I often get asked how my team prepares for the large horse shows we attend, which we really do not attend often, however, when we do, I have a policy - we go in above what we believe the show expectations will be. Now, when my students are preparing for larger horse shows they begin preparing the moment it is in their mind. This can be anywhere from months to a year in advance, but as a team, we breakdown what each individual horse, rider, and partnership needs - this is physical, mentally and emotionally.
When ensuring our equine partner is in the best shape possible for a show the process starts the moment the possibility and consideration of attending are in place. That means building your horse up in the proper way for that particular event which can vary for my team. Each horse is treated as an individual, however, the majority of our exercises benefit everyone. We prepare with lots of collected work on hills, transitions are practiced practiced practiced, we will work them outsides the arena as well so they can have some off time while still working, etc. If patterns are posted ahead of time we break them down to difficult pieces to practice and then practice them as a whole and make the pattern as smooth as possible, if not we prepare by practicing an assortment of patterns and components. We do all this so if we travel away from home we are as prepared as possible and go in with more confidence.
If we have to travel far, we take extra steps to make sure the horse is hydrated prior to leaving and throughout the duration. That means soaking food prior to our trip for a minimum of a week. If you are already doing this for your horse, electrolytes would help your horse be encouraged to increase their water intake. We will often add fat or natural protein sources (such as alfalfa hay) to their diets before, during and after travel. We go through their grooming needs, what we are bringing, what we need to have “extras” of and we go through this with everyone involved in helping with the care while away. This is all part of our preparation!
We have lists in place for grooming needs and nutritional needs via the amount of hay needed for the trip if we are preparing a mash (i.e. soaked pellets, hydration hay, etc.), tack lists, wraps, sheets, etc. It is best to encourage all students, whether adults or children, to go in as prepared as possible for their competition! We want to ensure to be running as well-oiled machine for the just in case moments that do pop up on occasion.
We discuss the what if’s, we practice all components of the show and seek outside help when needed. Often as a trainer, I want another trainer’s perspective of where they believe my students are in their preparedness. We also take steps to ensure that both horse and rider are in the best riding shape possible – that includes your trainer, vet, and farrier! It is important to have a great support system for you and your equine partner.
Encouragement and preparation are key components to our success at larger horse shows! We prepare our equines as best we can followed by ourselves, our team and then we recheck everything we have planned as well. It ensures that whoever may be attending, helping, or just spectating can help run a smooth and well oiled competition machine! My number one riding rule is to have fun. If we are not doing that, then why even go?