The non-horsey partner’s guide to the summer show season

  • You met the girl/boy of your dreams over Christmas. And it was all going so well. Your time was spent enjoying cosy movie nights by the fire, leisurely Sunday morning walks and pub lunches. Romance was flying high. 

    Their dating profile said they liked horses, but you’re yet to meet the four-legged thing they only seem to tend to between the hours of four and six in the evening. But as the nights draw out and temperatures creep up,  you start to realise that there’s a bit more to this equestrian life than you imagined…

    It’s time to wise up. In summer they are more serious about their sport than any football, cricket or rugby team you support. There’s no time or money for weekend activities any more — any spare moment or extra pound is spent on primping, training or perfecting said horse. Stress levels have peaked. You’re dating a dedicated athlete, except this one is poor and seems to be absent from real life for much longer.

    So if you want this to work out, maybe it’s time for you to grab the grooming basket by its wicker handle and throw yourself into a summer on the road.

    Check out our top tips for handling the show season like a boss.

    1. Pick your commitments wisely

    Not all shows possess the same fun factor, so it might be worth doing your research prior to confirming your availability. While county shows get a big thumbs up for their food halls, beer tents and general loveliness, other horsey fixtures, such as the championship shows, are little more hardcore. After a week in a holey tent in the middle of a field with only the burger van attendant as the single other non-horsey person in sight, you may go slightly insane — so you should probably make plans during champs week ASAP.

    2. You will become nocturnal

    When all your friends are getting in from their boozy Saturday night, you will be rising from your slumber. On average show days start at 4am, so we recommend hitting the hay at around 8pm the previous evening to ensure you’re getting the recommended eight hours. Goodbye, social life.

    3. The horsebox is not what you think

    Google “horseboxes” and it might be easy to assume that your significant other is driving around in one of those super-posh Oakley lorries. Think again. Horseboxes vary in shape and size, and it’s very likely that if your GF or BF does the nine-to-five slog like the rest of us, they won’t be travelling in a cruise ship-sized box with a flat screen television, microwave and champagne bucket. If you’re lucky, there might be a radio and a rusty gas cooker, but probably not, so get ready for long motorway drives and stale tea in a flask.

    4. ‘Stripping’ is not what you think, either

    Sorry to disappoint but the phrase “will you strip for me, darling” should not be taken literally, unless you want to suffer eternal embarrassment. When asked to strip, leave all items of clothing firmly in place, and make sure you have a brush and sponge in hand before heading into the ring. However, make sure you wait until you are summoned from ringside via a frantic wave, as if you accidentally spook the pulled-top pony mid-show, you will be most likely shunned from social events for life.

    5. Cancel your gym membership

    And buy some walking boots. How they manage to fit the show ground map on the back of the A5 schedule is a mystery, but trust us, it’s not true to scale. Do not underestimate the size of the show field as nine times out of 10, you will be parked in a faraway corner that is at the opposite end to the ring. Be prepared to hit your sprinting PB when your partner announces they have left their number in the lorry, just as the commentator bellows “final call”.

    6. Don’t say well done unless you see smiling

    While a silver medal in the Olympic hurdles final might be something of merit, a third out of four in the novice at your local county show isn’t something everyone will want to celebrate. However, a third in a big qualifier could leave them bouncing off the walls with delight. How can you tell? It’s all in the face.

    7. You will become heavily invested

    While at first you will undoubtedly not be able to tell one competitor from the next (no, every black hairy pony doesn’t look the same), before you know it,  you will be picking out winners, predicting the final line-ups and critiquing the judge’s decisions. You will get to know riders for their ringside antics, and scouting out red rosette-winning horses will become second nature. Soon you will be engrossed in “what X said to Y” and what that horse did when the judge wasn’t looking. Congratulations, you are now a fully-fledged member of the show scene.

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