How to keep your horse comfortable at a horse show!
Horse shows! Fun for everyone! There’s no stress! Everyone loves horse shows! WELL…..maybe not.
- Your horse might need a little bit more TLC on horse show weekend. His body and mind may become sore, he might sleep less, he might even stress out a bit. You can, and should, do some things to help your dude out at a horse show.
- The good part is that these things are all treats for you and your horse, and can probably take your mind off of your horse show worries.
Hand grazing, hacking, taking in the sights.
Words of wisdom about horse shows:
- Practice at home. The grooming, the braiding, the warm-up, even you getting dressed. There are tons of new things for your horse to experience, don’t pile it on with doing braids for the first time ever.
- Don’t use horse show day to train him to load, stand still, walk politely, and generally have manners. Training happens long before the show.
- It’s supposed to be fun, right? And it’s also a great time to blackmail your friends to help you! I mean ask them to help you.
Some horses despise being braided, figure this out before the horse show.
Keep your horse’s mind happy and comfortable
- Let him take some time to settle in. This might mean a walk, some hand grazing, extra grooming. More tips on settling in can be found here in this wildly entertaining article.
- Keep your horse’s mind busy with hay and his normal schedule! Try and do something during his turnout time, like a walk.
- Make sure he can see other horses. Shatterproof mirrors can help if his neighbors are further away than he’s used to. Try the mirror thing at home first. Just in case he thinks his reflection is his new arch-nemesis.
- Let him see show rings and get a feel for where the weird noises come from. Ear puffs can help him settle. More on ear puffs here in another riveting article.
Help his body stay happy and comfortable:
- Pile on the extra bedding! I have yet to see a show stall that has a flat floor, most have craters and are far from level. Extra shavings will help make things more comfortable and help him stay cleaner.
- Ice your horse. Not only is this a good practice anyway, but different footing can affect how his body feels. Too soft and he’s working harder to slug through it, too hard and it’s bruising and banging. Ice takes out inflammation and works as a pain reliever.
- Massage your dude! Find all of his favorite spots with the curry comb and also support his large muscles along the spine for a relaxing time.
- Liniments can be helpful for feeling groovy, just be just your liniment of choice won’t test positive. Try them at home first, some horses don’t appreciate the tingly feeling.
- Check your horse’s temp, pulse, and respiration for overheating and signs of stress. More about TPR here, and what it can tell you.
- Bring your own water from home or your horse’s favorite water additive if you suspect he won’t drink as much at the show. And of course, adding water to his food is a grand idea. Definitely test this one at home so you know he’ll eat a sloppy meal. And to learn how much of a mess he will make.
- Keep dust at bay and plenty of fresh air. You can always spritz water on the barn aisle and shavings if they are super dusty. Try and clean his stall when he’s not in it as well. This is the perfect time for you to take a hand walk and have your friends clean the stall!
When you are relaxed, your horse is, too.
What not to do at the shows:
- Excessive treats! Yes, he was brilliant and won the warm-up, but stick to his regular dose of daily treats.
- Avoid giving him new foods. He does not need to share your questionable show food lunch no matter how “totes adorbs” his begging face is.
- Overwork him. It’s a long day, full of exciting things to see and hear and spook at. Be mindful of what his body is telling you when you are in the saddle.
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ADC Veterinary Thermometer, Dual Scale, Adtemp 422 – For easy temperature taking
3M Littmann Classic III Monitoring Stethoscope, Black Edition Chestpiece, Black Tube, 27 inch, 5803 – For finding heart rate and gut sounds
Equine Healthcare International Pomms Ear Plugs Black Horse – the non-fuzzy style
Intrepid International Soft N Safe Equine Ear Plugs – the fuzzy style
Sore No More Liniment Bottle – pick your size