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Once again, the Carol Service in the indoor school on December 2nd, heralded the start of the festive season. The mellow handbells of The Belltones ringing out Winter Wonderland set the scene for a magical service, which was led with great humour and style by the Rev. Canon Roger Royle. Riders, family and friends joined in traditional carols - and made a valiant attempt at the more challenging Cowboy Carol - accompanied by Dave Hillier, to whom we owe a heartfelt vote of thanks for standing in at such short notice to play keyboard. The lessons were beautifully read by Lauren Sanders, Beverly Nichols, Jennifer Reeves-Brown and Adrian Sparks, while the singing was led by Helen Poole.
Chloe Pepper and Thomas Rees handled their roles as Mary and Joseph with dignity and aplomb, and the arrival of the three wise men - Claire Campbell, Abigail Rogers and Claire Samuel - on horseback, looked truly impressive, in spite of George's decision to face in the opposite direction to his fellow equine actors.
In contrast, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer - played with a great flourish by Magic - behaved perfectly, even though obliged to wear a pair of reindeer horns and a set of red socks and having to share billing with an odd old gentleman with a white beard. An Oscar nomination, one feels, can't be far off...
...The reading of The Night Before Christmas by Graham Dowson held everyone spellbound, especially as by then the aroma of mulled wine and mince pies had begun to waft out from the classroom. All in all, the perfect winter warmer. Thanks to everyone who helped to make it such a wonderful success.
This was a new competition, instigated to mark the Millennium Year. It started with Regional qualifying rounds in June, when Natasha Baker and Forester (pictured on the right) did extremely well to win by a narrow lead. Then the winners went through to the Supra Regional rounds and those winners on to the Championships at Warwickshire College in October.
Natasha and Forester made tremendous progress during the summer and put on a very polished performance to win the championships easily. As it took place on the same day as the Musical Ride championships, there were several South Bucks supporters there to cheer her on.
As soon as her wonderful sash, trophy and rosette were presented, they were whisked away again and she had to wait until the National conference in November at Solihull to have them presented by the sponsor Ford Motor Company, represented by Simon Appleby.
Several other South Bucks riders took part in the Regional qualifying round but no-one else managed to get to the next round. The competition is to take place again in 2001, so let's hope for more good results.
Sadly, we lost Little Monty during November. He had been with us for over 12 years and was suffering from Cushing's Disease.
A newcomer to the ranks is Splash, a 14h piebald gelding who is five years old. He has been given to the Group by Mrs Liz Newman who saved him when he was in a very poor and emaciated condition. He has a lovely temperament and it is hoped to have him working in-class soon, in the New Year.
Congratulations to one of the Saturday rides who came third in the National Musical Ride Competition, against some very stiff competition. Our video was shown with the other finalists at Warwickshire College in November, and riders, family, friends and some of the helpers were there to cheer in South Bucks. There were six groups in the final and after all were shown, we had a nail biting 20 minutes waiting for the judges to announce their verdict. Thanks to all the riders for their efforts and another thanks to everyone whose support made this achievement possible.