The Amateurs Guide to Show Season Prep

Team BETTALIFE® rider, Cara Winter provides her tongue in cheek guide to returning to the show ring.

Show season is upon us and, after a year of non-events due to Covid, whether you are a show jumper, dressage queen, cross country dare devil or a showing supreme the dulcet tones of the judge’s bell are likely shrilly calling to you to make a return in style this year.

For those of us, like me, who can feel their insides churning at the mere hint of a beige breech and are more comfortable with being champions at home than risking public judgement in a grassy field fenced with smart phone clad human barriers, the return of the show season may have brought on a cold feeling of dread. Knowing that your summer will likely be filled with sleepless nights, a stirring stomach and a bucket load of forceful coercion to leave the safety of home and enter oneself to face judgement (and potential doom) at an event of some sort.

In order to provide some comfort and support in such times as these, I thought it may be timely to share with you my (totally professional) Amateurs Guide to Show Prep to at least take the stress out of the lead up to the event for you. Leaving you free and clear to instead fixate, obsess and panic about the day itself instead – don’t say I am not here to help! (Wink)

Step 1

Go online and browse the various ways in which you can risk showing yourself up publicly. Select option(s) that seem the least scary or the option(s) that you are being gently persuaded (bullied) into doing by your Forceful Coercer and actually have zero choice about. Pray credit card is not declined as you check out and make small fortune in payment for the self-inflicted torture.

I would highly recommend drinking a minimum of two (strong) gin and tonics and a maximum of three (to prevent potentially life threatening grandiose illusions of bravery) before completing this exercise.

Step 2

Wake up the following morning with a slightly muzzy head and feel a cold sweat wash over you as you realise what you booked the previous evening. Frantically mark D-Day on the calendar and count how many days you have to become Olympic until then. 

Take a deep breath and make a sensible plan to squeeze in ALL of the training required within the minute window you have given yourself, to include various trips out to hire practice arenas and courses and at least six days of work with your horse a week, and retrieve show attire from the dusty corner of the attic it has sat it for the last decade.

Step 3

Attempt to squeeze one’s self into aforementioned show attire and spiral into a full blown panic as a shiny brass button ricochets off of your wall, having exited your show jacket like a bullet from a gun as you closed it over your bosom, whilst your greying white breeches are strained across your thighs where they have stopped and refuse to go up any higher.

Edit well planned out and rational fitness regime to include eighteen work outs per day and a diet of only broth and water until show day and pour a large gin and tonic whilst browsing the internet for lost cost, super flattering, expensive looking and realistically sized rider wear with 24 hour delivery. Order a pink saddle pad and a hair scrunchie and log off satisfied with your very adult choices.

Step 4

Spend the next 72 hours failing to actually get to the yard most days, whilst your horse merrily mows the 30 acres of Spring grass he roams and gets fed the dinner of a Grand Prix dressage stallion to ensure he is show ready for the weekend, and almost lose your life hacking said horse out on day 5. Strip all hard feed, supplements and go faster juice out of his diet and proclaim he will need some solid lunging to calm him down before the next ride.

Squeeze in two or three rides before D-day, most of which you spend forgetting how to actually ride, breathing into a paper bag leaning against the 60cm roll top on the course you’ve hired or spending an hour in the school unable to execute more than a 20m circle in trot.

By now the gin and tonic is being intravenously fed into your bloodstream and you are down to about 3 hours of broken sleep a night, peppered with nightmares involving dressage judge boxes, brightly coloured demonic wings adorning flaming poles and table tops stretching into oblivion beneath you.

Step 5

T minus 24 hours until show day. You had gin and tonic on your cereals and promptly deposited them all into the porcelain throne. Your knickers show through your new bargain white breeches and there is not a hairnet to be seen in the entirety of your house, yard or plentiful grooming boxes. Your horse resembles a bog brush and you have a cold hose, Morrison’s shampoo and a blunt solo comb to transform him.

After 12 hours at the yard, you are soaked through with horse hair, hay and poop stains stuck to most visible parts of your body (and quite a few invisible parts too) but your horse is sparkling clean, has golf ball sized plaits lining his neck like an airport runway and is dressed from head to toe in a Lycra pant suit. You leave with a whispered warning in his ear to stay clean and keep his plaits in place and to be please behave and look after you tomorrow.

You head home with sweaty palms, shaky legs and a teensy bit of sick in your throat, to your litre jug of neat gin with a splash of tonic, and an evening of biting your nails to stubs, questioning your choices and reading, re-reading and trying to memorise the course you hadn’t bothered to look at until now.

Ta dah!! How to get show ready in 5 easy steps!

Of course I am only kidding (kind of) – I should rename this The Idiots Guide of How NOT to Tackle Show Prep! In most cases when the dreaded competition day dawns and you’re actually in that saddle and doing it, the buzz takes over and you are absolutely delighted you pulled the brave pants on and gave it a bash. Win, lose or something in between you usually come out beaming with pride for you and your horse, brain full of lessons learnt and which were the moments where it all came together, and if you’re lucky you also come out with a frilly too!

Good luck to all of those competing this season and watch this space for Dee and I’s 2021 debut into the show season as soon as I can be dragged out of the dark corner of the stable I have hidden myself in!

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Posted on 27th April, 2021
Posted in Latest News

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