Tips and advice to plan for your show season, by Jean M. Stuard
Another year has just rolled around, and the calendar for driving events is starting to fill up. As I look at my hairy miniature horses and sigh, I’m struck with the thought that I used up all my #10, #15 and #40 blades last fall, so they must all be taken in and sharpened before any serious clipping can begin. Okay, it’s February – almost time for show; what other items need to be done before I can enter any driving events?
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a list-maker, because if it’s not on my list it probably isn’t going to get done. If you’re like that, too, feel free to take the items I’m showing below and personalize it for your own use.
- Check your truck and trailer:
Tires (truck & trailer), belts, batteries (truck and winch), trailer flooring or anything that looks like an accident waiting to happen. Do you have sufficient tie rings on your trailer, inside and out? If not, now is a good time to add them. They are so handy for securing carts, harnesses, horses, etc. Are your license and inspection tags current? Not fun to get stopped and ticketed for something so easily taken care of.
- Check your harness:
Every time I take a harness off a horse, I check for wear and tear before putting it away. If a strap is frayed or a hole wallowed out, it’s time to replace it. Yes, that can get expensive, but a hospital stay or a funeral is a whole lot worse, (in my opinion). Besides, with proper care and maintenance, straps rarely need to be replaced. And you can easily get them from Janie.
- Is your helmet safe?
I replace mine every 5 to 6 years because it stays either in the barn or the trailer when it’s not protecting my head, so the heat and cold can damage the safety lining. And if you do have a wreck, replace it immediately – even if it doesn’t appear to be damaged.
- Safety check your cart:
When was the last time you safety-checked your cart or carriage? A quick glance at the frame and wheels to look for cracked or broken spots can prevent a serious accident. And, I also check the bolts on my vehicles at least twice a month to be sure the nuts haven’t worked loose or fallen off. Our terrain is hilly, sandy, and very rough in places, and the constant motion can sure work those little suckers loose. Walking home leading your horse, isn’t the way you want to end a drive through the woods. Besides, when you do this enough at home, you get used to the routine and can take care of it quickly just before the Marathon and know you’re safe!
- Is your whip the correct length?
If you drive different sizes of equines, make sure the lash reaches the shoulder of the furthest horse when you are sitting correctly in the box seat. You don’t want to be leaning forward or back to be sure the lash can be used accurately.
- Grooming tools:
I keep a grooming box that goes to events with me. It doesn’t get used at home, so I check it when packing to be sure all brushes, combs, etc., are there and clean. Usually, the day after I get home from an event this box gets unpacked, everything cleaned, then repacked and put back in the trailer. It also contains all my bathing equipment and vet supplies (thermometer, bandages, hydrogen peroxide, latex gloves, etc.)
Planning your Turnout
Once you’ve got your safety and equipment in good order, it’s time to plan for other things. Now comes the fun part – planning your turnout! As usual, men have much easier (read: limited) choices – Formal or Informal. The Carriage Association of America has some great guidelines for turnout, both male and female, so I will leave the specifics to them. Women have a broader range of choices in both style and color but should remember to dress according to the event you’re attending. Attendance at a Pleasure Driving Show calls for a more conservative turnout than a Horse Driving Trial or Combined Driving Event. However, none of these venues encourages flamboyance. Save the floppy, yard-wide hats with yards of trim for the Kentucky Derby; they will only go sailing away when your horse picks up a working trot in the dressage ring. And you can now wear your helmet in lieu of a hat, should you so desire.
Once you have decided on a color scheme, visit all of your local thrift stores. Jackets, slacks, blouses, scarves and jewelry are available there, although it may take you several shopping trips to complete your “look”. In a hurry? Or prefer professional help? Never fear, the driving world has many competent, imaginative vendors who can safely guide you through the process. Most of them advertise in The Whip, the American Driving Society magazine and they excel at giving you a unique, polished appearance.
Once you have put together the basics, go find a pair of well-fitting, comfortable brown gloves. Remember, your gloves MUST BE BROWN! Wear them every time you drive so you become used to the feel and fit. Your entry into the dressage arena is not when you want to find out the seam on the thumb hurts where your whip rests against it. I also suggest dark colored socks; white is never a good choice. It’s a very good idea to ask a friend to take pictures of your turnout, complete with your horse, harness and carriage. That way, if something just doesn’t look right in the total picture, you have time to make changes before the event. Take the pictures in full sunshine and on a cloudy day. Then you’ll know what the judge is seeing. Be honest with yourself. If the color scheme makes you look like you’re the clown at the rodeo or (as I was told one time), Barney the Purple Dinosaur, figure out what needs to be fixed. While I still love my purple hat, the purple jacket, apron, slacks, blouse and shoes were tossed. Yup, too much of a good thing…
Time to have some fun!
Assuming your horses are fit and ready to compete, your carriage and harness are cleaned and safety checked, you’ve got your turnout planned and your show calendar marked down, you’re ready to hitch up! So, slap that helmet or hat on and go have fun.
Happy Driving! See you at the shows.
What other things do you do to prepare for show season? Add to this list by posting below in the comments!