We adult amateurs are a special breed. We aren’t like our adult counterparts, the professional riders who are typically polished, poised, ride a million horses and generally know what they’re doing. Heck, they often even have sponsors that give them money and things precisely because they know what they’re doing.
We also aren’t like our amateur counterparts, the junior riders. These special folks come equipped with a horse that is typically at least in part funded by parental units or other relatives, and the riding is often their main activity outside of school. Our main activity outside of work is usually trying to figure out how we’re paying for all this stuff.
But, most importantly, the junior rider often arrives at horse shows with Horse Show Mom or Horse Show Dad (or at least a gaggle of similarly aged rider friends who act in their stead). Show Parents are entirely different beasts than Regular Parents, because they are often helpless in this environment, so the kid is essentially in charge. Show Parents help groom, pack and provide snacks and drinks, get handed things, tell kids their ride times again, take videos and photos, and just generally act as an all-in-one support system.
We adult ammies have no such luck. We sometimes have a Show Spouse, but more often than not, we’re on our own to act as our own one-person circus. We have our fellow adult ammies to sometimes assist, but they’re usually busy also throwing up in the next porta-potty over from you.
Because we go it alone, I’ve put together a short survival guide for the adult amateur to help us through our horse show adventures. Here’s what you need to keep it together — or at least pretend to.
Beverages. You know the kind. The good thing is, they are multipurpose! And we all bring enough crap to shows that anything that can do double-duty is fantastic. Now, I’m not saying I condone drinking and riding, but I’ve been known to take a swig before a round to make me settle down the nerves a bit. Use at your own risk. But those beverages also come in handy after your ride, whereby you can either celebrate or drown your sorrows. Pro tip: bring something clear-ish and/or a straw. You’re welcome. And your white breeches (darn them) will thank you.
Speaking of beverages, you also need one of those wine bottle opener/hoof pick combos. Remember how I said double-duty items are key? Yeah.
Duct tape. This is the most useful item in the world. You can fix nearly anything with it: reins, your errant boot zipper, your number you spilled on, or anything, really. You can even use it to tie up your trainer so you can escape the show grounds unscathed when you decide you’re over it and can’t do this anymore.
An extra arm. Seriously, you’re going to need it to carry all of your stuff without help from your imaginary Horse Show Parent. You might want to look into some surgery in the off season so you’re healed for spring. If you’re not into the Vishnu look, I suppose something like this grooming tote could help. I like anything that can transport by a shoulder strap rather than a handle. Bonus: it has a zippered main pocket, which you can store your beverages and duct tape in!
Extra time. When you’re going solo, it’s best to give yourself extra time, too, in addition to that extra arm. Tack up early, get to the barn early, go to the ring early…. Everything early. Don’t underestimate how much extra time it takes to vomit one more time before your round, give yourself a pep talk or to allow someone to drag you back to the barn after you’ve run away.
Extra of everything, actually. As you don’t have Horse Show Parent on hand to frantically run around to get you a replacement if something breaks, bring extras of everything. Also bring extra snacks and beverages — they are useful for bribing your barn kids or those kids’ Horse Show Parents into assisting you, too. Never underestimate the power of bribery when you need help holding your fire-breathing dragon, videotaping your round or making sure you dressed yourself properly. I’m not saying you’re a hot mess but, well, you’re kind of a hot mess.
A hooded jacket. Not only will it keep you warm in the cool mornings before your show (and keep your shirt clean in the process) but it has other bonus value to it: When you put the hood up, no one to your side you can see the terror in your eyes, and you can avoid eye contact with people you’d rather not talk to (or share your snacks with).
ALL THE ADVIL. Finally, remember to bring the biggest bottle of Advil you can find. We aren’t as young as we used to be, and we don’t bounce or recover like we used to. Take care of those joints — and that hangover.