We have just returned from another exhausting, hilarious, and completely mad BSPS summer champs with weather that leaves you wondering if you’re in the Sahara or India during monsoon season. This is to say, it all ran completely as expected. There were just two big differences to our champs this year. The first was that, for the first time in 12 years, I was not riding.
The second, the one that really affected us more than we could have ever imagined, is that my mother’s beloved ‘wedding marquee’, loathed by the rest of us and contradictorily advertised by Amazon as a ‘cheap, one-use gazebo’, on what must be its 50th use, finally gave in to years of Grantham wind and rain and buckled on all sides with people sitting unexpectedly inside. My mother promptly got a call saying that it was hurtling towards the A1, and I must say her love of it really shone through as she sprinted at a pace Usain would struggle to keep up with, all in the hope of saving a wretched bit of canvas thrown over stick thin poles that was long past its prime. Needless to say, and much to my relief, there was no saving it.
Of course, the summer champs is absolute gold dust for someone looking to document it. And since I wasn’t riding, I was able to fully invest my time into spectating absolutely everything that I could, and I must say that I enjoyed the action at the sidelines just as much as I enjoyed the action in the ring.
This kicked off with GCSE results day on the Thursday. My sister was one of the lucky few recipients, therefore making her one of the most popular people on the show ground as people nervously approached her all day, prepared to either congratulate or console. Thankfully Susie, who has horrendously high standards for herself, now proclaimed herself a ‘prodigy’, and was thrilled with her results. My mother, who my sister and I have taken to referring to as BRP (broken record player), was equally thrilled, and between trying to find her old headmistress’ phone number to tell her what she had produced, in her usual BRP fashion went round all day like a parrot, with every sentence beginning with; “she gets it from me”. Thank goodness we now have a two year gap until we have to endure the same after A levels.
It didn’t all run smoothly, though, as we spent the good majority of Wednesday night with mummy and Susie having a domestic over the wretched results, which were to be released at seven the next morning. My mother had spent her day carefully calculating the perfect time for Cash’s gastric, mental and gymnastic health to go for a graze on Thursday morning before his class and had concluded that, lo and behold, 7am was the ONLY time for the whole of Thursday that would be suitable. It goes without saying that this caused a fearful row, with Susie arguing that her own mental health was at risk if she was walking a pony as everyone else received their GCSE results.
In the most typical twist of events, an Eddis classic, as we craned over Susie’s shoulder the next morning (at 7am, mummy having relented and walked Cash at 6.15a, herself), we were to discover that the results didn’t get released until 8am.
Looking to keep things exciting, a few days later I took the liberty of inviting myself into the commentary box with David and Joanne Griffin who warmly welcomed me. I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a day at the summer champs more. Not only was it hugely entertaining being up there with them, but I had the most marvellous view for the Desert Orchid class, and I was fascinated to see behind the scenes and all the work they do up there. I had always appreciated the efforts that go into a big show like the champs, but poised as I was, right next to Joanne’s walkie talkie which pinged every five minutes with a new request, made me realise quite how much I had underestimated all that they do.
As a side note to this, one particularly menial request was from security, asking where on earth such dreadful music had been unearthed from, something that I think we can all resonate with. Well, after my stint at the origin of the wailing din we all endure year after year, I can now reveal that all blame can be directed at Simon the commentator (whose surname I shan’t disclose as means of security), whose iPod they plug in to the speaker system.
I won’t bore you with our own results; suffice to say that both Cash and Percy are positively groaning every time another pair of puckered lips approaches them. They almost drowned in praise and had a big week of TLC before Burghley. What I must say, is that Graham Barclay’s courses at the summer champs were as exciting as ever. They are dressed like Harrods’ windows, with rats on the corn sacks, ducks in the water trays, and the cleverest use of greenery to ensure accurate riding. In the inter-national team event on the first day, a treble consisting of water tray to a water tray to an angled rail gave many an experienced rider a restless night — it wasn’t a novelty fence in any way, but it was something new and challenging. An offset double of railway gates, a big angled oxer to an offset skinny rail, a bullfinch to a pen with a hanging gate; these rewarded really good riding and combinations with mutual trust.
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What with these courses, such friendly but professional stewards, very focused judges, top class security and superb organisation, I’m sure I speak for so many when I say a huge congratulations and thank you to the BSPS for a fantastic week for competitors, spectators and families alike. We loved it.
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