BY DEBORAH JANE NICHOLAS
…and she’s only a D.I.Y’er!
Yes I heard those words. That delightful sentence fell from the mouth of a person on full livery.
They had felt compelled for some reason to log a complaint to the yard owner about a person on Do It Yourself livery. I can’t imagine what the naughty diy’er had done, perhaps it was even about me!
What dross we are, turning up in wellies while covered from head to foot in shavings, moaning about being late for the school run or work. Today we are wearing the water-proof trousers that were going cheap in Lidl. They actually have three uses, firstly they keep the jodhpurs dry and moderately clean. Secondly, the cheap plastic flapping around the legs ensures the entire yard knows you have arrived as soon as you step out of the car. Thirdly and most importantly it bomb-proofs your horse against blowing bags and noisy flapping plastic on windy days. Thank you Lidl for keeping us dry while simultaneously desensitising our horses. To complete the look we are sporting our husband’s battered Christmas jumper from 1982 because nothing else was big enough to fit over our 17 layers of clothing.
We dump our 37 bags of god-knows-what outside the stable door because for some reason it’s not safe to keep our belongings in the car. Although it’s perfectly safe on a yard full of liveries and strangers turning up for riding lessons. We struggle back from the cold dark field where the wind chill was borderline life-threatening, at best causing catastrophic life-changing facial disfigurement from frostbite. But the horse is in and that’s what counts. There’s no point spending two hours brushing off several inches of mud because he will, no doubt, get caked again when turned out. The hay-net gets filled with 5 pounds of hay, while a further 2 pounds of the stuff sticks to our wet Christmas jumper and Lidl trousers.
We hastily tack up before the little munchkins, or worse, the husband complains that we are always up the yard. Plus if we don’t get moving soon the hospital will never be able to save the nose that’s now sitting in a polythene bag in the yard fridge. We might change our boots, or perhaps just stick a pair of chaps over our soaking, muddy, hay and shavings covered water proof Lidl trousers. It’s too cold to take them off anyway!
Then we have the audacity to enter the arena looking worse for wear. The one on top looks hardly human, and only identified as one because it’s riding a horse. Of course the other rider by sad chance is the Livery Snob (LS), and is looking spotless and wearing shiny, clean, full length Ariat boots. You fail to notice what brand of jodhpurs the LS is wearing because you don’t care, but can guess they cost at least £350. The jacket looks like something you might wear to a wedding, a funeral or while working for British Airways as cabin crew.
One of two things could happen now, the LS will either grunt a Hello while pulling a face not unlike a bulldog chewing a wasp, or completely ignore you. Because you, dear reader, are d.i.y dross, and the LS is on full livery.
The full LS does not rush onto the yard with 5 kids and two blood thirsty, rat hunting terriers, one of which only has three legs, while eating a bacon butty with dirty hands. No, the LS swans elegantly, almost drifts onto, the yard with all the grace of a ballerina, giving off a faint odour of Chanel. As opposed to you looking like a hurricane survivor giving off a pungent odour of baby sick and pasties. A 17 hh chestnut warmblood awaits the LS in an immaculately clean stable already tacked up. The tack itself would probably pay for a small cottage in Cornwall, and with sea views.
…And here you are, daring to leave hoof prints on the freshly harrowed, pristine top-spec sand and fibre surface. If you aren’t feeling uncomfortable enough in the presence of someone who has the appearance of being 12th in line to the throne, then your scruffy piebald cob pawing the soft sand desperate to roll off the itchy, wet mud won’t help. Of course her horse is behaving beautifully while passage’ing majestically from E to H.
The LS knows your are watching, because they are well aware they both look fabulous. You frantically kick the cob, but he refuses to budge and instead stretches out his front and back legs. Your heart sinks as the sound, not unlike a bull elephant peeing in a pond, fills the air. Now it’s you that feels watched, but not because you are looking fabulous.
Hold your head high dear diy’er!!
The LS comes from another planet, one in which you would not be appreciated. This is a dark, cold place where humans do not bond with their own horse or know their horse’s personality. The grooms, yard manager, farrier and vet will know the horse better than the actual owner. Every piece of tack, equipment, type of feed, bedding, wormer and even the horse’s anatomy and physiology cannot be named. Injury, lameness or illness is often left unidentified unless the yard manager points it out. LS has never dealt with the farrier, vet or dentist so has missed out on gaining new knowledge. They lack the experience to confidently confront, and deal with 14 horses galloping towards them when calling the horse in. They fail to become efficient at successfully organising the family, work, dogs, horses or riding.
The horse is well behaved and throwing some awesome moves because it was lunged that morning, and ridden by a top dressage instructor in the afternoon. Every high score, every rosette that is pinned to the bridle is down to the trainer, not the LS. They are paying 10 times as much livery as you, yet learning a fraction of what you are. The LS will tell everyone they’re a horse owner, and have photos of themselves riding set to screensaver, yet again looking fabulous. Yet in reality know very little about horses and only ride 40 minutes a week.
Therefore never feel intimidated by the Livery Snob, feel proud of the knowledge and skills you have gained by doing everything yourself. Enter that arena head held high, and be proud. Thankfully Livery Snobs are rare but if you do happen to meet one, untack your horse and let it have a good roll on that pristine, freshly harrowed school surface! Ah yes, now I remember why the Livery Snob was complaining about me.