Monday, 17 August 2009

Tysoe Flower Show and Cheshire Gamefair

We've just had one of the most amusing weekends of the entire season - like an extended comedy of errors! Rebecca, Ronan, Myself, Tinker and Alex set off for Tysoe Flower Show (just 15 miles down the road) on Saturday morning. Although Tim was supposed to come with us, problems with the trains meant he was going to have to cycle to the show ground from the station - not a major issue but just the first thing to go wrong during the course of the two days!
Having arrived at Tysoe we decided to set up the tent as the weather looked a bit changeable, and we didn't want a repeat of the soaking we got there a couple of years ago! We had the horses wandering about whilst we set up which was fine - until the Alpacas arrived. Now, neither Tinker nor Ronan have ever come across Alpacas before, and the Alpacas had never met horses, so all of them spent the next fifteen minutes (and the rest of the day on Tinker's part) snorting, jumping, and eyeing each other up - much to our amusement! The Alpacas were actually very sweet, and quite friendly. They had been shorn and their fleeces were incredibly soft, as were the clothes that had been produced from their yarn. The only problem I had was after I had been stroking them Tinker didn't want anything to do with me until I had washed my hands!

The first show went without incident, other than the fact I ripped a hole in my tights - annoying at £10 per pair! Although I had thought Tinker would be difficult and on his toes (because of the petrifying Alpacas) he was fantastic and did a brilliant show - hooray! However, the second show didn't run quite so smoothly... The first problem came as Rebecca ran along behind Ronan - and realised his tail was still plaited up! This isn't like a show plait, but instead just a loose plait down his entire tail in order to keep his tail clean - and none of us noticed it was still in until it was too late - oops! Rebecca managed to get most of it undone, and then carried on with the strip, which was when the problems with the music stated. The strip to the music is very choreographed but the track kept jumping all over the place, starting again at the beginning, then skipping to the end, and back to the middle. It sounded awful but Rebecca just had to carry on regardless! Thankfully we reached the end of the show without any more mishaps, we'd had enough for one day already!

Tysoe is a lovely little show and they have all sorts of things going on. There were vegetable, flower and baking classes, robot making competitions, a fun dog show, an aunt sally alley, and lots of people taking part in all of them! Katherin (Rebbecca's mum) came to see us and bought Rebecca's cousin Simeon with her. Simeon is David's brother, who came to see us at the Middlesex Show back in June, and also seem quite amused to find out what we were up to! We also met up with our friend Mike from Fuller's who we see at quite a few shows with his pair of beautiful Shires, Griffin and Pride. Tinker and Ronan especially love Mike as he always has a treat or two in his pocket for them! It's Mike's birthday on Friday so HAPPY BIRTHDAY Mike from all of us at Jive Pony!

Having packed the tent down it was time to set off for Knutsford, and the Cheshire Gamefair. We arrived and set up the tent (for the second time of the day), marked out the arena and settled in for the night. In the morning Alex was up bright and early as he had been invited out on hound exercise with the kennels, so whilst the rest of us were snoozing he was cycling around the countryside for two hours. Much as we all love Alex, it was a peaceful change without him in the morning!

The first show went really well. Until the very end that is. The arena was quite tricky as it was very uneven and on a bit of a slope, but had not been as difficult as we had anticipated. We'd reached the very very end of the show and were merrily waving our ribbon sticks when disaster struck. Tinker had sped up when I pulled out my ribbon stick and was going around the very edge of the arena. I was sitting on his neck with my legs crossed up by his ears when he came across a big dip in the arena, baulked at it and then jumped it! I didn't stand a chance and before I knew it I was in a big heap on the ground watching him canter off without me! I was more surprised than anything as it all happened so quickly, but I jumped up and started dancing to the music! (Probably not the best reaction but hey ho!) Tinker carried on until the other side of the arena where he stopped stock still, until I ran over and jumped back on him, pulled out my mic and closed the show with Becca. Very embarrassing but very very funny!

So, two shows and two pairs of tights down, we went into the second show praying things would go better. But it was not to be! We entered the arena with our music jumping all over the place as it had done at Tysoe (diferent CD, same problem!), and before we'd even gone down one side of the arena there was a loose dog chasing Ronan's heels. Great. So, CD reset and dog caught we carried on, with things going smoothly. Until the roman riding. I started off well, but as Becca approached for the first time things took a comedy turn for the worst. Ronan somehow managed to stand on her heel just as she jumped up, and pulled her boot clean off!! She mounted anyway and we did the opening 'Grease' arms in hysterics - it was hard to concentrate we were laughing so hard! After I had jumped off Becca then had to step over to Tinker with just a stocking clad foot (very slippery) and ram her foot under my roller to keep herself on - no mean feat (pardon the pun) when you're standing over two cantering horses on a bumpy, slopey arena! She did brilliantly though and once I'd got back on she got off, ran across the arena, retrieved her boot and put it back on, before joining me back on the horses - and we were still in time with the music! It was then my turn (again) for a mishap. During the final 'Grease' arms I had a slow motion losing of balance. I could feel myself going but there didn't seem to be anything I could do about it! At the last minute Becca grabbed my arm, just as I grabbed the handles on my roller, managed to right myself, and we finished perfectly! But it was easily the most amusing roman ride we've ever done - and I am giggling away to myself as I'm writing from the memory of it!!

Thankfully the rest of the show went without a hitch - I don't think we could have coped with much more! We then packed down and set off for home. We've not got any shows this weekend, so I'm off to do a Wild West show with the Devil's Horsemen - no rest for the wicked! Our next show is over the bank holiday weekend at Goodrich Park, so I'll tell you all about that when we get back. In the mean time, click here to see the photos from the weekend - and see if you can spot some of the things I've told you about! (And just to mention some of the other things I haven't told you about: Tim nearly crashing Ronan into us during the safety announcement; Ronan's roller slipping just before I had to vault on him; Becca slipping a bit too much when Tim knocked her off Ronan during the volunteer part; Rebecca and I jumping the boys over some cross country jumps in our vaulting tack, and; the daddylonglegs that nearly made me fall off the lorry roof! All in all, a funny weekend!!)

Lots of love
Rosie xx

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

H Factor Competition and Danson Fair

We've just had another busy weekend, although this one was slightly different to what we're used to! On Saturday the whole team (Rebecca, Ronan, Myself, Tinker, Tim and Alex) set off for Addington Manor Equestrian Centre to take part in the H Factor competition. It was a bit strange when we arrived as there were lots of people we sort of knew but, as it was a competition, everyone seemed to be sizing one another up and we all felt a bit awkward! It's been quite a few years since either Rebecca, Tim or I have competed, but the memories came flooding back - along with the nerves! I can honestly say I cannot remember the last time I felt so nervous. Not only were we to perform in front of five judges but also, as there was no public involved, to an audience consisting of purely horsey people involved in the same sphere as us!

There were nine acts there, and we knew three of them, so we eventually plucked up the courage to go and talk to them. It turned out everybody was just as nervous, so we all decided to just go for it and have as much fun as possible - easier said than done when you're as anxious as we were! Our turn came around just before lunchtime, so we had everybody else watching us, and before we knew it we were on! The boys were brilliant and in general it all went really well. There were a few bits that didn't go as smoothly as usual because we'd cut the show to fit into the twenty minute slot, but all in all we felt good about it. The one thing that took us by surprise was that by the end of the roman riding we were miles in front of the music - because we were doing it in an arena the area we were covering was much smaller, so our running and swapping over had taken far less time than usual, but better that way round than running out of time! My favourite part was right at the end (!!) when we were both standing up waving our ribbon sticks with Tinker cantering about two lengths behind Ronan - I could have practically reached forwards and caught Becca's ribbons!

We managed to watch a few of the other acts, and saw some amazing trick riding, some beautifully trained horses and dogs, jousting, and some crazy pony driving carriage jumping! I only managed to take a few photos as cameras were forbidden, but click here to see them. Then we had to wait for the results. The plan was that three acts were going to be chosen to go through to the final to perform again with the winners being announced at the end of the evening. So we all sat around nervously with our fingers crossed hoping for good news. But, unfortunately it was not to be. Alex had heard the result whilst the rest of us were back at the lorry, and just walked towards us shaking his head. We were gutted. They had also changed the plans, and had selected four acts. They were going to amalgamate two of the acts and have the final resulting three perform at the British Open in April with the public deciding who should go on to perform at Horse of the Year Show the following October.

The acts they had chosen were the two trick riding acts, a quadrille act of twenty horses and riders, and the jousting. Whilst we were congratulating everyone on getting through we were gratified to be told by many people how surprised they were that we hadn't been selected - not quite the same as being chosen but pleasing none the less! Following the announcement we went to see the judges for some feedback, which turned out to be very positive and very constructive. The main problem they had had with us was that our act simply wasn't fast enough. Whereas trick riding is performed at a gallop, vaulting is better suited to a collected canter, something which both Rebecca and I have worked very hard at training our horses to achieve (especially Tinker!). Also, whilst comparable, trick riding and vaulting are two very different disciplines, as are, for example, cross country and show jumping, so to try and increase our speed to that similar to trick riding would go against the very ethos of vaulting. However, speed was what they wanted so unfortunately we couldn't deliver. But never mind, hopefully one day we'll get there - just not this year! They also gave us some other helpful pointers about flow and focus, which we've taken on board and are working on!

On Sunday morning we once again set off bright and early, this time on our way to Danson Park for a one day solo show. This is a lovely little show, and one we had done a couple of years ago - albeit with a much smaller team! We had a lovely day catching up with lots of friends we hadn't seen since last year, especially Charlie, Emma, Tilly, Izzy, Randall and Geoff! Although our shows went well we did have some trouble with the microphone. In the first show it kept cutting in and out, and for the second show it refused to work at all unless I was standing in the corner of the arena facing the music tent! It's not easy commentating a show with your back to the arena! The weather was glorious though and we had a brilliant time. We saw the Horkesley Park Suffolk Punches, along with their beautiful new arrival - a fourteen week foal, who already weighed 190 kilos! And at the end of the day we got to play on the giant selection of inflatables! Have a look at the video below to see us on the slide - brilliant fun until you realised how many friction burns it gave you!

This weekend is busy again, with solo shows at Tysoe Flower Show (very local to us) on Saturday, before driving up to Knutsford for the Cheshire Game Fair where we're performing our duo shows on Sunday. I'll let you know how we got on next week!

Lots of love

Rosie xx

Friday, 7 August 2009

Thornton le Dale Show

We had a lovely day on Wednesday at the Thornton le Dale Show - and managed the journey there and back without incident! Rebecca, Ronan, Myself, Tinker and Alex set off on Tuesday morning for the 190 mile five hour journey to Yorkshire - we're really putting in the miles this week! Having arrived and set up (with help from the lovely Jack!), we went off to explore the village (and pub!) for the evening. On our return who should we see wondering around in the dark outside the tent but Tinker! It's very rare that we leave the tent and horses by themselves, and Tinker has never escaped before (its usually Ronan's speciality!), but the naughty little monkey had apparently been running amok around the showground refusing to be caught by anyone! Having successfully returned the miscreant to his stable we were then sorting them out for the night only for Tinker to walk straight out of his stable again! He obviously had the taste for freedom and Yorkshire grass - Tinker by name...!

There was loads to see at the show and as our first performance wasn't until 1.30pm we had time to walk around and enjoy everything. We saw goats, sheep, cattle, rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, pigeons and pigs. One of the pigs, a British Saddleback was soooo enormous - I've never seen a pig so big, she looked like a beached whale! Another of the pigs was so exhausted by her hectic day she had fallen fast asleep, and was snoring so loudly you could hear her from miles away - I'm sure we heard her before we saw her! And I had to take a video of her...

There was also lots of different horse classes, including: ridden fancy dress; heavy horse with foal at foot (gorgeous shire babies); decorated horse (shires covered with lots of flowers and brasses - they looked amazing); authentic driving (a lovely little butchers cart, and the most gorgeous coloured driving horse - I would have taken him home if I could!). There were also falconry demonstrations, terrier racing, and displays by the Kangaroo Gymnastic team - who were very very bouncy! To see all the photos from the day just click here - there's quite a few!

Although the day had started off rainy by the time our performances came around it was gloriously sunny - and very hot in all our costumes! Both our shows went really well and although the boys were still quite tired they definitely enjoyed themselves. The crowds were brilliant and really got behind us - and we saw some grease arms going alongside us!

We're doing something a bit different tomorrow, taking part in a competition called the H Factor (!). It's for Grandstand Media who organise lots of big shows such as Horse of the Year Show and the British Open. It's our dream to get into the big indoor shows like these - to perform under the lights with a bit of production behind us would be really special - so we're going to be trying our hardest to impress them! Wish us luck and keep you fingers crossed for us! Then on Sunday we're off down to Danson Park for a day of solo shows. We've done this show before and are really looking forwards to catching up with some old friends who we've not seen for a while. So, it's another busy weekend for us, and I'll tell you all about it next week!

Lots of love
Rosie xx

Monday, 3 August 2009

Dumfries Agricultural Show and Gower Show

Phew! We made it! This weekend was one of the hardest we had lined up for the whole season, as it involved driving over 800 miles! So, on Friday morning Rebecca, Ronan, Myself, Tinker and Alex set off for Dumfries, Scotland. We'd been driving for about two and a half hours when all of a sudden BANG! We'd had another blow out. We'd only just had one the previous week on our way to the CLA Gamefair, but now we still had 180 miles to go - too far to ride the horses this time!

Having rung the road rescue people again (we're now practically on first name terms with them!) we managed to limp off at the next junction and find a place to park, unloaded the horses and waited. Not for long though! Becca barely had time to clean Ronan up (who had managed to make an incredible mess of himself - his best yet!) before the lovely tyre man, Scott, came and sorted us out. We were back on the road again within an hour of the blow out - a new record for us!

So we trucked on and finally arrived at Dumfries, eight hours after we set off! Having set up we went to investigate our arena, and couldn't believe the size of it! It was easily the biggest we have ever come across, even larger that the one at Oswestry last year - and we'd thought that was huge! Thankfully, the organisers agreed to rope off one third of it for our performance - but it was still quite large! Saturday morning dawned wet and miserable, and we were convinced we were going to get absolutely soaking during the two duo shows. However, it wasn't as bad as we'd anticipated, we managed to only have a couple of showers during our performances - and we learnt we can roman ride in the rain! Although there was lots of other things going on at the show we didn't really get time to look around, as we were too busy trying to get everything ready for a rapid departure after our second show. But we did see some amazing heavy horse driving pairs and teams - the sun shone for them too and they looked absolutely beautiful, really impressive!

We managed a quick getaway and were on the road for the 380 miles down to Gower. Thankfully the trip was mostly motorway, the journey passed without incident, and we arrived on site at about 2.30am, nine hours of journey time behind us. However, that was when our troubles started. They had had nothing but rain for the past fortnight and the ground was too soft for us to drive onto our pitch. After trying various different approaches for a while (and nearly burning our clutch out in the process!) we realised the only option was to go and wake the tractor man so he could tow us on. So there we were, at 3am in the morning, having the lorry towed backwards onto our pitch. Have a look at the video below to see our stylish arrival at the Gower Show!

Having finally stopped in the right place it was time to set up, but despite appearances to the contrary the ground was actually really hard - those stakes took a lot of knocking in! Thankfully it wasn't raining, and the sky was just beautiful - I can't remember the last time I saw so many stars! At last we'd set up and settled the horses and it was time for bed - 4.30am and not a moment too soon.

Luckily our first show wasn't until 12 noon, so we had a bit of time to recover in the morning. One of the first people to come and see us was the tractor man from the middle of the night, turns out he was actually the show director - oops!! He (John) was lovely though - and promised to come and tow us back out at the end of the day! We weren't the only ones with problems with the ground though. The Rockwood Dog Display team's lorry got stuck up the slope to it's pitch, as did the tractor towing it, as did the second tractor also towing it! In the end they decided to leave it at the bottom of the slope, so then had to tow it backwards, but also keep a tractor on the front to keep it straight - it looked like a giant tractor tug of war!

The weather was glorious and both our solo shows went really well. Tinker and Ronan were both very tired, but tried their hearts out during the shows and both did brilliantly. We really are so so lucky to both have such incredible horses. We love you boys! Unfortunately we only managed to get photos of the second solo show (thankyou Claire for taking so many!), but you can see them and others from the weekend by clicking here. Having been towed off the site, we travelled the 150 mile journey home, arriving back after four hours.

So there you have it - three days, 800 miles, three countries, two shows, four performances, twenty-one hours driving and one very tired Jive Pony team! We've got today off but then tomorrow we're off up to Thornton le Dale (only 190 miles away - easy!) for a one day duo show on Wednesday. I'll let you know how we got on later in the week!

Love Rosie xx