Two weekends ago was the British Eventing (BE) Aldon one day event at the Yeovil Showground, Somerset. Usually I’d be competing with my top horse Red Sky Diamond aka Barley. However, he’s currently recovering from a small op on his hock which for the first time in a very long time I was horseless.
Barley & I at Aldon 3 Day Event – October 2013
For those of you, who’ve had horses on recovery or been in between buying one, will know that not being able to compete can feel like a form of torture. Not wanting to miss on the action I got in touch with Sara Greenwood BE Regional Training Organiser for the south west to volunteer my services for dressage!
My thought was that whilst I’m giving back to the sport, I will be picking up some top tips from the pros/judges. What I didn’t expect was that I had almost as much if not more fun volunteering than competing.Don’t worry I’m not planning on hanging my riding boots up yet.
Saturday 15th March – Dressage Stewarding
Bright and early I headed up the A37 to Aldon for a 7.45am start, to be greeted with coffee – which always makes for a good start. A few of the dressage judges had already arrived and surprisingly weren’t as scary as I’d imagined they’d be. Growing up through the Pony Club with a passion for jumping, you see the dressage judges as the ogres of eventing. In fact they couldn’t have been more pleasant.
Early morning start at the dressage
After a quick briefing, off I set to the dressage warm up with my Section K bib for the ON, clipboard and schedule in hand. I’d already done a bit of homework to see who was in my section and was delighted to see some top names including: Daisy Berkely, David Doel – fresh back from the sunshine tour in Portugal, Mr long legs William Fox Pitt, Bicton Events Manager Helen West, local rider Amanda Taylor from Cricket St Thomas and Harry Meade making his come back after a horrendous fall last August.
It was a joy to see so many of our top riders in one field at the same time. I think we had Pippa Funnell, Sir Mark Todd, Tina Cook, and Mary King all warming up at one point. My favourite rider had to be Harry Meade who turned up with 5 minutes to spare after having a technical issue losing a shoe, but remained calm and just got on with it.
Panoramic from a sunny dressage warm up
My role was to check in the riders on arrival at the warm up, keep them informed on how many horses to go before their test and make sure they get to the right arena and on time! Overall it was pretty straight forward, and riders were obliging as they were just happy to be back at what was for many their first event of the season. Time whizzed by chatting to other stewards, owners, grooms and helping riders remove tack and keep some of the more novice/junior riders calm. Which is something I can relate to, at times I’d turn to jelly in the dressage warm up and quite frankly ride like a sack of potatoes. So, I felt relieved to be on the other side for once.
As I was about to head home to ride my own jolly Jonty inspired to make sure he was on the bit and listening to my aids I was asked if I’d like to come back on Sunday to help in XC Control. Eh ‘yes’ was my response!
Sunday 16th March – XC Control
Day 2 at Aldon, and this time I headed up with my folks in convoy before my 3 hour stint in XC Control. The event was packed, sun shining and everyone and his dog was there, including the lovely Martin Clunes with his dogs and family just blending in with the spectators.
So, 1.30pm was the start of my XC Control shift and I had no idea what to expect. Another volunteer gave me a quick handover and then I was in the hot seat.
This time my role was to update the horse and rider cards with the latest scores. Phoning through to show jumping, adding any faults and passing it over ready for when combinations headed out onto the XC. Once I got the hang of everything and on top of my scores, I could sit back and enjoy the view.
XC Control is definitely the best seat in the house. I could see and hear everything so clearly, no mistakes could go un-missed. The selectors were also up in control keeping a close eye on the Under 21s, there really is no room for error.
View through Aldon – pre-competition day
Sunday was the more advanced classes including Open Intermediate, Under 21 OI and Advanced Intermediate, which meant all the pros were out in force with their Badminton horses.
It’s amazing to think you can get so close to the riders and horses that have been to the London Olympics and ridden at World Equestrian Games.
It was great to see Caroline Ryan Bell – Rathmoyle King, Mary King – Imperial Cavalier, Tina Cook- De Novo News, Lucy Wiegersma – Simon Porloe and a master class from Andrew Nicholson on Quimbo! I was also impressed by Will Furlong in the Under 21 OI who swept the board with 3 horses in the Top 4 – definitely one to watch.
One of the best moments had to be seeing the XC master himself Nicholson hop on a quad bike to go and help out one of his team who had a tumble – cool as a cucumber.
Simon Greenwood and his team made me feel very welcome and talked me through how it all works in the ‘nerve centre’. I don’t really think I appreciated how much goes into an event until that weekend. I just usually rock up to the start box and go.
So, would I volunteer for British Eventing again, most definitely – why wouldn’t you? You get to see the sport from the other side, meet new and upbeat people, learn tricks of the trade and you’re giving back – so when you take part your fully appreciate that people are giving their time and dedication to make British Eventing one of the best sports to be part of. Plus, I received some yummy Dorset Shortbread courtesy of Moores bakery.
To find out more about volunteering at a British Eventing event click on one of the below links:
All the best