Not everybody wants to compete. Plenty of horse owners are happy just pootling about with their horse, hacking through the beautiful British countryside, or doing clinics and camps, but have absolutely no desire to put themselves through the stress of performing in front of a judge and a bunch of curious bystanders.
In many ways, they’re the sensible ones. When the competition bug bites, it bites hard! Suddenly all your weekends are booked up with trips to Tweseldown, Aston and Bicton, your other half is in a mood because they can’t remember the last time they saw you during daylight hours (even then, you had hay stuck to your clothes and were cross-eyed with exhaustion), you’ve spent all your money on entry fees, and every moment not spending riding is spent arguing about the BE balloting scheme on #Twittereventing.
But if there’s a Ms Uber-Competitive on your hard (see blog 3), chances are she’ll be talking you into competing. To be fair, you’ve watched her go out every weekend and come back with a spring in her step and a lorry full of rosettes, and you’ve thought, ‘Yeah, I wouldn’t mind a piece of that.’ OK, so she has two lessons a week with one of the Whitakers, and her horse was broken in by Carl Hester, and you’re not *quite* at that level, but when she suggested you go to a show together, you thought, ‘Why not? It’ll be a laugh!’
Strangely, though, you’re not laughing as you get up at stupid o’ clock on a Saturday morning, exhausted after a disturbed night filled with terrible nightmares about splitting your breeches falling off your horse right in front of the judge’s box. Ms Uber-Competitive, naturally, is in the Foxhunter class while you’re in the 60cms, but you’ve got to start somewhere, right? You load up and head off to the show, feeling too sick to eat. Ms Uber-Competitive, who can plait and load a horse in her sleep, is eating a large bacon roll and giving you lots of advice on warming up your horse, which you’re not listening to as you’re wondering if you’re going to faint.
You arrive, register with the secretary, and wonder if 9am is too early for a large glass of prosecco. Or maybe a bottle. For your nerves, y’know? You clamber on board Prince – and it’s now that you get to experience the special joy that is the warm-up arena. Do you pass other horses left-to-right or right-to-left? It doesn’t matter – you’re panicking so much you can’t tell your left from your right anyway. Then off you pop into the show ring – and it’s the moment of truth. The longest two minutes of your life begins!
If you get a clear round, then well done, give yourself an absolutely massive pat on the back, you total hero – but you’re a total hero anyway, because you know what? It doesn’t matter if you have a pole down or a run-out. It doesn’t matter if you forget the course or have your number on upside-down (we’ve all done it). The thing is, you did it! You got out there with your horse, you beat your nerves, and you did something you could only ever dream of doing before getting your own horse.
In your own way, you smashed it. It’s onwards and upwards for you and Prince! The best is yet to come – so watch this space!
Blog 7 -The hypochondriac horse and its poor owner
Every horse owner is all-too familiar with that sinking feeling you get when your beloved steed comes limping up to the gate and hobbles to his stable as if he’s got a leg hanging off. His head’s drooping, and he’s not touching his hay. He’s a horse in terrible agony, and he wants everyone to know it.