Friday, 5 November 2010

Champions Tour Rehearsal

We had an interesting couple of days last week as we went up to Shropshire for rehearsal for the upcoming Champions Tour with Geoff Billington and Ollie Townend.  Becca, Ronan, Tinker and myself set off for Dave Quigley's yard, and finally got there after our Irish sat nav took us right around the houses!  On arrival we were immediately faced with lots of beautiful smart horseboxes, so we promptly drove around the back and hid with the tractors!

Having settled the horses we waited in the lorry to be called up for rehearsal - only to have a series of clothing malfunctions.  Becca put on some lycra leggings for vaulting in only to realise that not only were they full of holes, but also indecently see through!  So she put some more leggings on underneath and set about sewing up the lycra.  I then went to start the generator and managed to catch my jogging bottoms on the door tearing a big hole across the bottom - good job Becca still had the needle and thread out!  Add in the fact that it was so cold we were both wearing as many layers as is humanly possible, and you can imagine what we looked like by the time we went up for rehearsal!  Ever tried vaulting in a bobble hat and scarf...?

We were a bit apprehensive about rehearsal as we were going to be asking a lot from the horses.  Considering they're used to working in an empty arena within roped off areas and no other obstacles it was quite a change to ask them to canter around an indoor school littered with show jumps, fillers, stages, wires, speakers and people, all of their own accord whilst we vaulted on them - but they were brilliant!  Once they'd got the hang of it they both cantered around beautifully.  The only slight issue we had was that whichever one of them was at the back would try and catch the one in front up, sometimes cutting across the arena to do so!  Not very helpful when you're upside down in shoulderstand!

The last thing we had to do that night was introduce the horses to the spotlights.  Although we'd been working with the lights earlier it hadn't been totally dark, so we brought them back into the arena to see what they thought of them.  It's quite difficult for horses to work in darkness with just spotlights, as you're effectively asking them to go where they can't see.  Add to that the fact that as we have no reins we can't guide our boys at all, and there were plenty of obstacles for them to negotiate, and it's quite a big ask!  Both Tinker and Ronan were a little bit wary of the bright spotlights to start with and weren't too keen on walking in the light pool, but once we'd got off and shown them that there was noting to worry about they were fine, and didn't let a little bit of light get in their way!

Having tucked the horses up for the night Becca and I retired to the lorry.  Luckily we had electricity plug-in, which meant we could have our little oil radiator on the go.  This was a real godsend, as we would have absolutely frozen without it!  (Sorry to Bryn who had to work in his little office with no heat for a couple of days...!)  We still went to bed dressed like arctic explorers - although not before warming our bed socks up on the radiator.  And I have to confess to leaving my knickers on the radiator overnight so they were toasty toasty warm in the morning - lovely!!

The following morning we were due to rehearse again, but unfortunately Tinker had suffered an allergic reaction and all four of his legs were the size of elephant's!  I spent a lot of the morning walking him up and down the surrounding lanes, and thankfully he quickly improved (and is now back on tip top form!)  However, we still had Ronan so we ran through the teaching section we're going to be doing with Ollie.  We didn't want to give him too much practice, as the whole point is to prove that you can't just jump on a horse and vault straight away, but he was really good!  We had him doing all sorts of moves - and then out came the purple tutu!  Yes, we actually had Ollie Townend vaulting on Ronan in a purple tutu.  Brilliant.  You can see the photos for yourself by clicking here.

It was a fun couple of days and we must say thank you to everyone for looking after us so well, and we can't wait to get cracking on the tour itself!  We're starting off at Gleneagles in Scotland, which will bring back many memories as both Rebecca and I competed here a number of times back in the day.  We're just not looking forward to the drive - four hundred miles in one go, eeek!

I'm hoping we'll have wifi at some of the venues, so I can do updates on our facebook page, but I'll definitely be doing a monster blog on our return!

Wish us luck....

Rosie xx

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Southwell Ploughing Match and Team Photoshoot

Our 2010 season is over!  The outdoor shows at least...  We spent the last Saturday in September at Southwell Ploughing Match, Nottinghamshire, for a one day duo show.  It was a full wagon that set off on Friday afternoon with Rebecca, Ronan, Bryn, Tim, Alex, Tinker and myself on board.  We'd left rather late in the afternoon due to the boys' work and college commitments, and that coupled with a road diversion meant by the time we arrived at Southwell it was dark.  Not to worry, we donned our head torches and started the set up.  Unfortunately Tim decided to go to the toilet without a head torch, and whilst he was trying to get his phone out of his pocket to give himself some light he managed to pull his camera out by mistake - which then promptly fell down the toilet - eeek!  Now, although show toilets are never the nicest of places these ones weren't too bad (partly due to the fact that the show hadn't yet started!), so operation retrieve camera commenced.  Tim armed himself with a head torch, plastic gloves, and the grabber (a prop used in the second solo show), and before we knew it he had returned with a very smelly camera!  Having left us to finish setting up Bryn cooked a delicious meal of pasta, green beans and mushrooms with creme freche and pesto -yummy yummy yummy!  I do love a big bowl of pasta...

The following morning we woke to realise the lorry and tent had been completely surrounded by cars.  We were parked around the back of the produce tent and it appeared that every single resident of Nottinghamshire had turned up to exhibit their vegetables, cakes, chutney or preserves, and we were right slap bang in the middle of their car park!  We had to make some hasty barricades up using a combination of bungee cords, dustbins and plastic tape, but even this didn't deter the more tenacious ones!

It was soon show time, although the first show wasn't flawless.  During the first section of vaulting I was in the middle of my helicopter dismount remount when for some reason Tinker went right through the ring rope.  I don't know whether he lost his balance due to my movement or tripped or what happened, but it's never happened before and I think he was as surprised as I was!  We only stopped momentary though, and then it was back into canter to finish the section vaulting around no-mans-land!  Because Tink was then using the outer rope as a guide to his right, and Ronan was working around the outer track using the rope as a guide on his left, Becca and I were virtually vaulting on top of each other!  Thankfully the second show went much better with no impromptu ring exits!

The rest of the show was lovely.  There were lots of beautiful heavy horses doing the ploughing, as well as a pair of coloured asses!  There were also lots of tractors, including some very strange siamese twin type ones - the likes of which none of us had ever seen before!  There were giant vegetables galore, lots of horses, sheep and cattle, and everyone was very friendly, so we had a fantastic day.  Have a look at the photos here.

There was one slight issue which unfortunately we encounter quite regularly at shows; that of riding hats.  All too frequently whilst we are warming Tinker and Ronan up we are asked by show stewards (or told by some of the more officious ones!) that we dismount from our horses because we are not wearing a hat.  Becca was even told to leave the showground by one steward earlier this year - imagine explaining her absence to the organisers!  I've recently been told that I'm setting a bad example to children by riding without a hat, how am I supposed to reply to that?  The fact of the matter is that a) it is not a legal requirement for anyone over the age of fourteen (which unfortunately both Rebecca and I have been for quite some time!) to wear a riding hat, and even then children must only legally do so when riding on the road.  b) we are vaulting, not riding, and as such a riding hat is actually a danger, as it can not only affect your balance and position within certain moves (such as shoulderstand) but can also get caught in the roller, side reins, mane etc.  And c) we have already done our hair and don't want to ruin it by wearing a hat.

The other weekend I was tempted to return to warm Tinker up in the afternoon wearing my top hat, as whilst I was being berated by an angry parent I noticed a lady riding around in full side saddle regalia.  She and her horse looked absolutely beautiful, and was receiving many admiring looks and comments.  However, the hat she was wearing was only a top hat.  No chin strap, no safety standards, no protection if she fell.  So why the double standards?  This is a difficult issue to address, as many people have very strong opinions about it.  I agree that riding hats should be worn, but surely there are exceptions.  Who hasn't jumped on their horse in the field in just a headcollar and cantered back up to the yard?  Horses are there to be enjoyed, and sometimes health and safety can kill that joy.  At a week long event once our stable block was shared by a group of ponies and their young riders.  These children were not allowed to handle their ponies at all (leading, tying up, brushing etc) unless they were wearing a hat, gloves and boots.  Before they were allowed to mount they had to put on a body protector.  I can appreciate the need for safety, but surely all this equipment to even lead a pony is overkill?  In my opinion it is simply teaching the child that horses ARE dangerous and that they WILL hurt you, so you'd better prepare yourself.  Now, I have fallen off and hit my head before (might explain a few things!), I have had my finger bitten, and I have had my foot trodden on more than once (take a bow Casper!), but I have survived, and more importantly I've learnt from mistakes that are usually mine and not that of the horse in question (with the exception of Casper who has the agility of a dancer with his feet!).  Finally, some of the most enjoyable rides I've ever had have been bareback without a hat, glove or boot in sight.  There is no feeling in the world that beats cantering your horse, bareback, up a stubble field with the sun on your face and the wind in your hair, and if I ever have children I will make absolutely sure that it isn't an experience they'll miss out on.  Rant over.  Thank you.

As it was the official end of our season, on our return home we all went out for a meal at the village pub.  This is just across the fields from the yard so we all jumped in the old jeep - Becca driving, me in the passenger seat, and the three boys standing up in the back, and bumped our way across the ridge and furrow - nearly dislodging Tim in the process!  We had a really jolly evening, and although the food was delicious, it wasn't any better than Bryn's cuisine of the previous night!

The following morning we had decided to do a photo shoot to try and get some new team pictures for the posters and keyrings.  Bryn was doing the photography, so him, Alex and Tim loaded up the clown bus with all sorts of lights, cameras and props and set off up the road for Mount Sorrell Farm, where Marilyn and Graham had very kindly said we could use their school.  Becca and I followed behind with Tinker, Casper, Ronan and Navvy - so it really was a full compliment of Jive Ponies!  Having spent ages trying to get the horses to all stand in a line with their ears pricked (a seemingly impossible task!) we did as many static shots as possible before we all froze to death.  Then action shots to warm up!  Whilst Becca and I were warming up the horses ready to vault Bryn was busy taking photos of Tim and Alex.  They were doing lots of different poses, jumping around and generally being silly for the camera when RRRIIIIIIIPP!!  In the middle of a very exuberant leapfrog Tim's trousers gave way!  Amongst the ensuing hilarity Bryn carried on snapping away so needless to say we also have lots of  photos of the unfortunate costume malfunction - it's just a very good job it didn't happen in a show!

Having done some action shots we decided to give Tim a go at roman riding (possible new angle to the show maybe...?), and he was absolutely fantastic!  Tim is an ex-vaulter himself, so is quite au fait with standing on the back of a cantering horse, but he'd never done two before!  Ronan and Tinker were really kind to him  as well, they matched their strides absolutely perfectly for him, and he managed quite a few circuits of the school before doing a spring dismount off Tink - three cheers for Tim!  Bryn got some fantastic photos of everything, just click here to see a selection.  It was finally time to pack up and head home, but not before wrapping ourselves back up in as many layers as possible - why we didn't do a shoot in July...!

We're going to have to get used to the cold though, as we've been booked to appear alongside Geoff Billington and Ollie Townend in their Champions Tour this winter.  This is very very exciting and we're off for rehearsal next week - I'll tell you more very soon!

Lots of love
Rosie xx

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Penistone Show and Wormleighton Fun Ride

Last Friday afternoon Becca, Ronan, Tim, Tinker and myself set off for Penistone Agricultural Show, South Yorkshire, for a one day duo show. Having finally arrived after horrible M1 traffic we had to be towed onto site by a tractor as the ground was already impossible to drive on - that's the second time this year now! Thankfully the rest of the day went without a hitch, although everything underfoot was very very wet, which didn't bode well for the show the following day.

Saturday morning dawned grey and overcast, although we weren't too worried as our performance times were not until 2pm and 4pm. So we passed the time in the morning cleaning tack, sewing and generally being very domesticated - as far as you can be in a lorry on a wet hillside! We also spent the morning waiting for Amy, our lovely new apprentice who was travelling up from London and getting stuck in even worse traffic than we did. Amy is another ex-vaulter, having competed in the British Team (although after mine and Becca's day!). She is now an aerialist, and is so incredibly flexible she puts Becca and I to shame! Thankfully she made it up before the first show, so we set about getting her into costume. Easier said than done when the costume in question was Alex's! So, finally, we were ready for the show! The horses were warmed up, we were warmed up, girths tight, on the horses - and then told the arena was running late and we wouldn't be on for another thirty minutes. So, off horses, back in stables, girths loosened, top hats off, and we waited. It was so funny, having put the horses back in their stables they both started being really active, performing tricks on their own accord and being very attention seeking. They'd obviously been totally ready to go and perform, and decided that they were still going to regardless of the fact that they were back in the tent!

Before long it was show time, and despite our trepidations about the ground (the arena was on a bit of a slope and there had been A LOT of rain) the show went really well.  Both the boys looked after us brilliantly (as usual!), and considering Amy had been thrown in at the deep end clowning for a duo show having never even seen us perform before she did fantastically well!  The only problem we had was music related - in that at one point we had none!  It was for the strip - the part of the show most reliant on music of course!  As per usual Becca asked for 'some music to cover our costume change' and was rewarded with a shake of the head from the music man!  Eeek!  Undeterred, I started off anyway, and people soon got the idea of what was going on!  Thankfully the music came on just as we were finishing the strip, and stayed on for the rest of the show - it turned out that someone had tripped over a lead and unplugged it from the generator - oops!  The rest of the show went well, with Tim On Fire doing a brilliant Thunderhoof - the crowd really got behind him and he definitely won the vault off!

Unfortunately the weather worsened after the first show and by the time our second performance was due the rain had really set in.  By this time it was about 5pm, and most people had gone home already.  We were warmed up, in costume, and ready to go despite the weather, but unfortunately the decision was made to pull the show.  We were very disappointed, but it could have been quite dangerous vaulting with the ground conditions as they were, and all for a very small crowd huddled under umbrellas!  The organisers did say they'd like to have us back, so hopefully next time we go the weather will be kinder to us!

The next day Becca and I had a Sunday off, so we decided to do something that 'normal' people do with their horses - a fun ride!  So we set off for Wormleighton following our sat nav.  She proceeded to take us the most unsuitable route imaginable, which involved three hills of over 12% in steepness and some very very wiggly roads!  Having finally arrived who should we see in the lorry park but Alex!  He was on board a very feisty looking horse, and had just finished the ride.  Probably a good job as I don't think either Casper or Navvy would have kept up with them if we'd have gone round together!  We had an absolutely lovely ride, and the weather was gorgeous.  The route was beautiful and had lots of fantastic wide grass strips for cantering on and lots of jumps.  Casper and Navvy both did really well on the jumping front, and both thoroughly enjoyed themselves.  Casper was brilliant popping over everything I asked him too and being very enthusiastic about the whole thing!  We went around fields, alongside a canal, through farmyards, and up grassy tracks.  Halfway around there was a refreshment stop where we were plied with orange squash (me), port (Becca!) and bourbon biscuits - who could ask for more!  Unfortunately Navvy used the refreshment stop for different purposes, and did the longest wee imaginable!  I haven't seen Becca blush so much for a long time!!  On our return we were given rosettes (now hanging in the lorry!), and practised the horse's tricks.  There was still quite a lot of activity going on around us but both the boys concentrated very well and performed their dances perfectly.  All in all we had a fantastic day and hopefully we'll be able to go back next year - show dates permitting of course!

We're off to Southwell Ploughing Match at the weekend for a one day duo show.  It's our last outdoor show of the season so finger's crossed for sunshine!!  I'll tell you all about it soon but in the mean time have a look at the photos from Penistone Show and the Wormleighton Fun Ride to see what we've been up to!

Lots of love

Rosie xx

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Welsh Festival of the Horse

Wow! Wales is windy! On Friday Rebecca, Ronan, Tinker and I set off for Margam Park, South Wales, for the Welsh Festival of the Horse, where we were to be performing our duo shows for the two day show. Tim and Alex were due to arrive in the evening, as work and college commitments meant they couldn't travel down with us. We were looking forward to the weekend as there were going to be a couple of other teams performing who we know: The Independent Horse Extreme Demo Team and The Knights of Arkley.
Saturday morning came around and before our show Tim headed off to help out with the Independent Horse show. He was going to be horseboarding, which he'd had a go at the previous time we'd met at last years Middlesex Show. This time there was a bit of a difference though. Tim would be boarding behind a pair of horses being roman ridden by the team leader Dan, whilst his brother Tom was boarding as well! You can see from the photo above how it all worked - it looked really good! Tim did really well considering he's only ever done it once before - I don't think he fell off once in all four shows he did for them! It was really good to see the trick riding as well, it's always good to see others perform - it gives you all kinds of ideas!
Our shows both went really well although the arena was quite difficult. Not only was it on a slope but also quite bumpy. Tinker and Ronan looked after us really really well though and didn't put a foot wrong - they really are super boys! The only problem we had was the wind. It was so strong at times it was just ridiculous. My hair was utterly wild to the point I felt like I may as well have done the show blindfold! It was across my face, in my eyes, I even swallowed some of it at one point - not ideal when you're trying to talk on a mic!
Having finished our last show we all stopped to watch the jousting show (Tinker and Ronan included!). They were very good with lots of action - their horses are fiery little things! We stood at the side shouting BOO and HOOZAH, until we nearly had our heads swiped off by one of the bad knights! Tinker was a funny thing watching them all - he was standing at the side of the arena with me watching everything going on with his ears pricked and really paying attention. I think he may fancy a change of career!
In the evening we all sat around the obligatory washing machine drum bonfire with the other teams, although the wind was again very unhelpful and by the time we went to bed we all smelt like we'd been on fire ourselves! The wind didn't let up all night and I've never known the lorry to rock so much! The tent spent the night doing it's best jellyfish impression despite Rebecca's 3am attempts at tying all the wallings down! Luckily none of this seems to worry the boys, although Tinker did spend most of Sunday morning fast asleep, possibly trying to catch up on sleep he'd missed during the night!
Sunday was even more blustery than Saturday, and I can honestly say I have never struggled so much in a show! During the first show there was also a really heavy shower just as we were doing the strip - not ideal weather for taking you clothes off in! We had to laugh as we were stripping whilst people were huddling around the arena in welly boots under their umbrellas! Thankfully it was just a shower and for the rest of the day we only had the wind to contend with. This was enough though and gave Tinker's skipping rope a life of it's own! Roman riding was also tricky as the horses were struggling to canter uphill into the wind, we were struggling to stand on them, and to top it all off we couldn't see because of our hair! Fun and games!!
Despite the unhelpful weather both shows went really well again, and all in all we had a lovely weekend. It was great to see so many old friends, as well as making some new ones, and everyone at the show was very friendly and helpful - especially Roger the sound man who did a superb job!
We're off to Penistone Show in South Yorkshire tomorrow for a one day duo on Saturday. It was going to be a solo show and I'd been gearing up to take Casper for his big debut. However, the organisers rang on Tuesday and asked if they could have the duo instead, so Casper has been relieved of duty and Tinker doesn't get a weekend off after all! I'll tell you all about it soon, but in the meantime you can see a few photos from our windy Welsh weekend here.
Lots of love
Rosie xx

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Circus Workshop, Frogham Fair and Uffington White Horse Show

Phew! We have had a busy week! On Wednesday Becca, Ronan, Tinker and I set off for Marlborough and Giffords Circus. Unlike our last visit, where we taught local school children, this time we were teaching the performers! Unfortunately it rained really heavily all day long, but that seemed to mean we had more people coming to have a go - nothing better to do on a wet Wednesday! Everybody took to it well, and it was really refreshing teaching people who are so aware of their bodies - some of them put Becca and I to shame on the flexibility front! Tinker also experienced a first - having his bottom somersaulted off! You can see it on the little video below - needless to say Tink won't have to get used to that happening!

Friday soon came around and Becca, Ronan, Tim, Tinker and I set off for Frogham Fair, in the New Forest, where we were due to perform our solo shows. This is such a beautiful area, although it's not really the best terrain for eleven tonne horseboxes! There is one particular hill called Blissford Hill (otherwise known to us as Wheelie-barrow Hill, but more on that later...) which is an exceptionally steep 25%, and which took the lorry two attempts to climb! We also had to stop at one point earlier on and get out to move a baby donkey which was quite happily sunbathing right in the middle of the road, and didn't want to get up!

On Saturday morning Becca and I took the boys out for a ride, although I set off a bit later as I was enjoying my book and bed far too much!! I'd not been riding long when we met Becca and Ronan on their way home - and Ronan was plastered in mud! They'd managed to go off piste slightly and Ronan had fallen into a bog right up to his stifle. Becca had had a very frightening few seconds having to jump off Ronan before he managed to extricate himself - luckily with nothing more serious than a black leg! Thankfully there was a little lake on the way home so Becca promptly took off her boots and socks, waded in and gave Ronan a bit of a scrub up! The scenery around Frogham is just beautiful (I actually have photos up on my wall from our last trip there back in 2007), and both Tinker and I loved the ride, as you can see from the little video below.

We went through streams, over bridges, through woods, across open meadows and heather moorland, all the time passing by free roaming cattle, ponies and donkeys. It really was stunning. However, I managed to get completely lost! I was merrily heading back the way I thought was home, when thankfully I checked with a dog walker who promptly informed me I was going in totally the opposite direction - oops! Tinker and I did an abrupt about turn and finally made it back to the show field - but about thirty minutes later than planned!!

Both our shows went really well, with lovely crowds and plenty of sunshine. And then it was time for the wheelbarrow race! Just to explain - competitors have to race up the aforementioned Blissford Hill (25%) whilst pushing a wheelbarrow containing a straw stuffed dummy. No mean feat. Last time we were at Frogham Duncan entered the race and finished in second place, so this year it was Tim (On Fire)'s turn. We got to the hill in plenty of time to see all the other competitors racing and had an agonising wait until, finally, it was Tim's turn. As he was part of the Jive Pony contingent Tim was wearing his JP vest, red braces, red show socks, and the all important black bowler hat. He looked brilliant as he walked down to the bottom of the hill alongside his opponent. And then - they're off!! They were neck and neck to start with but as the hill got steeper Tim pulled away before before finishing in convincing style at a very impressive pace - he'd won his heat! And was top of the leader board! Now we just had to wait for a couple more races to see if his time was fast enough to stay in first place - it was!! Our very own Timothy Carter is the current Blissford Hill Wheelbarrow Challenge Champion! Not only did Tim win a medal, but also a sizeable cup and a bottle of bubbly rose - well worth the effort! Have a look at the video below to see Tim racing to victory!

Having left Frogham we drove up to Uffington for the White Horse Show where we were going to be performing our duo shows on Sunday and Monday. By the time we got there it was pitch black dark, but luckily Alex was on site to meet us and show us where to park the wagon. Having set up in record time we were tired things by the time we crawled into bed! Show time soon came around on Sunday and once again they both went really well. We managed to pull a big crowd who were very enthusiastic - and who helped out a lot by clapping a rhythm for us when the sound system failed and we had no music! It was exceptionally windy though, I have never ever struggled as much with Tinker's skipping rope! It was like a giant unwieldy kite, and I managed to wrap Tink's tail up a couple of times as a result - oops!

In between our shows Alex helped out with the racing pigs; having to wear a very becoming costume whilst chasing a group of pigs up a track and over hurdles! This was really funny until we realised that Alex would obviously then smell of pig, which Tinker absolutely hates. Despite Alex's best effort with the baby wipes Tink still regarded him very suspiciously for the rest of the day - including during our show!

We were all very excited during the day (some of us more than others...) about the performance taking place in the bar that evening. The boys went off down the road to the local beer festival, but with strict instructions to be back for 8pm. Becca and I whiled away the evening in anticipation, went to meet the Devils Horsemen crew in the bar - and then it was time. For Elvis!! And not just any old Elvis - the 2010 World Champion Elvis! He was really really good and in no time at all Becca and I were up dancing - the only ones in the whole marquee to do so! The boys came back from their beer festival after a while to join us, but slightly worse for wear - one exchange went like this:

Alex to me: Timothy's REALLY drunk...

Me to Tim: Timothy. Are you REALLY drunk?


Point proven I think. Not to be deterred Becca and I soon played catch up (over take and lap several times!), and we all spent most of the evening dancing away to Elvis. However, soon we were doing a bit more than just dancing. Elvis (otherwise known as Ben Portsmouth) got Becca and I up onto the stage and told us we were going to be singing with him! EEEKK! No amount of Jack Daniels is ever going to make me a good singer, especially when I realised I'd never even heard of the song let alone knew the words! Becca was in the same boat as me, but we somehow managed to get through it before escaping back to our table, hoping the embarrassment would ease off! It soon did and we were soon back on our feet (and a table - until it broke!) dancing away for the rest of the night! We all had a fantastic evening, so a big thank you to Ben for entertaining (and putting up with) us!

Needless to say the following morning was quite a difficult one. However, despite our trepidations both shows went fantastically well! The horses were absolutely superb, we had no music problems, the wind had eased so I could handle the skipping rope, the vaulting felt easy and the crowds were brilliant - hooray! Bryn (Becca's boyfriend) had come down to see us for the day and took some brilliant panoramic photos of the arena. Some look quite odd as we were obviously moving at speed when he took them so we appear twice each - four horse show anyone?! Thanks must also go to Gordon for taking huge amounts of photos during the two shows - really not sure about some of our facial expressions though! We really enjoyed Uffington Show, and they obviously enjoyed us - they booked us for next year before we'd even left the site!!

All in all we had a brilliant weekend, probably my favourite of the whole season. You can see the photos by clicking on the links below:

Circus Workshop

Frogham Fair

Uffington White Horse Show.

We're off to Wales on Friday for the Welsh Festival of the Horse where we'll be performing the duo shows on Saturday and Sunday - I'll let you know how we get on next week!

Lots of love

Rosie xx

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Camelford Show

It was over a week ago now but we had a lovely time down in Cornwall for the Camelford Show. We were there to perform our solo shows and drove the five hours down with no problems at all - until we tried getting onto the show field! As there had been so much rain the ground was very muddy, so the lorry got stuck in the gateway. This is the first time this has happened this year though so our luck isn't too bad! We unloaded the horses before the tractor came to pull us out, and from then on in everything went smoothly - well, almost!

Bryn (Becca's boyfriend) had followed us down in his car, which promptly managed to breakdown just after he'd arrived on site and parked next to us! Good old AA though soon had him sorted out the following day. We also arrived at the same time as Paul and Ollie (Cyril the Squirrel), who we'd only seen a few days earlier at the Wayland Show. Although we started our set up at the same time, they'd finished after about ten minutes whereas we take a little bit longer! As there was quite a few of us there we'd decided to have a barbeque. Bryn excelled himself on the shopping and cooking front, and we all sat down to a veritable feast whilst watching the sun set over the sea - idyllic! After a while some old friend's of Bryn's arrived for the evening, and joined us around the amazing washing machine drum fire. This is a fantastic idea which we pilfered from Jemma and David (Syers Shires), again at the Wayland Show.

Show time soon came around on Wednesday, and despite some very ominous black clouds the weather held for us. Tinker was brilliant for the first show, cantering beautifully so I didn't even have to think about him - I wish he was like that more often! Ronan also went well, although the end of the show didn't quite go to plan. Just before our show the Grand Parade had been through the arena, and quite a few of the cows had left pats dotted about. I'd managed to avoid them through the whole show, but as I was running out to Ronan to get on him I stood in a giant one! I didn't realise I'd done it until I was on Ronan, by which time it was far too late! Ronan had started the show beautifully white, but by the time I'd finished vaulting on him he had great big green smears all over him - oops! I then embarrassed myself further by finishing the show with 'Thank you ladies and gentlemen! My name's Rebecca! No it isn't - she's Rebecca - I'm Rosie!' Ooops again!! Never mind, a bit of humility is good for the soul. Apparently.

All in all we had a lovely day. We also saw some polocrosse, lots of fantastic vintage tractors, and some gorgeous heavy horses - just click here to see the photos. Although we've not got any shows until the bank holiday weekend (only four days away as I'm writing this now), we've been keeping busy. I performed at Dunster Show with the Devil's Horsemen on Friday (my first trick riding outing since the same show last year - I ached on Saturday!!). We also taught our usual group of girls for an open day at Durham's Farm, where newcomers were then invited to have a go. And tomorrow we're back to Giffords Circus to do yet more teaching (it's the performers this time, not schoolchildren, so they'll put Becca and I to shame on the flexibility front!). As for shows, we're off to Frogham Fair on Friday for solo shows on Saturday, followed by a drive up to the Uffington White Horse Show for duo shows on Sunday and Monday. Phew! I'll tell you how everything goes next week!

Lots of love

Monday, 9 August 2010

Blakesley Show

On Friday afternoon Becca, Ronan, Alex, Tinker and myself set off for the fairly local Blakesley Show, where we were due to perform our duo shows on the Saturday. The show was only about forty miles away, so we didn't think it'd take us that long to get there. However, the route was the wiggliest wooest way imaginable, which is not good when you're in an eleven tonne HGV! We finally got there though, and set up with no problems - only to be told that we weren't on until 2.30pm the following day, so we could have travelled down in the morning!

Whilst we were setting up we turned Tinker and Ronan out into the main arena so they could get used to it. We normally try and do this anyway, but it was especially important at Blakesley as the arena was on quite a slope, and it just helps them to get used to the area in which they have to work. When the time came to get them in for the evening there was the most beautiful sky imaginable, as you can see from the photos above. Even though the photos came out quite well, they still don't quite capture how vivid the colours were, and over the course of the evening the sky changed from oranges and reds through to pinks, blues and purples. Added to the fact that the showground was practically deserted the whole evening had an almost eerie feel to it!

We had a bit of a lazy morning (tack cleaning and boot sewing!), but show time soon came around - and just before it did the heavens opened! We were lucky in the end as it rained before we warmed the horses up, but stopped whilst we were working them, then rained whilst we were getting into costume, but stopped just before the show - phew! We don't like getting wet! Unfortunately though, the rain had made the ground super slippery, and although it didn't seem to effect the horses much the same can't be said for me! At the end of the first section of vaulting I did a lovely big flank off, only for my feet to slip straight out from underneath me when I landed and I ended up sitting down abruptly on my bottom! Not very elegant!! Apart from that one incident both shows went really well. The roman riding wasn't quite as smooth as it can be but considering we were working on a slippery slope it couldn't have gone much better!

There was a lot of showing going on throughout the day; everything from sheep and cattle through to horses and pigs, plus some steam engines, driving horses and a parade of hounds. Unfortunately we completely neglected to take any photos - sorry! We did see quite a few people we knew, including Alice and Ingrid, two of the little girls we'd taught at Quainton Stud pony club camp last Wednesday, who were especially enthusiastic with the applause throughout the show - so thank you!

It was soon time to pack down and come home - although we left Alex behind! This was intentional, we didn't just forget him! There was a big Young Farmers party planned for the evening and a few of his friends from college were there - so we left him to it! I'm assuming he survived the night, but neither Becca nor I have heard from him since...

We're off to Cornwall tomorrow, ready to perform our solo shows at Camelford Show on Wednesday. We have been to Camelford before but it was way back in 2007, and before Tinker was out and about doing shows! We're going to try and get down nice and early so we can take the horses to the beach and swim them in the sea - something I'm really looking forward to and which we've not done since Emsworth Show, again back in 2007!

I'll let you know how we get on and make sure we take lots of photos this time!

Lots of love
Rosie xx

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Wayland Show

We ventured into Norfolk for the very first time on Saturday for the Wayland Show, where we were due to perform our duo shows on the Sunday. Becca, Ronan, Tinker, Alex and myself arrived safe and sound, but when we unloaded the horses Becca had a very nasty surprise waiting for her. Ronan had managed to make the most disgusting mess of himself, and most definitely wasn't as white as he had been when he was loaded up! Having set up (and cleaned up in Becca's case) Alex and I marked out the arena, which was a good width but very long. We decided that as we were missing Tim we'd have a gap in the outer ring (instead of a gate) which would mean less running around for Alex. However, this was to prove a big mistake - more on that later...

When the time came for the first show on Sunday Becca and I helped Alex set up half the arena, before leaving him to finish it and dashing back to the tent to put our costume on, grab the horses and get back to the arena. We did this in record time, and were just about to go into the arena when Becca said 'Rosie - your trousers are on back to front!' EEEEEEEKK! They were!! I had no time to change them so just had to go in smiling and hoping they'd come off ok when it came to the strip! I felt (and looked!) such an idiot, but thankfully they came off without any problems, although it's not an experiment I plan to repeat any time soon! Aside from that, the first show went really well - although in such a long arena catching the horses back up in the roman riding section practically gave us both a heart attack!

The second show came around quickly but didn't go entirely smoothly. Ronan went off on the wrong leg for the roman riding and try as I might I couldn't get him to change! As Becca approached she pulled him back to a trot which pulled me and Tinker around and I very nearly fell off! Luckily it was just a little wobble, Ronan corrected himself, Becca got on and off we went again - TA DAH! The show then went fantastically well until the very final vaulting part. Tink and I had done one lap of the arena and were just approaching the gap for the second time. I was backwards on the neck and picked up the outside rein to try and guide him past the gap but I was slightly too late and he managed to duck inside the rope. This meant we were now in nomansland - not a good place to be! Tink then managed to confuse himself, and nearly ran into the inner ring rope. As his canter became uneven I got stuck on his neck as I was unable to let go - not very elegant! We then did a lap around the outside of the inner ring ('Hello Becca!') whilst I sorted myself out, before getting back onto the outside track and finishing the show! So although both shows had some dicey bits on the whole the both went well!

Aside from performing we had a lovely time at the show. There were lots of people there we knew including David and Jemma from Syers Shires, Paul from Cyril the Squirrel with his son Ollie, Bob Hogg with his dogs and ducks (and chickens!), and Richard from the Sheep Show. Having packed down on Sunday afternoon (thank you Paul and Ollie for the help!) we went across for a chat with David and Jemma, and their gorgeous puppy Alfie. Alex managed to wangle a little ride on Pie, one of their lovely Shires have a look at the video below to see him and Jemma in action!

We did manage to get some photos from the weekend, just click here to have a look at them. There are also loads and loads from the whole show on the Caston Camera Club website (we're in the trade stands and display teams section) - some of them are quite up close and personal!

As well as the shows we've been doing quite a bit of teaching lately, and have spent the last two Wednesdays at Quainton Stud teaching Pony Club children. We've been taking Casper and Navvy (and Ronan once), and they've been brilliantly behaved. I haven't managed to get any photos of these days yet but as soon as I do I'll put them up.

We're of to Blakesley Show tomorrow for a one day duo on Saturday, so I'll tell you all about that next week!

Lots of love

Rosie xx

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

CLA Game Fair

We had a fantastic weekend at the Game Fair, but we definitely worked hard over the three days with three duo shows, six solo shows and a parade - phew! Becca, Ronan, Tinker and I set off on Thursday for Ragley Hall, a nice easy drive of only twenty-five miles. Alex was going to meet us there, and Tim and Rachael were due in the morning, so there was going to be plenty of us! As soon as we arrived on site we turned the boys out into a nearby small arena whilst we waited to be sited before setting the tent and stables up. We’d nearly finished our set up when we were approached by a very officious steward (with a golf buggy and walkie talkie no less!) and told that we needed to move our horses ‘within three minutes’! So we leisurely finished what we were doing before wandering up to collect our horses, who both had the audacity to be quietly grazing! Luckily we'd been sited right next to an area which had been fenced off with 'Danger - Overhead Power Lines - DO NOT ENTER' signs, which made an ideal turn out paddock for the boys over the whole weekend!!

Friday was fairly hectic as we had a duo show in the main arena at 12.30pm, followed by Tinker’s solo show in the smaller hooked on horses arena at 2.05pm, then Ronan’s solo at 4.30pm and finally a parade and demo with Tinker in the main arena at 6pm – busy busy busy! All the shows went really well – although not completely flawless! For our very first show of the 2010 CLA Game Fair in the main arena we went in waving and smiling before I came to introduce the show – only my mic wouldn’t work! There followed an embarrassing few seconds of confusion before my mic was whisked away to be sorted out. Next thing I know I have both Tim and Alex racing towards me (both with a hilarious comedy run!) and both thrusting mics at me – so I went from no mic to two in the space of a few seconds, not the best start! The show then went really well until the roman riding section, where Tinker set off like a speeding bullet with Ronan doing his best to keep up. The start was very dicey but about half way through Ronan’s anchor kicked in and they both slowed to a much more manageable pace. Things went well again until the final part of the show when Tinker definitely engaged his turbo boost! I don’t think he physically could have gone any faster, he was flat out galloping with me hanging on as best I could doing my nice safe moves (including a shoulderhang though!!). I secretly love it when he goes fast – but not quite as much as he does! Both the solo shows and the evening parade went smoothly, but by the time the day was over we were absolutely exhausted, and I’m afraid to say Becca and I were in bed by about 9pm, and asleep not long after!

Saturday was a bit steadier as we had slightly longer between the duo show and the first solo, as well as there being no evening parade. We were very lucky in the morning as Katherin (Becca’s Mum) came over and gave both Becca and I, and the horses, a shiatsu treatment – which really helped all our achy bodies! All the shows went really well and we had an especially fantastic crowd in the grandstand of the main arena for the duo show. It gave us a real buzz as we whizzed past during the roman riding (not at quite such a speed as on Friday thankfully!) and saw everyone joining in with the ‘Greased Lightning’ arms! As we weren’t so tired in the evening Becca and I decided to go for a wander down to one of the main bars, and ended up sharing a jug of Pimms’ in the company of Chris Green and all the other BASC guys! We had a lovely evening chatting to them all, but it was way past our show day bed time by the time we eventually went to bed!

Sunday was our final day – and it seemed the day for everyone we knew to come and see us! Whilst waiting in the collecting area before going in for the duo show I saw at least thirteen people who’d come up to the main arena specially to see us. Although we love a big audience it makes you feel far more nervous than usual when there are people you know watching! Thankfully the show went without a hitch, and everyone was very complimentary afterwards! Both our solo shows went well too, and before we knew it we were packing up to come home! All in all we had a fantastic weekend, the weather was beautiful, our horses and glamourous assistants were brilliant, and the crowds were fantastic - so thank you if you were there cheering us on! We saw too many people to mention, but special hellos go to Paul and Sean, our most enthusiastic fans, Riva, our smallest fan, Stuart, an avid blog follower, Mike, who always brings Tink and Ronan treats, and of course the two Robins and Willow who always look after us so well - THANK YOU!! (And apologies to anyone else I've forgotten!) I must also make a special thank you to Justin from Hornets Hats, who not only sponsors Becca and I our gorgeous Top Hats, but this year has also sponsored the boys their fantastic Bowlers, which they are both over the moon with!

We've a busy day tomorrow as we're off down to Quainton Stud to teach at a Pony Club camp. We're going to be taking Navvy and Casper as it's high time they contributed to the whole earning effort! I'll let you know how we got on soon, but in the mean time you can see loads of photos from our time at the CLA here.

Lots of love
Rosie xx

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Todenham Village Fete

We had a lovely afternoon on Saturday at our local village fete in Todenham, although it didn't quite go according to plan! We had initially thought we'd use the fete as a debut for Navvy and Casper, it being nice and local (we could hack there in ten minutes) as well as fairly small. However, Becca and I went up for a site visit on Saturday morning which unfortunately made us change our minds. As per last weekend at Kingham Commotion there was no arena, just our ring set up, meaning that the audience would all be very close. There were also marquees very close to two sides of the arena, and rattly gazebos with fluttering bunting on a third. We were still umming and ahhing about whether to use the babies or not when the organiser came over and said 'Is it OK girls? We're going to have the bouncy castle here...' whilst pointing at the only open side of the square! This made our minds up and we decided the show was going to have to be done by the old faithful - Ronan.

After Becca had bathed Ronan I put a crest plait down his mane with red ribbon threaded through - he looked like a real princess! Him and Becca (in full costume and make up) then set off across the fields for the fete, looking a bit over dressed for a hack! Having arrived on site we were relieved to see we'd made the right decision by not bringing Casper and Navvy. The circle we had to work in was too enclosed and intense, there were people packed in tightly all around the ring, and it just would have been too much for them. Even Ronan played up, which is unheard of! Whilst Tim was doing his little kazoo strip routine Ronan stood in the middle, bucked and farted and then set off at a trot around the ring in the wrong direction! Very bizarre! Having got that out of his system he did the rest of the show well, despite the arena being fairly uneven. The whole show went well without any mishaps, the crowd was really responsive and obviously loved it. It's quite strange performing in front of so many people we know, but it definitely went down well! Katherin (Becca's mum) was our photographer for the day - have a look at her handiwork here.

We're off to the CLA Gamefair on Thursday for a three day show. We love this show, but it's hard work! We do one duo show plus two solo shows a day, as well as a parade on Friday evening - phew! I just hope our arrival on site goes smoother than it did last year! I'll tell you all about it when we get back.

Love Rosie xx

Friday, 16 July 2010

Kingham Commotion and Northcote Heavy Horse Centre Vaulting Training Day

We had a busy weekend last weekend with two very long but very fun and useful days. Saturday morning started bright and early as usual with our vaulting group. Our girls are all really coming on now and I will write a post dedicated to them just as soon as everything else settles down! Having arrived back it was time to bath Tinker, Casper and Navvy and head off to Kingham for the local Commotion Festival. We'd rushed about getting everything done and ready, got there in record time (with me doing show makeup in the back of the wagon on the journey!), I'd tacked up Tink and warmed him up, and was just getting changed when we were told they'd changed the timetable and we weren't on for another hour and a quarter! So, tack and costume off - find food and eat! Show time soon came around though and having repeated the earlier processes again we were ready to go. We were only performing once so we'd chosen to do the second solo show, with Becca doing all the commentary as her ankle was still too painful to vault on (unfortunately Navvy had tripped over whilst being ridden the previous week landing on her - luckily nothing broken though!). There wasn't an arena for us to work in so we just set up our circle and used that, although it did mean people were in very close proximity to us - despite telling everyone to keep back they were soon practically on top of the ring rope! Tinker was fantastic though and just put himself on a slightly smaller circle - so everyone's toes were safe! The show went really well, and the crowd was huge - I think everyone at the festival came down to see what was going on!

Having done the show it was now time for pony rides. We'd decided to use Casper and Navvy for this, to try and ease them into a show situation. However, getting them into the designated area was far from easy! We had to walk through a barrier with fluttery decorations right next to the main stage with banks of speakers and very loud music, before leading them through a wood which was like a giant art installation, with hanging mirrors, statues, sculptures and paintings - and all surrounded by a lot of people! It was like the ultimate handy pony class! Both of them coped amazingly well - there's nothing like throwing them in at the deep end! We then proceeded to put child after child after child up on them and lead them backwards and forwards through the wood, something which they did remarkably well! It was a brilliant training exercise for them both which will hopefully stand us in good stead for tomorrow - more on that later!

Sunday came and it was another early start for a three hour drive up to Spilsby in Lincolnshire and the Northcote Heavy Horse Centre. We were there for the day to teach and were going to use their horses, so at least all our boys could have the day off! We had a mixed group, some complete beginners and some who had been vaulting a while. We played loads of warm up games putting them all through their paces before moving onto the barrel - and then the giant horses! The horses we were using were Samson, an 18.2hh Shire and Bosun, a 17.2hh Percheron. Not small! Unfortunately neither of the horses work in canter, but we still managed to give everyone a good workout in walk. We had a fantastic day and the weather was just beautiful - so much so that both Becca and I managed to get a real farmer's tan from our vest tops! Everyone vaulted really well, especially the five girls who had never tried it before. They seemed to take to it like ducks to water and despite some initial misgivings I had them all doing split leg dismounts, roll around the handle, leap frog off and australian dismounts before the end of the day - only on the barrel though, the horses were a bit too big! The team vaulters all did really well too, with Becca working on their freestyles with them, improving current moves as well as adding some new ones in. Special thanks must go to Terena and Maria who organised the whole day - and fingers crossed we'll be going back one day, possibly with Tinker and Ronan (or Casper and Navvy!)!

Speaking of Casper and Navvy, it's their debut tomorrow. We're doing a little show at our local village fete, and are planning on using both the babies to perform the second solo show. Becca and Navvy are going to be doing the vaulting parts whilst Casper and I do the dancing. We're really hoping that the weather is nice, the crowds not too scary and that the boys behave - not much to wish for then! I'll let you know how we get on, but in the meantime you can look at all the photos from last weekend by clicking here (plus lots of extra ones from Sunday here).

Lots of love
Rosie xx

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Ware Carnival

We had a lovely day at Ware Carnival yesterday, although when we arrived on Friday night we'd never have guessed it! Tim, Alex, Tinker, Casper and myself set off on Friday evening - without Becca! We were later leaving than originally planned as Tim had been working at the Goodwood Festival of Speed (his 'normal' job is working with vintage Buggatti racing cars), and having been held up there due to a crash had had to beast his little car back to Oxfordshire - apparently imitating much of the driving he'd been watching all day! All this meant that by the time we reached Ware it was about 9pm, and as we pulled up alongside the playing fields where the show was to be held the following day we were greeted with a rather unnerving sight - a police officer leading a young man down the road in handcuffs! What kind of place was this we wondered!!

Our first hurdle was manouvering our lorry into the playing fields. Easier said than done! Having squeezed through one gate I then had to turn and reverse through another, even smaller, gateway. I managed it without too much shuffling, but there's one hedge in Ware that looks slightly different to how it did last week! We managed to set up without any further problems and went to bed wondering what tomorrow would bring.

Saturday dawned hot and sunny, and before long the show ground began to take shape. The show wasn't due to open until 2pm, so we had plenty of time to sort everything out. As soon as they'd set up the arena I took Casper out to have a training session with him. Casper has never been to a show before, so I took the opportunity to bring him along - and I'm so glad I did! We did quite a bit of work in the arena with everybody setting stalls up and busying around, and none of it bothered him at all. He was a bit clingy in the direction of our tent and called for Tinker a few times, but did everything I asked him without fuss. We did a lot of walk vaulting, and a bit of canter. I would have done more canter but the ground was very hard and the circle quite small so didn't want to push him. I also ran through his full dance routine with him which he performed perfectly! This was especially pleasing as he is due to dance in public at our local village fete in a couple of weeks and I really don't want to be embarrassed by him!

To warm Tinker up before the first show I took him for a lovely long ride through the town, over the bridge on the canal past the lock, along the tow path through the trees and past all the decorated narrow boats, before crossing another bridge and arriving back in the car park next to the show field. However, I couldn't get back into the show field as the main carnival parade was just about to start coming past and the pavements were lined with people! Having explained why I couldn't turn around and ride all the way back to an official I was allowed through the people before joining the parade between the majorettes and the first float! I was trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, but it's not easy on a 16.1hh coloured horse! I only had to go about five metres before ducking back through the people and into the show field, but we still got a ripple of applause! It wouldn't have been too bad if I was in costume, but unfortunately I was bare foot in just shorts and a vest top - oops!!

As soon as the parade arrived into the show field it was time for our show - and Tim's commentating debut! He did really well, despite the radio mic being a bit intermittent, and took us through the show with only a couple of stumbles. The crowd we had was absolutely huge - I think practically every single resident of Ware was there! Tinker was fabulous, and loads of people came back with us after the show to have their photo taken with him - he even pricked his ears for some of them! The second show came around quite quickly, and although Tim seemed cool, calm and collected he's since admitted he was absolutely bricking it! He needn't have been though, his commentary was much smoother throughout the second show with only a few prompts needed from me! Alex did the volunteer part of the show really well, having only had one brief practice on Tink at the Three Counties Show, and I managed to stay on until I was supposed to fall off, unlike last week!

After the second show we went for a wander around the rest of the festival site (on a hunt for an ice cream van!), and there was loads going on. There were about eighty stalls all together, as well as fairground rides, the decorated narrow boats and all sorts. It was a really lovely festival and we had a fantastic time there - which just goes to show that first impressions aren't always correct! We were really well looked after throughout the day by Ros, but especially by Shirley. It wasn't until later in the day when we were chatting to Shirley's husband Stuart that we found out Shirley used to be on the British Women's Basketball Team and has represented Britain in international tournaments numerous times! We were very impressed, and then found out that Stuart himself has competed in the Olympics - what a pair! Stuart now commentates for a lot of sporting events for the BBC, at which point Tim was keen to get some advice on commentating techniques!

Before we knew it it was time to pack down, and whilst we did so I turned my boys out into little makeshift pens were the arena had been. This was mainly for Casper's benefit as I wanted him out and about as much as possible. He was really good as there was still lots of flappy red and white tape strung about, stall holders tidying up, a big bunch of white balloons and endless people fussing over him. He took it all in like an old pro, and spent most of the time wandering between different people to see where he could get the most attention! Having wriggled the lorry back out of the playing fields (sorry hedge!) we trucked on home without incident. All in all we had a lovely day, even after the dodgy start on Friday night! The shows both went really well with Tink being fantastic, Tim coped brilliantly with his new role (and actually quite enjoyed it I think!), Casper had a lovely first show experience, and Alex was his usual glamourous self! There are quite a few photos from the day, just click here to see them all. You can also see the Town Council's official photo galleries from the entire day by clicking here and here - and see just how much was going on!

We've got a very local show on Saturday, at the Kingham Commotion, so I'm sure they'll be lots of familiar faces in the audience! I'll tell you all about it next week.

Love Rosie xx

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Broughton Game Show

We spent last weekend up in Yorkshire, for a one day solo show at Broughton Game Show. Rebecca, Ronan, Tim, Tinker and myself made the four hour trip up on Saturday afternoon with no problems at all. When we arrived on site the first thing we noticed was the arena, which was on a huge slope. On closer inspection it turned out that not only was it very steep, but also extremely uneven - not conducive to good vaulting! We joked about it to David, the organiser, who just said 'Well Girls, it'll be a challenge!'. He wasn't wrong!

We hadn't long been set up when Ben (my boyfriend) arrived, along with Stanley, his four week old Goshawk. Stanley is just starting to be quite mobile and spent a lot of the evening whizzing up and down the ramp of the lorry, before attacking rolled up tail bandages and travelling boots - much to our amusement!

Before we knew it it was Sunday - showtime! In preparation for this weekend coming, Becca and I were swapping shows - for the first time ever! In we went for the first show, in the blazing midday sun. The crowd was huge, but as I tried to welcome them and introduce the show I realised my mic wasn't working! After some confusion with batteries I got handed a head mic. This worked well but it meant I couldn't give Ronan any vocal encouragement to make it up the slope - and he definitely needed it! Unfortunately Ronan didn't cope with the arena and was being quite difficult, but Becca did amazingly well to vault on him and pulled of all the moves regardless! It felt quite strange just commentating and not vaulting, but it'll make up for next week when I'll be just vaulting and not commentating at all!

Next it was my turn for the second show. Whilst warming Tinker up there was a display by an acrobatic plane. Some of the moves he was doing were amazing - loop the loops, corkscrews, and all sorts! Luckily Tink doesn't mind anything like this - we had the Red Arrows flying over us at Eye Show last year! I was a bit nervous going into the show as I'd never done 'the full strip on the back of a cantering horse' in front of an audience before! I fumbled a little bit, and took a bit too long to get the final piece of the frou-frou skirt off, but managed it in the end! Tinker coped with the arena slope really well, and properly looked after me throughout. He also didn't mind the volunteer bit which he's only done once before, although I managed to fall off slightly earlier than expected! At the end of the show it was Becca's turn to vault on him, which she was slightly apprehensive about as he's so different to Ronan. No bother though, Tink cantered well and Becca vaulted really well! I was spying from the toilet tent and trying to take photos of her vaulting - so much so that I nearly missed my cue to come back out and get back on!

After the shows we were offered a go on the Rodeo Bull which was set up next to us. We'd been eyeing it up all day watching people fall off (some in spectacular fashion!), so were really glad to get a go! The last time we did something like this was at the Mid Suffolk Show last April, where Becca, myself, Alex and Simon rode a rodeo pig! This time I was up first, and managed to fall off fairly promptly! Becca followed and stayed on for about five seconds longer, before doing an amazing somersault right over the bull's head! Finally it was Tim's turn, whose time was somewhere in between ours - not bad for a funny man! Have a look at the little video below to see our attempts! We also managed to get a few photos from the rest of the weekend, just click here to have a look at them.

Next weekend we're off to Ware Town Carnival for a one day solo show on Saturday. However - Becca isn't coming!! Eeeek!! I'm going to be doing both shows on Tinker, with Tim commentating and Alex being our glamourous assistant. This is quite a big change for us so fingers (and hooves!) crossed it will all go to plan! I'm also going to take Casper along, just so he gets to see a bit of show atmosphere and experience the whole thing without any pressure to perform. I'll let you know how we get on next week!

Rosie xxx

Thursday, 24 June 2010

The Three Counties Show

We've just had a fantastic long weekend at the Three Counties Show, one of our very favourite shows of the year. Thursday afternoon and Rebecca, Ronan, Tinker and myself set off in the lorry for Malvern, with Bryn (Becca's boyfriend) following behind in his classic red fire truck (aptly christened 'the clown bus'!), and Tim due to meet us on site. As Alex is now busy being an apprentice farrier over in Wales he wasn't going to be able to join us until Friday night, which meant Bryn was being thrown in at the deep end to glamourously assist us!

On arrival the first thing we did was to turn the boys out into the collecting ring, right next to the arena where Doug had turned out his two mares Ella and Diamond. Despite the fact that Ella is twenty-two years old, and Diamond is thirty-six, Tinker (who has just celebrated his eighth birthday!) spent the entire evening flirting outrageously with the pair of them, and having his amourous feelings enthusiastically reciprocated! The romance lasted all weekend with both the girls and Tink whinnying for each other whenever they were taken out of sight of one another!

Friday came around quickly and it was soon time for Bryn's debut! As he is (among other things!) a commentator by trade, Becca had decided he was going to do some mic work. So for the first time we had a full introduction - '...they've made it all the way over Fish Hill to be here... They're the ninth wonder of the Cotswolds....Ladies and Gentlemen - JIVE PONY!!' All credit to Bryn though, being a glamourous assistant is no easy task, but he took to it like a duck to water! Now we have another boy in our clown cupboard - I think that's five now... Alex arrived in the evening and we bade farewell to Bryn and the clown bus - although I'm sure they'll return before too long!

In between the shows on Saturday we rushed up to the main arena to see the King's Troop perform. They certainly filled the arena - they had six World War One gun carriages, each pulled by a team of six horses, plus another thirty-four ridden horses. That's seventy horses all together!! They did a beautifully choreographed high speed display to music, before setting all the guns off. The guns were so loud, wherever we were on the site throughout the weekend you could literally feel the ground shake! I managed to get a little video of some of their ride, have a look below.

Saturday also found both Tim and Alex, followed by Becca and I, volunteering to take part in the Adams Axemen display. This involved sawing through a fifteen inch log with a cross-cut saw, something which the axemen can do in a record time of 9.7 seconds! Needless to say it took us quite a bit longer! The boys were actually quite good at it, whereas it took Becca and I a good few minutes! And it really really makes your arms ache! It was good fun though, and the crowd cheered us on - no doubt helped by the fact that we were both still in costume!

On Sunday the main arena had harness racing, where the horses perform a special gait called pacing. Although it's only a two beat gait those horses can seriously shift! There was a super fast grey, who despite being quite heavily handicapped still managed to overtake everything else on the outside of the bends and go on to win! Have a look at the video below to see how fast he was!

All in all we had a fantastic weekend, and between us we managed to get quite a few photos - just click here to have a look at them. All of our shows went well without a single hitch, Tinker and Ronan were their usual fantastic selves, we are so so lucky to have them! The sun shone and the crowds were brilliant for every single show - about seven or eight deep around the arena sometimes! Quite a few people came to see us over the course of the weekend, including one of our girls from our vaulting group, Felicity. Hopefully she was paying attention as the reason we're teaching them all is so that we can retire one day! It was lovely to see some old friends again, as well as making some new ones - shows are never short of interesting people! Special thanks must go, as always, to Robin McKenzie, Robin Gee and Willowe, who always look after us so well, and who we're looking forward to seeing again at the CLA Gamefair next month!

We're off up to Yorkshire on Saturday, for a one day solo show at Broughton Game Show on Sunday. We're swapping our shows around with Becca and Ronan doing the first show, and Tinker and I trying our hand at the second show. We've never done it like this before, and lets just say today's rehearsal was interesting!! I'll let you know how we got on soon...

Lots of love

Rosie xx

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Circus Workshop

We've just spent the day at the circus! Becca, Ronan, Navvy, Casper and I set off this morning for Broadway, to run a circus skills workshop for some local school children on behalf of Gifford's Circus. The day went brilliantly well, aside from the fact that I'm writing this with my foot wrapped in ice - more on that later! Having arrived we took all the horses into the ring to show them what it was all about, and whilst Becca and Ronan were in there Nell bought one of her twins, five month old Cecil, in to see what was going on. He'd never been on a horse before but after only a few minutes he was standing up on Ronan's back - nothing like starting them young!

The idea was to use Casper and Navvy to demonstrate some tricks and the methods we use to train them, then run through some basics with the children on the barrel, before getting them on Ronan to have a little go themselves, then finally showing them some canter work. And that's almost exactly what we did! For the first group, Casper and I started off by showing them some tricks. Casper did really well - he worked in the ring inside the tent, with the children clapping him when he did a trick, and concentrated on me throughout. I was very pleased with him as the last time we tried performing in front of the public (at the Devil's Horsemen Christmas Pantomime) he didn't concentrate on me at all and did virtually nothing I asked him!

When Casper had finished I took him back and swapped him for Ronan, whist Becca led the ten children through some basic warm up and stretching. I then took each of them through some simple moves on the barrel before sending them to Becca who helped them have a go at everything on Ronan. The only problems we had we the fact that they were all wearing their school uniform. The poor girls, they had a much harder time than the boys - summer dresses are not ideal vaulting wear! Once everyone had had a go, it was time to go outside and show them some canter work. Just in time the second group arrived, so they were all able to watch as I did a bit of freestyle on Ronan. At the end I finished with a big flank off, and managed to land funnily on the hard ground. It hurt my foot a bit, but not too badly so we just carried on.

It was now time for the second group, and as Becca had Ronan out already she decided to use him for the trick training demo. I think she just wanted to do some more performing with Ronan in the ring - it was at the circus that they met and fell in love after all! Ronan did some lovely tricks as usual, and then it was my turn to lead the warm up - and that's exactly what it was! By this time it was about midday, and the tent had heated up quite a lot - I can't imagine how hot it must get performing a show in there all dressed up in costume and make up! We then followed the same pattern with me taking them through the basics on the barrel before Becca took them on the horse. The second group had a few members who were quite nervous of Ronan, but by the end of the session every single one had had a sit on him, with most going up to knees and doing a flare leg - brilliant! As they'd already seen the canter work we finished off with them all giving Ronan a treat and a big thank you pat - I'm not sure they wanted to leave at the end! Once all the children had left, we got Kelly and Niomi (who do a fantastic job in the Circus office) up on Ronan. Kelly is especially nervous of horses, but had managed to sit on Ronan at the last workshop we did, back in January. So this time we had her doing mill! There was one point when she was sitting backwards with no hands - we'll have her up in stand next time!

As Navvy hadn't yet been used Becca bought him in to the ring for some practice - shutting him in the dark chute on the way! He was very good and performed all his tricks well, making Becca proud. Both him and Casper behaved impeccably so they will definitely be at a show soon! We did manage to get quite a few pictures - just click here to see them. Before we knew it it was time to go home, so we said our goodbyes, loaded up and trundled home. However, by the time we got back my foot was hurting quite a lot, so I was hobbling around as we were unloading the boys. I took Tink out for a little ride, but couldn't even manage rising trot - and then had to drive all the way home in third gear because I couldn't press the clutch down!

We're off to the Three Counties Show tomorrow for a three day duo, and are all really looking forward to it. We love the Three Counties, it was Tinker's first ever show (as a four year old stallion!) back in 2007, but we haven't performed there since 2008. I only hope my foot recovers in time for the first show on Friday! I'll let you know how we get on!

Lots of love

Rosie xx