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The 10 stages of going to a show

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Competing your horse – it seems like a great idea in principle, but the reality is often somewhat different…


  1. It starts with the mammoth job of making your horse look at least vaguely presentable. Somehow, since your last effort – which wasn’t that long ago, surely? – he’s deteriorated into a hairy, dirty mudlark that requires several liberal applications of shampoo to rectify. By the time you’ve transformed him from filthy to fabulous – and ended up carrying out the opposite make-over on yourself – you’ve got a whole new appreciation for grooms who do this for a living.


  1. There’s nothing like cleaning your tack to make you realise just how many layers of grease and grime have built up since you last tackled this job. Scrubbing it away always takes far longer than anticipated, particularly as your saddle soap has dried out from neglect and your sponge is falling to pieces. You’ve a vague recollection of making it your new year’s resolution to do this at least once a week, but you know what they say about good intentions…


  1. No matter how much care and attention went into putting away all your show kit after your last outing, there’s always a mad panic the night before your show as you try to locate everything you need, only to find your show jacket is missing a button, your white breeches have a suspect green smear down one leg and that safe place where you stashed your stock pin is proving not so safe, as you now can’t find it anywhere!


  1. This is followed by the traditional sleepless night, staring at the ceiling and wondering why on earth you thought this was a good idea. Instead of counting sheep, you find yourself contemplating all the different ways you’re going to embarrass yourself and your horse is going to cause mayhem. Is it going to be falling in the water jump, splitting your breeches when you bend over, or your horse making inappropriate advances at everybody who passes him in the warm-up arena?


  1. You arrive at the yard in the morning to find that, despite swaddling him up to the eyeballs in rugs and hoods, your horse has still managed to undo all your hard work. How did he even manage to get stable stains through two layers of rug? Praise the equestrian gods for the miracle of waterless shampoo…


  1. Ah, loading. It goes without saying that the later you’re running, the less inclined your horse is to go up the ramp. No matter what you try – name-calling, insulting his ancestors, bribery or shameless begging – he still plants himself at the bottom with a ‘you’ve got to be kidding’ expression on his face. Luckily, just as you’re considering throwing in the towel and selling him for glue – although who are you kidding, that involves getting him in the lorry, too – he takes himself up the ramp and starts munching his haynet, as meek as a new-born lamb. Typical!


  1. Navigating country roads in a lorry or towing a trailer can usually be described as hair-raising at best. It’s practically guaranteed that there’ll be at least one road closure, two idiot drivers forcing you to do some creative reversing and three incidences of your satnav sending you the wrong way down a narrow, windy lane. By the time you finally arrive at the showground, you’re exhausted, frazzled and strongly considering slurping some of your horse’s electrolyte paste.


  1. Squeezing into a parking space signals to your horse it’s time to announce to the whole showground that he’s arrived – cue all sorts of strange noises and plenty of stomping from the back of your transport. He charges down the ramp like a rhinoceros and makes a bee-line for the very posh-looking mare tied to the neighbouring lorry, who eyes his dishevelled state with abject horror. She’s got a point – somehow, half his plaits have come loose, the rest are decorated with hay accessories and the less you think about the newest set of stains on his coat, the better. Thank goodness you brought a grooming kit along with you!


  1. After tacking up and having only one minor panic attack when it looked like you’d forgotten your white saddle pad – thankfully found buried at the bottom of your tack locker – it’s time to head to the warm-up ring. How can all these other riders appear so calm when it feels like the butterflies in your stomach are having a late-night rave? Maybe it’s because their horses are gliding around like ballet dancers and yours is doing his best dad-dancing impression. Oh no, time to go into the ring…


  1. You know what, it wasn’t actually terrible! On exiting the ring, there’s a warm, satisfied glow of achievement burning in your chest. Your horse behaved impeccably, you did a decent job of piloting him and, despite your worst fears, no disasters occurred. There’s even a fairly decent chance you might have earned yourself a rosette. Buoyed with success, you decide it’s definitely time to fill out your next set of entry forms and go through the whole process all over again…

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