Charlie Brown and I are going to the Phillip Dutton eventing camp in a couple of weeks. As you can imagine, this isn’t the kind of camp where you just toss your horse in the trailer and head on up. Out of respect for my instructors and the opportunity, I want to present my horse in the best possible light. He doesn’t have to be perfect, but I definitely need to make the effort – for both of us. I also need to be prepared as well as I can be with the appropriate tack and equipment.
Never having done a top tier riding clinic before, I took advantage of a grooming clinic offered by Cat Hill and Emma Ford, two of Dutton’s grooms, to find out what the expectations were for turnout. So I’m taking the next several days to do a little bit of grooming each day to get Charlie looking his best, and a little bit of packing so the trailer is well stocked.
For Charlie Brown
Mane: Charlie is half Friesian, so he had a pretty long mane. And (Murphy’s Law) it falls on the wrong side. While I don’t think anyone will hold the left-sided mane against us, they certainly wouldn’t take kindly to a ridiculously long mane. So I’ve shortened it quite a bit.
Clipping: Charlie’s bridle path, nose whiskers, goat beard, and fetlocks are all being trimmed to presentable. It was a long, cold winter, so these areas are pretty scruffy. I will ask Cat and Emma what their opinion is on body clipping when they get a chance to see Charlie in person.
Tail: I know Charlie’s tail needs to be pulled or clipped, but no one at my barn is familiar with how to do it properly. I’m hoping I can get Emma to help me with that on arrival day.
Bathing: We’ve already done one thorough bath with a good quality shampoo. Charlie cleaned up really well, including his legs, which were dirtier than I anticipated. Hopefully he won’t roll too much between now and the clinic, or we will be taking another bath before we hit the road.
Farrier: I have arranged for the farrier to come see Charlie a little ahead of schedule so we can make sure his shoes are secure. And if new shoes are needed, we should have enough time for Charlie’s feet to get over any potential post-shoeing soreness before we get to work at the clinic.
For the trailer
Checklists: To keep things organized, I took some time creating my own checklist. It has smaller sections (shipping, feed, braiding, etc.) so I don’t have to do the whole thing at once. It’s built from many different checklists from a variety of sources, and was initially (and deliberately) too long. Once I had it all together, I weeded out the things that didn’t apply to us, and sorted it in a way that was more meaningful to me.
Horse care: I’ve put together a basic first aid kit for rubs, cuts, and scrapes. We have a collection of grooming supplies like hoof oil, witch hazel, and Desitin. And I have properly folded Irish knits and fleeces for cooling out after a hard ride in the summer sun. Obviously these checklists are much longer, and I check part of the list each day so the job isn’t overwhelming and rushed at the last minute.
Tack: I have jumping boots and dressage boots, but I didn’t own a proper pair of cross country boots. Now that I understand the need for them, even at my lower level of eventing, I’ve secured a set for our adventures in Pennsylvania and beyond. I am also packing a complete set tack for all three phases (dressage, cross country, and stadium jumping).
Shipping boots: Our shipping boots are being cleaned up so they are in good order for the 2-3 hour drive that awaits us each way.
Just in case: While I already have a specific bit on each bridle, I’m taking some of my bit collection with me, in case Dutton recommends a change. I’ll also take my spare saddle, a case of vet wrap, and a host of other items that I hope I don’t need. But it’s better to have them and not need them than the other way around.
For the rider
Navigation: Another advantage to having been up to True Prospect Farm in advance of the clinic is that I got a chance to scope out the best route to get there. While I have friends who routinely take their trailers through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, but I’m not that brave just yet. I’ll take my truck through the tunnel, but doing so with the trailer in tow isn’t in my comfort zone. So we are taking the Baltimore Beltway to avoid the tunnel. It will add about 30 minutes to our drive time, but it will keep my stress level down, and that’s worth it.
Packing: I’m keeping it simple. This isn’t a fashion show. So I’m sticking with my best riding pants, a basic polo shirt, and a belt. I’ll need paddock boots and half chaps, as well as my tall boots, depending on which discipline we’re working on. Add a toothbrush and my contact lenses, and I’m pretty much set. While it’s just a four day trip, it still feels like I’m packing for a year.
Preparation is the key. And a little bit each day in an un-rushed and organized fashion will lead us to a successful clinic experience for both Charlie Brown and me.