Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Article excerpt

'Congratulations! You've qualified for The Sunshine Tour!' beamed the lady judge, as she pinned a rosette to my horse's bridle. I don't know what The Sunshine Tour is, but it sounds like it has nothing to do with equestrian pursuits and everything to do with putting old people on a bus and taking them on a day trip to the seaside. Whatever it is, it must be very undiscriminating because I qualified for it by coming last at my local horse show.

It was my first attempt at 'showing' and wouldn't have been so bad if I hadn't put in so much effort. The Builder Boyfriend and I had got up at 6 a. m. on Sunday to shampoo Grace, the skewbald hunter pony. After careful scrutiny of the unfathomable schedule, we entered classes entitled 'In-hand Coloured' and 'Ridden Coloured'. Now, what I know about showing I could write on the back of an eggbut snaffle. But the coloured pony has impeccable breeding and so for years I have felt rather guilty that she has never been near a show ring.

So at 6 a. m. on Sunday, instead of having a lie-in and a croissant, or something, we were shampooing Gracie and plaiting her mane. Small problem. Grace doesn't like standing still. In fact, she is the pony equivalent of Violet Elizabeth from the Just William books. She makes it quite clear, if you make her stand still, that she is quite prepared to thqueam and thqueam 'til she's thick. Or neigh and neigh until she is sick, as the case may be. She neighed and neighed and pounded the ground with her hooves and swung her head violently from left to right until, in the end, I had to kneel and plait her mane as she grazed a patch of grass.

The results were, if you ask me, a minor miracle. The judge, however, did not think so. After all the entrants had paraded their ponies around the ring, primped and buffed and gleaming, the judge lined us up in the middle and walked around each horse.

'Hmm, ' he said, circumnavigating Gracie, 'these plaits. . . ' 'Ye-es?' I said, smiling sweetly as I prodded her shoulder with my elbow to stop her lunging for the grass. The side of her mane I could see looked pretty darn good. Unfortunately, the side he was looking at, and the side the entire showground had seen, being the side facing the audience, was littered with plaits that had sprung out of their little rubber bands and come unfolded into curly ringlets so they made her look like, well, Bonnie Langford. …

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