How to survive a horse show

By Nicola Jane Swinney on |


How to survive a horse show

As I found to my great cost one year — I believe it was the washout summer of 2012 — smart leather boots are not the best footwear for a horse show. It was, if memory serves, Royal Windsor, when the showing classes on the Friday were cancelled due to the downpour, and there was I, picking my way through the mud like a show pony, in heeled leather boots.

But any show, whether indoors or outdoors, requires sturdy and, importantly, comfortable footwear. I once hobbled round Horse of the Year Show with a blister the size of Belgium on my heel. The girls in the press office came to my rescue with a genius plaster, but I have learned my lesson…

Good, comfortable shoes, or boots, are a must — as are layers. In the old days when HOYS was at Wembley, I would alternate between the collecting ring (freezing) and the Foxhunter bar (like a sauna). No wonder everybody came down with the famed “Wembley cold” — it was a breeding ground for germs. But if you wear layers, you can add or subtract depending on ambient temperature.

By the same token, for outdoor shows make sure you take sun cream. Even if the weather doesn’t feel particularly warm, it is all too easy to sit watching the classes all afternoon, not realising that the back of your neck is turning a beguiling shade of lobster-pink. Another lesson learned…

In these days of modern technology, it goes without saying that most people carry a smartphone. But in my experience, signal and wi-fi at horse shows is dire. One year at the Royal International, I was live-tweeting from Ring 5 and the judge was bucked off a hunter right in front of me. With apologies to the unfortunate judge, it was Twitter gold. But I had zero signal. Cue a mile-long (only a slight exaggeration) trek back to the International Arena. With your own wi-fi, you can stay in touch with the wider world and suffer none of those zero signal issues. But if you do have wi-fi, make sure it’s password protected. I have named mine “Get your own wi-fi, you cheapskates”.

Talking of cheapskates, it makes sense to take your own food. Horse show grub is generally only just on the right side of edible, and costs a fortune. A packet of home-made sandwiches will save you an arm and a leg, and possibly a dose of tummy upset. I’d advocate taking a bottle of fizz, too, as Champagne Bar prices are exorbitant, but that’s probably a step too far.

So you will need some cash. Most tradestands at the big shows now take credit or debit cards — please do remember that the figure on your credit card statement is a limit, not a target — but cash is king when it comes to the Pimm’s tent. Certainly, there are often ATMs on site, but they will charge you for every transaction.

To recap, when spectating any show you need decent, comfortable footwear; layers to be peeled off or shrugged back on in a moment; sun cream; a smartphone with wi-fi; food; cash; and financial restraint. I fail miserably at this last, but no one said I had to practise what I preach…


Image: Dublin horse show by Iris Jaunt via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0


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