There’s no business like show business, and even horses need a bit of rest and relaxation after their time in the spotlight. Whether your horse competes in dressage or a sporting show, it’s important to properly prepare your horse prior to competition and help them relax after their big performance. These ways to pamper your show horse will help them become the star of the next competition in no time.
While your horse may not be officially judged on the sheen of their coat or the flow of their mane, keeping your horse well-groomed will certainly help them stand out among the competition. Taking the time to thoroughly groom your horse will also provide you both with a calm moment to bond before the big show. For a complete tip-to-tail grooming session, begin by picking out the horses feet. Clear out any rocks and dirt using a hoof pick, and take care to trace around the inside of the shoes to clear out smaller pebbles and debris. Next, move a curry comb in small, circulation motions to dislodge any dirt from your horse’s coat. You can also use soft and stiff bristled brushes to groom your horse. If you want to go the extra mile, you may even choose to spend some time bathing your horse. Finally, it’s time to tame your horse’s tail and mane. Horses competing in dressage shows often sport a braided mane and combed tail. To achieve this look, wet the mane and apply shampoo and conditioner. Use a comb to prevent hair breakage as you separate the mane for braiding. You can also apply a coat polish just before the show to truly wow the judges and outshine the competition.
Check for potential injuries
As you groom your horse, you should also look out for any potential injuries. While cleaning your horse’s hooves, you can check for any damage to their feet, hooves, and shoes. You should also take this time to look for any swelling in your horses joints, focusing particularly on the ankles, coffin, or hock. Joint inflammation may cause your horse to be sore or stiff, which will seriously impact their show performance. It may even have detrimental effects on their future health. Catching signs of inflammation early will allow for more effective treatment options, so your horse is ready for their big show.
Provide proper feed
In addition to proper exercise and training, you should also ensure your horse maintains a nutritional diet in preparation for their competition. Show horses, particularly those who compete in sporting shows, will burn more calories than other horses, so it’s important to match their diet to their activity level. When you choose feed, it’s beneficial to understand the type of exercise your show horse engages in. Anaerobic exercises, which consists of short bursts of maximum effort, is common among racehorses or sporting horses competing in agility performances. A diet for anaerobic exercises should focus on storing and replenishing muscle glycogen and providing an adequate amount of carbohydrates. Aerobic exercises, on the other hand, are characterized by low-intensity activities that span a longer amount of time, which are common in polo, dressage, or endurance riding. Horses that engage in these activities may benefit from feed with added fat sources, as it will enable them to burn fuel more slowly and better maintain their energy during these lengthy exercises. You should also schedule when you feed your horse with your horse’s performance. Horses should not be fed large meals within four hours of competition. Their body will not have adequate time to digest the feed, which may significantly hinder their performance.
Check for injuries again
Whether your horse competes in dressage or a more high-intensity physical performance, it’s always a good idea to reassess your horse for any injuries after their show. Like any athlete, show horses are put through a demanding training process, and the high demands of competition may leave them vulnerable to certain injuries. Just as you did prior to the competition, take some time to inspect your horse for any signs of common sport horse injuries following their performance. Signs and symptoms of these injuries may be subtle, so it’s important to give your horse a thorough inspection. The longer these injuries go unnoticed and untreated, the harder it will be for your horse to bounce back in the future. Joint inflammation is a particularly common injury among show horses. You can treat inflammation with a therapeutic leg wrap as a preventative measure to reduce the risk of your horse developing more serious injuries in the future.
Have a spa day
Even horses enjoy a day of rest and relaxation. While mud masks and cucumber slices may not go over so well with your equine friend, your horse will still appreciate a soothing spa day after a stressful show. A thorough grooming and nice massage may be just the thing your horse needs to wind down after their competition. Massaging your horse using a stiffer curry brush, and incorporating aromatherapy with essential oils, will add to your horse’s overall relaxation. Liniment gels and shampoos are also a great way to pamper your show horse. You can apply these liniments directly to the horse’s body; they help stimulate circulation and remove build-up of toxins to relax tight muscles and ease strain on tendons and ligaments.
Take a rest day
After the bright lights, big crowds, and rigorous demands of competition, your horse will likely need some serious down time. Taking a temporary reprieve from your horse’s training schedule and embarking on a leisurely ride will help foster a stronger bond between rider and horse. This tight bond can help increase trust, and it may even lead to better performances in future competitions. In addition to quality bonding time, your horse may also benefit from some alone time. Turning out your horse and allowing them to freely roam about a pasture or paddock can be incredibly beneficial to your horse’s overall health and well-being. This is particularly important following a high-stress competition or show. Turnout will also help reduce boredom and restlessness that may come as a result of long periods spent in a stable. Additionally, horses are herd animals and benefit from companionship. Turnout time provides valuable interaction with other horses, which can lead to more positive mental health and may help put an end to negative behavior.
Competitions can be stressful, for both the horse and the rider; however, taking the time to properly prepare for the performance, and indulging in some well-deserved relaxation time afterward, will help make the process much more worry-free. Sometimes, all it takes is a little bit of pampering to get you and your horse back on track.