Horse Play

A Night Owl’s Guide to Surviving Horse Show Mornings

The clock strikes 4:45 a.m. and “Blank Space” bursts forth from your speakers, swiftly shaking you from your REM induced bliss.

Suddenly possessed by the spirit of Gollum, a guttural “Not yet!” flies from your raspy morning throat. His draw to the ring is the same as yours to the snooze button, and your leaded limbs fumble the blankets until the devil’s instrument is silenced once again. 

You repeat the ritual several times over until the shadows begin to flee your room with the impending threat of daylight. Ironically, it’s your horse and rainbow dreamscape that ultimately sends a jolt of adrenaline through your system.

“The horse show,” you gasp. 

Late, you leap out of bed, bounding to the bathroom in three strides where you’re startled awake by the crazed Bellatrix Lestrange staring back at you from the mirror.

Rabid with toothpaste, you unleash a clothes tornado from your drawers, snatch a pair of breeches from the air and literally anything else that’s clean, then, squishing the heels of your sneakers, Usain Bolt to the stable and flick on the lights.

It’s 5:33 a.m., you’ve already broken a sweat, but the wave of nickers that greet you somehow silences the recurring why do I do this to myself? question.

If this scene is familiar, then you, dear reader, are like me. A bat amongst birds. You’d have rather ridden through the night with Paul Revere than be present for the first class of the day. It’s not that we’re lazy, we were just born with different biological clocks. The horse world wasn’t made for us because our beloved equine didn’t evolve nocturnal.

Meanwhile, our nemeses—the chipper, energetic, type-A morning people with fresh squeezed orange juice running through their veins—are thriving. They enter the barn as if they’re being filmed for a Crest commercial after already learning their course and stopping for bagels.

Our singular commonality is that we love horses too. We can’t beat them, but joining them takes some creativity. Here are some of my (not necessarily healthy) horse show morning coping mechanisms:

1. Wake up earlier

Ha, just kidding! Moving on…

Programming Not Gonna Happen GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

2. Embrace the au naturel

No make-up means no time spent putting it on. Your bare face will also serve as a symbol of societal resistance for refusing to succumb to the pressures of modern day beauty standards. And don’t feel bad if a man serves you the classic, “you look tired today” line. Of course you’re tired, you work with horses and had to wake up before noon.

3. Wear a hoodie

Hoodies are so valuable they inspire even the most morally righteous to thieve from their significant others. One reason is comfort, but another is their uncanny ability to hide a bad hair day. And let’s face it, you don’t leave yourself enough time to style runway ready. So pull the strings taught and go about your morning until you get a chance to properly wrangle your hair with an elastic or cover it with a helmet…

4. Store your breakfast in your pockets

It’s the most important meal of the day until an extra 10 minutes of sleep feels like the only thing separating life from death. The good news is you don’t have to starve. Eggo waffles exist, and the heavenly circles might be devoid of nutrition but they are also the the perfect size for your pockets. So stock up.

Birthday Bobby GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Side note: those “in your pocket” geldings take on the term much more literally when you’re hiding snacks.

5. Try chamomile tea or melatonin

If you have trouble waking up in the morning, you likely have problems falling asleep at night. When the sheep don’t show up for count-offs, have a cup of tea sing you a chamomile-flavored lullaby. If that doesn’t work, over-the-counter melatonin is the brain’s equivalent of the computer force quit. (Pro tip: melatonin is strong stuff. Take too much and you’ll spend the day looking like you’re preparing for your Walking Dead audition.)

6. The elixir of energy: caffeine

This one is as obvious as it is effective, but you’ll never find a night owl in a rocking chair on a farmers porch, basking in the sunrise and cradling a cup of coffee. Leave the warm beverages and Folgers commercial lifestyle for the morning people. An iced coffee while on the run goes down faster, which means you’ll get your critical dose of caffeine faster.

7. Avoid conversation for at least two hours

Nothing makes you want to retreat to the dark, silent safety beneath your covers more than that one person who takes you for the guest on their morning talk show. I mean absolutely nothing.

Keep your head down, hide in a stall, canter away. Whatever it takes.

8. Sunglasses

Part of surviving the morning is keeping up the charade that you didn’t leave a piece of your soul on the pillow. But you can’t fake it till you make it when your under-eye bags make a bigger statement than this year’s Hermès Birkin. Sunglasses are the easiest way to hide your dark circles. Your friends might be suspect, but they also won’t be able to see you rolling your eyes when they ask you how much sleep you got last night.

9. Be nice to the barn kids

Kids, as everyone knows, have a bottomless tank of energy. Bring them munchkins and you have an army of sugared up barn rats eager to help you with a rush brush job. Channeling this renewable resource in a positive way is far better than just letting them drive you crazy.

10. Pull an all-nighter

This is my personal in case of emergencies move. “Emergencies” meaning you accidentally binge watched an entire Netflix series, or were busy overthinking the past 10-years of your life, and now the sun is coming up. You might be exhausted, but the bright side is you won’t have trouble waking up if you never went to bed.