Tuesday, 12 April 2011

East of England Equine Fair


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

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

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

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

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


video

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Rosie xx