This was how someone described the showing world when I told them my plans for Abbey and me this year. The experience, however, was really positive and I needed an excuse to dress up posh for a change!

We were due to compete at the Oaks Open Show back in August but I managed to sprain my ankle at Bradbourne days before the show. So a visit to A & E courtesy of Sara, an X-ray and a crutch put paid to our showing debut. But we did enjoy the cones day and BBQ at the yard on the same day instead.

We then aimed our sites at the South Downs Club Open Show in September, a re-scheduled show from soggy July. Anita and I set off early with Abbey looking really filthy. The day before, someone had tried to steal my trailer so I had to sort that out instead of getting Abbey or the carriage cleaned up (they didn’t get past the wheel clamp thank goodness).

We arrived at the Weald and Downland Museum, the show venue, in plenty of time to get Abbey and ourselves ready which included cleaning that carriage! I had entered two classes, Amateur Whip and Exercise Vehicle, so our experience on the ‘dark side’ began. There were three entrants in the amateur whip class and I think Abbey thought we were off on a marathon – she was pulling like a train round the ring in a strong working trot! She did, however, behave really well, both standing in line and during our individual show and much to our surprise we were put in 2nd place. Brilliant, considering I don’t drive coachman that often. We even got a ‘well driven’ from the judge. I was really chuffed with that comment!

Later in the day after a wait in the rain we entered the ring for our second class. I hadn’t really registered that this was a qualifier for the Nationals at Addington so didn’t have any expectations. We paraded round the ring with eleven other competitors enjoying the experience. Once again Abbey behaved very well and it was a great shock when we were pulled into 2nd place-again! We had qualified for the Nationals on our first outing into the show ring! Anita had done a wonderful job getting Abs sorted for the show and it had paid off. Thanks Neets! So we now looked forward to the Nationals. More coachman practise to do!

Sadly Anita couldn’t come to Addington because of other commitments but Cass was a more than worthy replacement, working really hard to clean the carriage and get Abs ready for the show. Thanks Cass! My main aim for this big show was to just enjoy the experience and that’s what we managed to do. Abbey looked very posh with her lilywhite socks (thank goodness for chalk) and I loved dressing up and Cass scrubbed up pretty good too. Abbey was rather full of herself as we entered the ring, pulling like the proverbial train in marathon mode. We did our bit in the ring, lining up and waiting patiently to do our individual show for the judge. These were the positives but we had our fair share of negatives, all driver errors. I forgot to put the spares kit on the carriage, I managed to clip the boards with the carriage and the reins kept slipping through my gloves (too much oil methinks!) not to mention the bits of tights I had used to stop the bit pinching the side of abbey’s mouth! All this said we ended in 8th place with a highly commended and thoroughly enjoyed the experience and will be back in the show ring next season. It certainly wasn’t a ‘dark side’ experience.

Now though we can all concentrate on the indoor HDT season. Good luck to everyone and ‘may the force be with you’!

Debbie Tatton