Equo’s south-west brand ambassador Ali Dane gives us an insight into working with horses and explains that not everything may always be as it seems:
It was a beautiful spring day in mid March. Daffodils were in bloom, the sun was shining and birds were singing. My groom led an immaculately turned out, plaited horse over to the imposing front entrance of the Georgian manor house, where I was waiting in white breeches, shiny long black boots and a purple fitted jacket. The groom presented the horse for inspection, a few parts of the bridle were re-polished, extra hoof oil applied, and then the horse was handed to me. The groom stood back to take in the scene. An impressive picture; me, the ‘Lady of the Manor’ holding her gleaming chestnut steed, both poised and ready for action. A passer by paused as she walked her dog, and exclaimed “Oh, but isn’t your life glamorous!”
And we laughed. Hysterically, actually.
Because this isn’t a description of my life. It was a competition clothing photoshoot for Horse and Hound. The groom was actually my long suffering other half, the manor house was Ardington House, a hired venue, my clothing supplied for the photoshoot, and my gleaming chestnut steed was Rudi… A 17-year-old, 15.1hh eventer with huge, lumpy withers and dodgy legs.
Exactly eighteen hours prior to this, I had been out competing with a lorry load of liveries, plus a young horse for me to ride, at Equo Events site, Grove Farm near Didcot. I finished what had been a ‘testing’ evening, standing in my brand new white breeches and competition jacket covered head to toe in mud, in the middle of a field, in the dark, trying to load a naughty horse. That’s my life.
My point is that things are often not what they may seem. Recently I’ve been told by a few people with office jobs that they’d love to do what I do. For some reason, people think that working with horses is a glamorous job, and an easy way to do what you love and make a living at the same time. Nothing about working with horses is ‘easy’. It’s not neuroscience, but it’s no walk in the park, either.
My normal days start at 6.30am and often don’t end until 10pm. I only put make-up on if I’m going somewhere posh and ‘non-horsey’, and I have dirt under my fingernails as I am typing now (despite having had a long soak in the bath tonight!). If I am expected to look respectable for a night out or a day at the races, I need at least two weeks notice in order to remove the mixture of hay and shavings from my hair in time. I can’t sleep if my yard is messy, but I don’t dust my house regularly at all. In fact, I can’t think of a single thing that makes my life with horses particularly glamorous. True, I spend long, glorious, summer days schooling wonderful horses in the sunshine, but I also spend long, wet, winter days schooling naughty horses in the freezing cold.
But I absolutely love what I do. I think you have to, to do this job properly. It’s not for everyone, but I think there is a special breed of person in this world specifically designed to work with horses. You have to be able to really ‘live it’. This job is a vocation and a way of life. You cannot do it half-heartedly.
So, to anyone thinking of working with horses, ask yourself if all the things I’ve listed above really matter to you. If you don’t mind the idea of having rough hands, premature wrinkles and very little time to yourself, then you might just be a candidate. And you get bonus points if you have an inexhaustible sense of humour, a very understanding other half and like to accessorise all your outfits (and hair) with shavings/hay/straw/horsehair/unidentifiable brown muck.
If you’ve enjoyed this read then don’t miss Ali’s other brand ambassador blogs.