7 things you realise when you go to a competition alone

  • Chances are, if horses are your hobby, you’ll probably have to hit the road alone at some point during your competition career. While recruiting a team of loyal supporters to groom and hang out with in the beer tent might be easy enough during the summer, it can be a challenge to find anyone willing to embrace the cold, wet weather and early starts during the winter months.

    Here are seven things you might notice when going solo with just your horse and your (semi-) trustworthy lorry or trailer as company:

    1. Loading up can be pretty stressful

    Without anyone on hand to hold this and hold that, or give your awkward mare that gentle ‘shove’ up the ramp, you might want to give yourself a few extra minutes to get on the road on show morning. Lugging a haynet and loading a hyper horse at the same time isn’t for everyone so make sure you’ve got everything prepped before loading up to avoid unnecessary stress.

    2. The drive is either heavenly, or hellish

    Some riders will relish the opportunity of a spell of driving where they can listen to their favourite playlists uninterrupted for hours, scoff all the snacks and enjoy the countryside views in peace. For others, the dull, monotonous motorway drive is an ordeal where minutes drag into hours without anyone there to keep them motivated with the words “only 10 minutes or so to go.” And if you struggle with directions, get that satnav on sooner rather than later — good luck…

    3. You have to rely on the kindness of strangers

    “Sorry, do you mind just putting that fence back up, again?” you say to the nice lady who is conveniently, and foolishly, stood in close proximity to the warm-up jump. With no one on the ground in the collecting ring you may have to plaster on your best smile and use your pleases and thank yous if you want any of the following: the fence putting up during the warm up, someone to groom for you in the ring or just want someone to take a picture of you and your horse after your event.

    4. You have to do everything yourself

    Arrive, park, un-load, muck out the lorry, groom, warm-up, groom again, tack-up. And then repeat if you have more than one class. These grooms really don’t get enough credit.

    5. You’re at a loose end after the class

    When you’ve finished competing you can feel a little lonely when you’re all done and your horse is back in the lorry contently munching his hay. We’d suggest taking your dog as some company, but taking a horse and an unruly hound on a solo mission could be bridge too far. On the plus side, if you’re at a big event, the day is yours and you can see exactly what you want to without any fuss; and you only have to buy yourself lunch.

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    6. You can’t have a moan on the way home

    Obligatory show day drive home ritual = moaning to your passenger about the judging, course or that spectator with an umbrella while eating a service station McDonalds (other fast food outlets are available…). It’s hard to let off steam about the day’s proceedings — and eat — if you’ve not got a reliable co-pilot on hand to listen and support as well as feed you chips.

    For all the latest equestrian news and reports, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday

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