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9 Tips for Caring for Horses at Shows
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9 Tips for Caring for Horses at Shows

Horses need to feel their best to perform their best in the show ring. However, the stress of travel and competition can make it challenging to keep show horses healthy and happy away from home.

Prioritizing your horse’s care is essential for a successful show season. By following these nine horse care tips for shows, you can help make the show a positive experience for you both. Keep reading to find out how.

1. Practice trailer loading and traveling before show day.

Trailering and travel are some of the most stressful aspects of showing for horses. Practice loading before leaving for a show to teach your horse to be confident on the trailer.

Traveling off-site to ride at other farms can also help your horse gain confidence about going to new places without the pressure of showing. Before you leave your home farm, make sure your horse has up-to-date Coggins and vaccinations.

Consider using leg wraps like Back on Track Royal Deluxe Quick Wraps to protect your horse from cutting himself in the trailer as well as to help minimize any stiffness or swelling. The Back on Track Therapeutic Bell Boots can help prevent shod horses from pulling shoes during transport.

2. Set your horse’s stall up for comfort and safety.

If you’re staying overnight at an away show, inspect and set up your horse’s stall before unloading. Check the stall walls for nails or other sharp points that could injure your horse and secure any electrical wires out of reach. Ensure the stall door closes securely and the stall doesn’t have gaps where your horse’s head or foot could get stuck.

Bed your horse’s stall deeper than you would at home to encourage him to rest. Some show facilities have relatively small stalls. Banking the bedding around the edges of the stall reduces the risks of your horse getting cast.

Quickly hang and fill at least one water bucket so your horse can drink once he gets off the trailer. Using baling twine to hang buckets reduces the risk of horses getting stuck in their buckets as the twine will break under heavy weight.

3. Support your horse’s gut health.

The stress of traveling and staying in a strange place at a competition can increase the risk of gastrointestinal problems in show horses. Your horse’s nutrition program should prioritize supporting his gut health at home and at the show.

Changes in forage can also disrupt your horse’s GI tract, so bring your own hay to the show. Ensure your horse has constant access to forage on the trailer and in his stall to support healthy digestion.

Follow your regular feeding routine as closely as possible. Consider soaking your horse’s feed and feeding electrolytes at shows to encourage healthy hydration, as travel and intense exercise can contribute to dehydration.

Some owners give their horses proton pump inhibitors preventatively before and during competition to reduce the risks of ulcers. Talk to your veterinarian to determine if your horse needs extra support from medications.

4. Let your horse stretch his legs.

Minimize your horse's time standing around in his stall during the show. Schedule hand walks, hand grazing, and stretching sessions into your daily routine to keep your horse moving, his muscles warm, and his mind engaged.

Exploring the show grounds and walking in the arena before your ride can help your horse gain confidence. Work with a trainer you trust to learn how to safely handle your horse from the ground and the saddle in a new environment.

Back on Track products can help keep your horse’s muscles and joints warm and loose between exercise sessions. The Sienna Mesh Cooler is an excellent breathable therapeutic blanket for hot show days or as a first layer on colder days.

5. Take your time grooming.

Grooming is about more than dazzling the judge on show days. Even if your horse got a bath before you left for the show, take the time to give them a thorough grooming on show day. Don’t rush before your ride to throw braids in and douse him in shine spray.

Giving your horse a massage with a curry comb and spending extra time itching their itchy spots can help your horse relax and provide you both with a calm moment before the competition. Your horse will look amazing, and he’ll likely feel amazing, too.

6. Plan your pre-ride routine.

Planning your pre-ride routine ahead of time will help ensure you can devote extra time to grooming. To keep everyone on the same page, let your team know any specific times important to your routine, such as when you want to be in the warm-up ring.

Use your grooming time to look over your horse for signs of anything abnormal. Swelling in the legs could be a sign of an injury. Other issues, such as a slight nick, may not be severe but could cause elimination in the competition ring.

Take your time tacking up to ensure all of your equipment is in good working condition and adjusted for your horse’s comfort. Use the same equipment at the show as you use at home. Back on Track makes saddle pads in many colors for schooling and showing in all disciplines.

The Welltex technology in Back on Track products can help prepare your horse during warm up before your ride by reflecting their body heat as soothing long-wave far infrared energy, stimulating blood circulation, helping to minimize muscle stiffness, and producing an overall feeling of wellness.

7. Follow a post-ride recovery routine.

Taking care of your horse after your ride should come before any celebration. Follow the same post-ride recovery routine you do at home at shows. Cool your horse out after any athletic exertion, and carefully rinse your horse off if he is sweaty. Use a cooler, such as the Back on Track Supreme Fleece Cooler, to keep your horse warm, wick away moisture and sweat, and help prevent overall muscle stiffness and soreness.

Carefully inspect your horse after your ride for any signs of injury or discomfort. A liniment, such as Limber Up, can help soothe aches and soreness after an intense competition ride. Cold hose therapy or Back on Track's soon to be released Cool on Track Quick Wraps are beneficial for helping your horse’s legs recover after workouts.

8. Give your horse time to rest.

Give your horse time to rest after your ride. If you’re heading home the same day, let your horse hang out quietly in his stall while you clean tack and pack the trailer. If you have another competition the next day, take him out for a quiet hand graze later in the day and make sure his stall is clean and well-bedded to encourage him to sleep at night.

When you get home, consider giving your horse some time off. Like human athletes, horses need rest days to recover from intense training and competition. Going for hacks or doing light stretchy rides can give your horse’s body a break while still keeping him mentally stimulated.

Giving your horse as much turnout time as possible will also benefit his mental and physical health. Every horse deserves time to be a horse, even show horses.

9. Always praise your horse.

Your horse doesn’t know his score or time. No matter where your show season takes you, your horse's health and well-being should always come first. Whether you win or lose, always praise your horse. Every horse may not be a champion, but they all deserve to be cared for like one.

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