A leading show producer once told me that, due to the OCD of their head lad, their lorry was fully packed at least two days before any horse show — complete with all the tack. So if they needed anything before the show, they’d distract the head lad while someone would sneak on the lorry to grab whatever it was while he wasn’t looking. Then, of course, they had to sneak it back on again…
This level of forward planning is a little extreme, but there’s no denying that, for the exhibitor, the five Ps — Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance — apply. Most of the prep is done at home, of course; classes and championships are won on your own yard by the work you put in beforehand.
But organisation is key if you are to survive the rigours of competing. I can remember years ago leaving the yard very early to drive from Kent to Royal Windsor in the lorry rather than the trailer, because we were taking several ponies. Even this part was a bit hair-raising, because the trees over the road to the yard hung over and scraped along the top of the lorry.
So it was even worse to have to turn back because someone had forgotten to pack their “lucky” showing boots. Superstition is rife in the horse world; our early morning start wasn’t helped by the fact that we kept seeing lone magpies…
A list is a good place to start: working through the whole day from the beginning and writing down what you’ll need for each stage. And remember to add extras — stirrup leathers, reins, girths, headcollars and so on — because something is bound to break!
As well as feed and hay for the horses, don’t forget to pack something for yourself for the journey. Bottles of water, sweets, fruit — grapes are ideal because they’re not messy — will keep your spirits and energy levels up if you have a long journey.
Once you arrive at the showground and get your bearings, find out when your class is and whether it’s running on time, then find somewhere to warm-up, preferably away the public, shrieking babies, fairground stalls, the beer tent, ravening dogs and all other distractions (easier said than done, of course).
Whether you’ll end up celebrating or drowning your sorrows, it’s a good idea to find out where your friends are parked and which is likely to be the best “party bus”. But don’t overdo it; high on success or in the depths of despair, the journey home is unlikely to be improved by having the hangover from hell.