Note: This is the first of what will hopefully be a recurring series from my wonderful boyfriend, Eric. I hope you all enjoy!
Last summer, as anyone who has read this blog can probably surmise, I spent a lot of time at horseshows. It’s something I haven’t done a lot of in years and even then the shows I’m used to were small hunter/jumper shows as a middle schooler. The idea of sleeping in a tent at a horse show never crossed my mind.
Turns out there are a few things you need to know about spending whole weekends in the Pacfic Northwest, in a tent, with a horse (duh), two large dogs, and enough estrogen to keep the planet of Venus calmly humming along for the next century or so.
Packing right will save you a lot of problems. The key here is that you’re loading up the bed of a pickup truck, which will be next to you all weekend. There’s no reason to pack light if there’s something you can bring that will make your life more comfortable, more enjoyable, drier, or easier over the next three days. In order of importance, things to remember include:
- Beer. Figure out how much you think you need, and double it. Ignore the sideways glances your significant other gives you when the cooler has more beer than food in it. You’ve got nothing but time at horse shows, and you may as well enjoy it. Plus it’s always nice to have a few extras to share with the precious few fathers & other boyfriends in attendance. They’re all in the same boat, and it’s nice to have people to relax/drink/commiserate with.
- Comfortable hiking boots. You start walking at sunrise, and you pretty much don’t stop. Ever. Except to have a beer (see above). Sneakers probably aren’t a great idea, especially since somewhere along the way you’ll probably get stepped on by a 1,200 lb. animal. Flip flops sound like a good idea, but aren’t.
- A bigger tent than you think you need, and more ground padding than you think you need. A two person tent, despite what your significant other might tell you, is not sufficient for two people, a German Shepherd, and a Golden Retriever. Bring the big sleeping bags, the extra camping pad, etc. Forget the super lightweight camping tent and sleeping bag that packs down to the size of a beer bottle that you bought at REI that one time you thought you might get super into week-long hiking trips – weight doesn’t matter since you’re not hiking anywhere. If it might make sleeping on the ground on top of rocks, mowed hay, manure, mud, and god knows what else, put it in the bed of the truck.
- Rain gear. No matter how nice the weather forecast, bring it. Otherwise, there’s a 100% chance you’ll make a mid-show trip to the nearest Walmart to purchase it.
- Suntan lotion & bug spray. Forgetting either one of these things is a problem, forgetting both is an epic disaster. Ever tried to scratch sunburned mosquito bites? I have.
- Duct tape (aka emergency tent repair supplies when dogs break your tent).
Everything else is pretty much gravy. Despite the night-before panic that the horse owner in your life will experience trying to remember if everything is packed, there are literally hundreds of other people going to the same place, trying to remember to pack the same things. If you show up with a horse, everything else (even and including the saddle and bridle for said horse) is pretty much negotiable and borrowable.
Pro tip: if someone else is trailering your horse, you don’t even have to remember him. He’ll just be there when you get there.
The fact that you forget the super soft curry comb that is the only curry your horse tolerates on his face will seem like a major deal at 6am to said horse owner, but it’s really not. The horse will just toss his head and deal with the regular curry comb, and if that happens while you are grooming him and horse owner is braiding, she might have to restart a braid. The world continues spinning on its axis.
Which brings me to my next point: patience. You arrive at these shows on a Thursday evening, and will be there through some point on Sunday (if you’re lucky, you can be out by noon… if you’re not lucky, you’re there until late afternoon). Figure on 72 hours – that’s a lot of time. The only things which must happen over the course of those 72 hours is that your horse must show up once a day at a specific location.
It’s not hard, but you’ll find that the horse owner in your life will inevitably fret and worry and hem and haw over when to start getting the horse ready, and eventually will have wasted 2 hours worry about getting ready that could have been spent actually … getting ready. Then comes the panic phase, and you’ll have to hold your tongue and do as you’re told while the freakout ensues. Saying “calm down” at this point in time is a bad idea – learn from my mistakes!
When all is said and done, the horse will be delivered at the appointed time, and will stand around for 20-30 minutes because the show is running behind, and everyone will be ok, except for you: you’ll be sent running back to the trailer because a white rag was forgotten and the horse took a bite of grass, causing him to splatter green froth from his mouth onto the white cloth saddlepads or bandages which we’ve dressed the horse up in. (You’re obligated to run, at least while in view of your significant other, lest you be chastised for not taking seriously the life-or-death nature of whether a horse shows some evidence of the chronic condition known as “being a horse” while in the arena).
The final thing which will help with retaining your sanity is simply picking something to do other than sit around and wait. I chose to take pictures (I’ll throw up some of the better ones in a later blog post), which gives you a little bit of structure and purpose beyond sitting in the sun from 6am – 8pm every day. Someday, I suppose I’ll actually saddle up for an event myself, but until then photographing the proceedings gives me something to do other than wait for instruction.
Other random points which didn’t fit anywhere above:
- Plan on cell service being nonexistent. Fantasy football lineups need to be set before you leave for the weekend. You’ve been warned.
- Bring comfortable camp chairs. They’re a lifesaver.
- Don’t set up your tent near trailers with living quarters and generators. While said generators provide lovely creature comforts for those who are inside said trailers, they do nothing for you in the tent next door except keep you awake.
- When helping with chores, walking the horse is always preferable to cleaning the stalls. Even if your feet are sore from walking around all day. You can also handle two horses at once, which will earn you brownie points from whoever pawns their horse off on you so they can clean their stall.
- Tents are not able to be repurposed as kennels for your dogs. By the time you learn this the hard way, your tent will have a hole in it. Emergency tent repairs in the dark are a pain in the neck.
- The 6 am wakeup call and chore round can always be handled in its entirety by the horse owner in your life. Your only responsibility before 8:00am should be to source caffeine from anywhere it can be found.
- Splurging on hot food from vendors at the shows is always a good idea. Firing up the camp stove to boil pasta or cook sausages sounds like a better idea when planning the Wednesday before than it does at 2 pm on a Saturday afternoon when you’re sweltering, starving, and tired.
- Following Sunday show jumping, resist the urge to be swept up in the chaos of trying to set a new land speed record to vacate the premises, despite what the rest of the world is doing. Hundreds of people around you are about to lose their heads sprinting to try and leave the grounds, but it’s a waste of energy. You’ve spent 72 hours at the show, and it’s not worth getting all riled up leaving. Enjoy your Sunday.