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Setting off for a competition alone can be daunting. There’s so much to consider — from what will happen to your horse if you are knocked out, to making sure you have everything you need before you mount.

But for many riders, without the back-up of a groom or willing friends or family, heading to shows solo is the only way to fulfil their competitive ambitions. And with practice, it needn’t be terrifying.

The three mantras of experienced “go it aloners” are practise at home, give yourself time and be organised.

Preparation

  • Make sure everything has its own place in the car or trailer and it’s all cleaned and put back after the previous event
  • If you are taking two horses out alone practise at home leaving one horse on the lorry while you school the other, make sure you can lead both horses together and practise tying one up to the lorry and loading the other
  • When you get your times, work backwards from each phase, writing out a timetable for warming up, tacking up, walking courses and so on
  • Most events which don’t send numbers in advance will post yours if you send a stamped addressed envelope, saving queuing up at the secretaries’ tent

Arriving and getting ready

  • Allowing plenty of time is vital
  • Often a visit to the secretary is essential, as well as heading off to walk courses, but leaving horses tied up alone is a safety no-no. So check your steed on arrival, but leave him on the lorry
  • If you are new to the venue, check where everything is located while on foot
  • Consider travelling in jodhpurs, stock shirt and stock under old clothes, ready for a quick strip
  • Organise yourself ready for after your class — leave a headcollar, travel boots and grooming kit within easy reach

The warm-up

  • Any collecting ring is a place where the solo competitor often needs to ask for help — people can only say no
  • On solo outings, put your show jacket on at the outset, with a coat over it
  • Practise removing your jacket and, if it’s needed, exercise sheet while mounted so your horse won’t object

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Safety first

  • Even the calmest horse can get into trouble in the lorry or trailer, so leave names and contact details on the dashboard and taped to the doors
  • You should also make provision for your horse if you are injured
  • Some recommend handing the secretary your lorry details and contacts for someone who could collect your horse
  • Another suggestion is to pop this info in your cross-country medical armband or jacket pocket
  • Save the details into your phone, too, using the acronym ICE (in case of emergency) or perhaps “ICE eventing/showjumping/shows”
  • Consider becoming a member of Equine Rescue Services (www.equinerescueservices.co.uk)
  • Good breakdown cover is a must and you might also want to insure your vehicle for any driver
  • Consider how far your travel to a show. It can be tiring to drive home at the end of the day, so avoid long journeys