THE BE VOLUNTEER – Champagne bubbles, soft cake and a chance to get the new wellies wet

Onwards rolls the volunteer journey and this week Monteberry (still wearing his #WearGreenForJonty ribbon) and I headed down the M5 to Gatcombe for The Festival of British Eventing.

One of my favourite events, the Festival is everything that there is to love about volunteering. To be in such beautiful parkland without Eventing you wouldn’t get to roam; fabulous gracious hosts that have a genuine love of the sport and wonderful hospitality before, during and after.

Thursday’s briefing is always a treat – this year we were in the hospitality marquee – a touch hot in this scorching summer we are all enjoying currently – a wonderful introduction and gracious thank you from Peter Philips, who has taken over the overall organising of the event; a thorough briefing from JC and Philip Surl and then a comms briefing delivered by Mr Symington, always humorous with a touch of innuendo.

Briefing over, then off to the Drinks Reception, kindly sponsored by Pol Roger (many, many thanks to them, delicious!) 

The organising team had done a huge amount of ground preparation and some beautifully managed grass awaited our arrival on Saturday, some was even green (a rarity in the current heatwave).

We collected our kit and headed down to the Park Bowl – the Dodson and Horrell Owl Log awaited us for the Novice Championship. Not before my gorgeous new Jileon wellies took a little dip in the water. They really are the best. 

The morning bought plenty of sunshine, good jumps and a wonderful personally delivered thank you from the landowner. 

After watching the Novice horses fly by and quite a few unicorn cakes were munched, we trekked up the hill to find our Intermediate Championship fence – The Land Rover Folly 19abc – two fair wide tables with a tricky, and wide corner to finish, with the ground dropping away on landing. A real question, and one that caused a couple of run outs. 

My friend Victoria was kept rather busy with the red flag on the c element, with it being discarded on the ground with every other horse. A run out caused it to drop to the ground, and Victoria rushed to replace it for the competitor to attempt it again, whilst calling out to the rider that she was replacing the flag. The rider quickly re-spun her horse and re-took the corner without waiting for her to step back – a hairy moment for sure but thankfully the horse jumped as straight as a dye this time (maybe that was the riders intention).

After the Intermediate Championship had been decided, off we went back down the hill to the Owl Log for the RoR Championship class. 

The heatwave whilst ensuring all volunteers are sporting wonderful tans that people spending thousands on overseas holidays would be jealous of, does have a few negatives, not least the melting of cake. It’s a real problem. But fear not, Margaret’s carrot cake is made of stern stuff and despite being a little soft was still enjoyed in all its glory.

The following day we were reserves, on hand in case of any unforeseen circumstances arose and they happened to be short of volunteers. This can be a nice day, as mostly you get the day to explore and be spectators for the day, but also my team (I was off on Photography duty) were indeed called upon to step into the breach. They were short of a crossing point steward party, so they got a great view of the water fence at 24 in the park bowl for the morning.

Quite a few spectators were heard pondering how we get to do what we do, and I’ll tell you what I told them. Just get out there, contact your local event and offer up some spare time. That’s all did, and a few seasons later I was at the Eventing Europeans, it really is that simple. 

After an early night, plenty of after-sun lotion and a great dinner that my neighbour had lovingly cooked for me as I was out all day (yes, I am a lucky madam) the car needs unpacking and re-packing again, ready for Hartpury. See you there…

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