BE VOLUNTEER – Sunshine, swallows and horse flies.

After an enjoyable weekend of Bramham cross country day and Hunter Trials qualifier fence judging, this weekend the BE volunteer adventure rolled onto our thirteenth event of the season,  Catton Hall – a beautiful parkland estate nestled in the Staffordshire countryside.

Catton is very local for me and my long suffering volunteer partner Andy, and Katie & her team areIMG_7014 always very welcoming.

The morning briefing was held in the barn down by the water, a gorgeous setting but Mr & Mrs Swallow were a little miffed we’d all turned up for breakfast too and we all felt rather guilty that we prevented Mr & Mrs Swallow from feeding their brood breakfast  for a short while. 

After a thorough and most definitely not brief briefing from Burghley course builder and BE technical advisor for the weekend, Phillip Herbert, we ventured off up the steep hill towards fence 6. 

Now Andy and I have had a variety of fences now, from the usual suspects, the rider frighteners and the spectator gaspers, and on getting to the top of the hill came the recollection that we’d had this beauty before, and then came the further recollection of the heart in mouth moments it gave us previously. 

An upright post and rail fence, fairly easy question you’d assume, but the course designer had made it a true test of horse and rider partnership, as it was on a downhill descent with the ground dropping away sharply a couple of strides after the fence. 

Our assumption was correct, and the blood pressure medication was kept close by for the novice class. Some heart in mouth moments, some great recoveries and unfortunately one fall – thankfully horse and rider walked away from what looked a nasty partial rotational fall. IMG_7015

It’s never good to see the medics, vet, steward and fence repair all by mid-morning.

Catton was bathed in glorious sunshine and blue skies for both days of competition, with Katie and her team going above and beyond to make sure everyone was looked after in the heat. The wonderfully kind lady on the ‘bun run’ worked tirelessly over the two days to make sure all the officials and volunteers had plenty to drink – but alas the heatwave caused one casualty, our afternoon cake, climatic conditions meant that the cake run was abandoned on Sunday.

Our intermediate fence, a wide post and rail oxer, was thankfully positioned a little further back up the hill with views of Catton Hall as the backdrop, and on the whole jumped well all afternoon. 

We were lucky to have the shade of Catton Wood to park our cars in and set up camp – whilst it seemed IMG_7020a bit wrong not to be out basking in the full sun as is our usual stance, we’d have wilted very quickly out there! The summery scent of elderflower in the wood provided the perfect ambiance, although a little spoiled by the arrival of our arch nemesis, the horse fly late in the afternoon!

Next weekend is a rare weekend off, a chance to see friends and family that I haven’t clapped eyes on since about March! Our next adventure is Eland Lodge, and the eventing mecca that is Ronnie’s home cooking and hospitality, if it’s good enough for Her Majesty the Queen to visit, its good enough for Andy and I! 

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