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If you’re heading for the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) next month, make the most of the next few weeks to prepare well — both ponies and people.

After a summer of grass rings, it’s essential to take ponies indoors for a practice run. This reminds them — and their riders — about working in a confined space. We find an indoor show or clinic, ideally with white picket fencing and music to mimic conditions at HOYS: especially for ponies who tend to be spooky.

Replicate as much as you can at home. You can only do so much, because the atmosphere in the TopSpec arena, in which the native classes are held, is unique, but there are still things you can practise.

For instance, conformation judging usually takes place behind a line-up, but at HOYS, you’ll have a pony under assessment trotting towards you while you’re doing your show.

However, there’s a fine line between having ponies on-song and overdoing it. Try and add some variety into daily exercise in the lead-up to HOYS.

You can always spot those who have done a few too many shows in the season. They can look jaded and lack that all-important sparkle, whereas the ones who are still enjoying themselves put their ears on and perform with a smile.

Riders need to do the same; it can be nerve-wracking for some, especially first timers, but go there with the attitude that you’re proud to have qualified and want to show off your animal to the best of your ability.

I am rarely nervous about the actual competing, but I sympathise with those who do suffer with nerves. Try not to let them get the better of you and tempt you to rush things. Breathe and enjoy your moment.

Coats: to clip or not to clip?

It’s always tough to decide whether or not to clip. If you try and preserve your pony’s summer coat, you’ll need a strict rugging regime. This can be time-consuming and can prove difficult for working owners, as you need to be available nearly 24/7 to swap rugs as and when temperatures change.

Take into account the temperature changes you’ll face at HOYS. You’ll be warming- up ridiculously early in the morning. There’s a long hack to the arena and it’s cold, so be ready to keep rugs on when necessary. Once you get inside, the temperature soars.

If you do decide to clip, 10 days before HOYS usually gives good results, although timing depends on the type of blades you use. Blades which leave the hair the same length as a summer coat are perfect for natives and allow you to blend leg hair rather than leaving a prominent line.

Using daily hot oil conditioning treatment as soon as a pony is clipped also works wonders. Mix the hot oil in water and apply it with a cloth. Ponies’ beauty regimes are probably better than ours!

You should go to HOYS expecting to meet the unexpected — that’s why it’s such a challenge. But if you prepare as much as you can, you’ll enjoy it even more.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 24 August 2017