After coming back from Wales on the Saturday, I had Sunday to finalise my dragon costume prep. The biggest outstanding issue was how to attach those spikes to his mane. My mother left us in the morning and at about 11.00 I set out to see do a quick final fitting, as I wasn’t sure I’d got his back length quite right and needed to look at the mane/spike interface.
It usually takes about 15 min. to get to the stables.
1 hour later I arrived, having got stuck in ridiculous Sunday-of-bank-holiday-weekend queues. I ended up abandoning my usual route and going miles around to approach the stables from the other side. It was only going to be a quick fitting anyway, because I needed to get home for lunch and then back to the stables in time to tack up for a riding lesson at 2.30.
During the fitting I decided to superglue the back spines on the ribbon there and then, rather than marking their position and attaching them later at home. This worked well. The spacing wasn’t 100% accurate but worked OK with the curves of his back and quarters. This was when I came up with cutting the hole and notches in the neck spikes to feed the mane in and through.
I managed to get home, get fed and get out in time for my lesson, during which we failed to canter on the right lead. My instructor got on and they managed it, but I was able to see very clearly from the ground how weak the muscle is in that quarter. It just didn’t look right. Also I was unable to keep pace with my lesson because I was still so lacking in stamina. I probably couldn’t get the canter lead because I couldn’t get the right trot before I asked for the transition. Very frustrating though after I’d managed it the previous week.
The next day came and it was showtime!
The yard was full of people bathing horses, brushing horses, borrowing things and losing things. It was nice to have most people there on the same day – there are a lot of other liveries that I never meet because our daily routines never overlap.
I gave him a sponge spot-wash (as it was less than a week since he’d had a full bath that was clean enough, I thought, as we weren’t showing) and while he was drying I watched the first few classes of the showing and found a guide to who was in which classes and when. I discovered that there were 3 entries for the fancy dress: myself, Springy with his female owner, and someone from outside the yard. The someone outside the yard was easily identified as they were also the only entrant in lead-rein showing: a tiny 3-year-old on a devastatingly cute black pony that looked like it would have been at home in the Queen’s stables. Both pony and rider were beyond perfectly turned out for showing. Hmm. That cute factor could give us some problems.
As the morning went on I flitted between grooming and watching the showing. I had thought I might have a go at showing next time, but it looked quite intimidating. I saw some of the Best rider classes and didn’t think it looked much like fun. It turned out that no one had really been given any advice in the showing classes. At the end of the classes the judge called everyone together and told them that they’d all done most things wrong. I didn’t hear this personally, being back in my stable, but apparently everyone should have acknowledged the judge and only one person did, and most people’s individual display of their paces was far too long. There were other criticisms of the entire group that I can’t remember. It seems a bit tough that clearly no one was really told what to do. I guess they could have researched it on the internet first, but if you ride at a teaching establishment and then try a show there it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect to be given sufficient guidance in what to do. Needless to say I won’t be rushing to do that in future. Also if I knew someone was assessing my riding I think I’d lock up into an immovable lump of idiot atop my long-suffering horse.
I didn’t watch Best turned out, being too busy getting Drifter costumed up, but I heard tales … and we’re not going to be doing that ever. I think my horse is beautiful. But he is a horse, not a Barbie. I like his whiskers, and they are useful to him, so they stay on his face. It’s nice if he looks clean, but surely no one in their right minds would think it’s essential the intimate portion of his rear end is Vaselined for a nice finish?! I don’t mind putting a bit of hoof oil on, but really that’s where I draw the line at horse make-up. He’s a horse, people!
I don’t wear make-up so perhaps that’s a sign I wouldn’t really “get” showing. Natural beauty beats painted on for me ever time. If you can’t see that my horse is beautiful because I haven’t dyed the odd white hair, do I really care about your opinion? In conclusion, I suspect showing is not for me!
We did, however, have some quarter marks (for that dragon-scale effect) some hoof-oil, and a little show-shine, kindly offered and applied by one of the teens, who was very supportive. Actually I couldn’t see any benefit from the show shine – I wonder if that’s because his coat is too long, even in summer.
I started on dressing up his mane quite early, but it took a lot longer than I expected to do. My original plan to fix on the mane spikes had been to pull strands of hair through the notches. I realised that wasn’t going to fix them securely and eventually ended up doing it with plaits. Towards the end of each spike I made two tiny plaits from each side of the mane, which went through the notch, one from each side and were sewed together. Yes, I sewed in plaits (albeit tiny odd ones)! I was worried I’d accidentally stab him if I ever sewed in plaits, but it wasn’t difficult to avoid doing so. In between the spikes I did ordinary plaits with (held with bands as I usually do).
The tail I did by plaiting in the ordinary way but with the ribbon plaited in from the top and then the free ends wrapped around the free end of the plait to attach the card to. Everything else I just had to put on him.
I got changed too and we were ready. I didn’t want to go round too early in case the horses in the previous class were distracted by the appearance of a dragon, so I waited by my stable to be called. While we were there he was admired by so many members of staff, and that was lovely. Everyone seemed really impressed with his costume and I was touched. Then it was time to go out and meet our audience, judges and the competition.
I wasn’t sure who was going to judge, but it turned out not to be the showing judge (probably just as well in terms of our attitude to showing and also I think he might be related to the 3 yr old competitor) but the photographer and his wife.
The tiny tot on the pristine black pony was dressed in a pretty dress with a bow and arrow. Her mother said she was someone from a film but I didn’t recognise the name. The pony had just a ribbon in its mane, which to me was not proper equine fancy dress.
Springy and his female owner came as Bo Peep and her overgrown sheep, using a fly sheet and mask covered in cotton wool for him, and an elaborate costume for her, with a cardboard bonnet and a homemade ribbon wrapped crook. Drifter wasn’t bothered but the little pony wasn’t keen on the giant cotton-wool beast at all!
I was hopeful that we had a chance of winning, because Springy was shedding cotton wool all around the school and lacked finesse, although I was concerned that the judges might think the 3 yr old should win despite the lack of costume on the pony.
We paraded around, keeping the pony well away from Springy, and it was time for photos and the results. Bo Peep and the sheep were called as the winners, I think mostly because the total costume of horse + human showed the most effort. I have to say I was impressed with the human costume more than the horse costume. I think with us the horse costume was much better than the human costume. The photographer did say he’d have expected George and the Dragon so perhaps that would have won it for us.
At this point I was really hoping we wouldn’t come last because I’d have been upset to be beaten by a ribbon in a mane, however attractive the pony, but we were given second place and I was relieved. I have to say I didn’t envy the judges. How on earth can you measure them against each other?! I was pleased to have my 2nd place rosette and didn’t mind missing the prize. Yes it would have been really nice to win, but the comments of the staff on the yard beforehand had meant more. Also, afterwards quite a lot of people said they thought we should have won, which again was so nice to hear that I thought that was better than winning in a way.
Looking at what I might have done differently, I would have liked bigger wings, but that would have been a feat of engineering I wasn’t up for, and possibly something on the legs and feet. If I had red boots on him that would have been good, or maybe I could have made something like bell boots but with angles to suggest claws. Also, if I had a plain black roller that would have been better. And ideally my princess outfit would not have made me look so plump. I have to say though, that I’m pleased with what I did, the budget I did it on and that there was very little waste. I think we’ll probably do fancy dress again in the future, although I’m not sure what we’ll go as. Any suggestions?