I was watching TV with my partner a few weeks ago. We somehow found ourselves watching a zombie apocalypse movie. In the first five minutes, several zombies had their heads blown off at close range. At this point I engrossed myself in a book as this is not my thing at all. My partner sat and watched impassively as the blood, guts and gore flew in all directions.

The scene suddenly switched to a typical suburban kitchen, with a family eating dinner around the table. The dad belched loudly (it was an Australian film). My husband let out an involuntary ‘disgusted’ noise, and I fell about laughing. Clearly blasting someone to smithereens in gory detail makes for perfectly acceptable viewing, but bad table manners? Those are completely beyond the pale.

A friend was the collecting ring steward at a showjumping event up the road. The next competitor, a young girl, was looking a bit tense and nervous as she waited her turn.

“Just remember to smile and breathe,” my friend said encouragingly as she rode into the ring. The girl jumped round nicely, with just one unlucky pole.

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A little while later, the steward was summoned to the judges’ box. The mother of the girl had raised a complaint that the only reason her daughter had had a fence down was that “the steward had been nice to her” on the way in — presumably blunting her killer competitive edge. Luckily the judges saw the funny side and — politely — gave the mother fairly short shrift.

It’s hard to imagine how anyone could take exception to my friend’s advice. Smiling may be optional, although to be encouraged, but breathing is pretty much essential, and it is perfectly possible to do both at the same time without losing control of your horse. So at the risk of causing anyone to have a fence down at their next competition, I would suggest everyone tries to smile and breathe as often as possible. This riding lark is meant to be fun. We can’t all end up winners every time, but hopefully we all get to take home our favourite horse at the end of the day.