Euston Park Attelage de Tradition 2016
A Stable Manager’s View
Preparation starts early with paperwork and signs required such as safety information and direction signs to find water taps, toilets etc and little things like drawing pins, paper, pens, information display boards, insulating tape to seal leaking pipe connectors and making sure I have enough water hoses, connectors, ropes and stakes to mark restricted areas. Load it all in the lorry remembering to load my things, food, clothes for all weathers, and for the evening dinner, posh frock, shoes, jewellery and makeup, (don’t want to frighten the horses)! At this point I am excited but also concerned that I may have forgotten some vital piece of equipment.
I am first to arrive and as I pull into the stable field on the Thursday before the event, I am relieved to see a lovely barn type 30 stable block by Woodhouse has been left for us from the endurance event the previous weekend, The Euston Estate staff are already tidying the field for us where the other stable blocks from the that event stood and two large bales of straw are delivered as promised. I cannot thank farm director Andrew Blenkiron and his staff enough for their kindness and efficiency.
After unloading the contents of the lorry into a spare stable I go back to pick up my pony who is staying on site with me but not competing. Eunice and Wally Binder who are running the event have arrived by the time I get back and the rest of the day is spent setting up the water points, putting up notice boards and signs and assisting Eunice, Wally and family.
Thursday night becomes interesting when I realise that my lonely pony who is not used to stabling away from home decides he needs me close by or he is going to kick the stable door all night, so for peace and quiet I bed down outside his stable, which is fine except for the midges!
Friday morning as expected I wake early (5am) to a soft whinny from above, all is calm in the stable field, I look around at the lovely countryside, listen to my pony contentedly munching on his hay as I sip my tea and eat my breakfast and so the day begins.
My first competitor arrives about midday having travelled from North Yorkshire and the next one arrives after a two day journey from Cornwall, I do admire people who travel that far for an event. As the afternoon goes on the flow of horseboxes increases, the noise of clanking buckets, rustling straw, excited chatter and the soft hoof beats of the horses as they are taken to their stables. By teatime I can relax, all but one (arriving Saturday) of my charges are settled in and because it begins to rain some people get into the spirit of the weekend and gather in the passage way of the stabling for an impromptu party.
Gordon Marks one of our judges puts on a magnificent hog roast which gathers everyone together for a good natter and a catch up with friends not seen for a while.
Fortunately my pony now has stable mates and no longer needs me to hold his hoof, all the other horses have settled (no door bangers) so I retreat to my lorry to get my head down for the night.
Saturday morning, the catering van (Global Food) arrives in time for breakfast, I do enjoy a good bacon butty. Everyone is busy polishing vehicles, harness and horses ready for the presentation in the afternoon. The wonderful volunteers without whom we couldn’t run the event start arriving. There is a lull in proceedings when the competitors leave in cars to be shown the route of the drive and the skills.
Now the competition proper begins, the judges Gordon Marks, Jean Clayden, Richard James and Elizabeth Cartwright-Hignett are in their separate places around the park. One by one the beautiful turnouts drive by with their elegant toppers and feathered hats, most are smiling some slightly apprehensive. There are quite a variety of horses, everything from a team of busy Shetlands to the spectacular prancing Gelderlanders and Fresians with their high heads and tails.
The weather although a little windy and dull at times stays dry during the presentation which is a real bonus. One by one they come back to the field and settle the horses in, shed the posh clothes and relax once again.
Some of us go on a very interesting garden tour of Euston Hall given by Edward Wortley the Chief Archivist. Much restoration of the grounds has been done by the current Duke and Duchess of Grafton so we can glimpse the original work of Lancelot Capability Brown. The Hall is currently closed to the public because it is also going through restoration, if the grounds are anything to go by it will be well worth a visit when it opens.
In the evening we all scrub up as best we can in the middle of a field, change into our posh clothes and board the coach provided to Saperston village hall where an excellent meal using Euston Estate Red Poll Beef and local produce is provided by Ian Patterson - Parker and his efficient team of Simply I.P.P Event Catering. There are speeches, prizes given, an auction of pictures and thanks given to sponsors and volunteers. Amy Bracey from the Carriage Foundation gives a very interesting illustrated talk about carriages.
Sunday morning starts early again, rain over night has blown over with the wind and looks set fair for the day. Nobody else is in the barn so as quietly as I can I stay in the lorry with my breakfast so as not to set the horses whinnying until the first person arrives to feed.
Soon the field is alive with activity, stewards and judges arrive and leave to find their designated places and the drive begins, 16km mostly on local roads and finishing on the Estate with the skills and the final run for the finish.
After the drive the stewards sit down for a well earned lunch and then off again to the arena for the cones and presentation.
Cleaning and polishing continues, to make the best impression in the arena and once again the turnouts leave one by one.
Amy Bracey ( Carriage Foundation) has kindly agreed to do the commentary for us, and does it very ably indeed, I learn much from this young lady she is so enthusiastic and knowledgeable about carriages.
Presentations are made and prizes given, all competitors get a beautiful metal plaque commemorating the event donated by Elizabeth Cartwright-Hignett also a goody bag of small and varied items kind people have donated.
All too soon the competition is over there is a bustle of activity as everyone collects their belongings and horses from the barn and in no time they have said their thank yous and goodbyes and are gone.
The Attelage has gone well and competitors and their helpers have entered into the spirit of the event, it’s not about winning or outdoing others, it’s to celebrate the traditional carriage, the coachman way of driving and having manners and consideration for others, this in particular has made my job as stable manager very enjoyable.
I am once again left with a silent barn except for my dear pony, so rather than sleep with the midges again I decide to take him home and come back early the next morning.
Eunice, Wally and family members who have worked so hard for many months to produce the event are in the field when I return still clearing up, Eunice and I load up my lorry with all the hoses etc and compare impressions of the weekend as we go. They all depart and I do a final check round the field, I am very proud of my charges, I have nothing to do as everyone has taken their rubbish and left the place clean and tidy. I close the gate and reflect on a good job done.
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