Look out for some of these familiar faces when partaking in your next winter training clinic...
1. The hardy trainer
Usually well-rugged in a minimum of two waterproof coats, a gilet, three sweatshirts and numerous thermal under garments. Tends to don odd socks, because at this point, thickness and warmth should definitely outweigh style and matching-ability. Has probably hot-footed it to the clinic straight from their own yard, where, due to their trainer credentials, has been attempting to tame a selection of wild four-year-olds, in the hope of a meeting the spring debut target. Will be found glugging luke warm coffee mid-teach, or sprinting back to the car in search of a spare whip, bit or other gadget the girl on the boisterous native really needs to invest in before her first show next weekend.
2. The perfectionist
They can already clear 1.10m and always score above 70 per cent in their dressage tests, but ONE MORE clinic won’t do any harm. The perfectionist is 99 per cent sure she has the red rosette in the bag, but this over achiever doesn’t want to take any chances. Often looked at in envy by fellow clinic goers for her matching sky blue numnah and brushing boots, which will be paired with a perfectly pulled mane and flawless coat; must ask her what rugging and feeding schedule she follows. The mount is even more of a marvel, usually displaying three balanced paces with perfect extensions. Jealous much?
3. The team mascot
A broad term to describe the individual (usually a parent, friend or partner) who acts as head groom during show season, but is dragged along to several off-peak outings to ‘video the progress’. Relied on for faint applause and a big thumbs up when horse and rider finally manage to clear the scary cross pole. Usually in charge of brewing up on arrival and providing mid-session snacks to get on side with the trainer. Often taken for granted but rest assured the team would crumble without their presence.
4. The aspiring mother
While most parents have high hopes for their children, this lady will go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure at least one of her brood will hit the dizzy heights of international equestrian stardom. Clinics are part of the weekly to do list. The mantra ‘train insane or remain the same’ is how she runs her tightly organised ship. The ponies have been bought fresh out of the British junior team, and a selection of superbly bred horses wait in the wings at home for her to move onto. She has already been given two warnings from the trainer for her sideline outbursts, but this pushy parent has a 2024 Olympic deadline to meet so if something is wrong with the striding distance at the double, she will be the first to say.
5. The young horse owner
We have all been there and we sympathise greatly with this individual. Will be donning a neck strap and body protector, perhaps with a red ribbon in the tail to tell other arena users to ‘give way’. The youngest beast in the bunch can be identified by its gangly physique and is often lacking in body (and brains) at this early stage in its career. A distinct lack of balance coupled with lots of spooking makes for a fast ride out, but thankfully for this jockey, the excuse ‘he’s only a baby’ can be milked for the entire season.