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How to scrub up like a show pony

As a New Year ball/excuse for a really good party proved, many horsey people can turn themselves out as well as they turn out their horses. I’m used to seeing many of the guests with slicked-back hair and riding hats, and must admit that at first glance, I didn’t recognise a couple of people I know quite well. I hope they won’t mind me identifying them as show pony people, because they would have wowed any judge. Their glossy hair, shimmering skin and artful makeup put their ponies to shame, and that’s saying something. Even one who wouldn’t pass the vet – she’d have been nine-tenths lame on a trot-up thanks to a not so delicate hoof stomping on her foot – would have been near the top of the line. As a breed, showing people are extraordinary. One of them, Stephanie Hill, holds the title of Miss England and was recently third in the Miss World final; all that, and she has the temerity to be a good rider, too. It’s enough to make some of us, including me, weep. Horse people fall into two categories: those who always look as if they’ve stepped out of an equestrian clothing catalogue and those who need 24 hours’ notice to scrub up into something even half decent. Some time ago, I reached the stage in life where I can be thankful that my backside doesn’t look too big in breeches, but have to ignore the rest. My nephew, bless him, once made my day when he told me, in encouraging tones, that when I was on a horse I looked about 16.



It was a pity he had to spoil it by adding, “That’s from the back, of course”. What I don’t understand is why some women can get off a horse and within seconds, look as if they’ve never been near it. You know the sort I mean: her pristine breeches stay pristine, her boots keep their shine and all she has to do when she takes off her hat is release her artfully twisted hair from its fastener and let a cascade of curls tumble down her back. I’m the other sort: as soon as I go near a horse it slobbers or sneezes over me, my fingernails and clothes attract dirt as if they were high-power magnets and when I remove my hat, my hair is flat as a pancake, with my fringe plastered to my forehead. Even if I manage to restore some semblance of normality before getting on with normal life, you can guarantee I’ll have hay in my hair or dirt on my face. I learned the hard way never to leave the house without checking front and back views in the mirror. Sounds familiar? Here, according to a friend renowned for her turnout skills, both equine and human, are some cunning tips – if you have any more, please share them:

  • Keep your hair short enough that it looks as if it’s meant to stick up in spikes, or long enough that you can scrape it back into a pony tail.
  • If you’re a woman of a certain age – and apologies in advance to friends from Essex – a high, tight pony tail or bun is supposed to make your skin look tauter. Colloquially known as the Essex facelift, it may also give you a headache.
  • If you’re desperate, try the two D’s – dry shampoo and deodorant. Don’t believe the Victorian dictate than horses sweat, men perspire and women glow.
  • If you don’t have time to wash your hair and it’s styled with a fringe because you look like a startled rabbit without one, shampoo just your fringe.  Its called bluffing it, but it works.
  • Baby wipes, preferably biodegradable ones, are essential in every grooming kit. Tell your horse he has to share them with you.
  • Hair in knots?  Nick your horse's mane and tail de-tangler too.
  • Dark nail polish hides a multitude of sins, as long as it is not chipped.  I am told false nails hide even more, but I'm not that brave.
  • Remind yourself that the natural look is far more attractive than one which has taken painstaking preparation.  Fair enough, who am I trying to kid?