It all began last year when Anthea and Mrs T decided they would celebrate Mrs T’s birthday. She was 89. All the staff got together and started training hard for the musical ride and I trained my long reining team to do a musical long reining. Getting everyone together to practice was like trying to harpoon a whale with a needle. Staff have days off and when they are at the yard it is all hands to the pump they never stop. There is so much to do with over 35 horses and a constant stream of clients. Chrissy designed the musical ride and with her usual enthusiasm she corralled them got them training and there were often shrieks of delighted, “oops I just missed you!” and “Do we have to do it again?” Many an hour went into that.
Last year I organised a long reining to music event. Once again I had a group of well versed and eager handlers, and I relied on them to interpret my drawing of the ride. Jenny and Margaret took charge and with several practices when only half of them turned up we somehow got through it. We had the birds of prey and they drew a crowd. Wonderful to see them so close and to admire their eagle-like beauty.
Josh rode the cross country course and I seem to remember that there was also some showjumping. They organised pony rides and also one could have a ride on Trojan the mechanical horse. He is my best friend, as I am teaching people to ride side saddle using him to get their seat straight.
There were homemade cakes to munch, real tea and a burger bar. The farriers came along and did a shoeing demonstration. The Ibbitsons are an impressive family and work as a team. Their forge is up in Walton on the Hill, do visit.
This year the really pushed the boat out. It was going to be bigger and better. I just hope Mrs T realised that this is how Glastonbury Festival started, very small.
The staff, under the expert guidance of Chrissy, got together every so often and practiced the musical ride. They did admit to me that they had never done it all together, which made me feel much better about my long reining practices with 3 people. Mel has been training the staff to perfection and I do think their riding has come on. Mel is the senior trainer. I was to do a musical long reining and then a side saddle demonstration.
Damian Barnes carefully guided by Mrs T’s walking stick, weeded, cut grass, stuck things together, repainted, with help from Josh, mended, collected tents put them up and took them down. Bernie always around to help too. John Stillfox did the sound system which did work very well. Even though we only had it working on the Saturday and the ponies were quite put out by it blasting at them. But after a couple of circuits they got cool about it. I only got 6 of my team together but my goodness on the day they were fabulous.
When I arrived at midday they ponies were washed, gleaming, platted with polished feet looking like regency Chesterfields. I had trained Sheila to ride side saddle because she was off to Stockport to do a performance, and had never ridden side saddle before. Three days of training and well she looked amazing. Sheila dances flamenco and is absolutely made for the part, she looked stunning in her elegant Spanish Flamenco dress so typical of those celebrations in Seville. It reminds one that there was a time when a woman could only ride in her elegant riding clothes, garments designed to look wonderful on a horse and also still in perfect keeping for the period, no jodhpurs for them I fear.
They hunted in them and jumped fences in them and their horses were trained to perfection to cope. There were accidents of course, but that is life. I then had to get Ranger to accept my flowing gown. I began with a long serge skirt which he did not mind and then went to the purple silk the day before. He was cool about the whole thing but terrified by the peacock feathers on my hat. But you can train a horse to do most things and in the end he had it on his own head quite unperturbed.
The children had to do their Teddy Bear’s picnic musical ride which caused great hilarity as most of them spent the rest of the day with shiny black noses. I glimpsed one half Teddy Bear half child with her shiny black nose buried in a cup cake. Tracy teaches Western riding and is a talented rider. She gave us a demonstration using one of the horses she has trained. The different style of riding is worth understanding it puts you out of the way of interfering with your horse and makes you learn to balance and ride with greater softness.
The Classical Dressage demonstration by Sarah Sjoholm-Patience and her horse was excellent and showed all of us how it should be done.
Please do go and look at her website; www.sarahsjoholmpatience.com. Mesmerising. She has trained with Klaus Balkenhol in Germany. There are video’s of his work by Roland Blum. I imagine they are available on the internet.
Then came the Skill at Arms, and Paul Allison and Josh gave a demonstration of the riding for a purpose. I have to admit I would love to joust. All those flags and costumes and armour wonderful. They did some tent pegging which is great fun if done at speed. We used to do it in the pony club when i was a child.
It may have had moments when it all looked a bit chaotic, but I can assure everyone we are a well oiled team, well at least we were later one when the champagne was opened.
I know that we all had fun, and if life is about anything it is about giving it a go. So here’s to the amazing team at Wildwoods to Anthea and Mrs T, and most of all to the horses. THANK YOU.