Saturday, 20 August 2011

C is for Crispy Cantering

Carl and Spencer: Loyal but spectacularly flatulent elderly spaniels of dressage judge, Miss Drone (DW, DJ)

Charmpit: quiet village in the Vale of Vaysey – location of the family home of Bruce and Betty Penge (AP)

The Chavs: ( C ) Ian and Candice Plebbe

Julian Cholmondeley: Wealthy merchant banker, dressage enthusiast, livery at Vaysey Pastures, partner of Christopher Brookes-Smythe and resident in Bartsimpson (DE)

Coco Chanel: show pony re-homed by Magenta Hayes (UA)

The Committee Couple : ( CC ) Sam and Sabrina Patterson Fforde

Competitions: Although many of the liveries at Vaysey Pastures are happy just to hack quietly around the beautiful leafy lanes surrounding the yard, quite a few compete at riding club level in dressage and show jumping.

For many liveries competition adds a whole new level of stress to their lives and this is manifested in different ways. Thus otherwise best frineds Rose Bush and Penny Black are viciously competitive, Tiffany Lampwick is a remorseless and ruthless pothunter and the compulsively dedicated Patsy Pottle is doomed never to win a red rosette.

Practising and preparing for competition of however low a level and holding post mortems for months afterwards are the very life blood of the liveries' common room.

Here are a few thoughts based on several decades experience from Bunty Pargeter on planning your campaign and competing. If you bear some of them in mind you may not emerge triumphant, but hopefully you will have fun and at least survive the occasionally grisly process.

Teams: on the whole they are not a good idea. Rather than nurturing sportsmanship, mutual support and encouragement, teams often harbour your bitterest rivals and may only foster enduring resentment, backbiting and recrimination.

Transport: it is an established law of nature that whatever part of a lorry or trailer that can go wrong will do so on the morning of competition or immediately before your return home, when darkness has fallen and it is raining. A recovery service and someone on hand who knows how engines, partitions, ramps or towing couplers work are invaluable.

Loading: If your transport doesn’t let you down, your horse will manifest an antipathy to loading, so be patient and stock up with favourite treats and lunge lines for him/her and Valium/Prozac for you.

Collecting rings: whether for dressage or show-jumping, these are anxious and dangerous places. The worst traits of humanity are often reflected in the warm up, ranging from simple lack of consideration, rudeness and aggression to paranoia and hysteria. The motto must be "keep your eyes open and protect yourself at all times or you will be mown down". When mum starts wildly lungeing Angelica-Marie’s manic mare in the tiny warm up arena before her first competition, complain to the steward or just make yourself scarce.

Judges: if a judge is seen to embrace, wave at, blow kisses to, or take a brown envelope from another competitor or their mother, it’s probably not going to be your day.

Mothers: never, on any account, ever stand between an irate mother and the judge when Angelica-Marie fails to win her first rosette. This applies particularly at any Pony Club event.

Fair competition: sadly this ain’t necessarily going to happen, so be philosophical about it. Those who teach riding, have been competing for centuries or are just very able, may choose to enter your Prelim dressage or even walk and trot competition and will canter away with the pretty red rosette. They will usually claim to be bringing on a young horse; it’s just that they have one every year.

Open and restricted: it seems these sections are not cast in tablets of stone. You may come to notice a familiar pattern. Certain entrants will move from one section to another on the morning of the competition. Cynics might suggest that this depends on the quality of the opposition and prospects of a rozzy.

Helpful remarks: in dressage, the bitchy comments made from the edge of the arena regarding the soundness, condition and performance of horses and the skill, dress and weight of riders make the witches in Macbeth seem like the genteel Sunday school teachers. The female competitors are just as bad.

Conspicuous consumption: from massive and costly German lorries to massive and costly German horses and every accessory from Teutonic trainer to diamante brow-band, the opposition will have it. Going to shows becomes more and more like staring enviously at the yachts in the harbour in Puerto Banus on holiday. It’s another fact of life and you might as well enjoy looking at all that bling – particularly when they lose!    

I hope this helps you to bring home lots or rozzies or to cope with none.

Hyacinthe Crabbe-Legge (Mrs): owner of Global Bonbon in livery at Vaysey Pastures. Wife of Crispyn Crabbe-Legge and mother of five. Joint owner of weekend cottage in Wibble. Busy journalist, currently deputy soft furnishings editor on Horse & Aga ( J)

Crispyn Crabbe-Legge: Wealthy city banker. Husband of journalist Hyacinthe. Joint owner of weekend cottage in Wibble. Father of five (J)

Crispy Cantering: secluded hamlet – home of Rita Palgrave to the south of picturesque Vince Hill (PO)

Betty Crumblewick (Miss): sister of Joan and co-owner of Bits & Bobs. Keen side-saddle rider on her chestnut mare, Sannie (Sanatagen) in livery at Vaysey Pastures (Sk)

Joan Crumblewick (Miss): sister of Betty and co-owner of ladies' equestrian outfitters Bits & Bobs in Wibble. Keen side-saddle rider and owner of chestnut mare, Winnie (Wincarnis) in livery at Vaysey Pastures ( Sk)

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