Fear and admin in the Midlands : a somewhat bitty post, which could probably benefit mightily from harsh editing, which it didn’t get


My horse’s ancestors lives without ever having a bit of paper to their name. Why is it then that he seems to require constant paperwork, phone calls and time spent on human faff?

At present my (out of the saddle) horse to-do list looks like this:

  • E-mail equine dentist (3rd e-mail of this correspondence and we still don’t have a firm appointment)
  • Book leave to accommodate saddler appointment (the Bates is now due a check-up)
  • E-mail other person on yard to confirm we can see the saddle fitter on the same day and save on call-out
  • Pay livery bill
  • Pay rug wash bill
  • Leave money and fill in form for farrier
  • Leave instructions for clipping (more on this later if I remember)

In the last few days I have already ticked off:

  • Book jump lesson with busy owner of yard (1 e-mail – pretty good!)
  • Ring saddler (total of 3 times)
  • Miss calls / listen to answer phone messages from saddler (total of 3)
  • Fill in multiple forms for next competition day (see also Fear)
  • E-mail fellow livery about desirability of sharing saddling call out and coordinating date (2 e-mails – surprisingly easy!)
  • Collect rugs from laundry drop off spot
  • Make verbal enquiries about desirability of clipping

Luckily his vaccinations aren’t due for another month or two and so far he hasn’t managed to catch any of the bugs doing the rounds of the yard of late so we haven’t added vet communication to the list.


Since we saw Lee Pearson, the goal is to get Drifter onto the contact as much as I can. Sometimes this is easier than others. On Sunday morning, outdoors, him with his senses full of the wind, the strimmer across the field, and the turned out horses over there; and me with my Eurovision hang-over, this was not easy. After a few minutes I gave up. I almost gave up and got off, to be honest, but then my eye fell on the stack of cones. Time for something completely different.

Drifter was quite confused when I hopped off, took him out of the school to grab the cones and then took him into the school again. I laid out my cones down the centre line and across at right angles, ending up with a rather wonky cross, with the centre at x and in each direction a cone at about 7 meters and another at about 15. I’d picked them up thinking I’d work on circles, but now I had them laid out, they put me in mind of empty pairs of jump wings – like every gap between cones was an imaginary jump to aim at, to pick an imaginary jump and ride a line; make a course of invisible jumps and make the turns I’d need to get the lines.

So we hared around our invisible course of jumps and the pair of us had a whale of a time. Every time I got exhausted and suggested a bit of steady trotting he’d be offering canter like nobody’s business, so off we’d go again, twisting and turning and flying around the cones. When we needed to change the canter lead we came back to trot for a stride or two and were back off on the new leg before I could believe it. At one point we wove down a line of cones and I deliberately took the middle one in counter canter, just to try it! It was all fabulous. We had the excitement of jump-style rushing around in all directions, but without me worrying about the jumps. We both loved it.

Just a day or so before this I’d stated I’d be too nervous to ever try barrel racing. But what we’d been doing was belting around things on the ground, making tight turns back on ourself at times. It seems that sometimes barrel racing can sneak up on you unawares.

On a side note, having no ground crew, I was putting out cones (and later putting them away again) with him beside me. I had my eye and voice on him, but not my hands all of the time, though I kept him within range it case he should decide he wanted to do anything stupid. He invented a new game: every time he got a chance, he gently pushed the little cones over with his nose. What could possible be more helpful? Err, many things. But most of them would not have been nearly as adorable.


I have filled in the entry forms. The competition is on Sunday. There is no backing out.

I have entered:

  • Combined training
  • Prelim dressage
  • Clear round (x 2)

This means on Sunday I will be doing the following:

  1. Walk/trot dressage test (for combined training)
  2. Walt/trot/canter dressage test
  3. Course of about 10 tiny jumps (combined training. Somehow they do something with the scores from the walk/trot test and this jumping to give an overall placing)
  4. Clear round. (Jump everything with no faults to get a rosette.) Probably the same course as I’ve just done for combined training, but now I get to do it twice more.

Points that concern me:

1) Last time was the first time I’d competed 2 dressage tests instead of one and it was exhausting. So now I’m adding 3 rounds of jumping as well. Great.

2) 1st time jumping in competition

3) 1st time jumping in competition and I must get round to finding out the rules. I’m pretty sure the idea is to jump over all the things in the right order and failure to do so gets penalties, but perhaps I should have some more specific advice?

4) There will be fillers we’ve never seen before and so are complete unknown quantities

5) How the hell am I going to remember the course? I have callers for my dressage tests so I don’t get lost. I need sat nav!

6) The warm up area. Suddenly we go from max. 3 horses in that school to a free for all with a jump in it. Kids on ponies don’t always have a good concept of personal riding space… and teens on horses aren’t always much better.

7) Remembering to leave the martingale off for dressage but put it on for jumping.

Things that reassure me:

1) If I do get lost jumping, well, I’ve got 3 different tries at the course. Chances are I might get it by the third course, or, if not, the audience will probably take pity and shout where I’m supposed to go.

2) It is quite possible that I am the only adult doing the walk/trot combined training. Almost every other adult likely to enter would do the category with w/t/c and big jumps. So I suspect I’ll get a nice rosette unless I manage to disqualify myself. (N.B. Really do need to learn the rules.)

3) Who cares. Even if I jump out of the school by accident (sure D’s more than capable of jumping at least that height although I’m not sure I’d stay on) most people are going to be kind about it because I had a go for the first time.

4) If I’m lucky, being a combined competitor, judging by the way they ordered the day last time, I should be able to get in the jump warm-up area before all the terrifying swarms of the masses head in there. Also, there is a possibility it would be convenient for them to let me do all 3 goes back to back, so I still won’t have to contend with the terrifying warm up area.

5) I have a jump lesson tomorrow

6) “Cone-day” has improved my confidence in my steering


I said I’d come back to the clipping, so here we are. I’ve decided to take the plunge and move to year-round clipping. My heart cries out against clipping off his beautiful summer coat, but once again he’s trying to grow a coat worthy of a persian cat and even on cool days after every workout I have a sweat-dripping sodden hair-monster to deal with, who I cannot feed until he cools and dry, which takes ages and adds hours every week onto my yard time at the point when I am desperately trying to get home for dinner. On a yard mostly populated by warmbloods and sport horses, I wasn’t really aware of the existence of year-round clipping, but a little research later I decided to sound out the staff member responsible for clipping. She thought it was worth doing.

Oh, but the terrible expense of getting him clipped year round! Time to discuss with Mr S.

I suggested that I could buy some good clippers and they’d pay for themselves in a year if I did it myself. Being the hero of the story, as he often is, he pointed out that when my time martyring myself learning to clip was factored in it was unlikely to be worth it (I suspect he tends to think of our leisure time as if it was chargeable, a side-effect of his work). Also I’d probably end up with a very funny looking horse for the first year or so and he didn’t want to console me when I came home hairy, exhausted and distraught because I’d slipped and accidentally taken half his tail off.

So we will pay for him to be clipped and I will take pleasure in not having to do it. I will leave firm instructions on what is not to be touched (whiskers, inside ears, mane (I’ll do his bridle path with scissors so I can keep it narrow)) and lie back and enjoy just turning up and finding my horse naked.


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