Social media, for me, has always been about emojis: laugh reacting at memes that I relate to, hearts to my pals’ perfect puppa pics and most of all, trophies for my clever friends winning horse competitions as though they’re going out of fashion.
As I scroll through my feeds, doing my daily dose of digital giving, I’m struck by a post about an upcoming horse event. It’s a show, the kind I would normally scroll on by due to the simple fact that Coco, my horse, can be perfectly described as one her Mummy loves very much, but wouldn’t necessarily win Champion at Horse of the Year Show.
Coco is 14 years old, and though many wonderful horses compete well over this age, she is slightly rough around the edges (as am I, her Mummy).
She has a body that is visibly marred by melanoma, and we are both visually impaired. We are blind in our right eye and half in our left.
I have so far avoided anything that will judge Coco on her physical attributes, as it would break my heart to hear anything bad said about her.
The perfect opportunity
The thing that catches the attention of my scrolling thumb is the name of the horse show: Break the Stigma. It’s a show to raise awareness and funds for the equestrian charity Riders Minds, put on by the High Horse Showing Society.
Having blogged for Riders Minds previously, I know that the charity recently lost its co-founder, Matthew Wright, from suicide and is all about getting the message about mental health awareness into the spotlight.
I message the page to ask about the show and whether Coco and I will fit into any of the classes.
With mental health problems being something I talk about on my Big Irish Grey blog all the time, I really want to push through my anxiety, agoraphobia, OCD, PTSD and physical disabilities to support this show with my beautiful yet fellow disabled best friend in tow.
Carolle Lee Jones of High Horse Showing Society, one of the nicest people you could meet, suggests I try some of the novice classes, which are designed for people like me who have never shown in their lives and are looking to learn from the experience, as well as having the chance to gain a rosette in the process.
What have I signed up for?
I talk to my wonderful friend and Coco’s breeder Alex Moores (who I met by searching for her after learning her name in Coco’s passport) and she advises that three classes is the maximum she’d suggest, as it will be a long day for me, as well as Coco.
I choose to enter introduction to showing (ridden), novice (ridden), and novice any age or breed (in hand). What have I signed myself up for? I have no idea what to wear, what to do or whether I can manage this.
Reaching out to my friend Andrew Brown, who has thankfully just qualified as a show judge — imagine my luck! — I am really worrying I have bitten off more than Coco and I can chew together.
I’ve got no idea whether you run in a circle, do a figure of eight or dance the cancan.
Andrew comes to my yard and walks me through the ridden and in hand patterns, which are actually quite simple if you have the ability and stamina to run your horse in trot for all that way.
The decisions you have to make vary greatly on your horse’s strengths and weaknesses.
Whether to canter on a certain rein towards or away from the judge to show how well they look, and plan to be able to avoid doing in on their weaker rein coming back, etc.
Being able to change the plan on the day depending on whether your horse is feeling frisky or stubborn. Can you actually get a long sustained canter or just concentrate of a few paces and some nice trotting.
All of this is alien to me, but I am incredibly thankful to have Andrew on my team. We talk about what I should wear, and I even go the lengths of buying a show cane to go with my “ratcatcher” style ridden wear and waistcoat for in hand.
I’m turning into the Beyoncé of showing! I have all the gear – but only slightly an idea.
Now for Coco…
What about Coco? What does she need to wear? How should she wear her hair?
Thankfully, I know the best groom in town and book her straight away.
I’ve never been a girly girl, so plaits and bows are not my forte.
Emma Adams of Professional Turnout Services is right at my beck and call, and the night before the show she comes whizzing over to beautify my babe.
She blue shampoos the life out of her, because of course I can’t own a normal coloured horse, it has to be one that shows up all the stains!
She pulls her mane, clips her tail and plaits her up to look like a real Bobby Dazzler. I’ve never seen her so clean, and I’ve never actually seen a grey shine before. You can literally see the quarter mark on her bottom (Coco’s, not Emma’s)!
The only thing being that I’m now worked up so much with nerves that I have to let Emma get on with grooming and leave everything out to put Coco to bed, but I can’t find her neck cover anywhere.
It will be a very worrying sleep to see if Coco is still as shiny and white the next day… will her plaits remain in place?
The show must go on!
Stay tuned for Episode 2: The Big (Irish) Day!