The last fortnight has, as usual, been stressful and overwhelming. The pile of work on my desk literally towers over me as I slave away at the computer, with facebook minimised of course, it’s almost unnatural for any student not have facebook on whilst working. However, when I do get a spare moment from work, it is always spent up at Wivelsden Farm; where I keep my horses.
My old girl is called Copper, she is 26 and still thinks she is a ten year old racer, but she usually ends up just as out-of-breath as I do running to college. Of course, she is ginger too, a lovely chestnut, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
When the Gingers found out that the Cross Country course at Wivelsden would be opened on Saturday, we jumped at the chance to enter, it would be both Copper and I’s first Cross Country event; the first, due to the small reason that Copper isn’t too great at jumping.
The day before, I spent hours making her sparkle for the event and naturally she goes out into the field and rolls in the mud, with my hard labour at the back of her mind. This morning, the day of the event, she comes in with a huge grin; knowing I had half an hour to groom her again.
Leaving the cheeky mare to have her breakfast, I ventured down to the fields to find John Bedford; who is in charge of the Cross Country course and the Eventing team. I found John in his Lorry, parked in the ‘warm-up’ field, watching the Rugby with Mike Robbins- (Whenever there is a horse event, the Robbins family are there.)
Fortunately for me, I caught John during half-time so he could tell me all about the ‘South Down Hunt East Pony Club’-quite a mouthful.
He began by explaining the year’s events,
“This Pony Club runs five Cross Country Events through the year, three Hunter Trials, and two One Day Events. The jumps Start from 1’6 to 3’3 and are for ages from 6 or 7.” John then added,
“Well, in the Pony Club we have members that are 3 and 4. We train them; teaching them how to ride, and they try not to not fall off.” I flashbacked to my first fall when I was young; being dragged across an arena with no idea what was going on.
Still as clueless as I was as a child, and with little time left before my time slot, I returned to Copper and began to get my boots and chaps on. Evidently, they weren’t going to fit; it had only been half a year since the last show when I wore them but clearly half a year’s leg growth was just too much for my chaps to cope with. I spent what felt like hours, blue in the face, forcing these chaps around my legs, with the help of others, but they just would not zip up at the bottom of my boot. Eventually I decided to wear the chaps inside my boots; which looked utterly ridiculous but what else could I do?
Moments later I realised my hair net was in my boot. No hair net for me today then.
John and I continued talking about the years events,
“The events are our biggest fundraiser; we have 150 members whose fee contributes towards instruction and the hire of the facility. They only pay £5 per Rally so they get good instruction cheap. Normally as a Branch, it does cost a lot, so we run these events each year as our main fundraiser.”
I think I need to hold a fundraiser with the amount of money it costs maintaining my horses, such difficult beasts. -I thought as I see the empty bags of feed by Coppers stable and the huge amount of bedding my princess needs to sleep on.
We set off to the fields to warm up with the others; My friend Katie had brought her Ginger Horse along too, Troy; a much younger, fitter model and Katie was planning to jump much higher than the bucket sized jumps we were scheduled to go over.
“We have been very successful with a lot of our older members who come up through the system at ages above 15; taking part in Dressage, Show Jumping and Eventing.” He continued,
“Each year we have an Area competition which everyone can take part in and if they come 1st or 2nd, they then qualify for the Championships. Over the last 5 years we have always been placed and go on to the championships. One of our members qualified to the Open and came 3rd in Eventing, (held in Derbyshire) she did extremely well. As a whole, I wouldn’t say we’re the branch with the most money or the most expensive horses but our track record shows that we do bloody well.”
Back to Copper and I. John was manning the starting post when we entered, and with the word ‘Go’, we toddled down the field ready for anything ahead of us, except the first couple of jumps. After that we got into our stride; a very fast one for that matter, racing through the Wivelsden fields.
John began telling me about Wivelsden,
“We got this site 3 years ago, it’s been a big learning curve, we have put quite a lot of money into the course and we’ve made some mistakes but we are hopefully moving forward, we plan to raise some more capital this winter through new sponsorship which means we will hopefully be extending the course. The water complex we have got will be developed and we will also have a range of heights from 1’6 to 3’6. Hopefully then we can encourage a lot of our older members to carry on with the club.”
As I bombed round the course I was thinking about what John had said, the small jumps are just fine for Copper and I, we’ll still be Eventing as we get older, the jumps could get smaller and we would be perfectly happy. As we sped past everyone through the course, I was reminded of the amount of people John told me the Events need.
“To run any of our events we need helpers, for the One Day Event we need around 100 helpers; fence judges around the course, scorers, time keepers, ring stewards, Show Jumping judges, Dressage judges...”
The list was endless. Surely the rugby had started again after John had finished.
He finished by saying: “The purpose of today is to say to you thank you very much for helping us, giving up your time and today you are welcome to come and enjoy our lovely course.”
Copper and I eventually finished the course with multiple refusals, a couple of skipped jumps and I felt like I had done more work than the horse. But it was such great fun and without John and the team, we wouldn’t get opportunities like this.
So after that, it was time to go home and continue with my looming pile of work. After I have uploaded today’s pictures onto Facebook.