A musical ride gave me both the biggest disappointment and the proudest moment of my teaching life.
Our County Show put on a musical ride competition. We entered a team and were beaten which was fair enough. The Pony Club beat us. The ride they put on had been performed many times (their original team had been mostly 'my' riders but it was not possible to get them all to practice when the PC decided to continue with it)
The show wanted to do the same competition the following year so, we entered. It was 35 years ago, the Queen's silver jubilee.
The PC had made the whole thing into a sort of pageant with non riding children involved and one child being led whilst riding side saddle. I had the idea of having al my kids riding side saddle if I could find enough saddles.
I got the ride together, managed to beg and borrow saddles. The theme was to have non riding children start the ride with dancing and being the markers during the ride with two of my youngest riders (3 and 4) entering as king and queen in a pony and trap, and then 16 riders, 8 sidesaddle, 8 astride.
They performed perfectly. Movements all at a trot, were complex, turnout immaculate. The music had the audience tapping their feet and, there was no way they could have improved.
When it came time to announce the winners it was given to the Pony Club. They were not expecting it.
Now, I am not a bad looser at all however, this was not fair and I wanted to know how it was judged. The organiser was embarrassed when I questioned the result and had no answer, so, I went to find the four judges.
I was correct in that one woman judging, the only one with riding experience, had persuaded the others that many of the movements we had performed with badly done from the equestrian point.
One couple, ballroom dancers in their day, told me that they had wanted us to win.
This woman showed me the marks awarded and as we had gone third the marks for that ride were higher but she told me that was the PC ride so, I know it was a fix.
What made me so angry was that it was a let down for the children. I could have punched that woman, she knew that I knew it was fixed and it turned out her two nieces were riding in the PC ride, which no one knew at the time.
So, I said I would not do it again. We had put a lot of time and money into getting it all ready.
The following May I was asked if the kids would perform in front of Princess Ann at Carisbrooke Castle, on the bowling green as part of a youth celebration. Just the horses and not the foot dancers.
The day was beautiful. I had had to bring in a young TB straight off the track to replace my horse which was a leader as he had a bad fall the day before.
The kids were all mounted and waiting to ride into the arena in the dry moat. The Scouts marching band was playing and I asked the bandmaster that they were not playing as they left the arena - they finished with a drum crescendo and when I looked down the only thing I could see of my riders was a button hole flower! The ponies had all taken off!
They came into the ring and the TB took one look at the audience, all 4,000 of them and thought 'racing' and set off at a twee canter. Had Roy done anything but just sit very quietly Copper would have taken off so there they were jogging slowly whilst Cop was cantering more or less on the spot. Then he settled after a bit but they were way behind with the music. I was in a panic that the tape would run out. I have never felt so useless as there was nothing I could do.
Then I realised that they were in time with the music and all was well.
They lined up for their finish and just as they all bowed so the audience applauded. Horses were all over the place not expecting the noise from behind.
They did me proud. WHat, in my panic, I didn't realise was that they missed out two movements to put them back with the music. I do love children that can think for themselves!
It was one of the proudest moments of my life.