The Winter Wonderland Christmas Show.
We all have out own ideas as to what makes a good Christmas, for some it is being with their families, for others it is the whole tinsel and glitter thing, for the horsey residents of Roxmoor village it was the Christmas show held by Mr Greenwood in his indoor school.
Mr. Greenwood’s riding school had a huge indoor arena with seats for spectators, not up to Olympia or Wembley’ s standard but good enough for the village show.
The show season over most riding school ponies hang up their plaited brow bands and quarter marking sheets and look forwards to some hasty rides after school and some hacking at the weekend, Not so the Roxmoor ponies, after a couple of weeks rest in September, they were busy gearing up for the Winter Wonderland show.
Jenny and Gareth of Havillands stables were busy with the preparations, Gareth was hoping to convince Meredith the cob to have a go at some of the show jumping events and Jenny fancied a crack at the puissance with Conrad the lunatic jumper. Of course they were also engaged with instructing the kids in basic jumping technique as Babs, Belinda and Wayne all wanted to take part in the show with some of the Havillands ponies. Other entrants from Havillands were Fiona and Stubbs, Helen and Polly the funny coloured mare and relative new arrival, Andrew who seemed to have some affinity with Saffron the chestnut cob and appeared to be keen to try his hand at competitive riding.
Elsewhere other residents of Roxmoor were busily preparing for the show. Fancy dress costumes were being constructed, ponies were being acclimatised to tinsel and baubles, the brass band were practising Christmas carols and Mr. Greenwood was laying into his show jumps with saws, hammers and a new coat of paint. Everything had to look good, or at least marginally less ramshackle then it usually did!
Eventually the day dawned frosty cold and clear (how poetic) As Mr Greenwood’s place bordered on the Havillands land, Jenny and the others hacked over to the show arena and set themselves up in a corner of the yard, Fiona got busy attaching tinsel to the girls’ plaits and arranging a sprig of holly in Wayne’s buttonhole. Gareth headed off to Mr Greenwood’s office to collect numbers and a program. Jenny , Andrew and Helen gave the horses a last brush over and applied hoof oil in great quantities.
Meredith was being a prima donna, there was much snorting and eye rolling as he objected to Andrew checking his bridle and not his beloved Gareth. Andrew however was not going to put up with any rubbish from anyone and administered a hearty slap to the surprised cob when he tried to nip his fingers. When Gareth returned from the office he found a much abashed Meredith standing meekly letting Andrew attach red ribbons and plastic holly to his brow band.
Gareth dished out the numbers and started tying them on but managed to get the twins Babs and Belinda mixed up and had to undo all the fiddly strings and do them up again with much muttered curses- mainly from the girls!
Saffron, Conrad and Stubbs were all fairly steady horses (Conrad is sensible until he sees jumps) and were unaffected by the general frisson of chaos happening around them, but Polly was much more sensitive and began to get jumpy. When some of the Roxmoor Boy Scouts trooped past carrying christmas trees which were to garnish the jumps with she reared and broke her head collar. Polly made a bid for freedom and tried to bolt out of the Yard, Unfortunately for her she ran smack into a large and very solid horse called Sparky who was being ridden into the yard by his owner Miss Black. Bomb proof Sparky slammed on the brakes and Polly sort of bounced off him. Jenny was quick to grab Polly’s forelock and soon had the situation under control, Sparky was unhurt, but then he was built like a very placid bulldozer.
Eventually Mr. Greenwood got the tannoy system working and announced the show was starting. everyone who wasn’t in charge of a horse hurtled off to the arena and scrambled about finding seats with a good view.
The first-class was a fancy dress competition for the younger kids, this was highly amusing as the theme was Christmas and some of the kids had gone all out with e costumes. there were quite a few fairies and elves in green tights. but the whole event was won by Wayne and Aslan the Shetland, Wayne was wearing one of his Mum’s aprons and a pair of marigold gloves he was carrying a washing up brush and a bottle of Fairy liquid., Aslan had paper plates and plastic cutlery suspended fro every available point. They were titled, ‘The washing up after Christmas dinner”
After the Fancy dress was a series of gymkanah games with a festive feel. Bobbing for sprouts replaced bobbing for apples, Rolls of wrapping paper were substituted for flags in the flag race and musical chairs was fought out murderously to assorted Christmas songs with the finale being accompanied by “Merry Christmas Everyone” By Slade
Babs and Belinda didn’t do well, although they were good riders and Bilbo and Frodo were excellent ponies, the girls were just not cut-throat enough to barge and shove their way through the Gymkhana games. Mr Greenwood however, had foreseen that some children would not be placed and had provided a festive, sparkly, red ribbon rosette for every child so they all had some thing to go home with.
At the end of all this some of the Boy Scouts ran in to clear away the chairs a and any stray pieces of tinsel left over from the fancy dress parade. Then they began assembling the jumps for the first of the big competitions. Mr Greenwood called the entrants on the tannoy (Which was actually the Karaoke machine from the Cross keys Pub!)
There was a flurry of activity in the collecting ring and the first competitor entered the ring.
The ‘Holly Bush Stakes’ was started by Helen Highwater and Havillands Polly. The thinking here was that if Polly went first she wouldn’t have time to get excited and do anything silly. Helen had to hang on tight as Polly spooked her way round the course and leapt sideways every time any one took a flash photo. Eventually Polly leapt into one of the Christmas tree displays and had to be untangled by the Boy Scouts. They help out at a lot of the Roxmoor horse shows and were used to bizarre things happening.
Next was Miss Black and Sparky. As was mentioned earlier, Sparky was part heavy hunter and part rhinoceros, Miss Black in contrast was a petite lady and always looked hopelessly over horsed. Despite this incongruency they seemed in tune with each other. Despite Saprky’s lumbering appearance he had a lot of spring and didn’t do too badly. Andrew and Saffron got round in a good time and didn’t have too many faults. Mrs Greenwood was riding in this event, but her delicate mare Copeillia found the whole thing too stressful and politely refused the oxer in the middle of the course (Which had been decorated with MDF cut outs of turkeys), Mrs; Greenwood retired and was followed by Gareth and Meredith. Meredith noticed that there was an audience and decided that this was a good excuse to show off and did quite a good round, with a few bucks and a lot of snorting thrown in for good measure.
Sir Giles and his old Hunting cob Admiral came in to show everyone how it was done (“Very fast over timber Sah!”) and proceeded to knock everything for six.!
Mr Flint the Farrier had uncharacteristically entered this event on his horse Quasar, which went well up to a point until Flint found out that Quasar had a phobia of tinsel! They exited speedily from the ring sooner than was expected!
Eventually the whole thing was won by Fiona and Stubbs, no nonsense from those two, Stubbs was thoroughly workman like about the whole thing and didn’t even mind the lights on one of the Christmas trees blowing as he went past.(Nigel of Wolf Patrol was seen trying to locate the missing bulb for quite a long time)
By now mulled wine and mince pies were doing the rounds, Meredith managed to snaffle Gareth’s cup of mulled wine when no one was looking, this seemed to do his temperament a lot of good as he was a pussycat for the rest of the evening.
The next even t was called the “Santa’s little Helper” stakes. Competitors were in teams of two comprising one adult and one child. the child had to jump a series of small jumps and tag the adult who completed the round by jumping a course of larger obstacles.
The Havillands teams consisted of Gareth and Wayne, Helen and Babs and Andrew and Belinda. There had been much competition between the twins as to who should ride with Andrew, secretly both girls had a crush on him but neither would admit to it. Gareth had been mercilessly teasing them about it for weeks.
The first pair were Helen and Babs, Babs and Frodo the New Forest pony jumped their section clear but the flighty Helen and crazed Polly managed to crash and spook their way around everything.
Andrew and Belinda had the reverse effect. Andrew got Saffron to sail over everything but Belinda and Bilbo managed to knock the top poles off all the small jumps ! Possibly the tinsel on Bilbo’s browband was a distraction?
Gareth and Wayne had the audience in stitches, Meredith was doing his “World’s Biggest Show Off” impression and was trotting about with his nose tucked in to his chest and his feet in all directions, lovely in the show ring for Welsh Cob classes but not much good for Jumping. Aslan the Shetland was in one of his impudent moods and kept refusing, culminating with Wayne being shot bodily into the hedge which was filled with plastic holly that Mr Greenwood had got from Woolworths. Luckily Wayne wasn’t hurt and thought the situation was really funny (He is a good sport bearing in mind he is only eight) The whole thing was won by Elsie Turner and her daughter Angela. with their respective mounts Dumpling and Stu.
The evening wore on, the audience was subjected to speed rounds, jump offs and a display of of Vaulting put on by Miss Black, everyone was fascinated as we had all wondered how she managed to get up onto Sparky since usually an oxygen mask and climbing gear were needed.
Eventually they came to the last event, the one everyone had been waiting for, the Puissance! Mr Greenwood had made his own home made Puissance wall out of cardboard boxes from the Co-Op., the Scouts had been employed in painting the boxes red with a white brick effect, you would never know it was cardboard but as Ruby Fergusson’s Jill put it,
“We have found cardboard is just as jumpable as anything else.”
This was the event Jenny had been waiting for, she and Conrad had been quiet and in the background while everyone else was having fun but now it was her turn. She was up against Sir Giles and Admiral, Andrew and Saffron, Miss Black and Sparky and Mr Greenwood and his grey horse Valiant.(Gareth had taken over they tannoy which may have been a mistake as he had had several glasses of Mulled wine and kept bursting into song!) Conrad was Jenny’s secret weapon, no oil painting, the dun horse was gentle and good natured but if taken near coloured poles, oil drums or hedges he broke out and leapt over them. Conrad just loved jumping. Jenny was following Miss Black on the line up, Sparky had stepped over the jump, Conrad took one look at the pile of painted cardboard and flew at it, ignoring the practice jump he cleared the wall with several feet to spare. So it went on, for many rounds, Andrew came to grief when Saffy had had enough and just said “no” Mr Greenwood and Valiant had knocked everything flying in about round three, Valiant looked most ashamed. Sir Giles didn’t make it much beyond round two as Admiral thought it was late enough and took the old Gent home to bed as if he was on auto pilot!
Miss Black and Jenny were battling it out in tense competition, Sparky had the advantage of height, Conrad had enthusiasm on his side. The wall was standing at six foot (Ok, this was Roxmoor show not Olympia) the Scouts had piled every cardboard box in their possession up in the middle of Mr. Greenwood’s sand school. Miss Black lined Sparky up for a prodigious jump, Sparky jumped but caught his hoof on the wall and brought the entire assembly down, being cardboard nobody was hurt but it looked spectacular!
Everything hinged on Conrad clearing the wall, Once the Scouts had rebuilt it (somewhat haphazardly) Jenny and Conrad got ready for their last attempt. Jenny does have on occasions a Death or Glory mentality and this seemed like one of those occasions! The audience tried to ignore Gareth who was singing White Christmas over the tannoy system. Jenny turned Conrad towards the jump and then dropped the reins, Conrad feeling he had control hurtled across the arena and took off, there was a tense silence, as everyone held their breath and even Gareth stopped crooning to see the outcome of Conrad’s leap of faith.
In less than a second, Conrad had cleared the cardboard wall and landed safely on the other side, there was a delay as the crowd registered what had happened and broke out into cheering. Conrad was the hero of the hour, Jenny was presented with first prize, a lovely Christmas cake made and iced by Mrs. Greenwood, Jenny secretly thought it would make a great doorstop but she looked pleased and smiled anyway.
All that was left was the grand fina;le, Santa arrived in the arena (Bert from the garage with a cushion shoved up the front of his shirt and a false beard) and everyone joined in with The First Nowell accompanied by the Roxmoor Brass band. The horses and riders set off for home and everyone wished everyone else a Merry Christmas.