Sunday, July 22, 2012

Volunteering at Fitch's Corner

Fitch's Corner is one of my favorite events of the year. It hosts the Area 1 Championships alongside a regular horse trials, right on up through Preliminary. That particular area of upstate New York is especially gorgeous, filled with farms and old houses, and the rolling hills and valleys make the drive scenic (and slightly terrifying for those of us with trailer driving panic attacks). For the second year in a row, we camped at a lovely little state park about 25 minutes away, saving on hotel costs and giving me an excuse to break out my beloved tent.

We arrived Thursday, and on Friday, as last year, I took the day to do some sightseeing. Last year I went west, to Hyde Park; this year, north, through the Hudson River Valley to hit a few museums and combine business and pleasure. I also had lunch at the Eveready Diner which was tasty if a bit overpriced (much fancier than the "diner" label would suggest...).

Saturday, I fence judged for cross-country. Briefing was at 6:30 a.m., which worked out well since Hannah had to feed & prep Tucker for their 8:08 start time anyway. Fitch's is a fabulous, really high-end event, and their attention to detail is phenomenal. They don't have the organization of King Oak - which remains my gold standard for military-like precision in the running of its XC - but they have style and are incredibly generous. For my services, I got a great new hat, good food all day, and an insulated lunch bag.

I spent my first shift at Training fence 14, a big hay feeder that jumped well all morning. After some years of totally uneventful fence judging, I had to stop someone for the first time. A rider had clipped a flag earlier on course in such a way that she hadn't actually jumped the jump, which meant she was eliminated when she jumped the next fence. I was asked to hold her up and take her off course. It went well - there was a nice big gallopy stretch leading up to my fence that I could stand in to flag her down.

My next fence was a Prelim coffin, offset and while not huge, quite technical. I enjoyed watching that one, as you got a clear sense of the different styles and techniques involve in navigating it. I also picked up my second hold of the day when a fence later on course broke and I had to stop a rider after my fence, complete with timing. I stopped the rider, started my stopwatch, and then realized it was Bruce Davidson. So that was a moment! It was only a few minutes of hold and then I sent him on his way and reported in the time of the hold. New experience, nice adrenaline rush, but I was glad that it went perfectly.

Third fence of the day was a v. straightforward Novice rolltop before a bank, and for that I got to sit under some shade for the first time. I lost my radio as the fence judge after me reported for the whole bank complex, and it was by far the most relaxing of my fences. I didn't have a BN fence, which worked out neatly, as unfortunately Hannah and Tucker had retired on course earlier that morning and we ended up going home Saturday afternoon instead of Sunday.

I love being a fence judge, especially when I'm stationed by myself. It's low key but very important, and it lets me be in control of my own private kingdom, ordering my things about my chair, taking down information, listening in to the activity around the course, and doing some reading and relaxing, all while watching horses go cross country. Perfectly lovely way to spend a day.


  1. I really want to fence judge at some point. I can't believe you got to hold up Bruce Davidson! That's too cool :)

  2. I can't recommend King Oak enough. It's my favorite place to volunteer.

    I was kind of wigging out and kept thinking "stay cool, stay cool, be professional." I think I did a good job. He was a bit frustrated there was a hold - understandably! - but I was generous in my timing of the hold, and followed my instructions. Brian O'Connor - David's younger brother! - was control for the day and praised the fence judges for the work on the hold.

  3. I need to get my butt in gear and look into it!!

    Whoo-hoo! :) That's pretty cool!


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