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BLOG: The tale of the tails

Riding at home in tails.


Words and photos by Sally Kirkwood

Most successful entrepreneurs and athletes have goals.  

They have that big shiny target written on a white board somewhere to help keep focussed and determined, even when the going gets tough. Quite often they will have little milestones and goals to tick off along the way. Maybe the goal is to reach a targeted number of clients, or achieve a personal best performance. Their inspirational goals may be plastered all over the walls along with inspirational quotes complete with pictures of scenic misty mountains and fluffy kittens. For me, there are days when that fluffy little kitten would be running flat tack with a big Rottweiler fair up its freckle. Let’s all be honest there are tough days were no amount of coffee is going to cut it.

People often ask me, “What is your goal with this bloody horse of yours and this thing they call dressage?” This is usually after they find out there is next to no prize money and that I have to sell a child to pay for nominations and stabling. Meanwhile they have just won a chainsaw, saddle, buckle and a couple of thousand dollars at a campdraft.

Of course we all want to make it to FEI. Not all of us want to make it to the Olympics or WEG. Some of us are ecstatic to finally sit trot or get a PB in a test. I have been very lucky to tick many little goals and milestones off my list but the one that I dreamt about for a very long time was the day I finally got to wear tails. I had told My Poor Husband, The Trainer and some of my very good friends, that when I got tails LOOK OUT!!! I had warned them that I was going to wear them everywhere and possibly never take them off. Shopping, school functions, weddings or even to bed. Those tails were going to be worn with pride.

However, there aren’t many shops in good old Charters Towers that would know what tails were let alone sell them. I had this thing in my head about buying them before we were ready in case I jinxed myself and they didn’t get worn. I would look at them at the trade stalls at CDIs and I even tried them on but I was never game to buy them. Plus they didn’t fit. You see if you need any evidence to prove that evolution is real, that my friend is easy!! Simply look at my family tree, as I have no doubt that there was a great great great great relative who had a sire line directly from the apes, with his long ape like arms complete with knuckles dragging on the ground and big square shoulders to go with it. My poor sisters and I have hands the size of dinner plates and arms that make buying a jacket off-the-rack impossible. I have even had a seamstress call to double check my custom made coat measurements as she was sure the gorilla from the zoo may have taken up riding and our orders got mixed up. If the perfect fit isn’t hard enough, what colours, texture and buttons does one choose? What is the perfect combination that will give you the magic powers you need to dance in your tails all the way to FEI?

In January, I made my southern migration back to Sydney to train with The Trainer and compete. I was beyond excited when he said in a really dramatic voice that sounded like Mufassa, “My child it is time. All of your hard work has led us to this monumental moment.

"You are ready to take your place… and wear tails”. I am sure there was a ray of sunlight shining down on us and all the animals gathered around as the queen of the jungle, the mighty ape, had graduated to tails. Apparently his version of this event is somewhat fuzzy and I am blamed for his loss of hair and at times his sky high levels of frustration. When questioned as to why all the animals were in fact bowing, not to forget the magical ray of sunlight, he had no answers so it is safe to say that my version of the event is correct.

After wiping away my happy tears the sad reality of not actually owning tails set in. Panic stricken, the burning desire to find the best tails retail shop took over. Mufassa spoke again, but this time sounded more like an angry dramatic seagull fighting over a chip “What do you mean you don’t own tails, squawk squawk squawk.”

Well as fate would have it, we had a very dear friend come over for dinner the very night that The Trainer was telling me it was my time to ride in tails. Can you imagine how absolutely beside myself with excitement I was when this dear friend rocked up with a bottle of the good champagne and a set of her tails just for me!!! She wanted little old me to have a set of her tails. The set of tails, that took her to her first Grand Prix. Oh the emotions were at a high and the champagne had been popped and the best part is… they somehow magically fit!!! The Trainer had turned back into the squabbling seagull squawking about, “How we will never hear the end of this and she won’t take them off now – see what I have to put up with”. As for me, I was absolutely blown away by such an act of kindness and the fact that I was sure I could feel the magical powers in those babies!! Ok maybe it was all the champagne… but it was a magical night and one that I am not going to forget. In the morning, despite the champagne head, I bounced out of bed to work Fursty and ride in those tails!!!


Drinking champagne with friends in tails.


We finally got to compete and to make the occasion even better my poor long-suffering husband flew down to watch. Due to us having so much work to do at home, he has never been able to see Fursty compete and now here he was. It was a hot January day and my new ride, The Outback Owner’s Fredricovich (AKA Fred) who was born and breed in Richmond, western Queensland, was having his very first outing and competition and Fursty was having his first ever start in Advanced. My Poor Husband was the groom and was bossed around to take the boots off, put the boots on, bring my jacket, get some water, have you got the test!! He made a comment later on that he in fact had a fabulous business idea. He said while he was waiting there for his next order, he looked around to see he wasn’t alone. There were many other long-suffering partners and parents of riders all standing there with armfuls of gear looking bored out of their brains. He said, “Imagine the killing I would make if I started mobile bar. It could start with an esky packet of chips and a few chairs. It would be a welcome safe place for these poor people bored out of their brains who are sick of being yelled at and quite frankly don’t want to carry all of the boots and brushes. They can come in kick back and have a coldie. I would make a fortune”. Oh dear you can take the boy out of North Queensland but you can’t take North Queensland out of the boy. I am one lucky lady to be married to My Poor Husband and I do love him to the moon and back.


 When I very first wore the tails at Roger's on Fursty.


Fred handled his first competition very well and even managed to win one of the Preliminary classes. He is such a good big baby, standing at 17.3hh. Then it was jump off Fred and onto Fursty. He warmed up so well and was feeling a million bucks. Happy with how it was going we put on the magic tails did a few more laps around the arena and rode off to compete. The test started off so well. He was in front of the leg and on my aids. On the beginning of the test sheet there were mostly 7.5s. It was when we asked for medium canter down the long side into the wind with the tails flapping when the magical powers of tails took over!!! The wind factor, the magic powers of the tails and the fact that he hadn’t competed since September in Townsville turned the newly Advanced horse into a want-a-be Grand Prix flying unicorn! There were lots of “weeeeeeeesss”, pig rooting and then 6 movements all bang bang bang one after the other all blown by the fact that unicorn/moron horse thought he may in fact like to now piaffe and passage.


The very first time Robert (My Poor Husband) has seen us compete and my very first comp in tails.


After the halt at the end I could hear that seagull (AKA The Trainer) going off his head. Like he was being eaten by meat ants and he was still trying to eat his chip. Back to the warm up for more unwanted piaffe and passage and round we went again. So I may have had a brain fart and totally forgotten the next test as I was too busy fixing said moron horse whilst still smiling and pretending that he won’t end up in a Pal tin. The Trainer had to call the next test and I ironed out the kinks and brought the moron horse back down a peg or two. The second test was much better and only had a couple of little mistakes however it was enough to redeem himself from ending up in a Pal tin. 

As for the tails, you will be pleased to know that they really do have magic powers!!! They are as powerful as my magic brown boots!!! Did you know that when you wear them to feed the chooks this normal domestic chore turns into running the “Birds of Prey Show”?



The bird of prey show, thanks to the magic powers of the tails!


Feeding the chooks turns into running the “Birds of Prey Show”.


The tails also give me a fierce look and extra power when it comes to making the children finish their homework and the best part is the “swoosh” as you make a dramatic entrance in a room or when you spin around to storm out. If that isn’t magical enough, you will be extra pleased to know as you read this, that while they haven’t given me extra powers of smarts and helped with my spelling and grammar, they have turned me into a fashionable minx that would rival Carrie Bradshaw on Sex in the City.


The magic power of tails and homework time!!


Till next time my friends, may your ponies be fancy, your boots magical and I hope you all reach your goals and dreams, and please be kind to your coach!! 






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