2018 UK Trip – Day 5

June 18, 2018

This morning we left the race track camp ground, hit up Tesco and headed for Snowdonia in Wales. We made a quick stop along the way to stretch our legs and take in some scenery (and skip rocks).

We arrived at our new camp ground only to check in and then rush back off to hit up Zip World Velocity 2. Not going to lie, I was a bit nervous about this. This zip line boasts it is the fastest in the world and the longest in Europe. 118mph, 222 height drop, 1555 meters long. Sounds cool, but once we got sight of it, the starting point way way way up there in the cloudy distance, the lines going all the long long way down and past the reception point, my nerve was a little weak.

The girls were so excited. Crazy excited. There was no way we could back out.

And they needed two persons over 18 to accompany them, as in, actually go down at the same time as them. Not just watch. So we weighted in (I *might* have been slightly hopeful I wouldn’t make weight) and suited up.

This kid here was about doing back flips in excitement. She cracks me up.

Then we were loaded onto a bus type of vehicle and were driven to the first line.

This one was easy. Emma was tribute and volunteered to take the first group of Fenya, Sadie, and Caroline. I went second with Eliza and Steph. You can see their whole run from being strapped in until they landed in the video in this post.

Then Steph, Eliza, and I went. It was amazingly awesome. Outstanding view, fast, high up, wow!

Once we caught our breath we loaded back onto the bus for the next line. The drive took about ten minutes and we just kept going higher and higher, switching back and forth on the dirt track. We drove into the cloud and finally reached the top. At this point I wondered if I put some rocks in my pockets and insisted they reweigh me if I could get out of it. I mean, we were really really high up! We were in a freaking cloud! They had a wood stove going up there it was so cold and wet and just, ahhh!

But nah, it was going to be amazing.

Video of the zip line adventure:

This time Steph, Eliza, and I went first. It was awesome. I imagine it is what flying would feel like. Totally worth it. It was a super cool experience at a really neat place. Well designed and set up, they did a fantastic job of checking and rechecking all the gear and straps, and seemed to have a well established process.

Ok so you see the blue lake down there? We flew all the way down there, over it and to the other side. From up where this photo was taken.

This statue is where you walk back to the reception area. Pretty fitting.

Now we are driving back to the camp ground and we have stopped at a lake in Snowdonia for some sight seeing and rock climbing. We saw this area last year but didn’t have time to stop and it’s so gorgeous. You can’t really see them in the video but there are old old stone walls going up and across all over the mountains. I can’t imagine what it took to build them initially.

Can you spot the pink and purple? That’s Fenya and Caroline.

Emma. Those stone walls are all over the mountain behind her.

while I am typing this the team decided to climb to the top of the mountain behind the camper. Initially it was to check out these bags we could see a ways up. Which turned out to be full of rocks, we assume to be helicoptered away. But that turned into a mountain topping hike.

video of some views.

After this adventure wore the girls out we drove a little farther and stopped for dinner. With the adrenaline crash hitting, food in the belly, and the exhaustion from all the climbing on rocks (and intense narrow twisty road driving for me) we are ready to crash hard now that we are at camp. Oh and it’s raining and chilly. I of course am loving that.

I should also add that Emma and I are getting pretty handy with the camper. Gray water and pee dumped, clean water filled, lights and electric working properly, we have the gas/oven situation figured out. Go us!

2018 UK Trip – Day 4

June 16, 2018

Back to the ring side, starting the morning off with Musketeers. Holly cantered her whole session like a pro. Grace and Lilli were amazing, flying back and forth. Their team was awesome.

Our team got a compliment from Ref Vicky for their work ethic.

They were up late last night. I think the time change is getting us. We are all dead this morning.

I hit up a tea and bacon bap to help get me going.

Back to Musketeers, which is essentially a combination of our Leadline and Novice divisions. They have both LL and Novice players mixed together. In general the LL children here do a much more intense LL routine than the typical US child, in MGA, Pony Club and elsewhere. And we are not just talking the child’s bravery, but also the parent’s athletic ability and the appropriately sized ponies. The LL riders over here are often equipped with closely sized matches ponies, LL English saddles (essentially well seated saddles with handles across the pommel) and are moving out at a trot and solid canter, and jumping small jumps. Yep the parents are full out running and jumping. So the LL riders are somewhat matched with those riding off line.

This competition had 8 full teams of Musketeers competing.

Video of the Musketeers doing the Caterpillar race. I wish I had gotten video of them doing some normal races too but it went by more quickly then I realized and they were already on the last one!

Grace, Lilli, and Mel

The Derbyshire team.

The team did equipment and Eliza was a “runner” handling a pony on the Derbyshire team. She got her sprinting in for the day. Emma reffed and coached. And I reffed as well.

The team also got in some naps. Caroline is a pro snorer.

We headed out of Future Stars with as much haste as possible but it soon became clear we were not going to make it to our camp grounds for the night before the late check in deadline and apparently you had to arrive by this deadline or no admittance. So we called to let them know and they helped us find another place in our route to stop for the night.

It is at a race track which would be very cool if there was racing going on but sadly there are not. It’s still lovely and nice and quiet with clean restrooms.

I really want to go check out the timber fences, they are huge. But no one is allowed on the track.

So we are relaxing in for the night. Well more specifically, we have eaten, I have showered and crawled into my bunk for the night to try and fall asleep early. It’s only 730. But I am exhausted and sustaining myself on just a few hours of sleep a night is not going to work for much longer. And I want to be fun and not grumpy tomorrow. Mean while the girls are literally running around screaming as I type this. Literally. Must have been all the napping. 🤔

Well they all needed to get their bags out from the litter compartment which is under the bunk which opens on either end.

My view at the moment. 😆

I have discovered Sadie is the keeper of the house. She is constantly picking up, organizing, and if Emma or I mention something needing to be done she is on it. She is also excellent at taking charge of some of the more important stuff when it comes to packing up the camper like unhooking and stowing the electric cord. I am not surprised to discover this about her but I wasn’t expecting it either.

Here is hoping for good weather tomorrow. Snowdonia here we come!

2018 UK Trip – Day 3

June 16, 2018

Today has been a busy day.

The team has been leading and ring crewing for Musketeers. Emma has been coaching and reffing. And I have been reffing and announcing. Note – announcing is not my strong point. Especially when you do not know the teams or riders. I called poor Grace and Lilli our about a hundred times and several others by “that cute roan”, and “that naughty gray pony”. Although I did explain that I only knew their names. They made me a cheat sheet, which did help but I think I still mixed the teams up a little bit.

Video of walking through camp this morning.

Its very different how they do their set up at competitions over here. I always marvel at it and it’s really hard to explain. Most people camp out and put their ponies in portable paddocks. So some venues become a maze of paddocks, vehicles, and tents. The stables were basically empty. Actually I didn’t see any ponies in any of them.


Emma reffing the Musketeers.

Emma being awesome.

View from the commentator box looking back over the camping.

Check out the schedule for today. They still played ten races a heat. The change over time between races took about the same amount of time as ours, maybe a bit longer. Riders went to the other end of the ring after the whistle, although generally at a trot, without being prompted for the most part. In the whole day they only got 30 minutes behind. This was attributed to the musketeers taking so long and the wind blowing equipment over and having to be restarted a few times.

The big time saver here is they do not have to repaint lines on grass. On all-weather footing we have to redo lines every heat.

The other big time saver is no briefing. They come in and the heat rolls on. The riders know the rules and don’t expect the ref to go over the race list with them. Although I like a briefing for our Novice division, I feel like our Open and O25 should know the rules and be responsible enough to look at the race list before going in the ring. Maybe this is something for our Rulebook Committee to discuss.

They do not do a warm up race, which does eat up a few minutes, but not that much all said and done. And they do get to ride on nearly the exact same footing right next to the ring in the warm up area. So it’s not surprising. And if the footing is different they are usually permitted to run up and back to feel it out. Which is essentially a warm up race. I do get frustrated as a rider and as a ref when we have riders taking advantage and going out twice or taking yet another hand off and going half way up the lane. The warm up race is not intended to be your actual warm up. It’s intended to feel the footing and your referees starts. It’s a carry over from pony club that’s gotten a bit sloppy and perhaps it also needs some clean up discussion by the RBC?

Anyway. Some play and practice thoughts. I am always looking at ways for us to improve and look into other processes and practices and how or if they would work for us.

Goof balls being goof balls.

Emma coaching Jane on Lacey.

This is our little home for the trip. It’s actually rather comfy. And really convenient. We will have to give you a tour of it in a different post. It’s a bit of a mess at the moment. Like 7 people’s belongings exploded in it. Which is almost exactly what happened.

We are having dinner in the venue. It’s a nice meal. Of course the “pudding” (aka dessert) is my favorite part.

Check this master piece out. Triffle with, I believe, a ground cherry on top. Amazing.

And this one Sadie got. Fenya tried the cheese cake. It also looked fantastic.

I talked a little about the venue last night. It’s a western facility. Really nice. It has a little shop, which is closed, very nice bathrooms with outstanding water pressure in the showers (kills my home’s water pressure). And a lovely indoor. It has an interesting smell that I think comes from the footing and wood the indoor is built out of (at least that’s my guess). It’s sort of a sweet peppery smell. It’s rather strong, but not at all offensive.

Some hang out time with Mel and Andrew and friends (who forced me to eat wonderful wonderful British bacon. How evil of them).

The team played with the kids. I think they all wore each other out.

video of all the riders playing.

After this photos I got a pile of hugs. Grace and Lilli have really come out of their shells this year. Grace stopped me two times today just walking along to say hello and told me how she did riding. And tonight she told me she made the A final. Last year she would have been too shy. They both even waved when I called their names over the PA from the commentator box. I hope I didn’t embarrass them, but Grace has really come so far since last year. I think growing taller helped, because she was good skill wise last year, and had a good seat already, but she was flying out there today! And Lilli too. That little peanut is more confident and just, more, grown up! I suppose a year does that. And Holly told me she cantered for the first time on her own today. How awesome! I’ll have to pay more attention tomorrow so I can check her out. They are all such cool kids.

2018 UK Trip – Day 2

June 15, 2018

After a solid nights (much needed sleep) we are up and getting ready to headed out to Future Stars competition. Our hosts (Mel and Andrew’s) girls, Grace and Lilli are riding in this competition and we are going to help out. They do so much for us, as does MGAGB, that we are happy to have the chance to return the favor. I also think this will be an excellent opportunity for the team to get warmed up for the competition set up over here before we go to the one we are competing in next weekend.

A little video from out the door of our camper. One of the amazing views at Mel’s House.

There are a lot of neat things to learn about Wales. For example, all the signs are in English and Welsh. And Welsh is a rather complicated language. The kids can go to a Welsh speaking school or an English speaking school. And there is proper Welsh, which the girls are learning in school, and “slang Welsh” which Melanie says is what Andrew speaks. It also sounds very different in various parts of Wales. Last year when we were in the northern part of the country I thought the dialect sounded very melodic, almost like they were singing to each other. And in that particular area it seemed like everyone was chatting in Welsh.

A book on the kitchen table to help with school.

Today was a lot of driving to the show grounds in Newark. Not the “Newark” grounds but another grounds just a few miles away. I am whipped.


I indulged in fish and chips for lunch. Although I peeled off the friend layer and ate the fish out.

We also managed a grocery trip. Which is always an adventure.

I saw some Jam from my employer. Which was exciting. I would have missed it if the girls had not said “OMG, that is the best jam ever!” And pointed. Top shelf stuff that.

I grabbed some clotted cream and scones from the grocery store for later. Yum.

Of course we got tea too. I can’t wait.

Emma and I seem to compliment each other very well. Yesterday I drove, she organized and got everyone settled in for the night. Today I drove and she cooked and cleaned the place up.

The camper came equipped with dishes and cookware but now that it’s time to eat we can’t remember where the utensils are. So there was a little improvising necessary. (Emma is using the giant cooking spoon to eat her soup).

(Ps. Just tried the scones and clotted cream – soooo much better than I even expected. I used my finger as a butter knife because of the missing utensils).

Briefing is done and our tasks for tomorrow are assigned. It was also awesome to see so many old friends! Who would expect to get to see friends from – omg, what, 1994, 1995, 1996 time frame? (has it been that long), from other countries, and still be friends? It’s crazy! I love those ladies. And they are still the same lovely, smiling, friendly people they were then. It’s so special.

This venue is pretty special too. It’s a western facility. Which is so odd over here in the land of English riding. The cafe/bar is called “The Slide Inn”. I love it. It is all western with country music playing. You wouldn’t know it is in England except for the English breakfast menu posted.

We are all showered, the team is watching a movie, and we are settled for the night. I am about to tuck in and I just noticed that – although I grabbed a sleeping bag at random from the pile of seven matching red sleeping bags, I apparently grabbed the same one I had last year. Wild. I love when things fall out like that.

2018 UK trip – Day 1

June 14, 2018

The flight was normal. Good movies. I watched Black Panther, Jumaji, and The Last Jedi. Well I slept through those movies. I noticed Fenya watching Peter Rabbit.

Some airport antics video:

Our car to take us to the camper didn’t show up…

I am updating this post (at least so far) as the day proceeds. We have our ride sorted out now and are expecting our driver, Mark, shortly. The camper place forgot to book the connection and feels horrible. While we wait I am going to indulge in my first Costa of the trip.

Is my nose getting bigger?

I also swapped my SIM card while we waited. Just got to rave about the $30 for 13gb deal with unlimited talk/text. And it works in Europe too. Nice. It really beats the Verizon global $10/day plan.

in route to get the camper with our driver Mark.

This camper is so nice.

Sadie navigated for the drive to meet up with Emma.

We made it to Mel’s (with several pitstops for Krista to wake up). Wooo! And Mel got us right onto ponies.

We got to take Smokey, Gem, and Jasmina for a spin in the manage.

We kept it brief but it was fun!

Then we hurried off for a bite to eat down the road at the pub before they closed.

Steak and ale pie. Yum

we are back at Mel’s. It’s 10 and still light out. Emma is organizing everyone unpacking into the camper and I am sacking out for the night.

Tomorrow we head to The Future Stars competition.

Good night.

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