Sporting Life

This last weekend was the Festival of British Endurance Riding, based at Cirencester Park.

I’ve not been involved with the event for years – the 2000 event was the last one I was at, and I’m pretty sure these pictures were taken in 1996. It didn’t happen in 2001, because of the Foot and Mouth outbreak, and when it came back in 2002, different people were organising the Raynet cover and our group wasn’t called in to help. The event itself had horses competing over courses of varying lengths, the longest being a hundred miles, the shortest about thirty. Horses were checked over by vets a couple of times round the course, and any showing any problems at all were retired without hesitation, and there was no appeal against the vet’s decision.

From our point of view, it was one of the most exhausting events in the calendar: The hundred mile ride usually started at four in the morning on Saturday, to make sure they all finished in daylight, and those of us camping on site (as opposed to the locals who travelled from home) were put on the earliest checkpoints, so we had to be in position no later than four thirty. One year – I think it was 2000 – I was on first checkpoint just after four in the morning, and helping on a search party twenty hours later! Sunday was an easier day – we didn’t have to be on checkpoint until six, and to be fair, Noel always made sure that those of us with long journeys home were on checkpoints that were finished soon after lunch.

Hopefully the pictures give an idea of why I kept volunteering for this one – the views from the checkpoints were excellent, but the pictures don’t show the atmosphere. Of all the types of event that Raynet do, horse ones are often the nicest: The people really seem to appreciate our being there, and all the volunteers get really well cared for. The first time I did Cirencester, I was sitting on my checkpoint in the middle of nowhere when a Landrover arrived and delivered my complimentary packed lunch: There was so much there I thought they’d given me Sunday’s as well, but the same thing happened the next day! I think I finally finished eating it all on Tuesday, the bottles of lemonade and Coke lasted a bit longer.

Maybe I’ll declare my availability to help next year and see what happens.

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