And so to the last volunteering adventure of the season, the finale – Osberton Horse Trials. One of my favourites. Now regular readers will be shouting hey they’re all your favourites! Well yes, they are but Osberton holds a special place as it’s the young horse championships and thanks to my photography for Eventing Worldwide I have been at Osberton for four days now and seen it all.
One of the perks of being a fence judge is that you get up close to the action, and at Osberton that means getting up close to the next generation of equine stars. I have been lucky now to come to Osberton for a few seasons and have seen these little stars develop into bigger, brighter stars and go on to have very successful careers. The likes of Mr Chunky, Ceylor LAN and Vendredi BIATS have all been here and gone onto bigger things.
The only down side of this time in the season is we are back to getting up in the dark and getting home in the dark – this year was no exception – after the fourth pre 5am alarm I won’t lie I was a little bleary eyed, nothing a good brew didn’t fix before we packed up the car for the final time and headed to Osberton. Nestled in the Nottinghamshire countryside on a glorious private estate, Osberton never disappoints. With mist covered fields and even Jack Frost to greet us this year, into the Village Hall we all piled for our bacon sandwich and briefing.
By this point in the season, we are all briefed-out, but Bede always make innovations and we had an on-line briefing and skills survey – because at the risk of sounding boring the integrity of the sport relies on us knowing our stuff, being fair and playing by the rules.
Off Monteberry and I went to our fence, kindly sponsored by new sponsor Investec, who’s black and white sponsorship hoarding is seen at the Derby meeting at Epsom. Due to me double-booking myself with my photography adventures and Anna being short of a volunteer or two, a last-minute change of the deployment list meant I was accompanying the Aspreys to their fence. Off we trotted across the fields, only to fear we’d stumbled into the Okavango Delta as a life-size Zebra was standing next to our fence. No panic, it’s the Investec Zebra from their headquarters foyer. At least it won’t need feeding and watering. Excellent hospitality was provided by Investec from their marquee and I now have a very nice bone china mug on my desk as I write this courtesy of Investec.
The double of oxers, fence 20ab and 21ab for the Young Horse Championships jumped nicely on the whole, with a curving line between the fences, only a few activated the mims clips and little drama ensued, although plenty of knocks and a few spooks at the rock garden and Deborah the Zebra.
Volunteering for Bede has many advantages, not only is it some of the best hospitality on the circuit, a well-organised event and very supportive – Anna and her team regularly organise what they describe as extra-curricular activities – Wednesday eveningsaw us all drive out to Lincolnshire and we were welcomed at the yard of Ros Canter. What a treat, little old me got to cuddle the double-gold medal winning All Star B and we all got a demonstration from Ros and got to ask her and her team as many questions as we could imagine – a massive thank you to Anna and Team Bede for organising and to Ros, Heather, Sarah, Georgie and most of all to Alby for having us.
Now it’s time to clear out the car of the hundred or so layers of clothing that a fence judge needs and pack away the whistle for another year. What a season it has been – until Jack Frost arrived at Osberton my woolly hat has been redundant this season, instead replaced with bottles of sunscreen and sunglasses. My Jileon wellies have kept my feet dry in all those water complex’s and very comfy – these should definitely be on everyone’s Santa lists. As is a new foldaway chair and hopefully a soup flask – please Santa, I’ve been very good doing all this volunteering!
The glorious long summer has provided me with endless memories and I look forward to doing it all again next season – hopefully this blog has encouraged a few of you to want to give it a go next season. Look out on the British Eventing website under their training section as they often hold volunteer training days over the winter for new and seasoned volunteers alike to come along and find out more. Contact your local event and I promise they’ll be glad to hear from you.
It’s never too early to start planning for next season – I am already looking at the calendar planning where the volunteer adventure will take me next season – some new destinations I think are in order, and maybe even another foreign adventure or two… watch this space.
A massive thank you to all the organisers for having me at your events this season; to Andy, Melissa, Carol, Fiona and the Asprey’s for your company out there on course; to Jess at Eventing Worldwide for sharing my adventures with you all and mostly to the wonderful combinations of horse and rider that make me smile every weekend – 2018 you’ve been brilliant.
Hopefully see you out volunteering next season.