Dan Williams’ showing blog: things don’t always go to plan

  • Sometimes there are too many lemons to make lemonade with and you’ll have to admit defeat and just use some for your gin!

    Showing is great fun when things go to plan and you have good results. Two weeks ago I was at Keysoe and we had two firsts, a reserve champion, a fourth and a two fifths, so in my eyes, it was a good day out.

    Like everything in life, things won’t always go to plan though. This week’s trip to Devon County Show is a prime example of when things really don’t go to plan.

    I was due to pick my mum up from Hampshire on Tuesday night as she was coming to look after one of my dogs. We don’t this particular dog to shows as she has more energy than a toddler who’s eaten an entire bowl of blue Smarties, so it’s just easier for her to stay at home. I should have known that it was going to be a disaster of a week when a tree fell down onto some of our fencing and I had to reschedule picking up mum to the following morning.

    Skip forward to the morning and I set off to pick up mum while leaving my partner, Dan, and my friend and yard manager, Shelley, to get the horses bathed and finish packing the lorry. What should have been a four hour round trip ended up taking eight hours as the M25 was closed due to an accident. One of the joys of living where we do is having to rely on the M25 to get anywhere. This meant that Dan and Shelley had to do everything themselves and leave without me so they could get to Devon before midnight!

    I dropped mum off at my house, made sure there was wine in the fridge and headed off to Devon in the car. I had planned to have a BBQ and catch up with some friends, so I was pretty sure we would be eating late if they managed to wait for me. Very kindly, everyone had waited for me and after I scaled a barbed wire fence to get in using my dressing gown as protection, we put the BBQ on and had dinner and some much-needed wine.

    Shelley and Dan with Otis

    I woke up feeling very positive but the day quickly took a nose dive. Devon County Show were giving 15 minute warnings for all classes but seemed to have missed out the small hunter announcement. When Shelley got on Otis to go and work him in, we quickly realised that there was less than a minute to get them both into the ring. Despite not even having had a trot before going in, Shelley gave Otis an amazing ride and we were delighted with how he went. Thankfully I had remembered to put Shelley’s arm bands on her because she was well and truly thrown in at the deep end. Not only was it her third showing show, it was her first HOYS (Horse of the Year Show) qualifier too. Sorry, Shelley!

    Shelley and Otis in action

    I watched the go-round and then ran back to get onto Baloo, my heavyweight hunter. I heard a 15 minute call for the middleweight hunters so quickly did Baloo’s quarter marks on and jumped on. You can imagine my surprise when 20 minutes after the 15 minute call for the middleweights, they were cantering the heavyweights around in the ring and I had missed my class! No 15 minute warning for the heavyweights, not even a five minute warning.

    Things started to look up when I got on board one of my favourite horses, The Baroness II aka Darcie Duff. She worked in beautifully and gave me and the judge an amazing ride. No placing this time but I was pleased and Darcie had put a smile back on my face.

    We put all the horses back in their stables and had a wander around the show before packing up the lorry and loading the horses up. But my bad day wasn’t quite over. The lorry broke down just as we were pulling out of the showground! We called our insurers, Anthony D Evans, who were amazing. They sent out a huge transporter lorry who collected the horses and Shelley. Dan was going to drive back with our good dog and I was going to stay with the lorry until the recovery vehicle could pick me up in the morning.

    Broken down

    I’m not massively mechanically minded so I asked Dan to start the generator before he left… It started but the fuel pipe had cracked so it was pouring out diesel. I had planned to charge my phone, microwave a ready meal and watch Harry Potter. Instead I had to ask the show secretary to charge my phone for an hour and spent my time cleaning every inch of the lorry. I had crisp sandwiches for dinner, which actually was not a bad thing!

    Article continues below…

    You might also be interested in:

    The lorry was recovered and dropped to our mechanics the following morning. It was very embarrassing but it happens to the best of us so I just took selfies with the lorry in the background while it was loaded up to distract myself — as you do.

    Broken down lorry selfie

    It won’t always be rosettes and sashes but don’t be disheartened if you don’t have a good day and you see whet everyone else is posting on social media. Remember, they’ll only show you what they want you to see and we all have our good days and bad days.


    For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.

    You may like...