After a lot of unmentionables were shouted at this Sunday’s pre 6am alarm, off I travelled to Stafford. The windy conditions were actually very much needed first thing to blow those Cheltenham cobwebs away and clear the head ready for a busy day of competition.
Why I think I have the stamina for four days at Cheltenham (what a festival it was?!!) bookended by two weekends of fence judging was a question I asked myself a lot in between cursing the early alarm call!
The Plant family, as always, put a lot of hard work into ensuring the event went ahead – lots of arenas and fences were moved from the previous day’s due to heavy overnight rain and it more than paid off with lots of praise for the ground conditions.
The organisers had a wonderful idea of putting a message board in secretaries for competitors and connections to leave thank you messages for us volunteers, and it was really great to read these during the briefing meeting. Events are coming up with some great ways to make us all feel appreciated, and this was lovely to read. A prize draw and schooling vouchers were also provided by Vicky and her team which again was well received by all volunteers.
Then we sat down to the ‘Dave & Paul’ Show, which was crammed with its usual humour, jokes and Dave’s innuendo – If you volunteer at only one event this year, make sure that Dave Thompson is TD and Paul Heggarty is XC Controller, the greatest BE comedy double act going!
Briefing completed off we trekked down to fence 17 – a trappy little corner, that although fairly inviting, left the riders to choose what line they approached it from. It proved quite influential with several run outs, duck outs and an unseat which meant the day was far from a tick-box day.
The unseat was very unlucky, having actually jumped the fence clear, a left leg proved costly and the pair parted company. The horse was swiftly caught by a perfectly positioned Dave Thompson, and the partnership quickly got back underway.
The chilly wind had the best stamina of the day, lasting from arrival to the last horse – it certainly made fence judge life a little more challenging than usual, and by lunch time I do confess to losing the battle with it and retreating into the shelter of the car so as not to distract competitors with all my paraphernalia blowing across the track!
This week’s cake was coffee & walnut, a flavour I must confess which isn’t my favourite flavour, but it was nice cake and ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ as my nan would say, so it got munched fairly quickly all the same. A fair 6 out of 10 I’d say. And yes I do score them all, and have a ‘cake leaderboard’ – what other way do you narrow down your venue selections?!?
Having got so cold it was a fight between me and the cat as to who got to sit closest to the fire that evening, and as always Mr Monty won that battle. Once thawed out an exciting email from Poland landed late that evening, more about that next time……
No fence judging for me this weekend – off to Cornwall on a different equine adventure instead. The next FJ adventure will be Belton, which given the exciting entries will be amazing, so hopefully see you all there!