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Great Yorkshire Show

Emma Heseltine - 15 July 2012

This week I’m getting a special treat, I’m heading to the Great Yorkshire Show with Nicky Luckett to give a hand with the cattle and learn a few things about showing. When I arrive at the farm Nicky is trying to decide whether to take one of the little bulls or not. We go and have a look at him and Nicky decides he is not quite up to standard so he doesn’t get to go to the ball. We are taking Kismet, a two year old heifer and Leola and Lavender, both year old heifers. Lavender was the little calf who stamped on me earlier in the year when we were halter training, she has grown up a bit! We are setting off on Sunday so as to get the cattle nice and settled before their big day on Tuesday when the show opens. They are pretty good about being loaded except for Leola who will not go in the trailer first and then complains bitterly that she is being left behind when we load her last. The journey goes off without a hitch and we are soon unloading the girls into the cattle lines. Leola pulls the same trick, won’t come off the trailer first and complains when she is last. We give them deep beds so that they will hopefully stay nice and clean once they get a wash. Slowly the lines start to fill as the other breeders arrive with their cattle and chatter and mooing and the slightly out of place sound of hairdryers fills the sheds. It seems bulls have a silly trick, they get in their nice deep straw beds and dig all the straw out. Straw? Straw? I don’t want that! Get it out! Then they lay on the cold concrete floor and look sad, its cold here on the floor, why is there no straw? You have to see it to believe it.

Monday morning we need to get the girls nice and clean so its over to the cow wash with us. I am transformed into a cow hairdresser, washing and soaping and scrubbing and rinsing. Some of these activities the cattle like, some not so much. The pressure washing is not a favourite but the scrubbing is, especially behind the ears. We get some specialist stuff on them, a shampoo that is for white hair to remove ‘brassiness’ its purple and stains my hands, but seems to do the job on the tails and the girls are soon glowing and clean. Back to the sheds for a bit of a blow-dry. Later there is a bit of a scramble, straw is in short supply so when the tractor comes past with a few bales we bag one and quickly disperse it. Its amazing how quickly a big bale can disappear when set upon by industrious stockmen. In the evening all the Longhorn guys have a picnic in the lines, it’s a good chance to get to chat to everyone and they are a welcoming bunch.

Bright and early on Tuesday after a hearty breakfast in the stockman’s café we get down to the cow wash to give our girls a last bit of scrubbing. There are plenty of categories and we are in a few classes including the threes. I have been convinced that I should have a go at leading one of the girls into the ring so anxiously wait the three’s class whilst watching the others go through the ring. It’s a serious business and there are some worthy winners, Nicky’s girls do alright and before I know it I’m being ushered into a white coat and handed Lavender’s halter to lead. It’s been particularly poor weather all week and the show ground is starting to look worse for it. The rings especially look boggy with all the big hooves that have tramped across them today. As Lavender and I head into the ring down a little muddy slope I slip, and so does Lavender. I manage to grab a pole on my way past and don’t fall over, more crucially I don’t let go of Lavender. Heinous punishments are dished out to people who let go. We come to a halt in the ring with Nicky asking if I’m okay and Lavender looking at me as if I am a rank amateur, which I am. Do I want to go on? I’ve made a stupid entrance I may as well continue. With whispered tips from Nicky and Rob leading Kismet and Leola we get into something approximating the correct position and judging begins. I’m entirely unsurprised that we come 5th; I don’t think I helped at all. Everyone claims not to have seen my slide and I don’t get ridiculed too much thankfully.

After judging is finished it’s a pint from the owner of the breed champion, Fishwick Lord of the Rings – a mighty fine bull – then I get a chance to have a potter about the rest of the show. But almost before it’s started the show is over. I hear rumours as I walk about admiring pigs and sheep and when I return to the lines I find out the truth. They are cancelling the show after one day due to the ridiculous mud in the car parks; people can get in and can’t get out. The show has only been cancelled twice before I’m told, during foot and mouth and because of World War 2. It’s a huge disappointment and there is a sad feeling all over the show ground. Many of the stall holders pack up there and then and start to creep out. We go for a meal at the pub and decide to leave in the morning after a good sleep and some consolation beers. The judging is finished in the morning with no public coming in then the trailers start queuing up to take away the cattle. We get loaded and head on home; it’s a disappointment to everyone but seems to be happening to a lot of the shows this year. Perhaps by next year I can have brushed up my showing skills.

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