People watching

Yesterday I attended the final day of a CIC*** International Eventing show that is held annually close to where I live. Basking in glorious sunshine, I spent the morning watching show jumping and the afternoon watching the cross country event. The horses and riders were magnificent.

As well as the main competition, there were a number of smaller entertainments going on around the site. These included a relay challenge for local Hunts, birds of prey and working dog displays, and an It’s a Knockout Competition to raise money for the local air ambulance. There was also a Festival of Food with a number of ‘celebrity chef’ cookery demonstrations that I did not explore.

I was there to watch the skill and beauty of the horses. They are amazing creatures and, being live animals, can behave in unpredictable ways at times. There were plenty of thrills and spills but, thankfully, no serious injuries to either horses or riders. The weather was hot and sunny with just a light, cooling breeze on the exposed hillside; I had a fabulous day out.

Like most of the vast crowd attending the event, I took a camping chair and a picnic which I set up on a slope overlooking the course to view the cross country event. For the show jumping I sat on the grass by the side of the arena. For those who chose to pay considerably more for their entrance ticket, there were hospitality tents that offered refreshments, seats and the shelter of a couple of massive marquees. These people may have been able to sit in more comfort than the main crowd, but they did not get as good a view of the arena and course. What they did get though was a large screen TV which, later in the afternoon, showed the tennis from Wimbledon.

I do not understand why people would choose to attend an event where some of the best riders in the world are competing and then spend much of the exciting finale watching television. If their interest was in the tennis then why did they not stay home and watch it there? Mind you, these people did seem quite different to the main crowd. Their floaty dresses and smart suits contrasted notably with the casual shorts and light tops of the majority of the attendees. High heels are impractical if one wishes to walk the rough, cross country course in order to get up close to the action; I even saw one sensibly clad supporter in crocs.

What struck me most about the event though was the contrast between the behaviour of the crowd on this site and the pictures that I had seen in the media of the Glastonbury Festival that is also staged not too far from where I live. The horse trials will not have drawn anything like the crowds that Glastonbury attracts, but it had many of the same elements: camping, food outlets, portaloos and transient visitors.

I did not come across any bins yet there was no loose rubbish anywhere to be seen. Despite the copious quantities of food and drink being consumed throughout the day, all debris was carefully packed away and removed from the site by those who attended. I saw a small number of empty bags blowing in the wind and all were caught by whoever had inadvertently let them go, or simply picked up and stowed away by someone else. The site remained immaculate throughout.

I wonder what it is about the mindset of music festival goers that makes them so uncaring of the mess that they leave behind. Horsey people would be considered by many to be posh and privileged; it is a very expensive sport. It is notable that the top eventers seem to come from families that have established ties to the horse world as well as personal wealth. From yesterday’s experience it would seem that, however many silver spoons they may have been born with, they do not expect others to clean up after them.

I am unlikely ever to wish to attend Glastonbury whereas this is the fourth or fifth time that I have enjoyed a day out at the horse trials. Whatever it is that draws a particular type of crowd I feel more at ease with the horsey people than the festival supporters, despite the fact that I do not ride and will never own a horse. Their attitude to all their animals appears to chime more closely with my own views. They do not, generally, look on their pets as fluffy accessories to be pampered but rather as useful companions. The animals are trained to work with their owner and are valued for their contribution to rural life. The displays by the sheep and gun dogs were impressive; they served a purpose beyond being something to love.

I was grateful that the dogs that attended yesterday’s event with their owners were kept on leads and prevented from sniffing any passing person. The owners seemed to realise that their much loved pooch was not going to be equally adored by everyone; I wish that all dog owners had this attitude.

I dislike being judged and pigeon holed based on the behaviour of a particular crowd that I may choose to mingle with from time to time. I dare say there are music festival regulars who do not abandon rubbish wherever they go as well as horsey people who can be haughty and conceited. I will try not to judge those I have little experience of based on newspaper reports. After all, I have already stated how little I trust the mainstream media.