Competing these days may be expensive and complicated – but was it any better in the old days? Sara Walker takes a look at how things have moved on.
1. Back in the day it was much less common to have your own transport, so getting to competitions at all often proved the first stumbling block. You could cadge a lift with a friend, club together and hire a horsebox or hack there (in full show gear, with your packet of sandwiches and drink).
2. Instead of modern high-tech show gear, you had your ‘best’ velvet riding hat which soaked up water like a sponge when it rained. Your jacket was dry-clean only, so you went to huge lengths not to fall off/get wet. Your leather boots neither zipped not stretched and had to be eased over your calves with ‘boot pulls’. Once they were on, though, they were on for the day as it took the combined efforts of two people to get them off again.
3. Hats either had no chin strap at all, a single piece of elastic under your chin or, if you were really safety conscious, a separate webbing harness that fitted over your helmet and made you look like a coal miner.
4. Pretty much the only ‘health and safety’ rule was ‘no stallions to be ridden or handled by anyone under 16’.
5. Turnout for just about any discipline consisted of a GP saddle and a snaffle or double bridle. Nosebands were either drop or cavesson, and bling was still a thing of the future.
6. To prepare your pony, you’d wash him the night before, with a final rinse of ‘blue bag’ for a grey. In the morning, you’d use copious amounts of baby oil on a dark coloured horse to give a shine, and apply a chalk block to white markings. After your class, you’d wrap him in a ‘string vest’ anti-sweat rug and cross your fingers he’d dry out in time for the next one. Happy days!
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