Even if you’re paying an eye-watering chunk of your salary to make sure that Prince is treated like, well, a prince at his yard, you’re going to find yourself muttering crossly under your breath at times. And there’s nearly always one reason for this. Yard politics.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that there’s no such thing as the perfect yard. If the grazing’s good, that’s because the yard manager is so paranoid about it that the horses are only allowed out for three hours a day, and that’s if it’s not raining. If the stables are immaculate, you can guarantee it’s because the yard manager is a control freak who’ll yell at you if she finds a blade of straw on the floor in front of your stable. If the yard manager is delightful, then you can bet your bottom dollar that the other liveries are absolute nightmares.
Talking of which, in every yard, you’ll find the following liveries:
The Alpha. This livery knows everything there is to know about horses, having hunted and evented since before she could walk. She’s the person to talk to if your horse comes hopping in from the field, because she’ll know at a glance whether it’s a cold-hosing job or you need the vet out pronto, and if you can’t load your horse, just one withering glance from her will have Prince running up the ramp. You’re in awe of her horse skills, but it’s fair to say she doesn’t suffer fools gladly. When she turns that withering glance on you – because you’ve done something stupid, like turning out your horse in flip-flops or chucking your coat over the arena fence and making her horse spook – you’re also tempted to run and hide on your lorry, too.
The Know-It-All. This person thinks they’re the Alpha, but they lack her knowledge and wisdom. They’ll tell you endlessly what you should be doing with your horse – whether you want them to or, more usually, not. They give the impression they’ve worked with horses their whole life, despite actually being a receptionist for a marketing firm, and regularly reminisce about their ‘Burghley days,’ even though you know the nearest they’ve actually got to jumping round the five star course is watching it on TV, like everyone else. Do not take this person’s advice on anything. Ever.
The Natural Nut. This livery doesn’t worm or vaccinate her horses (or her kids for that matter) and her part of the tack room is filled up with treeless saddles, bitless bridles and barefoot boots. She spends more time doing Parelli with her horse than actually riding it – in fact, you’re not sure you’ve ever seen her ride it, but that’s because it’s always lame due to the barefoot experiment not quite going to plan. Gets annoyed when you actually worm your horse rather than sticking to her carefully-planned worm counting schedule.
The Designer Diva. This person is perhaps rather more enthusiastic about shopping for their horse than, you know, riding it. They’re always immaculately kitted out in Hermes and Ariat, with their horse elegantly attired in matching top-to-toe LeMieux, but can generally be found in the tackroom, gossiping and eating biscuits, rather than in the school. You are wildly jealous of their lorry, which is better equipped than your house, and probably cost more, too. Has been known to sob when their horse wipes green slobber over their white Pikeur breeches.
The Happy Hacker. The polar opposite of the Designer Diva, this person rocks up to the yard in holey jods they’ve owned since the early ‘90s and a polo shirt they’ve washed so often that you can’t tell what colour it’s meant to be, throws their tack on their horse, and disappears over the horizon for hours on end. They can’t understand why your horse has got so many rugs, for every permutation of temperature. Their horse (an unclipped native) has one rug that only goes on when the temperature dips below -6 degrees. A tendency towards tightness means they’re usually the one who refuses to contribute more than a tenner towards the bill at the yard Christmas dinner, insisting they only had a starter, despite having drunk their body weight in Prosecco.
Naturally, with these characters on the yard – and throw in an irascible Yard Manager, too, as there’s nearly always one of these – sparks will fly at times. The Designer Diva will accuse the Happy Hacker of ‘borrowing’ her new Eskadron saddlepad – although not actually to her face – and the Know-It-All and Natural Nut will have a screaming match about the relative merits of grass nuts over pasture mix and have to be physically separated by the Alpha.
The Designer Diva is also somewhat cushioned by being, well, rich, so doesn’t tend to bother – or probably even think about – things like putting the jumps back after a session in the school, or clearing up her horse’s poo. As for the person who’s forever forgetting to lock up the tack room – everyone on the yard stoutly denies that it’s them, but you have your suspicions that it’s the Natural Nut, because all that herbal tea instead of good honest caffeine can’t be good for the braincells, right?
Even the Yard Manager is slightly intimidated by the Alpha, so there’s much surreptitious muttering when her horses get extra turnout because she’s insisted that it’s a vital part of their routine. You’d quite like it to be a vital part of Prince’s routine, too, but apparently your opinion isn’t so valid because you’ve never done Badminton Grass Roots.
But when all’s said and done, Prince is happy and settled at the yard – and at least life’s never dull, eh? In fact, you wouldn’t mind a little dullness at times!