Now I appreciate you are all probably sick of me crowing that I’m a lucky bugger and remain ever grateful that Eventing takes me to some amazing places, but honestly this weeks eventing volunteer adventure really did take me somewhere special….
Not that the 2.45am alarm call felt that special at the time mind you!
Monteberry and I had applied way back before Christmas to go on an epic adventure, and so off we travelled in the pouring rain to Strzegom in south west Poland. We were off to the Europeans. Little old me and Monteberry. (PS for anyone not yet having had the experience of transporting an eight inch high Wilberry through customs and the departure lounge, you do get the odd strange look!)
Now unbeknown to the Ryanair pilot we were on a deadline – although we had resigned to missing Oliver’s dressage test, we weren’t going to miss Ros’ so full throttle Mr Pilot please thank you. Another thing, who knew fitting your entire summer eventing wardrobe and FJ kit ito one small suitcase could be so damn difficult!
Having mastered the dark art of driving a hire car with the steering wheel on the wrong side, we arrived at Stragona Equestrian Centre with an hour to spare and after picking up our accreditation passes off we walked (my feet have walked so far this weekend!) towards the main arena.
Wow, what a time to pull a PB out of the bag.
My role for the first couple of days was to assist the stewards in the stands – to help our various nations of spectators to find a seat and remain quiet during each test. So many nationalities were here, and all so friendly with stories and hopes for glory. And al this under 31 degree heat whilst trying to keep up the look of calm and composure whilst slowing melting. Thank goodness for the ice cream stand’s grasp of english!
So many people including a lot of fellow Brits had made the volunteer journey out here and it was so good to meet so many new volunteer friends, along with Agata and her Polish colleagues. Even Monteberry got in on the socialising – he joined in the Berry Crush and met up with 12 other Wilberry’s including two of Hannah’s original Berry’s Raceberry and Wishberry. It was special to remember and honour Hannah on such an occasion at this.
The evening bought no respite to the humid conditions, which made of XC course walk with XC steward Daniella rather sweltering. A great chance to walk the course again, find out our fence and discuss in detail with Daniella about positioning etc.
Thankfully cross country day was a few degrees cooler, even the threat of rain didn’t dampen our spirits. We all met up at 7.30amfor the fence judge briefing. Now given their were 3 nationalities of fence judges, the ‘not to too long’ briefing took the best part of two hours (I will never complain about a Dave Thompson briefing again, promise Dave) but it was light hearted and Daniella has a great sense of humour. I was paired with the lovely Alix, Raceberry and Glastoberry.
Briefing done and lunch gathered we set off for our fence. A new experience given no cars were allowed on cross country, we trekked on foot to our fence. The Devoucoux corner at fence 17 and 18 – a mahoosive wide table to a narrow roll top. The overnight rain had made conditions very slippy, but that proved to be our only drama. The fences jumped well all day and Monteberry, Raceberry and Glastoberry tucked into their Polish Jaffa Cakes (staple FJ diet).
3 languages on the fence judge net was a little overwhelming at first but once we twigged that the polish word for clear sounded like stop, we soon got the hang of it and our controller’s English was very good so it all ran very smoothly.
An unforgettable experience to have the likes of Mr Jung and Ingrid Klimke provide master classes through your fences. A real pinch myself moment for sure!
And then there were the Brits – whilst others faltered, they sailed around the course, and with news of refusals, falls and eliminations of others there was a sense of excitement building before
Mike Tucker’s dulcet tones confirmed our whisperings, we were in Gold. Bartles Babes had done it!
My tired feet trundled off towards the car park, and whilst on route I met Sarah and Allstar B on their way to a deserved pick of grass. He, along with all our horses looked a million dollars at these championships – the grooms worked tirelessly, such hard work. My tired feet made it to the car, and then McDonalds for a well deserved meal before falling into my hotel bed. Oh and there was an amazing strawberry gateaux in the middle of that somewhere – well it wouldn’t be eventing without cake would it?!
Sunday was amazing, a great atmosphere with a real sense of excitement. Helping with the arena stewarding party before taking my seat in the arena to watch the medals find deserving homes.
I am so thankful to Marcin, Agata and everyone at Stragona for making all of us volunteers so welcome, for looking after us and for allowing us to be a small part of a wonderful championships. Monteberry and I had blast, met some wonderful people and will remember our Polish adventure for a long time to come.
Yes I could have just gone as a spectator, but then I wouldnt have enjoyed Ingrid and Bob’s morning exercise, gave Alby a pat in the stables nor been a part of such a wonderful team 🙂
For those thinking I want to be there next time – well look out for Luhmülen 2019. Get volunteering, it really is that simple – I started at my local BE venue, gave them a call and then ended up in Strzegom. As fun as Ryanair was, I will be driving to Luhmülen, a fence judge can never take enough permutations of clothing and footwear after all.