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13th and 14th July 2013

Report by Max Wilson (12), Mum and Izzy

Saturday Report by Max Wilson

I hate travelling and I am allergic to being organised. So when I found out that I was to ride because my mum’s horse was injured, I knew it was going to be one of those long way from home rides. However, nothing could prepare me for the epic journey that we had to get there on the Friday. As Izzy was on a school trip to the Harry Potter Studios in Watford (near London) we had to “do a slight diversion on our way”. This slight diversion resulted in a 350 mile trip there and the ponies being boxed for something like 10 hours. I told my mum that the RSPCA would not be happy and we should not go – but mum said (as she always does) – well we are going and that’s that! Plus “you WILL enjoy yourself. I was not convinced. On top of this nightmare as Izzy had purposely arranged her school trip for the same Friday, this meant that I had to help mum get everything ready. It was not fair. There are some things that I am good at – football, sleeping, Xbox, guitar, and being difficult – but being organised and helping is not my thing.

We eventually set off along with Bobby the pug. There was not a spare inch in the car. Mum likes to take the kitchen sink, plus fridge and loo……. It was 25 degrees and very sunny. When we got to Knutsford and we had been going for an hour, I realised that mum had forgotten to put my hat in my bag. Needless to say when I told her of her failing, she was not happy. She said there was not enough time to turn back and pick it up, plus rendezvous with Izzy in Watford. She said she wanted to kill me. It was good thing that I was in the back of the car with Bobby to protect me. Mum rang Shaun Walsh the Cheshire EGB coach and luckily he said he had a couple of spares with him. Result.

As the M1 was a car park due to an accident, mum said “we will just need to do slight detour on the diverted route.” This took us on to the M5, M42 and M40 and M25 – all in the opposite direction to Bury St Edmunds. We eventually got to the Harry Potter Studios with 10 minutes to spare. But guess what – Izzy was late because she bought a souvenir – Girls!!

However, the time did allow us the opportunity to let Bobby have a wee and give the ponies some water. The car park attendants almost had a fit when we dropped the ramps to get some fresh air into the box as they thought we were going to unload. An attendant raced over and said Bobby couldn’t get out of the car and we must not drop any hay on the tarmac. He stressed the horses could not be unloaded (even though there was loads of space) and that he would give mum a brush to clear up any loose bits of hay! Mum did one of her smiles through clenched teeth.

Anyway Izzy strolled out and off we set off again – “only 95 miles to go!” said mum. One thing that I have learnt is that London on a hot sunny Friday afternoon/tea time is very busy. 4 hours later with a route that took us through Newmarket we got to the venue. I liked Newmarket and suggested to mum that we move there. She said that if we sold up we might manage a shed or caravan as it is very expensive. It still looked good though.

The Kings Forest venue was huge. It felt like we were entering the Olympics. Lots of people had arrived already. Shaun met us and helped us set the ponies corrals up. They had half the space that they normally get when we go to Mounted Games Association events. Plus all of the horses were closely corralled alongside each other. Mum said she did not like the arrangements “but needs must” (whatever that means). We got the tent up just before it went dark. Shaun arranged a fish and chip supper for the team members and we met Amanda, Terry Madden, John Black, Diane Gillings, Rachel Rolfe, Pat Guerin, Katie Mellor and Rachel Knight. We got to bed about 10.30pm.

At 3.40 am (according to mum who never sleeps) the venue kicked into life. All of the FEI 3 star riders began getting ready for the 160k race. Mum said “that if you can’t beat them I might as well join them” and got up. One of my skills in life is being able to sleep through anything so I went back to sleep……….

Because mum was bored, she fed/watered/mucked out…. By 7.30am it was 30 degrees and the whole of the North West Team were either crewing or getting ready to set off. I got up, had something to eat and joined in.

At this point I realised that all of the EGB rides that I had done so far, were small scale compared to this event. The FEI Saudi Emirates team had 2 massive horse boxes. Their 10 marques stretched out in the distance. Whilst our team was getting ready, I watched the 160 k riders return for their first vet gate after doing 40 k. As the rider went over the finish line, a whole team of Saudi crew appeared. One took off the saddle whilst the horse slowly walked towards their crew point. In the meantime, the remaining 5 members of the crew poured buckets and buckets of water over the horse. By the time they reached the crew point and at least 8 buckets of water later, the coach took the heart rate. If it was below 64 the horse continued his slow walk to the vet gate. Once vetted the horse was taken to a separate crew point and for the next 40 mins it had bucket after bucket of water thrown on them. The crew was re filling their water supply using huge wheel barrows.

The EGB water tanker which cost £1000 was used by Saturday lunch time! Luckily the organizers arranged for more water to be delivered, but the vehicles were not as glamorous and shiny.

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Terry Madden and Rachel Rolfe set off on their 102 k ride.

John Black and Katy Mellor (15) set off on their 64 k ride. Mum was to crew for them with Sally Mellor (Katy’s mum).

Diane Gillings and Ruth Chadwick set off on the first of their two day 32 k rides.

Shaun and Amanda looked after all of the horses when they returned to the venue for vetting. We had 2 marquees with lots of kit. Izzy and I decided to stay and help them rather than go in the car to crew at various points. I am really glad that I stayed because I learnt so much. We also helped with the constant refilling of the water barrels, getting bags of ice. Plus watching the 160 k riders in action was awesome.

By Saturday afternoon all of our riders had returned. Terry and Rachel pulled up at vet gate two. Everyone else was ok. John and Katie had a great ride and both passed their vetting. Katy even managed to get a Grade 1, so she was very pleased, as the temperature had peaked at one point in the afternoon to 40 degrees.

We had a team meal on the Saturday night with drinks paid for from the North West kitty (whatever that is). It was very hot and everyone was tired so we were in bed by 10.30 pm. The next part of the report comes from mum as I slept though the chaos that followed….

Saturday Night Report by Mum

When we erected our corrals I was surprised at how small a space we were expected to use. It was half the size that we use at MGA, so I was pleased that we had brought hayledge. There was not much room for the ponies to trot about, so when I heard the thunder of hooves at 1.20 am, I knew instantly it was not good news. As Sandy has been known to limbo under fences I thought I had better get up and double check that he was not in any mischief. As I started to get out of my sleeping bag I heard the thunder of hooves again, but it seemed louder and closer! Within seconds a shout went up announcing that some of the horses had escaped and everyone should check their horses and corrals. By the time I had put my shoes on and found my torch, people were beginning to move.

When I got to the corral area I was staggered by the mayhem. The first 2 or 3 columns of corrals for say 10 rows had simply been demolished. There were loose horses panicking and lots of frightened horses huddled together. Most had head collars on but finding a lead rope was difficult. I checked our horses. As their corrals were at the back of the rows, they were not within the devastated corral area. Both ponies were very nervous and clearly spooked by the events, which is unlike them. It did not help matters that people were running about with bright torches plus shouting. It was pitch dark. As they seemed ok I gave them a pat, a soothing talk and then left them to help the others.

Over the next few hours I spent it holding lose horses and helping to re build corrals from the tangled mess of electric tape, broken posts and damaged transformers. In hindsight the EGB members pulled together seamlessly - with elements of humour, such as someone shouting “has any one seen a grey?" And a chap responding with "well that narrows it down a lot!" It is fair to say that most of the escapees were grey! After 30 or so mins any horse not safely re corralled or re united with its owners was taken down to the stables. Luckily the Saudi contingent had vacated the stables.

Soon after the organisers announced that all owners needed to report to the main tent and confirm that their horse was accounted for and not injured. In true British standards a queue was formed. After another 30 mins or so the EGB officials confirmed that some horses had escaped and left the venue either via the forest or the road. They confirmed that they had the situation in control and that the police were aware of the facts and both the police and the EGB officials would commence the search for the horses. They stressed that they knew the layout of forest and that competitors should not start their own searches. The official also confirmed that there were a number of injured horses being looked at by vets and that so far as he knew 1 had life threatening injuries.

At this stage there was not much more that I could do, so I checked the kids – both had slept through the chaos- and tried to get some sleep. As our tent was near the entrance area to the forest road, I was more than pleased to hear the search party return at about 6 am confirming that all horses had been recovered. What a night!

Sunday Report by Izzy

Pat Guerin and I were riding the 48k route together. Our vet time was 8.30 am. Mum and I agreed the logistics for getting ready, as the trailer was a long way from the vetting and start area. So we decided to tack up at the vet gate. It seemed like a good plan. However, a lot of the horses were still spooked from last night and Gizmo was on his toes. So when he was attacked by mum with fly spray, he was naughty and kicked me on my thigh. It was mums fault. I screamed and instantly the vets arrived, EGB officials ran over and an ambulance with flashing lights appeared! After checking me over I was allowed to ride as long as I promised to retire if the pain got too much.

Pat and I set off. The temperature was around 30 degrees but there was a bit more cloud compared to yesterday. The route was clearly marked, and took us through scenic landscape and thick forest with grassy verges and sandy tracks. There were some stony sections as well. Pats horse Ziggy was too scared to go under the trees but Gizmo being a little smaller and perhaps a little braver enabled me to under the branches. It was great fun and I enjoyed riding with Pat. She is so experienced and we took turns in taking the lead. We were expertly crewed by Terry Madden and John Black. As it was very hot I was pleased that Gizmo drank lots of sugar beet water. Ziggy was being fussy about drinking and refused any water. We finished after 4.5 hours with a ride average of 10.75 kph.

When we got back to the finish there was plenty of helpers to lend a hand. This enabled Shaun and Amanda to each concentrate on getting heart rates down. As Gizmo doesn't like being sloshed, getting his heart rate down can be tricky, but I learnt how to do it successfully without upsetting him. He finished on 48, which was a bit higher than normal, but it was 38 degrees and no shade. I got a grade 2.

Pat however did not do so well. Firstly Ziggy’s heart rate would not drop and he was vetted out with a reading of 69. What a shame. Matters became worse when Pat collapsed with heat exhaustion. So another trip with the ambulance. Plus Ziggy's heart rate was still high, so the vet admitted him to a stable and a drip was inserted into his neck. After about an hour both Pat and Ziggy were much better and both were later discharged.

Max arrived back with Diane Gillings on her borrowed horse called Chant after completing the 32 k ride. Max did well finishing on a heart rate of 40 and got a grade 1. I was pretty jealous………

When the results came in the North West Team came 2nd. The South West Team came 1st but they did have a huge team. In addition the winner of the 32 k Saturday ride was Ruth Chadwick. She won a big trophy. Plus Max as a junior rider won his 32 k class and I won the 48 k novice class. Ziggy won a prize for being the best veteran.

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We had a great weekend, met some really nice people. It was a long journey home but it was well worth it!

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