BY DEBORAH JANE NICHOLAS
Hard hats must be worn when riding, poo must be picked up immediately, no smoking on the premises, dogs must be kept on leads, children under 12 years of age must have adult supervision.
While there may be a few more, I won’t bore you with the rest. These are the do’s and don’ts we see written on the large sign as we enter the stable yard. But it doesn’t stop there, we read that sign and think yep, got it – only to be further bombarded with the offspring of the big daddy sign.
The sign patiently waiting for you by the muck-heap instructs Tools must be returned! Of course the exclamation mark is entirely necessary – without it one might just leave the battered wooden broom leaning up against the stable wall. The note pinned to the arena gate suggests Jumps must be put away, although it fails to say by whom. The one in the barn that proclaims No tying horses up outside stables! really should have been written in the form of an apology. Simply because the yard owner has deliberately crammed too many stables into the small barn, and consequently there’s no space to swing a rat, if one so desired, let alone safely pass behind the back of a horse with room to spare.
Even if you lock yourself in the bathroom for 2 minutes just to get some peace from the literary bombardment, you will not be safe. You’ll soon discover someone has left a hand-scrawled note on the wall for your viewing pleasure. Just as you settle your backside down onto that freezing cold seat you’ll spot another sneering sign instructing what, and what not to flush down the toilet. While you would love to only flush toilet paper, it’s normally at this point you see that empty brown cardboard insert, and realise some bastard hasn’t replaced the roll. Of course in a pinch, the patronising sign with obvious boundary issues could be used for another purpose. Some signs are so obvious in their nature they may as well say No fireworks to be let off in the arena during group lessons. Because quite frankly I had obviously gone to the bathroom to dispose of a pair of mouldy reins that had snapped 3 years ago and, in my wisdom, had saved them for flushing down this particular toilet, on this very day.
Even something as innocent as a kettle is not sign-free, a yellowing piece of paper instructs we keep our grubby hands off it by announcing For Staff Use Only. You cannot use the kettle – no, if you want tea you must pay £17 for a thimble full of dishwater from the vending machine. Even then, the bloody machine says Exact change only. Then if, in your exacerbation you go to kick the machine, you are forced to pause when noticing the sign at knee level pleading Don’t kick the machine. If you decide to be very practical and take your own kettle up to the yard, the only socket available will very likely have a note pinned above it saying Not for the use of kettles!
It seems liveries themselves take no precautions in avoiding the spread of this signage plague either. They also like to actively encourage the spread of written obviousness by spewing forth their own literary germs. A particularly nasty strain of notelet disease actually said Don’t take my carrots, I’ve counted them, so I’ll know! It begs the question then, what type of nutcase would actually know how many carrots a 10 kg sack can hold, and that particular sack. Even then, who wouldn’t take 2 carrots just to see if the owner re-counts them? The sign may as well have said Take my carrots so you may snigger at me when I re-count them later. Then there are the signs that propagate paranoia and distrust. Like the notes written in biro on the top of another person’s feed bin that angrily utters Don’t steal my feed! I have never taken part in another hobby, or lifestyle sport apart from one involving horses, so I am left wondering in what other areas of life a person would be exposed to that many signs, instructions and requests.
Britain has gone sign mad.