On behalf of Chrissie and myself, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and successful 2017.

The new year brings with it a load of things to tick off on your to-do list before the show season arrives ahead of our mental schedule.

First, check the 2017 rule books (many of which are online) as nearly all have had minor or major changes that will be effective as of now. It would seem rather a waste of an entry fee to fall foul of one of these changes… I got the tee-shirt on that one back in the 80s! It is also worthy of note that there be slight variations from one association to another in the same class denomination, although they are getting less and less. It is not a million years ago that APHA were using different reining patterns to AQHA and NRHA which proved good fun for judges and competitors alike.

Show and clinic dates are available to peruse on the internet … get them in your diary now. Whether riding or spectating, plan which ones you want to attend, and let the organisers know as soon as possible as to whether it is a yeah or a neigh! It is unfair on organisers to expect last-minute cancellations especially when they are bringing in overseas clinicians. On a serious note here, unless you are at death's door or your horse has a veterinary exemption, please don’t expect to get your deposit money back as most organisers are not laden with gold dust and whilst most try to keep a reserve list in case of emergencies, the emergency doesn’t cater for people who decide to go to the beach instead.

On the show scene, please, if you decide to go and compete, send at least one entry in beforehand so as a show secretary can raise paperwork and save time for you, your horse, and themselves on the day. It would be nice to send some money at the same time, especially if you require stabling. Remember the organiser is doing all of this for your enjoyment.

Make sure your show folder is up to date now – membership details, horse passports and papers, etc. If you do it all now, it will save a rush on the day you leave. Check that your horse's shoes are in good order in preparation for the show and let your farrier have your show dates in case you need them in an emergency before you leave. While we are on the subject of farriers – if you look after them then they will look after you. A note attached to a halter telling the farrier which field the horse is in is NOT acceptable. Your horse should be trained to have his feet picked up and handled before the farrier has to do the job. Cups of tea or coffee don’t go amiss either!

Hopefully, that will give you a recipe to start the year off correctly.

2017 brings sad news in that three great friends of WES, BR, AQHAUK have gone to join the ghost riders in the sky. They all played a major contribution in helping the acceptability of the western horse in the UK. I know that obituaries have been written elsewhere but in honour of their hard work, let us strive to become better horse people – the best of the best even. I don’t think that there is a trainer or rider in the UK who doesn’t owe them a debt of gratitude for their unsung devotion to the cause. I am sure that you will join me in offering condolences to all of their families.

To set the record straight, Chrissie and I will be relocating about half an hour away from our present home. We have both found that looking after 20 acres is too much to manage and we are moving to a smaller and more manageable farm. Altogether more manageable and in the midst of some lovely horse country (the Meon Valley). Contrary to some hearsay, I will still be doing clinics and lessons at other venues around the country.

I have yet to retire but am just slowing down a little! Onwards and upwards.