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So, Easter already.  Beau has had a very light few months because I have been so busy elsewhere in my life, so it seemed wrong to bring him into work, drop him back, bring him up etc.  He doesn't care, he is quite happy simply being a fat fluffy horse in the field.  I have ridden my friend's beautiful Friesans though and WOW!  That trot!!  

Now that the lighter evenings are here though it makes sense for me to ride after work.  If only i could find the energy!  I don't know about you, but I give 100% to everything which means that at the end of a day's work I am pretty much used up.  Don't get me wrong, my job is not physical at all, but my brain sends all the messages to my body required for me to just want to snuggle up on the sofa with the cat and a glass of wine.  Time wasted?  Or time spent recharging for the next day?

This weekend however, I have big plans.  I have 4 whole days off to do whatever I like!  The field shelters need painting, I have signs to fix to the horsebox, the power washer needs an outing and the patch behind the house looks like a city wasteland not a country garden.  The bedrooms need painting, and my wardrobe needs a biblical sort-out.  I have made a list.  However, I am a notorious optimist when it comes to planning and always expect myself to achieve more than i do.  This is the perfect way to set myself up for disappointment.

It's important, I feel, to not do the same with horses - whatever your aims and aspirations.  Beau is 22 now and every joint in my body seems to have an old injury, so to expect us both to reach Grand Prix dressage is a stretch, but i fully expect us to be able to compete sensibly at Elementary with some work and focus.  All that said, Japanese rider Hiroshi Hoketsu competed at the London Olympics at the age of 70, so why not me? (see, i can't ever quite give myself a break!)

Megacoach Alison has been talking a lot lately about mindfulness - http://alisonkenward.blogspot.com/2017/12/recipe-for-dressage-fun.html.  This is something that Mrs Whipcracker is brilliant at.  She focuses so strongly on whatever she is doing it's hard to get her attention sometimes.  I, however, am good at planning my next job, or pigeon spotting oin the hedges around the arena when riding.  Those moments I do find myself concentrating on only one thing are magical and I try to keep doing just that as much as possible.  It's one of the skills i know i need to work on.  That and sitting up, using my core, keeping my lower leg still, lifting my hands etc etc etc.  Still, there's a place in the world for all of us and whilst Mrs Whipcracker focuses so well I will be out the back multi-tasking.

I haven't made my ambitions list for this year yet.  I need to see what happens in other areas of my life before I can do so, and that's OK.  It's one year where my own focus has shifted and with luck I will have time to catch up.

One thing most definitely on the agenda though is Quadrille. 


This year Sardra has presented with an injury and will need a few months to recover so we have new Teamies, Claire and Annie, who will do us proud and learn how much fun it is!  Claire has helped us so much behind the scenes for the last few years and has been absolutely invaluable so has more than earned her place amongst the Cherwell valley RC Quaddies. 


This year's theme will give us plenty of makeup and artistry challenges.  
Step 1 is a trip down to Christine Waygood at https://www.christinewaygood.co.uk/ so we can make our hats.  One thing we learned in year 1 about Quadrille is that you cannot BUY a headdress that fits over a skull cap (nobody has a head that big so nobody sells them that big) you have to MAKE them.  I can't wait to go and play and see what monstrosities we can come up with :D

We already have some good music ideas and have started coming up with a routine, so let's see if this year we can make the final.....



TTFN.  Much love, Tam and Beau x



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I have been quiet for a while, family comes first, even over sharing our escapades, and so i have been unable to ride.  However, looking back on 2018 - it was one heck of a year! - I have put this together.  I love that I can remind myself what we got up to by scanning back on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram and I can relive it all from the comfort of the sofa ;)

Here's a reminder of what we did, and a reminder of how much fun you can get up to with your horse - even holding down a full time job.  Go on, give it all a go!!

In May, Beau turned 21.  We spent his birthday at a dressage competition and he had a lovely time


The incredible Laura Mary Art drew his portrait for me - she caught the glint in his eye perfectly!





We made it into YourHorse magazine - cheery and keen as ever




We did lots of training - including training our brains with Supercoach Alison Kenward, helped by tea served in beautiful Laura Mary Art mugs


We led the Northampton Town carnival parade!




We performed last year's quadrille routine - Ride of the Valkyries - at Blenheim International Horse Trials.  Good practice for the quadrille qualifier a couple of weeks later!


We launched a unique business!  www.equestriman.co.uk which makes and provides riding gear specifically designed and manufactured for men from the best fabrics at a low price for the quality



I got a Faberge egg in Moscow



 We toured the Moscow subway (no ponies there)



Mrs Whipcracker's daughter's wedding was in July - Equestriman scrubs up pretty well eh?


In October, of course it was the BRC Quadrille qualifiers.  You can see how exciting Beau finds it all


We performed our Moulin Rouge routine for the quadrille qualifiers to a fabulous soundtrack put together by www.equidance.co.uk.  We didn't qualify but we were featured on Horse and Country TV's Dressage to Music programme


We spent months in our quadrille coloured onesies.  LOVE THEM!


Finally, just this - remember it and live by it


Much love, Tam and Beau xx

PS, whilst there's nothing much going on in my horsey life please let me know if there is something you want to hear about.  I will research and share if so :)
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Putting your mind to it
In the pipeline is a blog about all of the amazing things we got up to in September, including BRC Quadrille, Blenheim Horse Trials demos and Beau, Sardra and Seamus being formally thanked for their participation in the Northampton town carnival parade.  Whilst i work on that though, I really felt I had to share my thoughts about how attitude and mindset really is everything in riding - and in general life

Where should we focus?
It's a dog eat dog world out there, and in between holding down careers, caring for families, trying to maintain a social life, shopping, cleaning and just looking after our horses, we sometimes lose sight of why we have horses - and that is to have fun!

We all start our lifelong passion with horses in different ways.  I was born with it even though my family was not horsey.  Some people take up riding later in life.  For some their dream is to have a pony and as soon as they have their own job they make it come true.  As well, many people stop riding for years, for various reasons, and then realise later it's all they want to do.  This level of passion exists because we enjoy riding, we enjoy being round our horses, we enjoy watching horses and we enjoy the company of other horsey people

As a kid i loved nothing more than the adrenaline rush brought on by riding hell for leather across country, regularly having the fastest time in competitions on a welsh pony (they really can run if they want to).  After a 15 year break, as a grown-up i find just getting on to be something of a challenge some days, so my cross-country days are probably over, but there are plenty of other activities that will give me the same rush.  So how did i find out what those activities are?

Rider Confidence
A couple of years ago I attended a Rider Confidence course run by the Centre for Horseback Combat.  The focus of this course was on mindset and included group hypnotherapy as well as giving us strategies for dealing with situations if they do arise, such as how to fall off safely.  We were taught to imagine everything going right, and focus on the outcomes we wanted so we could achieve them.  If you focus on what could go wrong, it is pretty much guaranteed to happen!  This course was the start of my journey into trying to understand how my own mind works in relation to riding.  And it is no exaggeration to say it got me back on a horse.

Happiness and our brains 
I found this blog by Christopher Bergland to prove my completely un-academic theories:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201211/the-neurochemicals-happiness

I have come to know all of the above gradually over my life, and now my sole aim in my free time is to increase the level of enjoyment i can have with Beau.  I understand that for me to have fun, he has to be having fun too.  Unfortunately for him, his greatest joy is galloping and jumping over fences, but at 21 and with a wet drip rider, we tend to do mostly dressage.  How can dressage possibly be fun I hear you cry?  Well, believe me it can, because it challenges you and makes the small victories so enjoyable.

So how do we have fun?
We do what we enjoy.  Each year, with my amazing Cherwell Valley team mates, we enter the BRC Quadrille Qualifier.  We are not dressage divas and we do everything ourselves.  It takes the whole year to come up with a theme, create costumes, build the floorplan and mix the music, and every second of that is fun (even when we all fall out!)

Occasionally I take to riding aside too, and it's challenging to do well and therefore very rewarding.  Beau has taken to it very well so we hack sideways, we have done dressage competitions sideways and we have even shown (that was a little too staid for me though, lots of standing around and then the challenge of waking Beau up again for the individual show without making him too cross)

In between times we attempt dressage to music.  The distraction of the music and having to concentrate to be at the right pace at the right time makes it fun.  I had a very sage piece of advise, which was to not have a floorplan but to wing it every time.  Now that is fun!  

Winning at life?
In all of the above, we are not setting the world alight.  I have yet to score over 70% even at prelim (though we have at novice, go figure) even though we can do all of the Elementary moves pretty well at home.  The team does not win at quadrille, I don't often come home with a ribbon and it's a hard slog to qualify for any championships.  But the journey is what's fun!  If i can come out of the arena feeling as though I had 3 strides of OMG Trot, or a smooth downwards transition, I'm happy.  On occasion i have had an appalling score, and some mean comments from judges, but have still been on top of the world because I know we have done well and our partnership has felt right in the test.  That's the key and all I ask

You may think I mustn't be naturally competitive.  That could not be further from the truth!  I really really want to win every time i go out, but I have learned that attitude actually sucks the fun from the competition.  It's all in the mind set and that's what helps me to be able to hold down a difficult job in the week, and still focus on what's key for my own mental wellbeing at weekends.

Learning about fun is FUN!
I wrote this blog : https://beaubayou.blogspot.com/2017/07/june-2017-its-all-about-socks.html last year having attended a fantastic Centaur Biomechanics seminar at Moulton College.  One of the key speakers was sports psychologist Charlie Unwin whose methods make perfect sense.  Luckily my coaches Alison Kenward and James Burtwell agree!  Alison in particular is helping enormously in changing my mindset and supporting all of the above whilst teaching me how to ride properly too!  

Beau appreciates all of this, which means I appreciate Beau and my happy hormones can flow freely...


...whatever we get up to 

Much love

Tam and Beau

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Not just for men.....

My partner is not flamboyant.  He does not like to dress up and owns just 2 suits for black tie do's and weddings.  But he has always been disappointed during trips to the tack shop.  If I wanted to I could come out with a pair of pink tartan breeches and a glittery gilet, but he could only ever come out with beige or black, or a muted grubby olive if very lucky

He decided to do something about this, to bring a little colour into his and Parker's life - so he founded Equestriman!

I am so very proud of him.  We started with a trip to BETA this January with a launch date of 1st September.  We were told by everybody that a new range of breeches in a new previously un-sourced fabric (yes never before used for breeches - even ladies) would be impossible in the timescale he set himself.  And yet here we are in September with a fully stocked webshop which did indeed launch on 1st September

Not only is that an incredible achievement, but the breeches are lovely too.  I own a blue pair (despite being a girl!) and they are the most comfortable breeches i have ever ridden in - including riding tights.  And I'm not just saying that




He did not want to launch with just the #nomorebeige breeches so alongside his work to identify a manufacturer, make test samples and source the fabric, he also brought in various complimentary items both from independent sellers and from the fabulous Noble Outfitters.  They create some beautiful quality riding and country wear and he wanted to support them because we own and love many of their items ourselves - including their neoprene wellies - currently on offer here:  https://equestriman.co.uk/products/muds-stay-cool-high-boots

I have seen first hand the work it's taken to make these gorgeous clothes available for male riders, and I think Simon so deserves to be successful.  Tell everybody about his new venture, and check out his wares here:  www.equestriman.co.uk

Equestriman #nomorebeige breeches, Churchill t-shirt and peaked hat on Equestriman's founder - the amazing Simon:  

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I don’t know about you but I always seem to be skint.  If I ever have any spare cash I spend it immediately on a lesson or a competition, or if I am feeling very flush (or have a desperate need), new tack for my beloved horse.  Tack is a tool, a fashion statement, a way to show off your horse’s best features, to show you understand the new field of equestrian science or simply to display your own good taste in saddles.  It can help or hinder your horse as much as bad riding, and if chosen well it can improve your riding too.  Always use a qualified saddle fitter to help you – they have been thoroughly trained by the Society for Master Saddlers – a list is available on their website here:  https://www.mastersaddlers.co.uk/

£
There’s no getting away from it though – it’s an investment.  Decent tack from nosebands to discipline specific saddles is expensive.  Even if you trawl eBay and pick up good quality second-hand tack it’s still not cheap to buy, or to have to replace – so I try to look after it


Cleaning
We are supposed to clean our tack after every ride (ahem!), but back in the real world it’s difficult to find the time or the will to do that.  I try to give it a quick clean and a soap or a treatment once a week, and to take it apart properly once a month or before a big competition

For cleaning, there are myriad different soaps and cleansers and balms and potions out there.  You can buy traditional, or modern – the same brand as your saddle or as your favourite feed supplement.  Personally I find that traditional glycerine soap is the best – whichever brand.  It gets nosebands shiny, cleans grease from the insides of reins and keeps everything supple.  Important note – if you feel the need to treat the seat of your saddle either do it a few rides before beige breeches make contact with it, or use a leather milk that won’t make it look like you sat down in mud (or faced a veryscary fence across country) when you dismount!

The dishwasher is the perfect place to get rid of grease from stirrup irons or grass/treat fragments from bits – especially loose ring bits.  Don’t forget to take off any lip straps or other leather fittings first though

Security
Keeping your tack safe is always a challenge too.  You have spent a fortune acquiring it and you’ve spent hours cleaning it only to chuck it in the back of your car or lorry and scratch it, or have something drop onto your saddle in the tack room.  I keep my saddles safe with a fleecy cover, and use a locker in the tack room – double secure.  At shows it’s handy, and sensible, to have some kind of stand or trolley to move your tack from the lorry to the horse without having saddles on the floor or bridles on the ramp asking to be trodden on.  The same trolley would double up as a secure way to transport your tack – stand it in the living or the last partition and lock the wheels.  Simple!

Storage
Storage is key.  Your tack storage needs to be dry and secure.  We have the luxury of a secure locked tack room attached to a house, but not everybody does.  I also use a locker – with wheels so it can be moved about for cleaning.  The padlocks have number codes so if anybody else is riding Beau I can give them the number to get to his tack and it can be locked up safe for next time

Handy hints
  • After a hard cross country round or a day’s hunting - for a quick clean of sweaty bridle: fill a bucket with water, and add 2 drops of both vegetable oil and washing up liquid.  Simply dunk the complete bridle, give it a swish round, and hang it up to dry.  It will be clean enough to use the next day and because of the oil will not have hardened
  • If the insides of your reins are greasy, instead of scrubbing with something too abrasive simply save a bit of mane from the last pulling, tie it into a firm knot and use the knot to scrub off the grease bumps.  Works a treat.  For really stubborn grease dip it into moistened saddle soap
  • To get rid of soap blocking the holes in your bridle, simply stick a matchstick through the hole and wipe the blob off the end before drawing it back
  • To prevent sand or dirt from your stirrups marking your saddle when put up, you can buy little socks for them – or indeed use a pair of socks!
  • If you always mount from the left, try to swap your stirrup leathers over each time you clean tack.  This means both will stretch at the same rate, instead of the left stretching more than the right if you never swap them
  • To get a really good shine on plastic stirrup treads – use plimsoll whitener, or black instant shoe shine liquid for black ones (obvs) – be sure to let them dry well before putting them back into your stirrups or like me you will wreck a good pair of jeans!
  • If you ride on a synthetic saddle, use synthetic stirrup leathers to avoid rubs and stains.  Oh, and wash it after you ride, not before (as I discovered, it’s difficult to keep a towel in place during rising trot)




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We all have off days, horses and humans.  The important thing is not to be disheartened, but to learn from it and move on

A couple of weeks ago Beau and I performed a dressage to music test at prelim level.  In theory this should have been easy, because we have all the elementary moves at home.  However that particular day Beau was having none of it

We are all taught from our first time in the saddle that if something goes wrong it's our fault and not the horse's.  This was true that day as much as any other, there would have been lots of tools in a better rider's kit to overcome his behaviour.  But... never forget you are riding a living, breathing, thinking, sentient being; in Beau's case a being with plenty of his own opinions.  On a good day he is like riding a machine - very sensitive and very easy.  On a bad day he reminds me that at 21 he hasn't just read the book on evasions - he wrote it!

We started well in the warm up - it was very very hot so I took it easy on us both.  He was soft, moving sideways from my leg, and working properly.  There was a short walk to the competition arena during which he squeezed in half a dozen spooks - out of character for him but i thought OK, we can work with this.  When we got to the arena though, the PA system let out a loud screech that made us both jump, and at that moment i completely lost him and could not get him back

The test felt like a disaster to me.  He was so tense we were about 20 metres behind our music by the turn at C!  He wouldn't stretch and he wouldn't accept my legs or hands.  It was like riding a picnic table.  It probably would have been fine if i'd had 5 minutes to canter round the outside and soften him, but we were first in so that didn't happen

After the test i took him back to the warm up - he could not be allowed to be naughty and then be rewarded by me getting off!  Confusingly he worked for 5 minutes like a star, so i called it a day

When I collected our sheet our score was 66%, which i was so disappointed with.  I have still yet to score 70% at prelim but have managed 69.81%, and have beaten 70% more than once at novice.  Go figure!

The score was what made me think properly about what had actually happened and what i needed to take away, and here's the learning:


  • A year ago I would have been so happy with 66%, so we must have improved for me to be so be disappointed
  • I must have learned along the way that the score doesn't actually matter - it's the feel during the test that counts, and that's what had upset me
  • Going forward I need to work on Beau's emotional suppleness - with Alison's help - and how to distract him
  • Beau must, in any situation, accept the contact.  We occasionally work now in a double bridle or loose draw reins at home, and that has worked miracles for him because even though I ride off the snaffle all the time, he has no easy escape route!
  • The warm up is key, but that continues all the way to the bell, I mustn't let him wander to the arena
  • The only reason we had an OK score at all is because I have now learned to push sideways into downwards trans
  • Having seen the photos i need to either lose weight or wear a jacket even in 30 degrees C!
  • Christine from Dressage Perspectives shared her insight:  The test was in parts perfect, in parts distracted and when distracted it was terrible!
  • Finally, the simplest lesson of all in a music test - if one end of the school is scary - don't use it!

I hope you can find some help and/or encouragement from what I learned that day - onwards and upwards.  Be More Charlotte!

Love and light, Tam and Beau x

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Cherwell Valley Riding Club has this year, in addition to hosting 3-day stay-over camps at Bury Farm EC, decided to hold day camps on specific disciplines.  Genius!

At the beginning of May a dressage day camp was arranged, with 3 instructors offering very different skill sets and viewpoints, across 5 sessions - 2 on foot and 3 ridden

Tory and I arrived with Beau and Sardra, settled them into their stables, and went off in search of a brew.  In typical CVRC fashion there were lots of people there on their own so we all helped each other settle in, then sat and got to know each other whilst coffees were poured

We were divided into 5 groups of 2, and given time slots for our activities.  Tory and i were together so followed the same sessions throughout the day.  There were rest gaps too so we could watch everybody else learning.  I don't know about you but I think that can be at least as valuable as being taught directly

Jules La Garde Biomechanics - Bouncy Ball and Consistent Signals
Our first unmounted session was with Jules La Garde, biomechanics instructor, who by getting us all to sit on on a Swiss ball and bounce explained how the angle of our pelvis and its relationship with our shoulders affects how we impact our horses when we sit to the trot

She also had us working in pairs - one person wearing a bridle over their head and holding the bit with their two hands, and the second person behind them holding the reins.  We had to walk a simple circle, and then a figure of eight only by instructions down the bridle (and a click for 'move you lazy pony' of course!).  It was really interesting to find that all of us give slightly different signals for turns.  I found it difficult to turn because i mostly use my legs, so ended up confusing Tory who didn't understand indirect rein pressure - which she does in fact use when riding!  Fascinating stuff and a real insight into why it takes a while to build a relationship with a new horse, and how our riding signals can be confusing to our ponies.  The fact that our horses manage to work out what we want, and give it, just cements the fact that they're all legends really!

Amanda Rawson - A Judge's Viewpoint
Our second session was also unmounted, with CVRC Chairman and listed dressage judge Amanda, who explained what the judge is looking for through the scales of training.  She also explained that from a judge's perspective, a test that flows and is rhythmical will score higher than a stilted test with the horse in an outline.  Also it's important to demonstrate the difference between corners and circles.  That sounds obvious, but a quick look on YouTube at videos of tests will show you that circles are usually squares, and corners far too round - more on this in the ridden sessions

Jules La Garde Biomechanics - Corners and Seat Bones
The first mounted session was with Jules La Garde and was on the impact of our weight through our seat bones.  She had us riding round with the weight in the outside seat bone (incorrect) and then changing to the inside seat bone to help the horses balance - it was remarkable how much it affected Beau's way of going.  I need to make sure I use this - including going down the centre line to prepare Beau for the turn at C.  By putting your weight to the inside seat bone (not all of your weight, just a slight hip tilt) it helps your horse bend through the rib cage - I guess you are almost pushing his ribs outwards

With our brains full, we then sat down to a hearty lunch courtesy of the Boughton Mill cafe, and filled our tummies too whilst the horses scoffed their haylage

Matt Cox - Corners and Acceptance of Contact
Then it was tack up and get back to it for a session with GP rider Matt Cox.  Beau decided two was too many and at this point refused to accept the contact or move away from my seat bones as learned an hour previously.  So the session was spent walking and trotting in various sizes of circle and trying to get him to accept the outside rein.  After 40 minutes of the 45 minute session he relented and we got some lovely work for the last 5 minutes ;)  I felt i'd wasted the time but Matt assured me it's so important that proper contact is established that any time spent working on it is time well spent.  Tory in the meantime was working on her canter balance in corners and on circles

Amanda Rawson - Corners and Loops in a Dressage Test
The final session of the day was with Amanda again.  She had us putting into practice what we had learned during the day, and improving our dressage scores with simple tweaks - like pushing (and using seat bones) with your inside leg more into corners so that when you circle it's obvious to the judge.  No more square circles or round corners!  Also we worked hard to make our centre lines straight and accurate - not as easy as it looks!

It was a thoroughly useful, relaxed, informative and valuable day.  Every person there ought to be an expert on corners by now! The panel of experts gave such simple but great advice and helped us to understand fully - I plan to use all of it and can't wait for the next CVRC day camp
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I grew up in Cheshire, and when i was very little i remember a village fete with knights and jousting horses.  I can't be sure but i think that is how horses got into my blood.  I can remember being completely awestruck (and possibly even speechless) at the sight of the brave knights and beautiful horses.  That day has stayed with me all these years, and never since that day have i seen horses at a carnival - until last week! 

We had the honour of being invited by the Mayor and Mayoress of Northampton to lead the carnival procession through the town on Saturday June 9th 2018.  Of course without even thinking about it I said yes, and didn't find it particularly difficult to persuade the rest of the quadrille team to join me

So it was agreed that we would go in our Ride of the Valkyries costumes, followed by Maloney pulling his decorated wagonette containing the Mayor and Mayoress

As we got closer to the day we all started to wonder whether this had been a sensible choice.  With the loss of community spirit in general though we though the procession would be fairly small and quiet.  We also put certain safety measure in place to be sure all horses would be happy and humans safe.  So we drove the route before hand noting escape areas, should any of the horses become distresses.  We agreed with the parade safety manager (an ex mounted policeman) that we would hack back to base off route if need be.  We arranged parking for the horses close to the parade start and out of the way of the funfair (there's a funfair!!).  The Mayoral limousine was set to follow at a safe distance behind Maloney's carriage to a-be a buffer between us and the floats, and b- alternative transport for the Mayor and Mayoress in case we had to bail out of the parade.  Finally it was arranged that Simon and his brother Matt would dress up in keeping with our costumes and walk alongside - just in case.  They had lead reins wrapped round their waists at the ready.  Their job was to ensure nobody came too close to the horses, and to lead in hand if anybody was worried

The week of the parade we had some very sad and shocking news, so one of our number was unable to join.  They were very sadly missed - we all shed a tear for them.  This left 3 Valkyries and a special space where they should have been.  We did it for you x

The day dawned...

We bathed the horses and got all of our makeup and costumes on at home so that when we got there all we had to do was dress the horses.  We found the lorry entrance to the Racecourse Park, and drove through the (huge) crowds to our parking area.  I cried a little bit when i saw the carnival in full swing - it was so beautiful.  I could not have been more wrong about community spirit!  It was incredible to see all of those happy shiny people together enjoying a glorious summer day.  Amazing

When we drove into our parking space we saw Karen, Grant and Jenna with Maloney and Seamus and the carriage already in place.  They seemed to be relaxed and not at all phased by the loud drum and bass music blaring from different floats nearby.  Sardra was equally unperturbed, but Beau was finding it all a little too much.  He did not want to come down the ramp off the lorry, and when he did he proceeded to half rear again and again.  He was in a proper tizzy.  Luckily Tory had had the foresight to acquire some noise cancelling ear bonnets - and once Beau's was installed he put his front feet on the floor and started to calm down.  Also luckily our friends Karen, Pat and Nicola had turned up to help.  It took 3 of us to get Beau's bridle on him!  I was seriously considering bailing at this point for Beau's benefit but decided to count on the other 3 relaxed ponies to be a calming influence - we would only be walking and we had all our safety and horse welfare measures in place

Once the ponies were tacked up and munching hay Tory and I set off to find the start and make contact with the officials.  Then it was time to mount up and join the parade!

I think people were a little bemused by our costumes - the theme of the parade was Peace and Love!  So we became a peace keeping force for good ;)  Apparently some Northampton schools were studying Vikings because most of the younger children knew exactly what we had all come as!

So we joined the front of the procession, and on the way past them many of the floats kindly turned down their music - and some of the incredibly dressed dancers stood still so their costumes wouldn't scare the horses

Beau couldn't quite bring himself to stand still for long, so Simon attached the leadrope - just in case, and we walked circles.  I am so so very proud of Beau actually - considering he was nervous he still behaved like an angel - he never got out of a steady walk and was responsive the whole time.  We didn't need the leadrope - but safety comes first at all times

Once the Mayor and Mayoress were installed in the wagonette we set off!  It was magical seeing the faces of the kids in the crown as we walked past - some with pure disbelief and joy.  The amazing lady who organised the carnival walked with us most of the route and she had to act as a go between answering questions about the horses at every stop point!  Her energy is endless and the job she did to put that together was outstanding

After about 5 minutes Beau was back to his normal self and didn't even react when a balloon popped right next to him.  What a star

The full parade went entirely without a hitch, and at the end when we got back to the lorry the ponies had their own fanclub waiting for photos - which they enjoyed as much as the people with the cameras

Thank you to Karen and Nicola for your help (sorry I used up all your Rescue Remedy Nicola!) and i want to say how immensely proud I am of the ponies and the team, and how thankful I am to The Mayor and Mayoress that we got to do this.  It was a day that will go down in my personal history, and a small tear of joy has collected right now writing about it!

















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