THE BE VOLUNTEER – Soggy trousers, red flags and daring pheasants

Monteberry and I have been rather busy the last couple of weekends and have got through a serious quantity of suncream…

Firstly we packed up our kit and headed north to one of the most beautiful locations – Chatsworth Estate in Derbyshire. Set in the stunning Peak District, this hugely enjoyable event did not disappoint. 

Work rather got in the way of the kind invitation to the briefing in the stables on the Thursday night (I need to work out how to afford early retirement?!?) so we arrived early on Saturday morning for a brief briefing in the stables courtyard, met up with my expanding team of long-suffering eventing buddy Andy, Melissa and Carol. Off we trekked down to the Ice House Pond, set high above the main event arena with a great view of all the action. We had been given a tricky skinny brush in the middle of the water, with an offset black flag option up on the bank jumped in reverse. 

The skinny claimed several victims, with a fair number of run outs in the CIC1* and also claimed Melissa and mine’s clean trousers. With skinnys it is imperative that the fence judge has a square-on view of the landing to ensure the fence is judged accurately. This resulted in Melissa and I standing very close to the waters edge on the landing side and getting suitably soaked with every canter fly by of the competitors – luckily it was a sunny afternoon and we dried out! 

Our advanced fence was a mahooosive brush oxer which was thankfully a much drier affair – and provided the opportunity of meeting an Eventing idol of mine in Kitty King. Thank you Kitty for stopping and chatting and meeting Monteberry. 

Onwards to Rockingham Castle to enjoy their wonderful hospitality. Third weekend of sunshine in a row!!!! 

And boy did that sun shine! It was a glorious weekend of eventing action, with the ever so wide Oakham Veterinary Table to start and then a tricky triple combination at the bottom of a hill for the Novice class. With some free-wheeling down the hill, it gave us some heart-stopping moments and huge leaps over the moon brush b element. We did unfortunately have a few slip on the turn to c, with one rider unseating. Thankfully all were ok and started the long hack home. 

I personally like to the new fall rule, no ambiguity, one fall and you’re out. No grey areas, simple. 

We sat in the glorious afternoon sun, enjoying the second (yes, second!) cake run of the day when suddenly the long grass started to move in what can only be compared to the scene in Jurassic Park film where the grass rustles and some Velociraptor jumps out. And to add to the drama a horse was just galloping over the brow of the hill – with no time to take action now thankfully the culprit stayed still and no one was spooked. But after that competitor had departed I had to pull up my brave pants and investigate before the next horse came along in 90 seconds, off I ran (I know that doesn’t happen often folks!) up the hill to discover a female pheasant stealthy hidden in the long grass – she was swiftly encouraged to find a safer, quieter place for an afternoon nap. Pheasant herding – another thing to add to the fence judge job description. 

The morning was fairly eventful too, our wide table being described as a ‘let up’ fence was chosen as a designated stopping fence, and our stopping procedure was put into action no less than five times. I nearly wore our red flag out. But that gave us a chance to have a mid-course chat with Alex Bragg, Alice Pearson and a delightful young lady who’s horse had trot work to die-for! 

Rockingham had embraced their date clash with a certain little event in Windsor and fence 2 was dedicated to the Royal Wedding. Being blessed with good phone signal I was able to sit down and enjoy the big event on my phone……Oliver and my favourite event horse taking part in the ERM series in Wiesbaden! A fabulous round of XC had them on the podium. 

It was great to see some new faces at Rockingham this year – Eventing, like all equestrian disciplines relies heavily on its army of volunteers and with an ageing population, we are always on the hunt for new blood to join the ranks. New faces are and should be welcomed by all. It’s a great experience, you get looked after very well (two cake runs at Rockingham, and not just any old cake but it was Margaret cake! – I’m still excited by this!) and get a front row seat watching the world’s best fly by. To give it a go, just contact your local event and say what time you have spare.

Next stop Shelford Manor after some deliberation about an email from across the pond….

Read Previous

EVENT REPORTS – Mount Ballan

Read Next

The stage is set for the Saracen Horse Feeds Houghton International incorporating FEI Eventing Nations Cup