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