I had to fly to Scotland recently, a short internal flight. On the way home we were delayed at Edinburgh airport. Of course we were told to head for the departure gate anyway, where there were hardly any seats, so we were all left standing in a disconsolate line waiting for news for what seemed like an eternity.
After about an hour, our flight was announced and we all shuffled drearily through the gate, into a sort of Perspex corridor about eight feet wide. It had a dead end, while the doors to take us through to the coach were about half way down.
We queued single file all the way up the long side until we hit the dead end, then all the way back down the other side to the sliding doors, which were still firmly closed. I exchanged a smile with the lady next to me. This was going to be a real test for the British etiquette of forming an orderly queue. I think in any other country, when the sliding doors were opened, all the people standing down the long side would have broken ranks and crossed the corridor, but no. This was Britain. We all filed obediently right down to the dead end of the corridor, turned round and filed all the way back again to the doors, good as gold.
I wish this sort of mannerly behaviour extended to the warm-up arena. We have seen some shockers. There are two main types of ‘warmer-upper’: those who are oblivious to everyone else and those who aren’t. The former generally go in well before their time, then proceed to monopolise the space, often riding too fast, unconcernedly cutting across everyone else, shouting to get people out of the way. The rest end up having to pick their way around whatever space is left, doing their best to avoid a collision.
It takes a collecting ring steward with a lot of courage and a very loud voice to take on a ring-hog. Often when challenged they will carry on regardless, selective hearing switched firmly on. If everyone is polite, the collecting ring can be very busy and still very safe. But you only need one ring-hog to create total mayhem.
I am probably a bit twitchy about crowded collecting rings because of an early bad experience. With my daughter on her lead-rein pony, I was making my way tentatively through a very crowded warm up area at a local show. A man was holding his youngster to my left, facing in my direction. I was giving them as much space as I could — probably a couple of metres — but as I passed by, the youngster decided to express his disapproval of me by doing a full 180 degree turn and double barrelling me in the side. It was gratifying to see everyone around hurrying across to sympathise, until I realised that their sympathy was reserved entirely for our pony.
“Oh no, is she ok? Is she hurt? Do you need a vet?” As they fussed around her, if I had been able to speak I would have reassured them that she was perfectly fine. I knew this because I could feel the imprint of both back feet on my own kidneys, so it was clear to me that she had escaped untouched.
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I suspect most ring-hogs don’t realise they are ring-hogs, so any appeal for them to change their behaviour is likely to fall on deaf ears, but with this year’s competition season starting up, it’s worth a try. So here’s my advice. If the collecting ring is packed, listen to the ring steward, don’t go in too early, and while you are in there, keep your eyes and ears open for the people around you. In other words, channel your inner Brit and wait your turn!
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