I stressed. I nagged. I flapped. I worried. I fretted. I didn’t want to go. Dapplebum was a pickle and played up when the children schooled him. We changed his bit. He played up. Longshanks long reined, and long reined and long reined. The night before we were due to leave, we drove out on the lanes again and he went like a lamb. By then we had scaled down our expectations and figured that just getting him there and exposing him to the show atmosphere would be enough. If Dapplebum didn’t behave well enough to go into any of the classes we had entered him into, that would be okay. I talked lots to my King and all the time He kept saying, “Trust me.” I reminded Him that He rode an unbroken colt through excited crowds and He reminded me that He did indeed ride a colt that had never been ridden before and therefore I could give Dapplebum over to Him and trust Him. Slowly I let my anxiety turn to trust. I prayed. I planned. I packed. Yes, I still stressed and nagged, but every time I slipped, I tried to trust more readily. I prepared to go. We prepared to go. Longshanks and Miss Friendship were the Dapplebum Team and were superb team players.
Miss Puddleduck and Rich Tea Boy went to Grandma’s on Friday morning. Everything was packed and the trailer, with the carriage on, hitched to the car – fresh air in the tyres and fuel in the tank. We waited for the call to walk Dapplebum to his lift. The call came. The kids set off walking across the fields with him. I drove the long way round to our rendezvous because towing round the awkward hairpins on the road to our house takes more practice than I have had. And there was the lorry waiting to take us to Derbyshire.
Dapplebum travelled well, but the dear Welsh Mare he kept company sweated buckets across the winding roads of the Peak District. It was a clear day and the views were spectacular. My brakes smelt bad coming down into the Buxton and I was reminded to use my gears. Miss Friendship and I listened to “Swallows and Amazons” and the “Railway Children” on audio cassette (I know! Our car is old fashioned, but at least my children know what a tape is and how it works – and how to fix it with a pen if it gets snarled up in the tape player). We drove through the Golden gate at Chatsworth as the afternoon turned into a beautiful evening.
When the ponies were safely settled behind white tape fences and had buckets of water, the children went off to find some chips for hungry tummies. They came back with the nicest chips I have had in a long time – like Grandma’s homemade chips. There was already a contingent of friends settled in the field, set aside for the Carriage Driving competitors, and they had had a successful day in the Trek – with rosettes to show. We caught up with them and erected a gazebo tent, patriotically decorated with Welsh flag bunting, that became a communal focal point.
To help our ponies acclimatise, Miss Friendship and I took them for a ride. I got to ride the dear Welsh Mare. She is beautiful. We took them down to the driving ring and around a bit of the showground and camp sites, so that they could see where they were and what was going on. It was a lovely privilege to ride on the estate. We did the same the following evening and went a bit further afield, up to the Golden gate and around the fields where the cars had been parked.
After a night of intermittent sleep in the lorry, Saturday morning came rather too soon, and was filled with activity as the first class participants polished and cleaned ponies, carriages and harness. We were in the second class. I was anxious about getting the timing right. It was about a five minute drive to the ring and I was trying very hard not to chivy Longshanks on – another “prayer-filled, just-trust” moment. Then Dapplebum began sparking on the tension vibes and played the pickle-pony tune, throwing his head and doing his rocking horse impression while Longshanks long-reined him. It didn’t look promising. But somehow we made it into the ring. My anxiety shows in that I hung onto the side the whole time, in case I had to leap out at short notice.
There was no need. Longshanks drove well and Dapplebum went very well – shame about the groom!
On our way into the ring we had met the dear Welsh Mare coming out victorious, with a first in her class, We felt very proud of them. And there was more pride to come as Dapplebum and Longshanks earned themselves an award from the Duchess of Devonshire. It was Dapplebum’s tenth birthday. To meet a Duchess felt like a fitting birthday treat for our family pony. Dapplebum and Longshanks didn’t just earn one award, but two as they were placed first in the long reining class too. It was very exciting.
The day had been absorbed with some time given to watching various other displays. Longshanks and I enjoyed the scurry driving and we all got to watch the Ukrainian Cossack Horsemen doing their energetic display. We teased Miss Friendship that she was a wannabe Cossack as she swung around Dapplebum’s neck, when he spooked at a landrover, on our evening ride. He was going at a fair pace but nothing like the flat-out gallop those Cossacks were doing while climbing acrobatically all over their horse’s backs. They were very impressive.
Saturday night we all fell asleep at the click of a switch. We were shattered and slept without a murmur through the colder night. In the morning, I woke Longshanks with a cup of tea and found frost on his tent. The air was crystal clear and warmed very quickly to the sound of hot air being huffed into balloons and the amazing sight of the hot air balloons rising all over the estate. It followed that many of them descended before getting very high as the day warmed quicker than expected. By midday, I had sun-burnt cheeks!
Everyone felt a little more relaxed in preparing for their morning classes. The time scale was exactly the same as the day before. This time we left the camping field with five minutes to spare , more relaxed and with much greater confidence in our little Dapplebum’s abilities and behaviour. Again we met the dear Welsh Mare coming out if the ring with a victory red rosette.
The morning judge was lovely. I like it when judges give tips and advice. It was with a soft Scottish lilt that she advised Longshanks to be sure Dapplebum had heard his instruction clearly before expecting him to respond. In the second class we’d entered she asked for a demonstration of four different paces: walk, working trot, collected trot and extended trot. For me this class felt like the sweetest success. In the others it was always the driver that was being judged not the pony or turnout, but in this exercise vehicle class the turnout and pony were being judged as well as the driver. There were eight in the class and we were pulled in fourth, with our inferior harness and carriage that needs a good repaint. Longshanks had got Dapplebum to do exactly what was asked for and I felt very proud, not only because the work Longshanks has begun in schooling Dapplebum was able to be aired (there’s lots more work to be done) but also the carriage and harness are Longshanks’ own that he has worked, saved money for and bought himself. We have partnered with him and helped him but I can safely say it is all his hard work that was being demonstrated on the field. In comparison to the quality and experience of those awarded first, second and third, I felt very proud. I felt too that the trust had paid off. My King, who rode an unbroken colt through a cheering crowd, had been with us every step of the way and our trust in Him had paid off.
This has left me wondering much about trust. It is an important part of any relationship. I was thinking how as parents we have to trust our children and part of the slowly letting go process that we have reached with ours means placing more and more trust in them. When we are fearful we limit them with our fears. I thought that, as I let my children ride on the trailer down our track before returning it. My parents used to let us ride on the roof rack of the car when we were tiny. They trusted us not to do anything foolish and fall off. Learning to let Longshanks take responsibility and trusting him with the decisions he makes is a challenge at this junction in adolescence, especially when the foolishness overrides sense sometimes and we have to let him experience the consequences without saying “Told you so!”.
Overall, the Chatsworth experience has been one of deepening my relationship with my King by trusting Him more and knowing He is faithful in the things He says. It is all about knowing Him. It is all about relationship. Even when I worried about whether I was just creating unnecessary expense by the choices we were making, I would hear Him saying “Don’t worry. I have got it covered. I’ve got your back.” We returned home to an unexpected cheque addressed to me which when I opened I was so surprised by I thought it must be a bill. But no, it really is a cheque. It is right to trust.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.