Scurry driver Chris Orchard goes to a horse show all dressed up for a day in hospitality... And no one recognises her!
Well the next stop on the Osborne Scurry Group circuit was the New Forest Show; and following a resounding victory with my fantastic ponies Carriagehouse Insurance 'Rough & Tumble', it was time to go and explore the show. My Grandma always used to tell me if you eat enough sweets you'll end up looking like one, I never really understood the concept until the New Forest Show. Obviously the principle described by my Gran applies also to horses as I met a pony who had fulfilled her prophecy, he'd obviously eaten so much grass he'd ended up looking like it! And very lovely he was too!
On to the Longines Royal International Horse Show at Hickstead, and an unusual day for me! Having been kindly invited to spend the day in hospitality with the British Horse Society, and it coincidentally being my birthday (21 again!), I dressed to the nines and headed off. As I was a bit early I went off for a bit of shopping, like you do, and walked into a lovely couple who have been massive supporters of scurry at Hickstead for at least the last 14 years to my knowledge, we know them very well and although we only see then twice a year at the Hickstead meeting we are very firm friends. I couldn’t work out why they wouldn’t chat to me then it struck me that as I was all 'poshed' up and not in my team colours with my hair in a pony tail, they had absolutely no idea at all who I was! Obviously I played the game to the full and after about ten minutes and some very big clues they realised it was me and we all had a really good laugh about it. I continued to test this several times with people I knew well on the tradestands and they were all very confused but did say I scrubbed up well, I am sure they will all be taking the mickey out of me at HOYS and for many years to come.
My day in hospitality was wonderful and I had a thoroughly brilliant birthday and was even presented with a cupcake with pony candles on it, a card and round of Happy Birthday sung by all the other guests, a day I will treasure forever.
Then back to reality. Dash home from Hickstead, off with the glad rags, time to bath four ponies and wash two carriages ready to return to Hickstead the following day to compete. I had to make sure I qualified for the final in the main arena as I had promised all the guests in the BHS Hospitality that I would wave to them the next day. I kept my promise, there was much waving and cheering. Competing in that wonderful, beautifully manicured, main arena comes second only to being at HOYS.
Finally back to Hickstead again on the Sunday for some serious shopping, and to collect my fantastic painting by artist Judy Goodman, of me driving my two Scurry pairs, 'Rough & Tumble' and 'Touch & Go' as a four-in-hand team through a water obstacle in a competition I did the previous year. Judy doesn’t like to have her photo taken but she had to oblige in penance for the “Scrubs up well” comment of the previous day. Judy is such a fabulous artist and it’s a privilege to be the very proud owner of such a wonderful work of art.
Not long now until the “Big One” - HOYS - and we can’t wait!"
Scurry driver Chris Orchard has had a busy few weeks, but when she took 5min out for a much-needed glass of Pimms in between shows and demonstrations, her naughty pony Dylan had other ideas...
"When I tell anyone about my pony, Dylan (AKA Rough from Rough & Tumble), I always say that I never say his name once, it’s always 'Dylan… DYLAN…!' He is just the most cheeky, mischievous pony ever. That said, he is great to drive and he’s very, very fast.
At the beginning of June, I was asked to give a display and short talk about scurry driving at a charity even organised by my vets (Lingfield Equine) at Sussex Polo club, in aid of the Ebony Horse Trust (a fantastic charity). The event was superb with the vets handing out copious volumes of Pimms to encourage the public to feel generous to the cause. A jolly good day was had by all who enjoyed some wonderful Polo (and watching some very handsome Argentinean polo players on the field, just like a chapter from a Jilly Cooper novel!). My scurry display and talk was very well received, especially when I did a top speed 'fly past' the crowd with Rough & Tumble!!
Eventually, my duties fulfilled, it was my turn for Pimms, my favourite tipple for the summer, as a reward for my hard work. The vet proudly carried over a pitcher complete with fruit and mint and set it down just inside the lorry door, but before I had time to yell DYLAN for the second time, he had neatly shoved it with his cute little nose and deposited the entire contents of the jug over the horsebox's laminate flooring! Bless his cotton socks…
Luckily (for Dylan) the jug was quickly replenished, and a bouquet of flowers joined it so a jolly good time was had by me too. I am still finding small slices of apple and cucumber in the living of my lorry however!
On to the Hickstead Derby, always a great show. I qualified both pairs for that wonderful main arena on Saturday afternoon, and finished in four place with Rough & Tumble, with only three hundredths of a second separating the top four placings, so a very respectable result.
The celebrity Scurry on Sunday is always brilliant fun and this year I was lucky to be teamed up with commentator Steve Wilde. After Steve had walked the course with me and had a quick crash (inappropriate word) course on how to groom from Paul, he was kitted up with an impressive radio microphone headset so he could do the commentary from the back of my carriage while we charged around that huge main arena at a flat out gallop.
You can imagine my concern (another inappropriate word!) when we got to the funnel, about to enter the arena, and Steve announced that his headset wasn’t working and a hand held mike was thrust into his grasp! how was he going to hang on to the carriage? Still, the show must go on so I cantered into the arena shouting to Steve to hold on, and don't forget to LEAN!
To his credit he did a sterling job and produced a very interesting commentary. Despite me "taking the brakes off", I failed to make him scream on the way round, believe me I tried.
We finished in third place but the celebrity scurry is all about entertaining the spectators immediately before the Derby, and having a great laugh, not about the winning so mission absolutely accomplished.
On to Norfolk, what a lovely show, an immaculately manicured showground, the most polite stewards you could imagine, absolutely everything you could wish from a superb County show. I guess I may have had rose-tinted glasses this year as I qualified both of my Scurry pairs, "Touch & Go" and "Rough & Tumble" for HOYS! Well worth the trip.
Next stop Kent County, the garden of England, oh boy was it hot, last year we were towed on and towed off the showground, the mud was so deep I almost disappeared in it, this year everyone got sunburnt and spent most of the time trying to find shade, drinking lots of bottled water and putting sunscreen on the ponies' noses!
My young groom Laura decided she wanted a white scurry pony of her own and we set off on a mission to win a fluffy stuffed one from the fairground style stall on the showground. We had seen a recent TV documentary showing how they ensure that a prize is won only when the stallholder intends, and as we stood watching people trying their luck and it became evident that the report had been very accurate. Laura, quite determined on success, took matters into her own hands and swiftly threw her next ball directly into the hopper at the base of the milk churn target (your supposed to throw it into the small hole at the top), threw her hands in the air cheering I’ve done it, proudly grabbed her prize pony from the attendant (who hadn’t seen what had happened) and off she went victorious! Well said Laura, it just said you had to get the ball into the hopper at the bottom; it didn’t say how you had to get it there!
Touch & Go gave the new pony a serious sniff over and obviously thought he was brilliant too, I’m not sure he’ll be scurrying by New Forest but you never know if Laura wins another one we could run them as “Steiff & Hamley’s”!"
Carriage driver Chris Orchard discovers that driving aprons come in handy after all...
So, with the first two HOYS qualifiers over, I unfortunately haven't managed to secure a place yet, but with eight more shows to go I remain very optimistic.
Carriagehouse insurance Touch & Go and Rough & Tumble went very well at a lovely sunny Surrey County Show, but we just didn't have the luck on the day.
Note to self; next year I will not be a 'good girl' and send all my show entries off as soon as the schedules are out, with the intension of making life easier for the overworked show secretaries. I have found out, to my cost, that you end up getting penalised for this exemplary behaviour as the shows run their classes in catalogue order, which means I go first almost every time. Not really in the spirit of the game from my perspective!
This certainly didn’t help my concentration levels at Surrey, having been subject to the dulcet tones of course builder, Tim Price, 'asking' me – in his inimitable way – to enter the arena with Touch & Go before I had finished walking the course. Bless him! (PS you can’t call yourself competitive if you don’t have a raft of excuses at your fingertips!)
On to Suffolk and again good luck eluded me. Having been drawn first again I was ready for it this time, and went into the area and set a blazing time, throwing down the gauntlet for all to chase. I held the lead till the last competitor, Sarah Cooke with Beau & Arrow, went in and beat me into second spot by less the a second. No excuses for this one, she was simply faster!
So after some fantastic shopping, face stuffing in the biggest food hall on the county show circuit, a great evening entertainment and a brilliant – if a little chilly – Suffolk show, we made our way home.
At this point I need to share with you all that I have been very scathing in the past of our rule about wearing a driving apron for scurrying. I have been known to complain that it is out of date and not in context with our fast and furious sport. I take it all back! Why...?
After the championship class and lap of honour, waving and smiling at the crowds in the grandstands and the immaculately dressed ladies in the member’s hospitality area of the beautifully groomed Suffolk Show main arena, I went off to get changed. Only to discover, to my horror, that my jods had split from front to back in the most embarrassing place!
Thank goodness for the modesty provided by that much-disliked driving apron, that is now the best friend I ever had, and which will never again be the subject of any ridicule from me!
Although if would have made me £250 (for a new pair of Jods) on You’ve Been Framed if I’d not been wearing the apron and had a video camera handy!"
"My season with the Osborne Scurry Group kicked off in usual style at the Carriage Driving Fair. It’s the country's biggest one-day carriage fair with demonstrations throughout the day from all carriage driving disciplines, including my scurry competition. With loads of fantastic equestrian trade stands I took time out between the competitions for some well earned retail therapy (I narrowly resisted the temptation of a new carriage and harness!) and had a wonderful lunch in the food court that this year, for a change, was bathed in lovely warm sunshine for superb dining al fresco.
Ok, so I finished in last place, but I was thrilled to bits with that. Why? My new Pony Carlo, who is to be the new “Touch” in my well known pony pair “Touch & Go”, had only been with me for six weeks and had never driven indoors, but he was totally brilliant. With all the loud music and cheering crowds, in the first round he was understandably a bit hesitant - he didn’t like the bright red car parked in the corner of the arena as advertising one bit (that made two of us!) but by the last round (we did four) he was like a seasoned professional. So I am very excited for the coming season now.
Next on my scurry agenda was the training day at Ryefields Farm, which is the Osborne Refrigerators practice, training and a pre-season party. It was great fun and I went along to help a new driver Harriett Barker who lives near me as she’s starting to scurry this year. Her pair are called “Bob & Weave”. Go Harry!
Jeff Osborne cooks a BBQ in a huge barn for us all and this year, for afters, he did toasted marshmallows. I think he used a flame thrower! But they tasted amazing, if a bit gooey!
The day after the party it was on to the Family Fun Day at Southsea, Portsmouth. My first chance to put Carlo through his paces outdoors in a huge flat arena, and he was great, again a bit hesitant in the first round but confidence was building all day, and I can't wait for the HOYS qualifiers to start. I also took Carriagehouse Insurance “Rough & Tumble” along and they picked up where they left off last season, they were incredibly fast, winning the first heat and coming second in the next heat.
So a good day was had by all? Well till we left for home it was! On leaving the showground in the horsebox, we were immediately stuck in traffic, so just as I am climbing through from the cab into living to get my iPhone out of my coat pocket to do some Facebooking, Paul sees a gap in traffic, puts his foot down and catapults me through the cut through like a bullet out if a gun! I land on the folding stool, it doesn't fold, so I do a front somersault landing flat on my back feet near the horse area door completely winded. Eventually I stand up and then realise the stool had dug into me while I was hurtling over it. Oops and ouch, broken rib!
Oh well as long as its okay for Surrey County at the end of May I’m really not bothered as the ponies are going so well and the good thing is that wine helps with the pain!"
"Welcome to my first H&C blog! Spring is finally here, and the season is almost underway. Once all the fun of the South of England Carriage Driving Fair is over in April, the eleven HOYS qualifiers start with Surrey County show, continuing at a rate of knots through to the Osborne Scurry Final qualifier at Dorset County in September. Then comes the big one, HOYS, in October.
We all begin our quest to qualify for HOYS at the Surrey County Show in May, probably the biggest one day county show. The next day we travel to the Suffolk County Show, without a doubt one or the very best shows we go to, an immaculate showground, where the stewards are polite and considerate. It's a real pleasure to compete here!
On to Royal Bath & West and then to The South of England Show. Next the Hickstead Derby, need I say more? The Hickstead main arena, something no other showground has to offer, without question the most exciting outdoor arena to scurry in, it’s massive, and the scurry course winds its way around the permanent jumps and the famous Derby bank, the roar of the crowd from the two enormous grandstands can be deafening, I have driven many times in this arena and for me it remains awesome!
Then to Royal Norfolk, another lovely show, with a wonderful main arena, very large, very flat and drives very fast! As I live in Kent, this county show is my local Show and I feel very at home here as so many friends and family visit. The New Forest show is next, set in the delightful county of Hampshire, a three-day show packed with all types of carriage driving, you could spend the whole show just watching harness horses at play.
Back to Hickstead now and the Royal International Horse Show, a grand title for yet another superb Hickstead event. Long tall jugs of Pimms, strawberries and cream in abundance with polo matches taking place as well the fashion girls are out in force, all this plus the special atmosphere of the Derby meeting in June. Wonderful!
Just two more Horse of the Year Show qualifiers to go now; if you don’t have your HOYS ticket by now then start to panic! Edenbridge & Oxted show has two full days of all the things you would expect at a big county show but more compact, another very enjoyable, well planned show. The last chance to get your ponies to HOYS, Dorset County Show, the pressure is on! So now this is it, HOYS, it’s said to be the greatest equestrian show on earth and speaking from experience I can only agree. The roar of 6,000 spectators as you burst through those big black curtains into the glaring bright white light of the main arena is like nothing else I’ve experienced, it is without doubt the most thrilling, exhilarating, exciting (and terrifying) experience you can imagine, all rolled into one.
We'll be blogging throughout the season, so we hope you enjoy our updates. Bring it on!"
Jenna Copley writes about her experiences with the British tentpegging team on a recent trip to Pakistan.
"So many people ask me 'what exactly is tentpegging?' The stock answer is that it is an ancient cavalry skill that involves using swords, lances and guns on horseback. However, I would describe it as probably the most fun you can have on a horse - it gives you an addictive high when you start hitting the targets.
Think mounted games (without the need to be flexible enough to vault!), and an almost childlike sense of fun. The use of real weapons also means this sport is one where the men are interested, there are almost equal numbers of men and women competing and you occasionally get to see the dishy Household Cavalry bachelors competing (the army announcers often handily point out when they are on the Tatler’s most eligible list).
However, it would be fair to say in the UK, the sport was dominated by women in 2012, and the boys will have to work hard to keep up in 2013.
On the 6-13 February I went out to Pakistan as part of the team of British riders taking part in a four nation challenge with South Africa, Pakistan and India. But India did not make it and so instead was replaced by a 'United Nations' team and Pakistan ended up with two teams, so was actually a five-team competition.
Pakistan may sound like a daunting place to visit, but we were well looked after by HRH Prince Malik Ata Muhammad Khan, a legend in his own right and a generous patron of the tentpegging (in Urdu “Neza Bazi”) sport.
I have to say Pakistan was bliss after leaving the ankle deep mud and freezing conditions of home. It was green, and warm with very few flies and almost no mosquitoes.
The horses were impressive, and we wondered why they often hobbled the back legs when on lines. We soon gathered that only stallions are ridden and therefore they are hobbled to stop them swinging round and kicking their neighbour. The amount of stallions kept in close proximity would be a logistical nightmare for the UK, but the Pakistanis had this down to a fine art.
The competition itself was fast and furious. All teams suffered the handicap of horses frequently changing, very few were static throughout the competition. Unlike showjumping, there was no warm-up and you had to jump on a new horse and run them when it counted, which meant the scoring was at times slightly erratic for all teams.
But the British acquitted themselves well with Jacky Chandler in the United Nations team bringing home a bronze in the pairs sword and a bronze in team sword.
Michael Smith and Gerald Nott brought home a bronze in pair lance and silver in team Indian file sword. Indian file is where you gallop one after the other and must pick up your allocated peg, without running into the horse in front or dropping your weapon!
Finally Tina Ricketts-Smith and I brought home silver for the Pairs Individual Lance and silver in Team Indian file sword.
This is the first time we have scored well in pairs, which is a big achievement as you are effectively competing against ten other pairs.
The real test is coming in March when the GB squad head off to India to compete in the FEI World Cup, where at the moment seventeen nations have confirmed participation."
Melanie Hook wrote to us about the need to train our horses to be safe and sensible on the road.
"I wish people would take more responsibility for training their horses for today’s roads. As harness horse trainers, we teach young horses to be safe, confident and happy in traffic.
It seems many carriage drivers try to avoid traffic, rather than training their horses better. We even encounter other harness trainers who don’t believe in training horses for traffic. But we all know vehicles can be found in fields (combine harvesters, scrambler bikes and so on), and not everyone has the luxury of their own manege, fields, or access to off-road tracks.
When we're out driving, motorists will sometimes beep their horns in greeting; sometimes out of ignorance. Part of our training for harness horses involves me driving past with the horn blaring. In our opinion, if horses have experienced it during training, they are prepared should it occur later on in their driven career.
I’ve seen a driving horse bolt because a car driver was crawling along parallel to the horse’s quarters, brushing the hedge on the side of the road and making a noise. The driver assumed it was their speed that caused the horse to spook and so pulled out even wider, exacerbating the problem and causing the runaway. You can’t say to a motorist “You passed too wide and too slow!” when this is what we tell them to do.
There are organisations that offer road safety training, however these are mainly focused on the human rather than the horse itself. I agree that there are inconsiderate car drivers just as there are inconsiderate cyclists, carriage drivers, riders, shop assistants and bank managers. Regardless of how polite you are, there will always be someone who is rude for no reason even if they do know better.
I’m not saying we should stop educating motorists that horses are unpredictable and to pass wide and slow. We don’t want to encourage drivers to act recklessly - not only for our sake, but for that of other road users. But we should look at improving our horse’s behaviour too.
The sad truth is that the less people drive on the roads, the less motorists accept us as “road users”. This means they are more likely to get frustrated when they do see us on the road. I believe we should all strive for the highest possible standards, not only in competing, but in driving out on the roads."
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I am writing this blog on a lovely Monday morning - I rode out first thing and got completely soaked right through. Not the kind of weather you expect to get in June.
Our new season is well into stride now. Although the proper jumps horses won't be seen till October/November time, there is plenty of summer racing on at the moment. I finished last season on 25 winners from 274 rides - and the most winners I rode for an individual trainer was four. It wasn't a bad total but nowhere near what I was aiming for, which means a lot more hard work to be done in the coming season. I'm really looking forward to it.
Just a couple of weeks ago came the sad news that Henrietta Knight was retiring from training. I've been very lucky to have had the pleasure of riding for Hen over the last couple of seasons, and she provided me with a very memorable day in 2010 when I was fortunate enough to ride a winner for her and The Queen. It was definitely an honour to have rode a winner in those colours. Hen had her last two runners at Fontwell last weekend and is now going to start on various new ventures. I would like to take this opportunity to thank her and Terry for all their help and wish them the very best of luck for the future.
The Flat season is in full flow, with Camelot a very impressive winner of The Derby. Royal Ascot is just around the corner, and there will be a very international feel to the week with horses from all over the world - and none more exciting than Black Caviar. The mare has run 21 times and is unbeaten, and she's due to run in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes on June 23 - definitely a race not to be missed! I might take a social trip to Royal Ascot for one or two days, hopefully the weather will clear up a bit and it will be fun. You should try to come along if you can, it will be a great day out.