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Mine fields and time bombs!

AS I arrived for commentating duties at Central and West Fife Show minutes after the light horse administration marquee blew down in the hurricane force winds we had two weekends ago, the thoughts occurred to me firstly, "Has anyone been hurt?" and secondly, "What would the Health & Safety Executive have to say about that?"

AS I arrived for commentating duties at Central and West Fife Show minutes after the light horse administration marquee blew down in the hurricane force winds we had two weekends ago, the thoughts occurred to me firstly, "Has anyone been hurt?" and secondly, "What would the Health & Safety Executive have to say about that?"

Leaving the latter aside for a moment, thankfully no-one had been hurt and, without a base from which to perform their many and varied administration jobs, the light horse team had taken over 'my' call-up sheep trailer for the day and judges were accommodated in the living quarters of the chairman's horsebox.

It's amazing how common sense can prevail when the chips are down.

Needless to say, the wind literally blew up a storm for the show's organising committee, whom I have to admit, met the crisis head on and coped extremely well given the circumstances.

It was a case of 'the show will go on' and it did, typifying the spirit of the agricultural show which I continue to champion as integral to any agricultural community.

Long may they continue as they also add atmosphere often sadly lacking in many equestrian events.

Additionally, I have to admit that the exhibitors were absolutely marvellous and everyone got on with enjoying the show as best as was possible given the day's weather and I can't remember a show when I received no complaints whatsoever.

It shows that miracles can happen and this restored my faith in human nature beyond words.

Of all those affected by the strong winds, the person who arguably had most to endure was Graham Barclay, the course builder for the working hunter pony course.

As 60mph gusts of winds swept across the show field, the exposed hill where the course was set witnessed jump wings fall like playing cards at times.

Propped up by bales of straw and held down with sand bags, the classes were only held up for brief periods keeping the integrity of the course builder and competition intact.

Interestingly enough, in the adjacent jumping ring, where lighter plastic jumps were in use, they seemed to have little or no problem with sand bags doing the trick.

From my vantage point in a newly-sourced sheep trailer, I was intrigued to witness a jump blow down in the main show jumping ring at the point where the horse was at the height of its flight over it.

Rightly so, the rider was not penalised and went on to record the fastest round and won the class. Thankfully, the poles fell away from the horse and not into its path. What were the chances of that happening?

It was a day that few will forget but one which I will remember, not for the negative aspect of the unseasonable weather, but for the positive way in which everyone concerned with the show buckled down and 'got on with it.'

There's nothing like a disaster to bring out the best in us all and in this case it showed.

Ironically, the show field itself at The Hilton, Kelty, farmed by the Thomson Family, couldn't have looked better and the going was perfect.

Exhibitors sometimes forget that this doesn't happen by chance but by careful planning which can impact on the year's farming activity for the owners.

For the Thomsons and all others like them, who make their land available for shows and equestrian events, we need to acknowledge their generosity and sincerely thank them.

Returning to the Health and Safety aspect of the show, this obviously had to be at the heart of many of the decisions made on the day and many good ones were made before the wind grew in force.

Large trailers were strategically placed to protect marquees and the only emergency seemed to affect the craft tent which appeared to be on the move once a trailer load of Limousins had set off for home.

A replacement was quickly found, ironically, leaving a nearby small first aid rest tent the remaining hazard but that was fairly effortlessly dropped to the ground by willing helpers before it took off in the direction of Loch Leven.

Like most organised events these days, my local show makes huge efforts to meet the modern demands of health and safety and at some cost.

I wonder how long the ropes and posts will survive and whether or not those parking lorries or cars will have to have the necessary qualifications as will volunteer stewards for that matter.

There is a mine field of regulations out there for shows filled with time bombs ready to explode.

One which concerns me is that of unattended livestock in trailers or lorries which come into difficulty one way or another.

At Central and West Fife, a pony became lodged over the breast bar and all hell seemed to be let loose inside as it struggled to get free.

There was no owner in sight and it was left to concerned neighbours and stewards to sort out the problem on his/her behalf.

No amount of calling over the loud speaker system could rouse an interest so presumably, while others struggled, the owner was enjoying a wander round the show.

The other nightmare scenario is the horse/pony tied up to the side of the lorry/trailer sometimes left with a rope long enough to allow grazing or tied up to a ring with a hay net emptying sufficiently to allow a leg to be trapped within it.

Some schedules disallow the practice but who polices it? It's a bit like the forbidden barbeques in the horse lines at major shows like the Great Yorkshire.

The fact that the fire is surrounded by lorries carrying hundreds of gallons of fuel and kilos of propane gas doesn't seem to concern those desperate to eat a hamburger or burned sausage and officials who point this out only attract abuse from the party goers.

There are aspects of Health & safety which seem over the top but there are others there to protect us from our self-inflicted dangers. Perhaps we should take stock.