It’s nearly a year since we traded our last grey for a much more practical dark bay model.

In our grey days, if we planned to compete on a Sunday, I knew we needed to allocate most of Saturday afternoon to bathing the pony, at least twice, to make him presentable. We then had to factor in another hour on Sunday morning to sort out the stains he had managed to accumulate overnight, despite the thick shavings bed, rug, leg wraps, tailbag and hood. Not to mention the extra half hour with stain remover and baby wipes when we arrived at the competition to repair the damage done on the way. Getting a grey into the ring stain-free and gleaming has to be handled like a military exercise.

Now suddenly we have our Saturdays back! Plus an extra hour in bed on Sunday morning. We can even leave the horse out on Saturday night. A quick wipe with a damp cloth and he is good to go.The danger is that with all this regained time we have become just that bit too lackadaisical.

Growing up, I lived in a house that was barely five minutes’ walk from the school gates. Far from making me the school’s most punctual pupil as it should have done, it merely meant that I was unfailingly late for assembly. And I clearly haven’t learnt my lesson yet.

Last week we decided to go to one of the local hunt shows. We have (sort of) given up showing, but the one-day event we had planned to go to was cancelled, so we were looking for an alternative party. So convinced were we that we had all the time in the world, we even made the interesting decision to plait the horse when we got there. He just had a brief sponge-over and off we went.

We were 10 minutes from home when my daughter said “Did you put his bridle on the lorry?”. The answer was no. Even though both of us had walked past his bridle at least 10 times that morning, it was still hanging up in the kitchen having been brought in for cleaning the night before. So we called dad, who obligingly set off to meet us.

While he was en-route, I asked my daughter “Did you put the bit back on his bridle?”. The answer, of course, was no. So when dad screeched to a halt, triumphantly waving the (bitless) bridle out of the window, we had to ask him sheepishly to do the whole thing all over again before we could get going.

In the best traditions of local shows, this one was situated down a maze of tiny lanes unaccustomed to anything bigger than a bicycle, and through a narrow gateway that required nerves of steel to negotiate. And because I thought we were running late, the journey seemed to go on for ever. But finally we had arrived!

I went to place the entries. The first class had started, and from the secretary’s lists I could see that there were only a couple of names in each of the subsequent classes before ours. So I flew back to the lorry, plaited his mane in a frenzy, threw on first his tack and then his jockey and headed at top speed down to the ringside.

We needn’t have worried. We then spent the next TWO HOURS waiting for something to happen. The classes were moving at a pace beyond glacial. And then when something finally did happen, it all happened at once.

We had entered two classes in two different rings on the basis that from the schedule, we should have been able to do both comfortably. In reality, the start of the two coincided with the precision of athletes lining up on the blocks for the 100m final.

So I found myself sprinting between ring stewards, grovelling profusely, to try and keep my daughter in both classes. I know lots of non-showing people don’t go showing because they think it is ‘like watching paint dry’. Well, all I can say is that for grooms it can be one hell of a workout. If I had been wearing a Fitbit, it would have had steam coming out of it.

When the mad bit in the middle was over, we had a very successful day and were very pleased with our boy, a showing newbie. But just to keep me in my place, en-route back to the lorry from saying our thank yous in the secretary’s tent, I stepped in a heavily disguised pothole, tripped and face-planted in the grass. Thus not only causing several painful bruises but also shooting to the top of the ‘Most Embarrassing Parent’ leaderboard.

Continued below…

Overall, we still had a lovely time. Lovely venue, lovely organisers, and the classes only went on forever because the judges were so smiley, chatty and accommodating. While the clash of classes is an occupational hazard, the first of the day’s panics was entirely self-inflicted. We really must tighten up our pre-show routine! Or buy another grey, to keep us on our toes.
JG