We all know how we’d LIKE show days to go — but let’s face it, reality has a tendency to get in the way. Unless you’re a pro with a yard full of grooms and a lorry full of expensive gear, you’ll probably be familiar with the following…

The dream: You wake up early and leap into the shower, full of excited anticipation about the day ahead. You’ve been preparing for this for weeks, and you know you can do it justice.
The reality: You do wake up early — three hours early. Your clock says it’s 3am but you’re way too nervous to get back to sleep again. When you do finally nod off at approximately 5.59am, you dream that you’re halfway through your dressage test when you look down to see that you’ve forgotten to put your breeches on and your stripy pants are on full display. The relief you feel when your alarm clock abruptly wakes you up from this nightmare is short-lived. Oh &*&*! It’s show day!

The dream: You’ve bought a lovely, expensive new pair of white breeches especially for this event that will ensure you look and ride like someone whose surname is Dujardin.
The reality: The expensive white breeches are so tight that they go see-through when you pull them on, forcing you to revert to your trusty old beige ones. At least you can have a burger later without them bursting at the seams (although, admittedly, this may be the cause of the problem in the first place…)

The dream: You arrive at the yard early, groom your horse and plait him up like a pro.
The reality: Even though you stabled him so you wouldn’t have a mud monster to tackle this morning, he’s merrily spent the night rolling in his own poo and wee. His mane is more tangled than Rapunzel’s hair — and he smells. As the clock ticks on you give up on the idea of beautifully stitched plaits and do the best you can with plaiting bands. That’ll have to do!

The dream: He loads.
The reality: He doesn’t load. Well, he does eventually — but only with half your fellow liveries strategically positioned round the yard with carrots, lunge lines and buckets of food. And you’ve got to get on this crazy beast later – eek!

The dream: Your trailer-towing practice has paid off and you’re able to nimbly reverse the Ifor Williams into the tightest of parking spots at the showground.
The reality: You have to get your dad/mate/a parking official to do it for you. Your hands are shaking and you’ve completely lost all sense of coordination. Which doesn’t bode well…

The dream: Saddled up and ready to go, it’s time to hit the warm-up arena. Your horse demonstrates impeccable manners and does you proud, soaring over practice jumps/executing nifty dressage moves with grace and precision.
The reality: Thoroughly over-excited by so many horses, your not-so-trusty steed decides to show off to his new friends by pirouetting across the arena, nearly catapulting you off in the process. Someone tuts and hisses that you should have put a red ribbon in his tail — which, in fairness, would at least match your face right now.

The dream: Your moment has come! You’ve practised and practised for this, now it’s time to show the world what you and your fabulous horse can do.
The reality: Life has got in the way, and between work deadlines, social commitments and the time you have to spend looking after your horse, you haven’t had a chance to practice this as much as you’d like. But you’ll do the best you can — and once you’re in there, you start enjoying yourself. This is what it’s all about…

Continued below…

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The dream: You win!

The reality: Maybe you’ve had a cracking round and maybe you haven’t — the important thing is that you got out there and gave it a go. It may sound like a cliché but it’s true. Grassroots riding needs people like you. Be proud of yourself – and your horse, of course. If you got a rosette – bonus!