It’s summer! You know what that means - it’s prime horse show season! Are you physically and mentally prepared for packing trailers, early mornings and long days in the sun?
Physically and mentally preparing yourself for show season comes in all shapes and sizes. It is harder for some equestrians than others. Maybe you’re coming off of a show hiatus and you’re nervous for the crowds and distractions; maybe you’re on a young horse that is about to experience their first real show season; or maybe you’ve taken 5, 10 or 20 years off from showing and are getting back into the show ring. Whoever you are, and whatever your reasons or experience, here are some great ways to get mentally and physically prepared to show your horse.
Define your needs. The great (and sometimes not-so-great!) thing about horseback riding is that it involves nearly every muscle in your body. From your head, to your toes, no matter the discipline, posture and equitation is important. Evaluate your riding using a trainer or videos to establish what you need to work on. Maybe you need to improve your lower leg stability or not hunch your shoulders at the canter. Determining what needs work can be helpful so your training is more effective and purposeful.
Plan your workouts. You figured out what needs improvement, now you need to figure out how to make those improvements happen! A planner or smartphone app that tracks your workouts can be helpful to measure progress and ensure you’re working on the targeted muscle group. If your days are busy, like most equestrians, scheduling your workouts for the week can help you balance your time, and knowing what each workout is focused on will result in more efficient training.
Drink water and eat healthy. It’s no secret that horse shows are demanding on your body. Late nights that lead into early mornings, remembering courses and patterns, and standing in the sun all day with full show gear can lead to exhaustion. Pack a cooler before you head out or bring some cash for the food stand, but always make sure you are replenishing your body by drinking fluids and eating healthy snacks and meals!
Plan your season. A lot of associations and circuits post their show dates at the end of winter or the beginning of spring, well in advance of show season. Taking some time to sit down with a calendar and plan out which shows you’re going to do will help you plan your time and avoid any last minute problems like getting your equipment together or finding a ride to the show. This will help keep your mind at ease so you can focus on more important things… like your jump course!
Eliminate stressors. Once you know which shows you’re going to do, you can start preparing for them. You don’t know if your horse will pull a shoe on the morning of the show, but there are some things you can control to eliminate stressors. Make sure your horse is up-to-date on their vaccinations, your trailer is safe to haul, and your show equipment is in good condition. Being well prepared and organized will keep you calm, cool and collected in the show ring, which will set you up for success!
Mental breathers. Let’s face it - the equine world can be stressful, especially during show season. Early mornings, show bills, and long days can take their toll on you. Don’t forget to pause and take time out for yourself to destress and relax. Horses are our therapy, but sometimes they can also be our stressors. What helps you relax? Yoga, reading, or out-of-the-saddle horse time like grooming or watching them graze can help you recover from the stress of horse shows.
Remember these tips and tricks when you head out for your next show, but most importantly, remember to have fun!! It’s not about the ribbons, but about the precious moments spent with your equine partner.