Finally, the wait is over and the first show of the season is here. Your horse is fit, the horsebox passed its MOT and you even made a healthy packed lunch the night before. What could wrong? Ahem…

You did put the tack in, right?

While everything else has been stuffed into the tack lockers, overhead racks and onto the luton the night before, in the interests of security, the saddle and bridle isn’t packed until just before leaving. Gleaming and sticky with saddle soap, you left them where your other half couldn’t miss them – literally next to the horsebox keys – while you wrestled Prancer into his travel boots. So why does the saddle rack have that forlorn, empty look when you go to get tacked up? Cue the worst argument since your husband complained about your sixth rug purchase of the year.

Looks like we’re the first to arrive

Prancer is a horse who needs a fair amount of working in, particularly at the first show of the season, so getting to the venue early is a must. Still, it’s not often you’re the very first to arrive, though it does mean getting to pick the best spot, right near the rings. Which, oddly, don’t seem to have been put up yet. Come to think of it, there’s no PA system or secretary’s tent in evidence either. It’s not until a hasty check of the schedule that you realise you’ve come to the wrong place — and wailing ‘but this show is ALWAYS at Horsefield EC’ doesn’t help.

Perhaps the judge won’t notice…

The rows and rows of monster HGV wagons, all glossy paintwork and pop-out sides, tell you that the producers are out in force for the first big show of the season. Squeezing alongside one of the behemoths, the first thing you hear on jumping out is a hissed exchange issuing from the living. Not that you’re eaves-dropping, but it does sound awfully like one of the grooms has put 14.2hh Goldfield Twinkle Toes on the wagon, instead of 13.2hh Goldfield Toes A Twinklin’ – an easy mistake to make, as both are identikit bay show ponies. Perhaps the judge won’t notice the four-inch height difference… better hope there’s wine with her free lunch.

Isn’t that horse usually in your class?

Speaking of wine, it is absolutely de rigeur to celebrate the start of the showing season with a glass or two of bubbly. Especially when it means a chance to sit in the cream-leather-and-crystal extravaganza that is the living in your mate’s new lorry. Unfortunately, the combination of champagne and gossip means time slips past and it’s not until she glances out of the window and hiccups “isn’t that big bay horse with the sash usually in your class?” that you realise you’ve missed your class. Oops.

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Hunting thrills appear to be a little too fresh in his memory

As an all-round kind of horse, Prancer enjoys hunting over the winter as a refreshing change to, well, prancing about in the show ring. You’re always careful, however, to leave a couple of months between the last day on the hunting field and the first in the show ring for rest, recuperation and, frankly, forgetting. Because hunting Prancer is like driving a tank stuck in top gear and while you don’t mind this (most of the time) it’s not an experience most ride judges relish. It’s unfortunate, then, that the show organiser decided to leave what looks ominously like a steeplechase fence from yesterday’s working hunter classes in your ring as ‘decoration’. As Prancer takes the ride judge on his third lap of the ring, you reflect that perhaps those hunting thrills appear to be just a little too fresh in his memory after all.