War of the Roses 2017

This year’s War of the Roses was particularly challenging. Some idiot (yes that would be me) thought it would be a good idea to run it as a two day competitive ride this year. I mean, how much more work would it be……

It was fine until both Kerry and I got new (busy) jobs, and the workload in Board-land started to increase daily too.

And even that was fine, but then I fell over (from a standstill) and dislocated and broke my elbow. I was sober at the time, honest.

It was at this point my reaction to most things became Arrrrggggggghhhhhhhhh!!!!!! Kerry and I are complete opposites, so her laid back Yorkshire Lass “it’ll be reet” balanced out my raging anxiety as ever.

Vets and farriers were booked, the TS (and assistant) were booked, the landowners, tennants and gamekeepers were contacted. The entries were slow to come in initially. Had we bitten off too much with two days of competition over a challenging course? But then they started to pick up, and boy did they come in. We even had one intrepid soul in the two day 94km class.

We had to do some last minute re-routing due to losing access to a bit of the Sunday route. This unfortunately meant more roadwork, but the replacement track was an amazing grassy bridleway so we hoped that people wouldn’t be too upset about the extra Sunday roadwork. At least it was a route, and a very pretty route at that.

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Ride weekend was approaching fast. My arm was getting a bit better although not 100%. Then one of our stewards broke her ankle. And then the day before the ride our TS fell off and broke her back. They’re both OK (thankfully) but that was three people with broken bones – I hoped it wasn’t an omen. ‘It’ll be reet’ said the Yorkshire Lass. ‘They’ll turn up, they’ll ride round a bit, they’ll have a good time, and then they’ll go home’.

Marking went well, a fallen tree to sort out, but otherwise OK. Then people started to arrive. You never, ever feel ready, or that you have done enough.  Lists, lots of lists. And then when you get back into the old routine of checking people off, handing out bibs, explaining the route, it is like you’ve never been away.

How would Saturday’s route work as a competitive class? The proof was in the pudding – the riders were coming back smiling and they’d had a great time. Phew. And no eliminations for lameness either.

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Pizza for tea, and then up at the crack of dawn to tidy up some route marking. Sunday is much hillier, but the views are out of this world. Despite being very hot, I think most people and horses came home smiling.

Unfortunately our one intrepid rider in the 94km was spun at the final vetting – we were all absolutely gutted for her. But otherwise there was a very good completion rate and lots of good feedback. They turned up, they rode round a bit, they had a very good time, and then they went home again.

Yorkshire won the War of the Roses for the third year running – Lancashire were still in with a chance overnight but a huge army of Yorkshire pleasure riders on day two put paid to that. Not that the Lancashire riders let that dampen their spirits at all 🙂

We are extremely grateful to our hosts at Breaks Fold Farm as they pulled it out of the bag yet again. Louise and Richard, you definitely get the award for best venue – thank you thank you! We got loads of amazing support from Yorkshire (and some Lancashire and Nottinghamshire) endurance riders who rocked up to volunteer on the day and before – thank you for all your hard work and for making the ride so special. Thank you to the riders and crews who spent all weekend grinning like idiots and got into the spirit of things and really lifted the ride. And to the vetgate and farrier teams who despite getting sunburn seemed to smile all weekend too. Thank you to West End Photography for the amazing rider pictures, and to Kent Mirzon for the fantastic egg and mushroom butties. Thank you to the Yorkshire Lass for being my rock and keeping me sane (ish). Thank you too to all the helpful gamekeepers, tennants and to Yorkshire Water who were so kind and allowed us access to their land. We really couldn’t have done it without you.

Phew.

So then….next year?

 

 

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War of the Roses 2017

How did that happen then?

Well the season hasn’t quite gone as I’d intended, and if you’d told me at the beginning of the year what was likely to unfold I would never have believed you. Haven’t ridden at any rides, but on the plus side, I did get the pony halfway to Wetherby before the box cut out, so I know that he still loads and travels well. And we’ve found a very good diesel specialist, recommended by my wonderful farrier, who hopefully has (touch wood) fixed the box – it became a matter of principle for him, and he did it!

So instead of riding we got about a bit and helped. Had a wonderful weekend helping at the Lions Tail for the Riding Club Endurance Championships, and a lovely day in the sun helping at a new Notts ride. Then an absolutely marvellous long weekend helping out at Red Dragon, such a good laugh with a really good volunteer team and also a real eye opener – I learnt such a lot.

My career longevity article has been published which I have been working on for some time. Hopefully it will prove useful.

And then, I went and did something really silly. Various people (you know who you are….) used their best persuasive skills to get me to put myself forwards for the Board. I figured ‘Well I can always put myself forwards for election, and if the members want me then they’ll vote for me and if they don’t then they won’t’. Only there weren’t enough candidates to force an election which means that I am currently enjoying my last couple of weeks of ‘freedom’ before the AGM and I get to sign my life away for the next three years. It’s a very daunting and challenging prospect but I hope that I will do a good job. Eeek!

How did that happen then?

There are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met yet

Looking through some old photos for the EGB photo competition (here if you haven’t seen – closing date 31st Aug hint, hint) got me reminiscing and wistfully thinking about the Spirit of Endurance, because I am a soppy old bint.

I’ve had a few people say to me with regard to long distance “Oh things aren’t like they used to be”. To a certain extent, that’s right. The world around us has changed. It’s faster. It’s more demanding. It’s less patient. The way people interact with each other is very different. The internet means that information or opinions that once would have taken weeks to surface are now out there in seconds, for better or worse. There have been upsets that have rocked our world. Of course things aren’t perfect.

But that doesn’t mean that the Spirit of Endurance has gone. It’s still there for anyone who wants it to be. It’s still there when you greet your old friends at a ride with a hug. It’s still there when you help out a stranger on the trail and start another lifelong friendship. It’s still there when you see the buzz in the eyes of a new horse and rider who have had the time of their life on their first ever ride. It’s still there when you see horses and riders grow in confidence and want to do more. It’s still there when you reach the brow of the hill with your horse and the world is laid out before you. It’s still there when you have your own wibbles and you realise just how many people are willing you on. It’s still there when everyone waits with baited breath for the last horse and rider to come in. It’s still there when you glow with pride because your friend has achieved their lifelong ambition. It’s still there when your heart breaks for a friend going through a tough time. It will still be there long after we have all gone.

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There are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met yet

14 August 2016 – Harwood Dale

Harwood Dale was run as a national competitive ride for the first time last year, so it is still a bit of  hidden gem in the calendar. It is on the edge of the North York Moors and close to Scarborough,with some beautiful views over the surrounding countryside.

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The tracks are a perfect mixture of forest, moorland and farmland, so it is definitely one to be added to the list. The route was beautifully marked.

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We were helping man a checkpoint on the edge of Broxa Forest, and we had horses coming at us from three directions. There were lots of smiling horses and riders.

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The checkpoint was also a crewpoint

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Our last riders through were the 65kms doing their final loop, but they were still smiling.

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All the 65kms passed their final vettings, and Linda Cowperthwaite and BHA Sultan (Freddie) won the best condition award.

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From left to right – Evelyn Helme, Linda Cowperthwaite, Freddie, Kerry Dawson, Di Sanderson

Well done everyone, and thank you to N&E Yorkshire group for putting on such a special ride.

14 August 2016 – Harwood Dale

7 August 2016 – Hexham

I was meant to be riding… Picked box up from a routine service, packed box up, loaded Wolf, set off up the A1 and then we got to Wetherby and it cut out. Started again first time, but we decided that it was a long drive and we couldn’t risk it so took Wolf home again. He was very bemused when we unloaded him. Anyhow, I was meant to be riding with Val and her grey arab, Dan, I rang her, she’d already set off, so we said we’d meet her there and we’d crew her instead. All that way for a 20km pleasure ride….as you do 😉

I’ve always wanted to ride at Hexham, ever since I last crewed Val there in the ER (ahem) years ago. It’s beautiful. But it’s one of those rides that seems to be jinxed for me. Val also had worries – Dan has been making very good friends with his vet and physio for the last couple of years and this was the first ‘proper’ ride she’d taken him to for ages.

First trot up, and he was stonking, no worries there. So they were off.

It was as I remembered it, stunningly beautiful. We had a good view of the route from the crewpoints, and could see the horses climbing up onto the moor.

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Dan came round the corner like a train – being relieved from ‘experienced schoolmaster escort duties’ meant all bets were off. The promised calm sunny day turned out to be a blustery wind-fest, too, particularly on the exposed moor, and I think it’s fair to say he was a little bit wired….

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Somewhere towards the top end of the allowed speed for pleasure rides (!!), and Val and Dan sauntered back into the venue with big grins on their faces.

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I was on trot up duties, and Dan was a very good boy if a little ‘forward’. Passed 101% sound, even bigger grins all round.

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I may not have achieved what I wanted from the day, but sometimes helping others achieve their goals is just as good. And that’s what is so ruddy amazing about our sport 🙂

Thank you to everyone involved in the Hexham Ride – you pulled off a blinder of a ride and everyone seemed to be happy and smiling, which is what it’s all about. And thank you to Val & Dan for making my day after a frustrating start.

 

7 August 2016 – Hexham

The War of the Roses 2016

Having slipped blissfully into Stage 10 of the ten stages of ride organising after the 2015 War of the Roses, Emily, Anne, Kezza and I decided that we may as well do it again. Entries started to come in earlier this year,  and you could feel the excitement building on t’old interwebs. We were amazed to find that both days filled up quickly, and we ended up with even more entries than last year. Quite a few intrepid souls from last year came back to give the ride another try, so we must have done something right.

A few last minute panics in the week leading up to the ride and a bit of last minute re-routing on the moor, but by the Friday things seemed to be sorting themselves out and we had a very pleasant day marking the routes in the (mostly) sunshine, even making time for a very civilised coffee and cake at Stumps Cross Cavern Tea Room.

Saturday rolled around and it was like we had never been away. There were a similar number of entries from both Yorkshire and Lancashire so it really was all to play for.

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Even the haylage bales got into the spirit of things

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Saturday’s route took riders over the Yorkshire Water permissive tracks around Swinsty Reservoir and back over the moor.

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That evening all the overnighters gathered in the barn for fish and chips served up by mobile fish and chip shop The Flying Pan.

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Sunday dawned and it was time to send our competitive riders out over the hills. The views, particularly around Grimwith Reservoir, are to die for, and the last minute re-routing actually worked very well.

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We counted them all out, and we counted them all back. Some very serious adding up and I was able to confirm that Yorkshire had indeed won the War of the Roses for the second year running. The Lancashire army were no-where to be seen so Yorkshire made a toast and there was much merriment.

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The ride also raised much needed funds for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, whose services we thankfully did not need. Thank you to everyone who contributed.

We are very lucky to be able to use these tracks and thanks must go to Yorkshire Water and the local farmers, land agents and gamekeepers for their help and assistance in putting the ride on. Gates were opened, branches were cut back, stock was moved, and tracks were mown – we really are incredibly grateful. Our hosts Richard and Louise at Breaks Fold Farm pulled out all the stops once again and went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that everyone had a good time. If there was a prize for best venue, you would get it – thank you, thank you, thank you.

Thank you to our army of amazing helpers and volunteers: from the gate openers who stood in the wind all day in some very remote places, to the checkpoint stewards who provided sloshes and water for the horses, to the road crossing stewards who saw all our riders safely across the road, to the venue team who ensured that the timekeeping and the parking and the vetting ran smoothly. Thank you to Sue Cunningham, Technical Steward extraordinaire. Thank you also to Brian Floyd-Davies who assisted with health and safety advice again.

Thank you to our riders and crews for supporting the ride and for keeping smiling. The atmosphere was amazing.

Thank you to our very generous sponsors who grow in number each year. Your support is invaluable. The main War of the Roses competition was sponsored by Little Oak Therapies, the West Riding Challenge team competition was sponsored by Top Spec, the 64km competitive class was sponsored by Robin Hood Horse and Country Stores, the Best Condition award was very generously sponsored by Equine Therapy Solutions, the ‘Best Feet’ award was sponsored by Harland Farriers, the award for Best Presentation to Vet was sponsored by North West Equine Vets, the ‘Most Polite and Courteous Rider’ award was sponsored by Breaks Fold Farm, the ‘Happy Helper’ awards were sponsored by Hoofbeats Horsehair Jewellery, and the ‘Special’ rosettes for the various classes were provided by Kerry Dawson. Thank you thank you thank you!

And lastly but by no means least, thank you to my co-organiser Emily Ferguson and our partners in crime Anne Ferguson and Kerry Dawson. We did it! Go team! And we’re still smiling! (I think)

The War of the Roses 2016

Look after your volunteers

s-l1000Before I launch into this blog, let me  just stress that these are purely my opinions and that I am not speaking on behalf of any society or organisation that I may be involved in. I think it may also be the first opinion piece I’ve written in this blog, but it has been playing on my mind for some time so here goes.

Horse sport in the UK relies mainly on goodwill and volunteers. This is particularly true in terms of the minority disciplines. The same will apply to many sports, but as an example, in my sport Endurance GB has one full time member of staff, it pays some individuals for their specialist skills on a piecemeal basis (eg vets and farriers), and absolutely everyone else is a volunteer. Everyone. From the entire Board of Directors to the ride organisers to the local group committees to the gate openers. From these volunteers, we run a full national calendar of over 70 competitive rides each of between one and five days in length, and I’d guess around twice as many local pleasure rides. Each ride day needs 10, 20, 30 volunteers. And that’s not including all the work that needs doing in between rides; maintaining websites, keeping an active social media presence, writing newsletters, advertising events, liaising with landowners, writing articles for local publications, organising social evenings and training days, etc etc etc. Add it up. That is a lot of people working their guts out behind the scenes for absolutely nothing so that you can have a good time. Most of those volunteers have full time jobs, families, caring responsibilities, and maybe even their own horses (!) but somehow they manage to keep juggling all the balls in the air simply because they like to see you have a good time.

Volunteers are human beings. Sometimes they may drop the ball. They may not do things as quickly as you think they should. They may forget something. They may make a decision you disagree with. The internet is a double edged sword; as a ride organiser it is really heartwarming to read all the lovely comments that appear online after your ride, and it really does make it all worthwhile. But the internet also makes it very easy to criticise. Please remember when you post online complaining that “they” haven’t done x, y or z, that “they” are not an anonymous entity, they are human beings. “They” may be absolutely exhausted from all the work they do and may be crying into their coffee because of what you have written. Your comments may be the one thing that tips them over the edge meaning that they give up volunteering altogether. Volunteers have feelings.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t provide negative feedback if you feel it is warranted. Of course you should. But please, please, please think about how you do it. Make it constructive and suggest positive improvements. Direct it at the right person rather than plastering it all over the internet. Offer your own services to help make things better. Tell them what they are doing well as well as where you think they can improve. Appreciate the difficulties they may be facing. Say thank you.

Without volunteers at all levels, we have no societies and we have no sport. Look after them.

 

Look after your volunteers