Get your horse ship shape for the show season

The sun is (sometimes) shining and yards across the country are a hive of activity every Saturday and Sunday morning which can only mean one thing: the showing season is well and truly upon us. Whether you are competing at local riding club level or at BSJA affiliated shows, you will know the importance of being competition ready, so here are our top tips to keeping you and your horse in the ribbons this summer.

Image is everything

American_quarter_horseGetting show ready includes preparing for perfect presentation as well as performance. It goes without saying that immaculate turnout for both horse and rider/handler is essential for all showing competitions such as Best Turned Out, Best Veteran and Best in Breed, but presentation is equally as important in ridden showing classes such as Best Rider, Working Hunter and even Dressage.  Good turnout is not as simple as just bathing and grooming the night before the event. Your horse needs to be in tip top condition from the inside out, and this starts months in advance of the show season starting with good quality nutrition, healthy hooves and a thorough fitness regime. When a horse is fed the right food and exercised regularly the toned muscles will be defined and easily visible beneath a glossy coat and mane. In addition great care and attention needs to be given to the coat through nutritional supplements and regular grooming to stimulate the natural oils in the coat to give the body that glorious shine when the animal moves.

Fit for purpose

Physical fitness is essential and a preseason fitness regime should be well under way by early spring to give you both a fighting chance on the leader board this summer. Jumping in to a 3’0” course after 6 months off is a sure fire way to cause strain and injury to an unfit horse and rider, and could put you out of the competition season altogether, so start with regular hacks and collected walk and trot to build strength a good 10-12 weeks beforehand. After the first two weeks of gentle exercise, build in schooling sessions to work on improving your horses outline as well as your own posture then gradually increase the length and intensity of roadwork and schooling over the next 8-10 weeks so that you are fighting fit for the first show of the season.

The devil’s in the detail

Dressage judges are equally as likely to mark you down for sweet-itch scratched tails and scraggly plaits, so don’t let your horse down with shoddy work – practice, practice, practice! If plaiting isn’t your thing then find someone on the yard who has this pinned down, and take regular lessons until you have got it (or better still pay them to do it for you!) Don’t forget little details like quarter marks as these look particularly effective to highlight good form and confirmation on showjumpers and eventers as they move around the arena. If you have a horse that simply loves to roll in the muckiest part of the field or stable then rug them up the night before and apply light leg bandages to protect any white socks and prevent you from needing to wash them again on the morning of the show. When it comes to tack, there are no shortcuts to rosette worthy turn out, you simply need to apply A LOT of elbow grease to make sure that your saddle and bridle stand out from the crowd. Pay close attention to metal work and buckles as eagle eye judges will be looking for anything that distinguishes you from your competitors.