To rug or not to rug in this extraordinary spring weather, and just how many rugs is enough?

We have just dropped a pony off with my daughter’s instructor for a week of dressage boot camp (we know it’s boot camp, but we’ve told him he’s going on his holidays.).

When it came to getting him ready, I faced a dilemma. What to pack?

The weather for the past few weeks has been mercurial even by British standards. We have had days of glorious April heatwave followed by a series of tumbling overnight drops in temperature that have driven us back into our winter woollies. And in April blue skies can be very misleading.

Just yesterday I was standing in a hilltop field at a show in bright sunshine yet wearing all my January layers including a hat to ward off the wind. I was still shivering.

Now I think there is nothing better than a seaside holiday in Britain. We have some of the best beaches in the world. But packing for a UK holiday is a major undertaking, because you have to take into account such extremes of weather, whatever the time of year. Bikini – check, thermal underwear – check, flip-flops – check, wellies – check, sunhat – check, sou’wester – double check and so on until every inch of boot space is crammed full.

No single piece of carry-on luggage of a size to fit neatly into an overhead locker for holidays over here!

I remember our only camping holiday when I was a child. We went to Dorset one August with a borrowed frame tent. We faced a series of storms so strong that we spent our entire holiday taking shifts through each night to hold the tent down using a hastily assembled network of ropes, that luckily of course we had brought with us, along with the kitchen sink, just in case. As the tent wasn’t ours, we couldn’t risk letting it go even for a moment in case it took off altogether.

At eight-years-old, I was the youngest member of the party and after about three days I was allowed to skip my rota and sleep in the car. It wasn’t a camping debut to inspire me for future trips but it did train me to be prepared for any eventuality.

So, back to the pony. In the end he has gone with:

  • Lightweight turnout
  • Heavyweight turnout (risky, but I have kept the detachable neck cover at home)
  • Stable rug
  • Fly rug
  • Travel rug
  • Bossy’s bib, to be worn with a selection of the above

All this as well as all his tack and feed, for a fiv- day stay. Had he been heading abroad, he would definitely have exceeded his Ryanair luggage quota.

When I was growing up, the ponies I knew didn’t ever wear rugs, nor did we clip them. But then all we expected of them was the odd pootle round the lanes, a pop over a broomstick balanced on a couple of bales and an annual show we had to hack to.

Now they have a wardrobe to cover every eventuality and a packed diary of events to match. It is probably progress, but as I heaved everything onto the lorry this week I did wonder.

JG