Now that autumn has arrived with a vengeance, we’re back to be spending our time competing indoors. No-one’s complaining that we can feed our competing addiction all year round — but there are a few things we’d forgotten about indoor arenas…
1. They tend to be very, very spooky…
Whether it’s autumn leaves falling on the roof, branches bashing against the side in a sinister fashion, or sunlight streaming in through the windows/wooden boards and dazzling him, your horse is sure to find something to shy at. How come he’ll wander happily past road signs without batting an eyelid out hacking, yet stick him in an arena with advertising billboards and he takes exception? Horses, eh?
2. Wow, it’s hot
Sure, it’s freezing brass monkeys outside, but in here, it’s like a horse sauna. Yuck.
3. You’re soaking wet
You’ve come from tacking your horse up outside your trailer in the pouring rain into a cauldron of steaming horse flesh. Everything feels damp and sweaty. You could take your jods off and wring them out, if that wasn’t actually a bit disgusting.
4. There’s nowhere to hide
Those spectators are watching your every move. Not for them, the distraction of the fancy dress competition, or the ice cream van, or the tack stand, or the dog agility ring. That stuff’s just for outdoor summer shows. No, they’re totally focused on you. Just YOU. Feeling the pressure yet?
5. It’s really loud
You can hear them all talking. They’re not talking about you, are they? Probably, to be honest. After all, you’re the one they’re all watching.
6. Oh god, wrong leg!
If you’re in a big outdoor arena/field with plenty of space for turns and transitions — not to mention the occasional distraction for the judge, like a loose horse galloping out of the gymkhana field — you can get away with the odd mistake. Here, with all eyes on you, in a very limited space, you need to be accurate. Like, really accurate.
7. Weren’t we doing the 2ft6?
Yet there you are, hurtling towards a jump that’s at least a foot higher. That’s what happens when you get the course wrong in an indoor arena that’s been set out for several classes. You’re going over anyway – hang on tightly…
8. Who is that scary woman?
The one booming “get away from the door!” as you wait your turn outside for the clear round jumping. You weren’t looking anyway, honest, guv!
9. It’ll all be worth it in the end
It’s all preparation for the day you finally get to compete at HOYS or Olympia — and it will happen, oh yes it will…