Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Gauchoux Open Day 1

Last weekend saw Ali and I packing our bags to fly to Limoges for the second stage of the European Horseback Archery Grand Prix. As it was in France, I'd decided it was a good excuse for a jolly, and to go and catch up with some old friends who were going. The fact that Kinna was entered for the competition might have had something to do with it too....... ;-)

And we had an excellent time. We arrived at the venue, the Domaine de Gauchoux, at around lunchtime on Friday, just in time to get stuck in to the usual excellent French spread. We met up with John and Carole from our old club, and Luc and Isabelle from Beaumont. Then it was off to the Hungarian track to watch the first of the 3 competitions.
They have a funky electric target at Gauchoux, so instead of 3 target faces, there's just the one and it turns as the rider goes down the track. Some video of that here:

The track itself is dug into the ground a bit and lined so the sand stays put (mostly). 'Twas a bit hot and dry however, so sand was flying all over the place as spectators huddled under the trees for shade, or hid in the woods and risked the horseflies biting......

The trees along the front of the track made it a bit tricky to get decent shots, as did the very pretty but somewhat obtrusive plastic flowers, but I managed some....
Emil riding for Sweden
Dorine riding for France
Wojtek riding for Poland
Some great costumes on display, much fur in evidence (on saddles too) but possibly a tad warm for the Limousin in summer!
As usual, the guys were all very lovely and when Ali asked for some tips with her shooting, they duly whisked her away to the practise range (OK, some big round bales with the tattered remains of target faces on them) for some instruction.
She somehow managed to come out of it 2 euros in profit too ;-)

The left-handed archers were the last group of the day, and Kinna duly made her appearance, ridden by Johan, John and Carole's son. Mademoiselle gave some cause for concern to begin with, unsurprisingly really as it was her first big competition away from home, and he was having trouble getting her attention hen it came to things like stopping.....this resulted in me standing at the end of the run to make sure she did, and didn't try to rush off back to the others.
Once we'd replaced stressed pony with chilled pony, I was able to get a picture! She soon realised that her mate Idaa wasn't going anywhere and that she only needed to do the same thing each time on the track. She has always been a quick study.......
So with day 1 over, a lot of very hot and bothered people retired to the picnic tables (via a spéctacle put on by the kids from the club which involved ponies painted as zebras and giraffes!) for a good old French aperitif.....which of course turned into a proper drinking session. For once I was surrounded by languages I couldn't all understand (although was quite chuffed I was able to get most of what the German team was saying). Very pleasant evening, but we didn't stay up too late having been up at 4.30 to get to the airport!

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Vive la différence...?

We've been back in the UK for about a year and a half now, and there are some things I've really noticed are different over here when it comes to horses. Before we moved to France I never owned a horse, keeping one was too expensive basically. I rode a lot though, worked at a local stables when I was younger, learned the "traditional" way of doing things, saw people out and about on horses all the time, it all seemed normal to me.

But after 12 years in France, my perspective has definitely changed. I got my first horse, realised how much I didn't know, started questioning things, learning new things, going to clinics, riding with lots of different people and gradually things evolved from me having a horse because I wanted to ride to having a horse (or two, or three) because I also like being with them and working with them, and wanted to understand them better and make their lives as pleasant and stress-free as possible as domestic horses.
Ali and Seraphina competing at Porte Ste Foy

In France, Ali and I hacked out on hairy, muddy horses. We rode in rope headcollars or bitless bridles, we showed up at TREC or endurance competitions in hi viz gear with never a thought of plaiting, or turnout. Yes, you were expected to put a jacket (if it wasn't too hot!) and light jodhs on for jumping, but that was about it. Never even saw a sign of  hairnets or tweed......apart from on the ex-pats ;-)

Gandalf and I at a TREC competition in Cleyrac
Over here, we continue to hack out on hairy, muddy horses. No one else seems to though! We meet many shiny, clean horses, often sporting a collection of exercise sheets, boots and bandages that make it hard to see the horse underneath it all. They often quite literally look down on us from the lofty height of their TB/WB/sports horse types and very few of them say as much as hello. If you met someone out hacking in France, you'd stop for a chat, even if you'd never met them before. Only one other rider has done that to us since we got here (and she was riding a barefoot horse in a headcollar).

In France, no one mentioned the fact that you were riding a draft cross, cos often they were too. No one saw the need to comment that your horse didn't have shoes on, cos often theirs didn't either. And in all the years of riding over there no one ever felt the need to tell me that riding in a headcollar on the road is dangerous because I don't have control over my horse without a bit. Here on the other hand.........

I miss France!