Let’s be honest, most horsey people don’t spend lots of time cleaning and preening their cars and their most important function is getting us to and from the yard whatever the weather, and as a result are often subject to being forced through mud and pond-sized puddles. In the countryside, these dirt-caked cars are the norm, but prepare to stand out from the crowd when you drive your mud-mobile into town to be greeted by raised eyebrows and concerned looks as you park upside a sports car that has been polished to within an inch of its life!
Here are some of my top ways for spotting the car of a horse-rider from a mile off…
• Your car becomes your tack room… We’ve all been there…we say to ourselves, “Oh I’ll just keep this rug in my boot in case I need it next week,” or “I’ll just put these spare reins on the back seat so I don’t loose them.” Why is it that equestriennes tend to gradually move the entire contents of their tack room into their car?! And that's not to mention extra jackets, boots, scarves etc for myself. Whether it’s a sponge, a saddle or a stray exercise boot, you will struggle to find the actual seats beneath all the horsey items. My car is basically like a moveable saddlery shop, much to the bemusement of my poor non-horsey friends who have to drive anywhere with me. Anyone who gets in my car is now fully prepared to have to sit on a numnah with a riding hat on their lap!
• It also becomes a hay barn… Not only do we shed hay and straw from our clothing wherever we go but ONLY horsey people would think it’s a good idea to stuff an entire bale of hay on the back seat (for the record, it definitely isn’t a good idea). Putting wedges of hay in the car seems like a wonderful solution for taking it up to the field, but actually it leaves your car looking like a combine harvester has just driven through it.
• The smell… Sadly, no amount of air freshener can conceal the aroma of horse poo, horse sweat and tack cleaner. Over the years I have tried pretty much every scent the local garage has to offer, yet people still get in my car and make polite comments about the ‘countryside smell’. Unfortunately, I don't think if I bottled it, they'd buy it!
• The ever- present wellies… I just counted, and I have an impressive three pairs of wellies crammed into my boot. Given that I am at a university in the middle of the city, three pairs of wellies really doesn’t seem necessary. However, a mud-clad pair of wellies is an essential part of my car – after all, I guess you never know when you’re going to need to wade through a field of mud!
• The horsey stickers on the back windscreen… Something I’ve noticed over the years is that horse riders always have stickers plastering the windows of their car. Whether it’s a Countryside Alliance sticker, the British Dressage logo, or, in my case, a sticker that promotes horse & rider road safety, it's a sure sign it's an equestrian's car. I also have a load of rosettes pinned up on my parcel tray above my boot, just in case the driver in the car behind me cares that I won a show last week.
• The dog… A canine is a valuable addition to many horsey families, and are almost always bundled in the car on the way to the yard. As a result, muddy paw prints and dog hairs (combined, of course, with horse hairs) are likely to decorate your car seats, along with various chewed up toys and leads. Dogs are also an essential companion at shows, and more often than not have their own special spot in our lorries.
• The mud… Last, but by no-means least, is the mud that seems to get ingrained into the paintwork of our cars. Driving up country lanes and through fields sure takes its toll, and no amount of cleaning will make my car shine like it used to. It is not just the outside that has suffered – people always half-heartedly ask if they should take their muddy boots off when they get in to my car, but sadly it is far too late for that. Muddy boot prints are now a permanent feature of the interior design.
Although keeping our cars tidy may not be at the top of our priorities, I have picked up a few tips which have helped to keep my car at least slightly presentable….
• Make use of a tarpaulin… Lining your boot with a sheet of tarpaulin can make all the difference, particularly if you are using your car to move hay and straw around. It means that all the little bits of hay can’t work their way right into the fabric of your back seats, and then when you get to the yard you can just shake the tarpaulin out. You can buy them online for about £5, so it is a super cheap and easy solution.
• Recycle old feed sacks… Old feed bags are the PERFECT shape for recycling as wellie bags. I keep all my wellies in old plastic sugar beet sacks, which saves my car boot getting quite so embarrassingly muddy.
• Keep a spare pair of shoes with you… On a similar note, I always keep a pair of clean (ish…) trainers in my boot. Then when I finish at the yard, I can put them on to prevent the inside of my car from turning into a field. Wellies also aren’t safe to drive in, so I always make sure I change my shoes before I go anywhere.
• Invest in a clothes roller… These can be brought from most high street retailers, and are the life-saving essential that you never knew you needed! They are brilliant for picking up bits of horse hair from your clothes and car seats, and are a must during clipping season (unless you want to end up hairier than your pony).