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