we find the camera card!).

We've got another busy one next week as we're off to Bolesworth Castle up in Cheshire for a four day duo at the Bolesworth Show Jumping Classic and Country Fair.  This is organised by the same team behind the Champion's Tour we did over the winter with Geoff Billington and Ollie Townend, so we're looking forward to catching up with a lot of familiar faces.  I'll let you know how we get on soon!

Lots of love,

Rosie xx

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Essex Young Farmers Annual Country Show

A couple of Saturdays ago we all set off in the lorry for the Essex Young Farmers Annual Country Show.  Having wiggled our way through a lot of very small lanes we finally arrived on site, and Amy was there to meet us again.  We then spent the next ten minutes following various different young farmers around on their quad bikes before finally finding our pitch and being able to set up.  We were right next to the main arena - which was absolutely HUGE!!  Turns out is was 120 by 60 metres, which is far bigger than we usually work in - we were convinced we'd get totally lost in there and nobody would be able to see anything we were doing!  However, having marked it all out later it didn't look too bad, still just massive!  As Tinker has a history of picking up speed if he's got a lot of space to do so, I was feeling slightly apprehensive to say the least!  The arena was also on a slight slope, with lots of little ruts all over it, and as the weather had been so dry the whole thing was as hard as concrete - not ideal!  

Our first show was scheduled for 10.30am, so it was going to be an early one.  It takes Becca and I about two hours to get ready for a show as we have to brush the horses, warm ourselves up, do our hair and make up (make up especially takes quite a while...), tack up the horses, warm up the horses, get changed into costume, then finally last minute adjustments - and away!  It was during the getting changed into costume part that we realised a horrible error had been made...  To set the scene: My long black boots are on their fourth season now and had been understandably looking a bit tired.  So I'd spray painted them black to give them another lease of life.  As I pulled the boots out of the boot bag I said to Becca 'Wow, since I sprayed these boots they look really new - almost as good as Amy's!' (Amy has a brand new pair).  Then the realisation dawned.  They were Amy's boots.  Amy is a size four.  I am a size six.  Oh dear.  I managed to squeeze one of the boots on and took a tentative step in it.  Ouch.  Becca then tried to put the other boot on to see if she could wear them instead, but couldn't get her foot past the ankle, so it was back to me.  I got it on and then we all burst out laughing - I looked like one of those old fashioned Chinese ladies with bound feet, they looked far too small for my body!  I could just about walk OK, but as for vaulting and roman riding - who knew?  We'd just have to find out!!

Good old show adrenaline - I never noticed the boots once!  The whole show went through quite well considering everything we had to contend with.  Aside from the boots there was the hard ground (which turned out to be slippery too - Tink skidded a couple of times!), the wind, which was quite strong and nearly had me off during the shoulderstand in roman riding, and the fact that throughout the entire show we only had one microphone between the two of us.  This was by far the biggest problem as the whole show is scripted for the commentary to bounce backwards and forwards between Becca and I - which we couldn't do!  It was the start of the show that was the worst - I went to open it with the usual 'Good morning ladies and gentlemen', only to realise to my horror that nobody could hear a word I was saying!  Becca then had to do the introduction, but as I always do it she doesn't really know the lines and if you're not expecting to have to do it you get completely thrown!  Anyway, we managed throughout with just the one mic - but it wasn't easy and I think we were both quite glad when the show was over!  As we exited the area I jumped of Tinker, only to realise with a massive jolt that my feet had just spent a very active thirty minutes in boots two sizes to small for them - they hurt!!  Good job Alex is a farrier - I needed him to pull the buggers off me before spending the next half hour walking around in bare feet to try and get some life back into my toes!

Time for the second show soon came around, and Amy was going to be doing the show on Ronan.  The wind had picked up and was literally blowing a gale through the arena - should be fun with the pom-poms!  Although the pom-poms were difficult, they were nothing compared to our long skirts.  The wind just picked the skirts up and made it virtually impossible to do the strip.  Having finally got rid of the long skirts (which practically blew into the next county causing Tim and Alex to do much running and fetching!) the wind then spent the entire show doing a very concerted and highly successful attempt at keeping our skirts up around our ears, with our frilly knickers on view almost permanently!  There was a large contingent of the audience who found this hilarious - and what could Amy and I do other than grin and bear it?!  Thankfully we both had working microphones, but that was about the only thing that went right!  

During the first section of vaulting I was in shoulderstand when a combination of a gust of wind, me momentarily losing my balance causing Tinker to loose his, and the skiddy ground caused me to fall out of the shoulderstand.  There was a moment when I thought (as I was halfway down to the ground) I could get it back and throw in a dismount-remount (tricky on the outside of the horse but possible).  Then my feet hit the ground and I lost it!  I hit the deck with my knees and hands, skidded a bit, before looking up to see Tinker disappearing off into the distance without me.  The crowd gasped, I jumped up and shouted 'well that's not in the script!' before running round to meet Tink who had stopped on the opposite side of the arena.  I jumped on and carried on vaulting, but it's just so embarrassing - I hate falling off!  It's the first time I've done it spectacularly in a show since the Cheshire Game Fair, way back in 2009, which was another show where everything seemed to go wrong!  This show didn't get any better either!  Towards the end of the roman riding Amy lost her balance (again, the wind was ridiculously strong) and fell down in between the horses as I was getting on.  I don't know how she managed it but she fought it and fought it and somehow managed to scramble back up onto Tink.  By this point we were way behind on the music so we had to miss out the final switch and finish on the opposite horse to usual.  This meant Amy was up on Tinker instead of Ronan, but she coped really well and we finished in style!  I think we were both really glad when that bit was over!!  The rest of the show went through without incident and we both breathed a sigh of relief when it was all over!

We weren't the only ones affected by the wind.  The Bolddog Motocross team, who had performed some amazing jumps and stunts in their earlier show, were unable to do anything in the afternoon as it was simply too dangerous for them to perform their jumps with the wind blowing as strongly as it was.  This was a huge shame, but it made Amy and I feel justified for finding our show such a struggle!  It was definitely one of the more difficult days - but at least it didn't rain which is always a massive bonus!  After the show we were approached by Marie, who we'd met last summer up at the Northcote Heavy Horse Centre, where we spent a very hot day teaching!  Marie was lovely and took a few photos of the shows which I've put up here, as we hardly managed to take any ourselves!  

Next weekend we've got a bit of a monster.  We're off up to North Yorkshire on Friday with all four of our horses for a clicker training day on Saturday with Hannah Dawson, which we're both really looking forward to.  Then on the Sunday we've got a full day of teaching before heading home in the evening.  Then we'll unpack the lorry, repack it with show kit, get a few hours sleep, before heading off down to Dorset and the Sherbourne Castle Country Fair on Monday.  Phew!  I'll let you know how we get on!

Lots of love,

Rosie xx

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Yateley and District Lions Club May Fayre

Our first outdoor show of the season is done!!  On Sunday 1st May Rebecca, Tim, Alex, Tinker, Ronan and myself set off for Yateley for the Lions Club May Fayre to be held on the Monday, with Amy due to meet us there.  After an easy journey down we arrived to find we couldn't get the lorry on to the site as our way was blocked by a big red Volvo.  Enter the organiser who walked around the playing fields shouting 'anyone own the red Volvo?' and hey presto within five minutes we were in!

Having found our spot (sorry to the family we displaced) we then set up with no problems - we all remembered what to do with various poles, stakes and stable walls after all!  We then spent the rest of the afternoon and evening running through scripts (quite a few changes), practising new sections (mostly Tim and Alex who have quite a bit more to do now), and generally knobbing about!  Becca and I also took Ronan and Tinker for a lovely ride all through the woods, even managing to squeeze through a very un-horse shape gap at one point!  Have a look at the video below to see the boys practising in the pantomime horse - can you guess who is which end...?

Come the morning the weather was glorious, so at least we didn't have to worry about rain!  We were however all quite worried about the shows.  Becca and I were going to be doing the first show and we'd changed things around quite a bit.  Not only had we changed the roman ride music (to Wipeout - bad omen??) and not had a chance to practise it through on the horses, but we'd also introduced some new sections for Tim and Alex, including a pantomime horse and some unicorns for Thunderhoof.  On top of this we had a whole new section of the show involving a real volunteer from the audience - and who knows how a member of the public would respond to being dragged out of the crowd, put on Ronan and be told to vault?!  Amy was worried about the second show as she and I were going to be doing it - her first time doing a duo show and first time roman riding on grass!  Both her and I were concerned about the new pom-poms, which although look fantastic are really difficult to hold and extremely noisy.  Ronan actually has a fifth gear we found out when practising, frightening pom-pom gear - he even over took Tinker!!  So all in all it's fair to say we were all quite nervous!

Thankfully the first show went really well.  The roman riding to Wipeout worked and we managed not to be wiped out.  The boys did their pantomime horse section brilliantly and the crowd loved it.  The unicorns and Thunderhoof behaved.  The volunteer (Simon) loved having a sit on Ronan, and bearing in mind it was the first time he had ever been on a horse he did fantastically by managing to let go with both hands - the grin on his face when he did so was huge!  All in all it went very smoothly and Becca and I were both really pleased when we came out.

The second show went through well too.  The only issues were with me and my props!  At the start I was trying to stop Tinker, get my microphone out to do the introduction, and wave my pom-poms and I just didn't have enough hands!  I dropped one of my pom-poms but luckily only about ten feet away from where I stopped so it was quickly recovered for me by Tim!  And then at the end I went to pull my ribbon stick out, only to hear RRIIIPP, and then realise I was simply waving a stick in the air - no ribbons!  Luckily the ribbons were hanging out of the top of the pocket so I managed to grab them and wave them after all - just with a slight delay!  Aside from those problems everything went really smoothly.  Amy really impressed Becca and I as she knew her script inside out and didn't falter with any of the quick changes at all.  The roman riding which she was especially concerned about was no problem, neither was the vaulting, dancing or Thunderhoof section - so a big gold star for Amy!!   Becca was doing the music for us, and I think she was as nervous about that as we were for the show, but no need as that all went well too.  At the end of the second show we were all so relieved to have got both shows out of the way - onwards and upwards to the next one!

We're off to Essex on Saturday for a one day duo on the Sunday at Essex Young Farmers Club Annual County Show - fingers crossed it goes as well as Yateley did!  You can see some photos of the day by clicking here, including things I haven't mentioned above such as Tim and Alex helping out Mighty Smith the Strong Man and Tim's bed roll man, to name a couple!  Enjoy!

Love Rosie

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

East of England Equine Fair

A day of firsts!  Rebecca, Ronan, Alex, Casper and myself set off for Peterborough and the East of England Equine Fair.  And Amy met us there!  We were there to do our solo shows - Casper and I were planning to do the first show with Becca commentating, and Amy and Ronan were going to be performing the second show with me doing the commentary.

Having settled the horses in we went off and found the arena, which was thankfully an indoor one!  It was a perfect size for the solo shows, round, at one end of the hall with the many trade stands taking up the rest of the space.  The surface was Martin Collins, which is just perfect for vaulting on so all in all it looked like we'd have a good day!  We spent the evening running through the script for the second show.  It was all going to be rather odd as Becca wasn't going to be in the show at all - yet another first!!

The following morning I was up early to take Casper for a practise before the show opened.  He was very on his toes as there was a lot going on around us, but he did settle well and performed his dance beautifully, even with all the distractions!  Becca then came up and lunged him so I could have a vaulting practise too, which didn't go quite so well!  He was very fast which I was expecting, so I used all my 'Super fast Tinker safe moves' and managed all of them ok.  I was very nervous about the whole thing, but sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and go for it!

Show time came around quickly, and it felt very strange riding up to the arena on Casper instead of Tinker.  I've always (and still do) think of him as my baby horse, but he's actually older than Tinker was when he did his first show - I just haven't had the same sense of urgency with Casper so have taken things much slower.  I have done a lot of work with him at home though, and when he concentrates his dance is much better than Tinker's as he is more attentive.  I've also been doing a lot of vaulting on him and there isn't a single move that I do on Tink that I can't do on him.  However, being at a show is a whole different matter...

Things didn't get off to a very good start when he shuffled around a bit too much during the strip causing me to topple off from stand at a very inopportune moment - oops!  I jumped straight back on and continued - albeit with a red face.  Things didn't improve as we went into the vaulting, he was far too busy looking outside at the other horses and nearly ran through the ring rope to join them.  We decided to put him on the lunge to carry on, and although it was a bit tricky for Becca to commentate and lunge at the same time, he did behave himself and I managed to do some freestyle.  Not the most stylish of freestyles but freestyle nonetheless!  Have a look at this little video to see our dicey start!!

Then it was onto the dancing and this was where I was hoping Casper would shine as he really can dance beautifully when he puts his mind to it.  Unfortunately he was once again far too preoccupied with the whereabouts of the other horses outside the hall to concentrate on me, and although he did a lot of tricks (including a lovely Spanish walk and bow) he really didn't perform to the best of his ability at all.

Next came Thunderhoof.  And Casper was perfect!!  He was off the lunge and didn't put a hoof wrong throughout the whole section (good job too as all he really had to do was walk around and around the ring!).  He does however walk quite quickly and I think there were a few times when Alex was struggling to keep on the opposite side of the circle to us - he had to keep trotting so Casper and I wouldn't catch him up!

Then it was the final section of the show and back onto the lunge for some canter work.  Although he was quite fast I was pleased with him in the end and managed to get through my second freestyle - again, with more 'free' than 'style', but hey ho!  I have to say I was very relieved when it was over.  I felt disappointed in Casper as I felt he had let himself down, especially with the dancing, which in turn meant I felt like I'd let Jive Pony down by doing a half rate show.  However, the amount of positive comments we got afterwards was unbelievable!  People said how lovely it was to see a young horse performing something so different, and thought he'd done really well.  I was gobsmacked!  I think I had unrealistically high expectations of him (partly because Tinker was so good at his first show), but I STILL think he could have and should have done a bit better.  Never mind, I shall be taking him to the Devil's Horsemen pantomime over Christmas so he can do some dancing then!  He WILL perform eventually, whether he likes it or not!!  Just click here to see a few photos of his debut show.

Having got one difficult show out of the way it was time for another one.  This time it wasn't a new horse, but a new performer!  Amy has a background in competitive vaulting, a circus skills degree, and is a performing aerial artist - so a Jive Pony show should be a breeze!  She's been up for a few rehearsals with Rebecca and Ronan, but now it was time to put it all to the test! 

The entrance and strip both went well, as did the safety announcement.  And then we got into the first long section of vaulting.  Although Amy did really well with all her moves she struggled to keep Ronan going as well as vault at the same time.  Keeping Ronan cantering is no mean feat, and Rebecca (continuously) and I (when commentating) have to put in huge amounts of energy to encourage him throughout.  As Amy was lacking here I had to double all my efforts and I spent the entire section cantering around the circle slightly behind Ronan, encouraging him with the lunge whip, to ensure he didn't break canter - not easy when you're commentating too!  I think by the end I was more out of breath than either Ronan or Amy!!

Next was the dance which again was a bit steady and lacking in energy.  It must have been very difficult for Amy though.  Not only was she doing something completely new to her, but also trying to elicit tricks and movements from a horse who has only ever worked and performed with the person he's been trained by (Becca), whilst that person looks on, and all in front of a large crowd - no pressure then!!  (As an aside - it was also very difficult for Rebecca to look on and see someone else trying to perform with Ronan.  He is very much a one person horse and the two of them have an incredible bond, so I think she was struggling on the side lines as much as we were in the arena!).

Next comes the volunteer section.  This went through really well which we were all very thankful for!  Alex is a funny old thing up on the horse, I do genuinely have to try very hard not to laugh at him!  We finished as usual with me vaulting freestyle on Ronan - and ensuring he cantered throughout!  It was finally all over and we could breathe a huge sigh of relief.  Again, the feedback was far better than we expected as we all thought the show had been a bit lacklustre, which was another massive relief!  Phew!

After both the shows we all felt relaxed enough to have a wander around all the stalls.  I managed to bump into Sean from Cyclo-Ssage, who had been on tour with us the previous week, and who very kindly gave me a go on one of the massage beds - definitely relaxed now!!  I also bought Tinker a nice thick winter rug to keep him all toasty, and Becca bought some new travelling boots for Ronan - no more ridiculously small 'Cuddly Ponies' boots for him!

Having said goodbye to Amy we set off on the journey home, and did nothing but dissect both shows for the entire duration!  Although neither show went as well as we had hoped, both have given us an awful lot of food for thought.  Not only does working Casper make me appreciate Tinker all the more, it also brings home the fact that I haven't given him the same level of preparation I gave Tinker.  And although he performs well at home he needs much more support when out in unknown situations.  These are all things I can and will address though - so look out 2011, Casper's coming!!  As for the second show with Amy, it just goes to show that what Rebecca and I do is not easy.  People often tell us we make it look too easy and, without trying to be big headed, I'm starting to agree with them!  Vaulting on a horse which is effectively loose, as well as performing intricate dances and smooth transitions between the sections of the show, whilst simultaneously engaging with an audience and commentating in a clear and easily understandable manner is downright hard!  Becca and I have had many years practise now (and hopefully many more to come), but for Amy it's a lot to ask in one go.  But, like Casper, she WILL do it!!

We have A LOT of rehearsal to do before we are really ready to bring out all our newbies again (not forgetting Navvy who is also waiting in the wings - that'll be another nerve wracking show!), but we'll get there - watch this space!!  

Love Rosie xx