Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Essex Young Farmers Annual Country Show

A couple of Saturdays ago we all set off in the lorry for the Essex Young Farmers Annual Country Show.  Having wiggled our way through a lot of very small lanes we finally arrived on site, and Amy was there to meet us again.  We then spent the next ten minutes following various different young farmers around on their quad bikes before finally finding our pitch and being able to set up.  We were right next to the main arena - which was absolutely HUGE!!  Turns out is was 120 by 60 metres, which is far bigger than we usually work in - we were convinced we'd get totally lost in there and nobody would be able to see anything we were doing!  However, having marked it all out later it didn't look too bad, still just massive!  As Tinker has a history of picking up speed if he's got a lot of space to do so, I was feeling slightly apprehensive to say the least!  The arena was also on a slight slope, with lots of little ruts all over it, and as the weather had been so dry the whole thing was as hard as concrete - not ideal!  

Our first show was scheduled for 10.30am, so it was going to be an early one.  It takes Becca and I about two hours to get ready for a show as we have to brush the horses, warm ourselves up, do our hair and make up (make up especially takes quite a while...), tack up the horses, warm up the horses, get changed into costume, then finally last minute adjustments - and away!  It was during the getting changed into costume part that we realised a horrible error had been made...  To set the scene: My long black boots are on their fourth season now and had been understandably looking a bit tired.  So I'd spray painted them black to give them another lease of life.  As I pulled the boots out of the boot bag I said to Becca 'Wow, since I sprayed these boots they look really new - almost as good as Amy's!' (Amy has a brand new pair).  Then the realisation dawned.  They were Amy's boots.  Amy is a size four.  I am a size six.  Oh dear.  I managed to squeeze one of the boots on and took a tentative step in it.  Ouch.  Becca then tried to put the other boot on to see if she could wear them instead, but couldn't get her foot past the ankle, so it was back to me.  I got it on and then we all burst out laughing - I looked like one of those old fashioned Chinese ladies with bound feet, they looked far too small for my body!  I could just about walk OK, but as for vaulting and roman riding - who knew?  We'd just have to find out!!

Good old show adrenaline - I never noticed the boots once!  The whole show went through quite well considering everything we had to contend with.  Aside from the boots there was the hard ground (which turned out to be slippery too - Tink skidded a couple of times!), the wind, which was quite strong and nearly had me off during the shoulderstand in roman riding, and the fact that throughout the entire show we only had one microphone between the two of us.  This was by far the biggest problem as the whole show is scripted for the commentary to bounce backwards and forwards between Becca and I - which we couldn't do!  It was the start of the show that was the worst - I went to open it with the usual 'Good morning ladies and gentlemen', only to realise to my horror that nobody could hear a word I was saying!  Becca then had to do the introduction, but as I always do it she doesn't really know the lines and if you're not expecting to have to do it you get completely thrown!  Anyway, we managed throughout with just the one mic - but it wasn't easy and I think we were both quite glad when the show was over!  As we exited the area I jumped of Tinker, only to realise with a massive jolt that my feet had just spent a very active thirty minutes in boots two sizes to small for them - they hurt!!  Good job Alex is a farrier - I needed him to pull the buggers off me before spending the next half hour walking around in bare feet to try and get some life back into my toes!

Time for the second show soon came around, and Amy was going to be doing the show on Ronan.  The wind had picked up and was literally blowing a gale through the arena - should be fun with the pom-poms!  Although the pom-poms were difficult, they were nothing compared to our long skirts.  The wind just picked the skirts up and made it virtually impossible to do the strip.  Having finally got rid of the long skirts (which practically blew into the next county causing Tim and Alex to do much running and fetching!) the wind then spent the entire show doing a very concerted and highly successful attempt at keeping our skirts up around our ears, with our frilly knickers on view almost permanently!  There was a large contingent of the audience who found this hilarious - and what could Amy and I do other than grin and bear it?!  Thankfully we both had working microphones, but that was about the only thing that went right!  

During the first section of vaulting I was in shoulderstand when a combination of a gust of wind, me momentarily losing my balance causing Tinker to loose his, and the skiddy ground caused me to fall out of the shoulderstand.  There was a moment when I thought (as I was halfway down to the ground) I could get it back and throw in a dismount-remount (tricky on the outside of the horse but possible).  Then my feet hit the ground and I lost it!  I hit the deck with my knees and hands, skidded a bit, before looking up to see Tinker disappearing off into the distance without me.  The crowd gasped, I jumped up and shouted 'well that's not in the script!' before running round to meet Tink who had stopped on the opposite side of the arena.  I jumped on and carried on vaulting, but it's just so embarrassing - I hate falling off!  It's the first time I've done it spectacularly in a show since the Cheshire Game Fair, way back in 2009, which was another show where everything seemed to go wrong!  This show didn't get any better either!  Towards the end of the roman riding Amy lost her balance (again, the wind was ridiculously strong) and fell down in between the horses as I was getting on.  I don't know how she managed it but she fought it and fought it and somehow managed to scramble back up onto Tink.  By this point we were way behind on the music so we had to miss out the final switch and finish on the opposite horse to usual.  This meant Amy was up on Tinker instead of Ronan, but she coped really well and we finished in style!  I think we were both really glad when that bit was over!!  The rest of the show went through without incident and we both breathed a sigh of relief when it was all over!

We weren't the only ones affected by the wind.  The Bolddog Motocross team, who had performed some amazing jumps and stunts in their earlier show, were unable to do anything in the afternoon as it was simply too dangerous for them to perform their jumps with the wind blowing as strongly as it was.  This was a huge shame, but it made Amy and I feel justified for finding our show such a struggle!  It was definitely one of the more difficult days - but at least it didn't rain which is always a massive bonus!  After the show we were approached by Marie, who we'd met last summer up at the Northcote Heavy Horse Centre, where we spent a very hot day teaching!  Marie was lovely and took a few photos of the shows which I've put up here, as we hardly managed to take any ourselves!  

Next weekend we've got a bit of a monster.  We're off up to North Yorkshire on Friday with all four of our horses for a clicker training day on Saturday with Hannah Dawson, which we're both really looking forward to.  Then on the Sunday we've got a full day of teaching before heading home in the evening.  Then we'll unpack the lorry, repack it with show kit, get a few hours sleep, before heading off down to Dorset and the Sherbourne Castle Country Fair on Monday.  Phew!  I'll let you know how we get on!

Lots of love,

Rosie xx

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